There are plenty of encouraging numbers for the high school boys lacrosse teams from Pickerington Central and North to cling to as they begin their third seasons.

There are plenty of encouraging numbers for the high school boys lacrosse teams from Pickerington Central and North to cling to as they begin their third seasons.

The Panthers finished 3-12 a year ago but lost only six players to graduation and more than 20 freshmen came out for the team.

Pete Campbell is Central's new coach after serving as an assistant under former coach Ryan Cook, who resigned during the offseason. The Tigers went 7-12 overall last year but return 17 letterwinners.

Both teams have their sights set on improving in the OCC-Central Division, where the Tigers tied Delaware for fourth at 2-4 and North finished sixth at 1-4 behind Westerville North (6-0), Westerville Central (5-1) and Westerville South (4-2). Big Walnut (0-5) rounded out the league.

Pickerington North defeated the Tigers 12-10 in their league matchup in the regular-season finale, but Central won the rematch 12-11 in the first round of the Division I Central Region tournament.

Also competing in the Division I Central Region along with Central and North are Dublin Coffman, Gahanna, St. Charles, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington, all three Westerville programs and Worthington Kilbourne.

Campbell welcomes back seven seniors for Central

Campbell took over as coach at Central last fall after serving as defensive coordinator last spring. A 2000 Hilliard Davidson graduate, he played for Marietta College for three seasons and then gained coaching experience at Hilliard Darby, Olentangy and Olentangy Orange.

The Tigers have seven seniors in midfielders Brandon Ballentine, Brad Bowers, Vince Griffith, Jake Raymond and Darius Wagner and defenders Pete Brobeck and Garyck Todd.

Raymond, Todd and Wagner are captains, along with juniors Devon Maki (midfielder) and Brent Walton (attacker).

Todd leads a defense that Campbell expects to be a strength. Also at the position are sophomores Josh Clouse, Collin Morgan and Luke Rust.

Bowers will be at long-stick midfielder, while Griffith, Maki, Raymond and Wagner should be among the Tigers' top offensive midfielders.

Walton heads a group of attackers that also includes juniors Dylan Smith and Cody Strickler and sophomore Zane Kenney.

Junior Cole Naylor returns at goalkeeper, with sophomore Brad Dowdell and freshman John Ward serving as backups. Last year, Brobeck played in goal for the final three weeks of the season after Naylor went down with a season-ending thumb injury.

Freshmen Adam Grumman (defender), Ronald Lawrence (midfielder) and Brad Morris (attacker/midfielder) are others looking to contribute.

Central, which lost to Upper Arlington 22-3 in the second round of the Central Region tournament, had just two seniors last year in Jackson Murphy and Elijah Wright.

The Tigers open Friday, March 23, at McMurray (Pa.) Peters Township and play Saturday, March 24, at both Wheeling (W.Va.) Central Catholic and Wheeling (W.Va.) Park. They then play Wednesday, March 28, at Bexley.

"We're looking really strong," Campbell said. "We've got 17 returning letterwinners, which is kind of unheard of. We didn't lose a single starter, and even in a great year you usually lose three or four. We've got seven seniors and they're all leading the pack. We're out to make a statement this year.

"I definitely loaded up our schedule with more of the traditional powers this year. We might take some lumps, but that's how you get better."

Panthers strength coudl be goalie depth

According to second-year North coach Marc Diemand, the strength of his team could be its depth at goalkeeper.

Senior Jarrod Culp is a returning captain and is backed up by junior Nathan Hess.

Other key players include seniors Jay Huffman (attacker), Adam Hunt (defender) and Thomas Mallory (midfielder) and juniors Austin Brady (midfielder), Seth Caudill (defender), Alex Dankowski (midfielder), Travis Huffman (attacker), Taylor Roberts (long-stick midfielder) and Dominic Robson (defender). Freshman Stephen Hertenstein (defender) also is looking to contribute.

Culp, Dankowski and Mallory are captains.

Last season, Diemand wasn't able to coach the team for its first five games because of paperwork issues. North lost its first seven games before beating the Columbus City Schools club team 9-3.

The Panthers' other wins came against Wellington (12-7) and Pickerington Central.

North opens Friday, March 23, at home against Davidson.

"We only graduated six guys from last year, so all of the sophomores and juniors I had last year are juniors and seniors," Diemand said. "I've got a couple new faces who are going to see some playing time and we've got close to 25 freshmen so our j.v. team is basically a freshman team. We're hoping a couple (freshmen) see some varsity time in some capacity.

"We only got handled by one team in our division, and that was Westerville Central (14-9). There's no reason (we) can't win (our) division of the OCC."