As the Westerville Central High School boys soccer team walked toward midfield following its game against Olentangy Liberty on Sept. 20, several Warhawks players exclaimed, "We'll see them again in the tournament."
Nick Scherner's goal with 40 seconds remaining lifted the host Patriots to a 2-1 win.
Liberty is ranked first in the ThisWeek Super 7 poll and second in the Division I state poll behind Cleveland St. Ignatius, which defeated the Patriots 4-2 in the state final last season.
"These are the games you live for," Central's Mike Reed said. "It's a dogfight going against a team that has no blemish on its record. You want to play against these teams. You want to be the first team to knock them out. You can't ask for anything more from our guys. We played hard. We gave it everything we had."
Central tied the game at 1 on Abdi Mohamed's goal with 13:44 remaining.
"We never give up every single game," said Mohamed, who was playing with a broken right wrist suffered in a 2-1 win over Westerville North on Sept. 18.
"I was supposed to be out for a week, but I really didn't care," Mohamed said of playing with the injury.
Rajat Gupta's goal gave the Patriots a 1-0 lead with 28:15 left.
Central goalkeeper Griffen Gordon made six saves.
"Liberty is probably, if not the best team in the state, one of the top two teams in the state," coach Dave Pence said. "We pushed them to their limit. We played extremely well. I'm proud of our guys. We played good soccer. It was a great high school soccer match. Liberty is a fantastic team and we're a pretty good team as well."
Last season, the teams tied at 1 when they were members of the OCC-Cardinal Division. Liberty has moved to the OCC-Central.
The Warhawks were 7-3-1 overall and 3-0-1 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Westerville South on Sept. 25.
Chewy Gordon and Sam Sharifi scored against North, and Griffen Gordon had six saves.
North upends Dublin Coffman
North bounced back from its loss to Central to defeat Dublin Coffman 1-0 on Sept. 22 on Sid Fragoulis' first-half goal.
Sophomore goalie Tristin Doone finished with nine saves, including a diving stop with nine minutes remaining.
The Shamrocks defeated North 3-1 in a Division I district semifinal last season.
Coach Mark Price said it was a needed win after losing a close game at home against Central.
"Coffman knocked us out of the tournament last year, so it left a bad taste in our mouth," Price said. "They're a great team. ... It's a good win for us. They really gave us all we could handle. Our goalie made four or five phenomenal saves for us."
Ian Lybarger scored against Central and Doone had five saves.
"After the Central game, they were over there on the other sideline at our home field and they were chanting 'We rule the 'Ville,' Price said. "It was pretty disrespectful of them to do it on our field. Unfortunately, we didn't get to play them again (Sept. 22), but unfortunately for Coffman they had to play a very angered team and that's how we played. We played angry with something to prove."
South hoping to rebound
South saw its four-game winning streak end in a 2-1 home loss to Delaware on Sept. 22.
Richard Dahome's goal with 32:28 left pulled the Wildcats within a goal.
Matt Doolittle made four saves.
"It's another wake-up call," coach Aaron Linden said. "We've been on a roll and playing well."
South remained in contention in the OCC-Cardinal at 3-1 before playing Central on Sept. 25.
Before playing Delaware, South had won its previous three games by shutout, including a 3-0 win over Hilliard Darby on Sept. 18.
Josh McErlean, Luke Morais and Patrick Szymczak scored, and Doolittle had 10 saves.