Central boys cherish win over North
That a 3-2 victory over Pickerington North on Sept. 11 kept the Pickerington High School Central boys soccer team undefeated in the OCC-Ohio Division was the last thing on the Tigers' minds.
They celebrated as if they'd won a championship -- which, in a manner of speaking, they had.
Senior Dillon Ricketts' penalty-kick goal with 1 minute, 59 seconds left capped a two-goal comeback in the final 14 minutes and gave Central, coached by Brad Monhollen, its first victory over North, which is coached by Brad's older brother, Darrin.
"We had butterflies in our stomachs all day," said Ricketts, an Ohio State recruit. "The last four years, the seniors have worked their butts off for this moment. Every time (against North), it's been a loss or a tie. But this year was the first year we beat them since the split (in 2003). We're just psyched."
Central improved to 1-5-1 against North. The schools' first meeting was in a first-round Division I district tournament game in 2006, which the Panthers won 2-0. They have played one regular-season game every year since, the past five as league foes.
"Not only did we beat them, I felt we had the majority of the stronger play and opportunities," Brad Monhollen said. "That's something I really wanted. Our guys kept their heads and they played hard. There's nothing more satisfying than that, when basically you just know that you're going out there and it's all heart and effort on the field."
That's how the season has gone for the Tigers, who entered a Sept. 18 home game against Grove City with records of 5-2-1 overall and 2-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio. Their only losses entering this week were 2-0 at Hilliard Darby on Aug. 30 and 2-1 to Watkins Memorial on Sept. 13.
Central's roster is loaded with 13 seniors and four juniors, but sophomores Collin Federer (goalkeeper) and Justin McDermott (midfielder) as well as freshman midfielder Steven Bauers have made an impact. Federer started each of the first seven games in goal, McDermott had two goals through seven games and Bauers scored the tying goal against North with 13:52 to play.
"(The underclassmen) are working hard. They're standing out at practice," Ricketts said. "Of course freshmen are going to be scared during games, but we're getting them through it and getting them used to it. Eventually they're going to take shots and score when we need it."
The Tigers entered the week just behind Gahanna and Grove City in the league standings, as both were 3-0. Central plays Gahanna on Oct. 9 in its league and regular-season finale.
"There's no reason we can't hang with anybody," Brad Monhollen said. "It's just we need to play good, solid ball and focus on our game plan, which is basically working the ball around and maximizing opportunities, creating them and finishing them."
Not feeling any pain
Twenty-four years removed from his final high school game, Brad Monhollen isn't shy about participating in drills during practice. He paid the price several weeks ago when he blew out his left knee and fractured his tibia.
"I thought I was much younger than what I am," he said. "The player opposite me cut left and I cut right, I cut left, then I cut right and when I cut back left, my (left) knee just gave."
Monhollen has been getting around on crutches and, before games, on a maintenance cart. But after the win against North, his knee hardly was on his mind.
"To be honest, right now, it's freaking worth it," he said.
Still on their minds
North's boys team continues to honor former teammate Traven Keigley, who was killed in a car crash March 31, 2011, in North Carolina. The Panthers list Keigley, who would have been a senior this year, on their roster.
Last season, North played the beginning of its season opener with 10 players instead of 11 and wore black armbands featuring Keigley's initials during every game.