As it did a year ago when it won a share of the OCC-Central Division championship, the Pickerington High School Central boys lacrosse team is hoping to keep the ball in the hands of its midfielders as often as possible.
Senior Devon Maki, a returning midfielder, and senior Brent Walton, who has moved from attacker to midfielder, are a pair of future college players with their eyes on making that happen.
Central opens Wednesday, April 3, at Gahanna.
"We're definitely going to be midfielder-strong this year," second-year coach Pete Campbell said. "With the system we run we try to be a midfield-dominant team, so moving Brent to midfielder will allow him to be more effective in our offense."
Maki, who will play for Wilmington College, scored more than 80 goals and was the OCC-Central Player of the Year last season.
Walton, who has committed to play football and lacrosse at Capital, had 38 goals and 40 assists last season while making first-team all-league.
Senior attacker Dylan Smith also has committed to Wilmington and senior defender Atticus Murphy will play for Houghton (N.Y.) College.
Also expected to contribute offensively is junior attacker Zane Kenney.
Senior Cole Naylor is back at goalkeeper.
Joining Murphy on defense should be juniors Josh Clouse, Collin Morgan and Luke Rust and sophomore Adam Grumman.
Sophomore Brad Morris is expected to contribute at midfielder.
Last season, Central went 11-6 overall and tied Delaware and Westerville Central at 5-1 in the OCC-Central. Big Walnut and Pickerington North both were 2-4 and Westerville North and Westerville South both were 1-5.
The Tigers defeated Pickerington North 14-11 and Delaware 11-10 in overtime three days later to earn a share of first place. They lost to Thomas Worthington 14-7 in the first round of the Division I Central Region tournament.
Midfielder Jake Raymond, who had 36 goals and 43 assists, and defender Garyck Todd were among last season's six seniors. Todd is playing for Wilmington and Raymond is playing football at Morehead State.
"Things have been going very well," Campbell said. "I think Westerville Central, Delaware and us are all going to be very good. In general, our conference is getting stronger every year. We've gone from last year when we barely had a (junior varsity) team to this year we have a full j.v. and have gone up to about 38 kids."
North looking to take strides under Robbins
During the last three seasons when he served as an assistant at Olentangy, Chris Robbins coached in a program that has one of the largest youth programs in the area.
He'll try to apply the knowledge he gained with the Braves into his first head coaching job at North.
Robbins took over in the offseason for Marc Diemand, who led the Panthers to records of 3-12 and 6-10 during his two seasons.
"We are at around 45 to 47 players, which I hear is a high number compared to last year," Robbins said. "With our athleticism, we'll be pretty competitive. A lot of our new players are well-rounded athletes."
North features four college recruits in seniors Austin Brady (State University of New York at Cortland), Seth Caudill (Wittenberg), Alex Dankowski (Wittenberg) and Nate Hess (Otterbein).
Brady had 37 goals at attacker and made second-team all-league a year ago. This season, he will be joined at midfielder by Dankowski, who also could see time at attacker.
Also at midfielder should be sophomores Jarod Lutz, Logan Murphy and Jordan Smith.
Hess will be the goalkeeper after serving as backup last season.
Caudill will lead a close defense that also should include senior Dom Robson and sophomore Stephan Hertenstein. Senior Taylor Roberts could see time at long-stick midfielder.
Junior Nick Rollason and sophomores Jake Grundy and Nick Notestine are the top attackers.
Last season, North lost to St. Charles 13-5 in the play-in round of the Division I Central Region tournament.
North lost a five-member senior class that included goalkeeper Jarrod Culp, who was first-team all-league, and defender Adam Hunt, who was honorable mention all-league.
The Panthers open Saturday, March 30, at 2012 Division I state runner-up Dublin Jerome.
"This will be the toughest schedule (North) has ever had," said Robbins, a 2005 Hilliard Darby graduate who played for Robert Morris University for one season and for Ohio State's club team. "My boys have a mentality that they have nothing to lose. We'll definitely beat some teams that we shouldn't beat this year."