Having to almost completely rebuild its roster didn't keep the Beechcroft High School boys soccer team from winning a second consecutive City championship last fall.
The Cougars are hoping that same standard applies this season because nearly their entire roster has been replaced by new players.
"This is our third year here, and after the first year, 15 graduated or aged out and last year 14 graduated or aged out, so I can't honestly say the last couple years I've had a core to build on each year," said coach Derek Hone, whose team finished 8-7-2 overall last season, including a 3-2 victory (10-9 in shootout) over Columbus West in the City final at Mapfre Stadium.
"It's been building from scratch and understanding the culture. It's kind of been very different from year to year and not to have youth to work with."
The Cougars had about 30 players last season, but with only 18 this fall, they don't have enough for a junior varsity.
Long-term, Hone would like that to change.
"We're continually hoping to build our numbers and want to have a consistent j.v. team," Hone said. "We have a handful that are recreational players that might not have played on a team before and two or three that are on a really high level this year."
The only key returnees are senior goalkeeper Andrew Zigarevich, senior defender Gideon Adjei and junior forward Najib Abdisalan.
Beechcroft opened with a 2-1 win Aug. 21 over Delaware and then beat Lakewood 5-0 on Aug. 23 before its game Aug. 25 against Caledonia River Valley was postponed because of bad weather. It has been rescheduled for Oct. 9.
The Cougars lost to Jonathan Alder 8-1 on Aug. 30 and played Dayton Belmont on Sept. 1.
Abdisalan, who also played for the Cougars two seasons ago when they won a Division II district title, had two goals against Lakewood and one against Delaware.
Sophomore midfielder Anup Rimal scored one goal in each of the first two games and juniors Josh Ming (midfielder) and Abdifatah Areb (forward) each had one goal against Lakewood.
Sophomore midfielder Samuel Kyereh, who was on the j.v. last year, also is a key player, along with junior newcomer Michael Anunobi (forward).
Also on the team are seniors Loiy Ghazazwah (midfielder) and John Pao (midfielder), juniors Abdinajib Areb (forward), Suan Khual (midfielder) and Othman Tali (midfielder), sophomores Ismail Mohammad (midfielder) and Umish Subba (midfielder) and freshmen John Attorak (forward), Dylon Feagin (defender), Halen Leavell (defender) and Trey Smith (defender).
"It's just very hard here to know from one year to the next how to build a schedule a year in advance," Hone said. "I feel like having won the City the last two years we definitely have a target from the other teams in the (City League-North Division) and the City-South and we have to recreate that hunger and culture, trying to get the newer kids to understand that other teams would like to knock us off."
Beechcroft went 6-0-1 in the City-North last season, with a 3-all tie against Northland.
The Vikings went 3-2-2 in the City-North and have key returnees throughout their roster.
Northland opened with wins over Briggs (8-1 on Aug. 17), Independence (5-2 on Aug. 21) and Walnut Ridge (5-1 on Aug. 27).
With 35 players, including 10 freshmen who joined the program in late August, third-year Vikings coach Brent Sells is hoping to schedule some j.v. games this fall.
"(The numbers increase is) probably our biggest move forward this year," Sells said. "We've never been able to have enough before."
Junior Eugene Boahen has moved from goalie last season to a key role on defense and sophomores Kabir Abdullahi and Prajal Tiwari are the top forwards.
Seniors Sulayman Contateh (midfielder) and Nana Sarpong (center back) and juniors D'Angelo Gomez (midfielder) and Matheus Oliviera (defender) are other key returnees.
Senior Edhiel Zamorano is at goalie.
Also on the team are seniors Sarup Rai (midfielder), Cheikh Sy (midfielder) and Ousmain Tunkara (midfielder), juniors Patrice Bigord (midfielder), Kam Dal (defender), Kyle Dumashie (midfielder), Jose Garcia (midfielder), D'Angelo Gomez (midfielder), Lalit Mangar (midfielder), Mohamed Noor Amin (midfielder) and Prakash Poudyel (defender), sophomores Abdulhakim Hussien (midfielder), Kalonji Matamba (defender), Lotto Matamba (midfielder) and Praladh Upreti (midfielder) and freshmen Juan Arias-Hernandez (midfielder) and Ben Scheckelhoff (utility).
"Eugene Boahen is one of our captains who's a really great athlete and is having a huge effect for us," Sells said. "Last year, he was forced to play goalie, but he's athletic and has a lot of speed so we're using him somewhere else. We've got a couple really good strikers. I'm really happy with the whole team. They've worked really hard over the summer and hopefully the hard work is going to pay off."
Scots, Cougars ready for football clash
Before going on to earn a share of the City-North title last season with Northland and Mifflin, the Beechcroft football team showed a glimpse of how good its defense was becoming in a 6-0 loss to Walnut Ridge in its final non-league contest.
The Cougars' defense could find the going much tougher in this year's matchup against the Scots, which will be held Friday, Sept. 7, at Beechcroft.
Walnut Ridge opened Aug. 23 with a 55-7 victory over Mifflin, a 2017 playoff team, before playing Watkins Memorial on Aug. 31.
In their opener, the Scots produced nearly 400 yards of offense as senior quarterback Isaiah Murphy completed 14 of 20 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, Sincere Staples rushed 11 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns and Javarus Leach had six carries for 92 yards and one score.
Antonio Felts added a rushing touchdown and Qian Magwood a receiving score and Walnut Ridge also scored three defensive touchdowns.
Beechcroft opened with a 27-10 win over Dayton Ponitz on Aug. 24 and played Central Crossing on Aug. 31.
Tahjon Francis rushed for two touchdowns and had a 26-yard touchdown reception from D.J. Butler and Butler added a touchdown pass to Devon Wooden for the Cougars' four touchdowns in the opener.
Vikings to face another stiff test
The Northland football team will play its third consecutive game against an opponent that competed in last year's postseason when it plays host to Granville on Friday, Sept. 7.
After losing 28-27 to Zeeland West, a 2017 playoff qualifier in Michigan, on Aug. 24, the Vikings played Whitehall on Aug. 31.
They beat the Rams 31-28 last season and both teams closed the regular season at 7-3, with Whitehall making the Division II, Region 7 playoffs and Northland finishing two spots shy of a playoff berth in the region.
Granville went 8-3 last season, including a 44-26 win over the Vikings.
The Blue Aces have a new coach in Justin Buttermore, who coached Dresden Tri-Valley to a Division III state runner-up finish last season.
Granville opened with a 35-7 victory over Hamilton Township on Aug. 24 and played Zanesville on Aug. 31.
Against the Rangers, Blue Aces quarterback Cameron Crouch threw for 130 yards and a touchdown to Zack Walsh and rushed for 116 yards and three scores.
Running back Keegan Van Meter added a touchdown run.