The Olentangy Liberty and Orange high school boys soccer teams don't believe in easing into the season.

The Olentangy Liberty and Orange high school boys soccer teams don't believe in easing into the season.

The Patriots-Pioneers opener Aug. 21 at Orange featured last year's Division I state runners-up against a team that reached a district semifinal last fall.

The Pioneers, who lost 15 seniors from a year ago, loaded up their defensive front and kept the game scoreless for a half. The Patriots pulled out a 1-0 win on a goal by senior midfielder Sam DeRoy, who was first-team all-league and all-district last season while helping Liberty go 16-3-3 and come within one win of a state title.

Senior Jared Robinson assisted on the goal. Liberty senior goalkeeper Anderson deAndrade made 11 saves, while senior Zach Arefi had 13 saves for Orange.

"Even though we lost against Liberty, it gave our guys some confidence," Pioneers coach Scott Bryant said. "It showed we could play with a good team like that. (Liberty is) one of the teams to beat in central Ohio."

Orange followed the opener with a trip Aug. 25 to Perrysburg, a two-hour-plus bus ride to northwestern Ohio.

"It was hot on their turf," Bryant said. "It was a tough game."

The Pioneers won 1-0 against a Yellow Jackets team that was a Division I regional semifinalist last year. Connor Blakely scored and Arefi made four saves.

"We're gaining confidence," said Bryant, whose team was 8-6-4 overall last year and lost to Hilliard Bradley 1-0 in a Division I district semifinal. "... The guys have a good attitude and they needed to go out and play some games and show themselves they could compete at that level."

The Patriots followed up their win over Orange by beating Gahanna 4-0 on Aug. 25. Gahanna was a district runner-up a year ago.

Liberty took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half when junior Thomas Gullo scored off an assist from Robinson.

"I really felt the game could have gone two ways at that point," Patriots coach Rick Collins said. "If we could get one more (goal), it could really take (Gahanna) out of the game."

Gahanna maintained its 1-0 deficit through the remainder of the first half, but Liberty broke open the game with three second-half goals. Robinson and Anthony DeNoi each scored one and Gullo added his second.

"I challenged the boys to score and we got one from Jared," Collins said. "We took it to them at that point. We capitalized on our chances and really moved the ball well. We did what we needed to do."

Although it still is early in the season, each coach has been pleased with aspects of his team.

"The way we played (against Gahanna) is the way we want to play and that's what I've wanted to see more than anything," said Collins, whose team lost last season's state final 4-2 to Cleveland St. Ignatius. "Obviously we want to win, but we want to win playing the kind of soccer we want to play."

"We've been very organized defensively," Bryant said. "Liberty got a fair amount of chances against us and Zach made some great saves. We limited Perrysburg to a minimal amount. It's been huge for us."

Both teams expect to face tough games in the next week.

Liberty plays at New Albany on Thursday, Aug. 30, and plays host to Upper Arlington on Tuesday, Sept. 4, in an OCC-Central Division contest. Orange plays host to Dublin Jerome on Thursday, Aug. 30, and visits Olentangy on Tuesday, Sept. 4, for an OCC-Capital game.

"I expect them to play defensive, similar to the way Orange played," Collins said of those opponents. "We've got to work on breaking teams down when they pack it in behind the ball."

"We really have to take it one game at a time," Bryant said. "If we look past any of these guys they would easily beat us. Every team in our schedule is capable of doing good things in the district."