Liberty needs penalty kicks to repeat as district champs
Zach Matheny scored two goals and the top-seeded Olentangy Liberty High School boys soccer team converted two penalty kicks to defeat Pickerington North 4-1 in a Division I district final Oct. 27 at Westerville Central.
The district championship is Liberty's second in as many years. Last season, the Patriots reached the state final, where they lost 4-2 to Cleveland St. Ignatius.
Liberty improved to 18-1 and advanced to play Westerville North in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 31. The winner plays Gahanna or Dublin Coffman in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3.
Pickerington North, the 13th seed, finished 10-6-3.
Matheny scored three minutes into the game, but Pickerington North tied it with 13:22 left in the first half on a goal by Derrick Reedus Jr.
Liberty took advantage of having the wind at its back in the second half, as Matheny scored with 33:48 left and Kyle Baum and Drew Collins scored on penalty kicks in a five-minute span to put the game out of reach.
“The thing that worked for us was swinging it wide, getting it wide and to the outside,” said Matheny, a senior forward. “It worked for us. We had to, as a team, keep switching the ball and keep moving it on the ground. When we did that, the wind couldn’t hurt us.”
Also winning district titles in Division I were second-seeded Gahanna, fourth-seeded Coffman and seventh-seeded Westerville North.
Gahanna 2, Hilliard Darby 0
Gahanna won its third district championship in four seasons by defeating third-seeded Hilliard Darby 2-0 in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville South.
The Lions improved to 15-1-3 and will play Coffman in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 31. The teams played to a scoreless tie Sept. 29.
Darby finished 15-2-2.
Caleb Gruenbaum gave Gahanna a 1-0 lead with 34:09 left in the first half. The Lions' Andrew Schwall missed a penalty kick with 14:55 remaining as his shot went off the post, but he scored with 4:50 left to effectively seal the win.
“We didn’t have our best game against Coffman,” Schwall said. “I think we’re ready to face them. ... (Winning a district title) does feel great, especially because people were saying we weren’t going to be as good this year.”
Dublin Coffman 2, Westerville Central 1
Coffman defeated fifth-seeded Westerville Central 2-1 in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville South.
Aaron Willis’ penalty kick with 19:24 remaining was the deciding goal. The Shamrocks were awarded the free kick when Central’s Matt Hughes was called for a hand-touch in the penalty area.
Coffman improved to 14-4-1 and Central finished 11-6-2.
The Shamrocks took a 1-0 lead four minutes into to the game on a goal by Andrew Louvers, but the Warhawks tied the game on a goal by Grant Hagglund with 12:45 remaining in the first half.
Central pressured Coffman goalkeeper Trent Rantala in the final two minutes looking for the tying goal, but he made two of his six saves during that time to preserve the win. Central goalie Griffen Gordon had five saves.
Coffman had beaten Central 1-0 on Aug. 23.
“With the way they play, they’re so good in the back, we knew finding any openings would be tough against them,” Coffman coach Steve Watts said of Central. “I went in figuring it would be another 1-0 game and we got two in the net and that is good.”
Westerville North 2, Olentangy Orange 0
Westerville North defeated sixth-seeded Olentangy Orange 2-0 in a district final Oct. 27 at Gahanna.
The Warriors improved to 12-5-2 and Orange finished 12-5-2.
Scoring for Westerville North were Sid Fragoulis and Ryan Conner. Tristan Doone and Dakota Berridge both saw time in goal for the Warriors and combined to make seven saves, including six by Doone.
Watterson 2, Big Walnut 1
In Division II, second-seeded Watterson rallied to beat seventh-seeded Big Walnut 2-1 in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville Central.
Austin Foor scored four minutes into the game to put Big Walnut up 1-0. But 10 minutes later, Dominic Smith centered the ball with a bicycle kick from the corner and Tommy Geraghty scored on a header into the top right corner of the net to tie the game at 1. Less than 10 minutes later, Paul Mokrzan scored what ultimately proved to be the winning goal.
“All week long we talked about playing together and keeping things simple and that’s how we were able to win this game,” Watterson coach Chad Smith said. “The one exceptional play was our first goal. Bicycle kicks almost never work, but Dominic had a gorgeous feed and Tommy made a great play to head the ball into the goal. That’s one of the more beautiful goals I’ve seen in a high school game.”
Watterson improved to 12-4-3 and advanced to play Cincinnati Indian Hill in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 31. The winner will play Bellbrook or Dayton Carroll in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3.
Big Walnut finished 12-7-1.
Bexley 2, DeSales 1
Also in Division II, Jacob Cini scored two goals to lead top-seeded Bexley to a 2-1 win over fourth-seeded DeSales in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville North.
The Lions, who won their second district championship in as many years, improved to 12-3-4 and advanced to play Vincent Warren Local in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 31, at Logan. The winner will play Dover or Minerva in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3.
DeSales, which reached a state semifinal last season before losing 3-0 to Dayton Carroll, finished 8-7-4.
After a scoreless first half, Cini scored with 29:46 remaining and added an insurance goal with 11:27 left. DeSales’ Peter Marth scored with 8:42 left to break the shutout.
“We just kind of focused the whole week on this game,” said Cini, a junior forward. “This one is extra special. We can never seem to beat them. We had tons of opportunities. I think we could have put in more goals, but we got the ones we needed.”
Columbus Academy 2, Grandview 1
In Division III, second-seeded Columbus Academy won its first district championship since 2009 by defeating third-seeded Grandview 2-1 in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville South.
Academy improved to 14-2-3 and will play Mansfield Christian in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 31, at Lexington. The winner will play Archbold or Toledo Ottawa Hills in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3.
“Grandview is a wonderful opponent,” said Academy coach Ron Leach, whose team had played Grandview to a scoreless tie on Oct. 2. “Three goals for both of these teams was amazing because they’re really both defensive teams.”
Grandview, which finished 15-2-2, opened the scoring on a goal by Ben Brannan just 2:11 into the game. Academy tied the game on a goal by Tim Leathery off an assist from Jake Tuckerman with 11:07 left in the first half.
The Vikings scored what proved to be the winning goal when Tuckerman scored on a breakaway with 1:34 left in the first half.
Academy goalie Thomas Nolan had five saves and Grandview goalie Ben Farynowski had six.
“We played the game we wanted to play,” Grandview coach Brian Neidenthal said. “We needed to create a few more opportunities for ourselves and we just didn’t in the last half of the field.”
Worthington Christian 4, Tree of Life 0
Top-seeded Worthington Christian won its eighth consecutive district championship by defeating sixth-seeded Tree of Life 4-0 in a district final Oct. 27 at Westerville South.
The defending state champion Warriors improved to 11-5-3 and will play Peebles in a regional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 31, at Bloom-Carroll. The winner will face Berlin Hiland or Coshocton in a regional final Saturday, Nov. 3.
Tree of Life finished 11-7-2.
Albert Miller scored what proved to be the winning goal early in the first half for the Warriors, who got two goals from Sam Condon and one from Ben Davidson in the second half.
“The Central District has great teams, and it’s a joy to represent the school and the area and to play at the regional,” Worthington Christian coach Dan Roads said.