After reaching a Division I district final each of the past two seasons, the Westerville Central High School boys soccer team is hoping to advance further this year.
In both of those seasons, the Warhawks' postseason run was halted by Dublin Coffman. In 2012, the Shamrocks defeated Central 2-1 in a district final. Last year, the Warhawks lost to Coffman 5-0 to finish 10-3-7 overall.
"We have a lot of players back," coach Dave Pence said. "The guys are working hard. The senior class has been working real hard, so we'll see what the season presents us. The Central District is so strong that if you win a district title in the Central District, anything can happen from that point on."
The Warhawks opened Aug. 16 by tying visiting Olentangy Orange at 2. Senior midfielder Abdi Mohamed scored twice and junior goalkeeper Zane Hamoui had six saves.
Last season, Mohamed was named first-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division and second-team all-district after he set a program record for assists in a season with 12.
Also back is senior forward Chewy Gordon, who led the team in scoring with 15 goals and two assists and was second-team all-league.
Junior midfielder Tyler Stills was special mention all-league and junior midfielder Nesta Hejduk was honorable mention.
Gordon and Mohamed are captains.
Also back are seniors Michael Denzel (midfielder), Grant Hagglund (defender), Jeremy Shown (goalie), Trevor Mack (defender) and Scott McNenny (midfielder), junior Jacob Gates (defender) and sophomore Nick Neville (midfielder). Junior midfielder Jalen Frantal is a transfer from Beavercreek.
Other players are juniors Daniel Diaz (forward) and Cole Stephenson (defender).
"We have more depth than we've probably ever had since I've been here at Central," said Pence, who is in his 12th season. "We have a lot of guys pushing each other for playing time. All coaches love that."
Last season, Central finished fourth (3-1-3) in the OCC-Cardinal behind Hilliard Bradley (5-0-2), Canal Winchester (5-1-1) and Westerville South (3-0-4).
A key loss to graduation was midfielder Hunter Robertson, who was first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state. He is a freshman defender at Ohio State.
Warriors looking to replace key losses
North was hit hard by graduation, losing nine players from a team that finished 6-10-1 overall.
Seniors Dakota Berridge and Jack Engelhart are competing to start in goal in place of senior Tristan Doone, who made 78 saves last year but opted not to play this season.
"You would like to have an experienced goalie who has seen some varsity time, but unfortunately we don't have that this year," said coach Mark Price, whose team opens Tuesday, Aug. 26, with an OCC-Cardinal game against visiting Hilliard Darby.
Last season, the Warriors tied Darby for seventh (1-6) in the league.
Junior defender Mark Just was honorable mention all-league last season.
Seniors Brandon Horn (forward) and Griffin King (defender) and junior Brian Randall (midfielder) return and are captains.
Also back are seniors Carson Coyle (forward), Joey Moler (midfielder) and Connor Thompson (midfielder), juniors Ty Bealer (midfielder), Alec Lithiluxa (defender), Eli Lithiluxa (forward), Matt Roldan (midfielder) and Nick Smith (defender) and sophomore Josh Grant (forward).
Senior forward Connor Blakely is a transfer from Olentangy Orange who should contribute later this season after he recovers from right ACL surgery, according to Price.
Other players are seniors Boji Bojanin (midfielder), Alex Cummings (forward) and Jordan Rummel (forward) and sophomores Nolan Frank (midfielder) and Erik Hynes (defender).
"We usually spend a lot of time in our mini-camps over the summer and at the beginning of the year working on defense," Price said. "Offense is something that I say will always come, so as long as you can keep teams from scoring, especially with all the parity in high school soccer today, maybe one goal is all it's going to take to get wins."
Wildcats look to build on last year
With a solid group back, South coach Aaron Linden expects his team to contend for league and district titles.
The Wildcats reached a district final last season before losing to Canal Winchester 3-1.
"We definitely reloaded," Linden said. "We're returning a lot of leaders."
The Wildcats, who finished 10-3-6 overall, opened Aug. 16 with a 2-0 loss at Worthington Christian.
Senior forward Luke Morais had 24 goals and eight assists last season. He was first-team all-league and second-team all-district, and junior defender Massillon Myers was special mention all-league.
Junior midfielder Luke Houston, Morais and Myers are captains.
Also back is sophomore goalie Kyle Morais, Luke's brother. Other returnees are seniors Joey Freeman (defender), Leland Klein (goalie/defender) and Jack Spiller (defender), juniors Brenan Lawrence (midfielder) and Tyler Linden (midfielder), who is the coach's son, and sophomores Isaac Bumgarner (midfielder) and Ty Chapman (midfielder/defender).
Other players are seniors Suresh Bhattarai (midfielder) and Aboubacar Kaba (forward), juniors Kingsley Amoakohene (midfielder), Tate Howell (defender) and Adler Rolfes (defender) and sophomores Aboubakar Abdourahou (midfielder), Jacob Champe (midfielder), Brandon Frank (midfielder), Jason Himes (defender), Austin Lovell (defender), Sammy Mansour (defender), Ashton Pullie (defender) and Alex Tremper (midfielder).
Last season, South went 3-0-4 in the OCC-Cardinal to finish third.
"The league is tough as usual and we have a tough schedule," coach Linden said. "We feel like we're (in the) top tier in our division, but it will be a tough division. We have Coffman (at home Sept. 20), who is probably going to be one of the best teams in the state at the end of the year. They're not in our division, but we're looking forward to that match."
Aug. 16 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
Aug. 19 -- at Dublin Coffman
Oct. 21 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
Aug. 30 -- at Olentangy
*Sept. 2 -- at Canal Winchester
Sept. 4 -- at Gahanna
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 16 -- at Westerville North
Sept. 18 -- vs. St. Charles
*Sept. 23 -- vs. Westerville South
Sept. 25 -- vs. New Albany
*Sept. 30 -- at Hilliard Darby
Oct. 2 -- at Central Crossing
*Oct. 7 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
Oct. 9 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Aug. 28 -- at Marysville
*Sept. 2 -- at Dublin Scioto
Sept. 4 -- vs. Hartley
Sept. 6 -- at Worthington Christian
*Sept. 9 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Westerville Central
Sept. 18 -- at Grandview
Sept. 20 -- vs. Beavercreek
*Sept. 23 -- at Hilliard Bradley
Sept. 25 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 30 -- vs. Canal Winchester
Oct. 2 -- at Chillicothe
Oct. 4 -- at Findlay
*Oct. 6 -- at Westerville South
Oct. 9 -- at New Albany
Aug. 16 -- at Worthington Christian
Aug. 21 -- vs. New Albany
*Aug. 26 -- vs. Canal Winchester
Aug. 28 -- at Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 2 -- at Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 9 -- at Dublin Scioto
Sept. 11 -- at Pickerington Central
*Sept. 16 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
Sept. 18 -- vs. Watterson
Sept. 20 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
*Sept. 23 -- at Westerville Central
Sept. 25 -- vs. Pickerington North
*Sept. 30 -- at Dublin Jerome
Oct. 2 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
Oct. 4 -- at Olentangy
*Oct. 6 -- vs. Westerville North