When Aaron Linden took over the Westerville South High School boys soccer program in 2011, he promised to turn the Wildcats into an elite team.
South reached a Division I district final this season, losing to Canal Winchester 3-1 on Oct. 26 at Westerville Central.
"Canal is a good team -- they did a good job -- but we'll be back," Linden said. "We'll be here every year from now on."
Junior forward Luke Morais scored 1 minute, 51 seconds into the game, but the seventh-seeded Indians scored three second-half goals to win their first district title.
The 14th-seeded Wildcats finished 10-3-6 overall and 3-0-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
South and Canal Winchester had tied at 2 on Aug. 27 in league play.
Freshman goalkeeper Kyle Morais had nine saves in the district final.
After a first-round bye, South earned a 4-1 win over 20th-seeded Teays Valley in the second round Oct. 19 and a 1-0 overtime victory at third-seeded Gahanna in a semifinal Oct. 23.
Senior forward Josh McErlean (13 goals, 26 assists) was first-team all-district and all-league, and Luke Morais (24 goals, 8 assists) was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Senior defender Cameron Ferguson was second-team all-league, sophomore def-ender/midfielder Massillon Myers was special mention and senior defender Ben Gannon was honorable mention.
"These (seven) seniors helped me start this and I love every single one of them so much," Linden said. "They mean everything to me. They helped build this program. When I look back in 10 years -- and hopefully I'm still here -- I'm going to look at these seniors and know that they're the ones who did it."
Other players eligible to return are juniors Myles Bumgarner (midfielder), Joey Freeman (defender) and Jack Spiller (defender), sophomores Kingsley Amoakohene (midfielder), Luke Houston (midfielder), Brennan Lawrence (midfielder) and Adler Rolfes (defender) and freshmen Isaac Bumgarner (midfielder), Ty Chapman (forward) and Brandon Frank (forward).
South finished third in the OCC-Cardinal, behind Hilliard Bradley (5-0-2) and Canal Winchester (5-1-1) and ahead of Central (3-1-3), Dublin Scioto (2-4-1), Dublin Jerome (1-3-3), Hilliard Darby (1-6) and Westerville North (1-6).
Central boys lose to Coffman in final
For the second consecutive season, the Central boys team lost to Dublin Coffman in a district final, falling 5-0 on Oct. 26 at Westerville North to finish 10-3-7 overall.
Last season, Coffman defeated Central 2-1 in a final.
Junior goalie Jeremy Shown had nine saves in this year's contest. He finished the season with 64 saves and five shutouts.
"Coffman was the better team," coach Dave Pence said. "They just took it to us."
The ninth-seeded Warhawks opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over 36th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley on Oct. 16. Central defeated 33rd-seeded Hamilton Township 5-1 in the second round Oct. 19 and 10th-seeded Thomas Worthington 4-1 in a semifinal Oct. 23.
Midfielder Hunter Robertson, who was one of three seniors, was first-team all-district and all-league.
"Hunter Robertson is one of those players who comes around every few years," Pence said. "He's not one that is going to be easily replaced, not just his skill on the field, but his leadership on the field as well as off the field. He was a great captain."
Junior midfielder Abdi Mohamed was first-team all-league and second-team all-district after he set a program record for assists in a season with 12, three more than the previous mark.
Junior forward Chewy Gordon, who led the team in scoring with 15 goals and two assists, was second-team all-league. Sophomore midfielder Tyler Stills was special mention and sophomore defender Nesta Hejduk was honorable mention.
Others who could return next season are juniors Ross Atcheson (midfielder), Michael Denzel (midfielder), Danny Diaz (midfielder), Lucas Deutch (forward), Kenyon Feenstra (midfielder), Grant Hagglund (defender), Trevor Mack (defender), Keene Moyer (midfielder) and Scott McNenny (midfielder), sophomores Jacob Gates (defender) and Zane Hamoui (goalie) and freshmen Bradley Annis (forward), Nick Brown (forward) and Nick Neville (midfielder).
"We have a lot coming back and we have some young guys who are ready to step up and go to the next level," Pence said.
South girls fall in district semifinal
The South girls team reached a district semifinal, but lost at sixth-seeded Watterson 3-0 on Oct. 22 to finish 11-5-1.
Senior goalie Cara Calland had six saves.
"It was a tough loss and our girls fought hard," coach Brandi Tanler said.
After a first-round bye, the 13th-seeded Wildcats defeated 16th-seeded New Albany 1-0 in the second round Oct. 19.
Central girls fall in district semi
The fifth-seeded Central girls team finished 11-3-4 after losing to 14th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 1-0 in double overtime in a district semifinal Oct. 22 at home.
Celeste Fushimi-Karns scored the winning goal for the Wolves.
Central goalie Rachel Wozniak had six saves.
North girls lose in second round
The North girls team finished 3-11-3 overall and 2-3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal under first-year coach Brett Weiss.
In the district tournament, the 22nd-seeded Warriors lost at eighth-seeded Grove City 2-1 in the second round Oct. 17 after a first-round bye.
North finished sixth in the league behind Jerome (5-1-1), Bradley (5-2), South (4-2-1), Central (3-1-3) and Canal Winchester (3-3-1) and ahead of Darby (1-5-1) and Scioto (0-6-1).
Senior Hannah Ferimer was first-team all-league and third-team all-district. Junior goalie Taylor Johnson was second-team all-league, junior defender Morgan Pearce was special mention and junior forward Peri Wiley was honorable mention.
Wiley led the team with six goals and Johnson had 110 saves.
Ferimer was one of three seniors. Senior Kelsey Walker missed the season with an ACL injury in her left knee and senior defender Maureen Kelly missed time with knee injuries.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Hayley Hotchkiss (midfielder), Caitlin Pierson (midfielder), Jenna Philibin (defender) and Emily Siemer (forward), sophomores Macey Fuller (forward), Riley Hammond (midfielder), Chelsea Hibbitt (forward), Jennifer Markley (midfielder), Ronnie Royer (midfielder) and Ashley Walden (forward) and freshmen Karli Royer (midfielder), Abbey Gruber (midfielder) and Alley Miltko (forward).
"I knew going in that I had a young team," Weiss said. "I knew that we were going to have our ups and downs and we were going to take our lumps, but that's part of the challenge. As a coach, that's one of those things that you have to teach them to work through."