The Centennial High School girls soccer team repeated as City League champions, beating Whetstone 4-1 on Oct. 11 at Mapfre Stadium.
The Stars had topped the Braves 1-0 on Oct. 1 in their regular-season meeting after edging Whetstone 2-1 on penalty kicks in last season's City final. Unlike those two matchups, this one wasn't close for long.
Danielle O'Leary scored four minutes into the game and Gwen Moran made it 2-0 with just under 10 minutes left in the first half. After Whetstone pulled to within 2-1, Rachel Schutte scored on a penalty kick for a 3-1 lead by halftime.
"Gwen was motoring everywhere at forward and played a terrific game," coach Barb Melig said. "She set up Rachel and Rachel made the penalty kick. The girls executed well. I think having eight girls back who broke (Whetstone's) league title winning streak last year gave us confidence to do it again. Last year we did it in dramatic fashion."
To ensure no drama was needed Oct. 11, Melig made an impassioned plea at halftime.
"I challenged the girls to pretend like we were down 3-1 instead of up 3-1," she said. "I didn't want them to lose their focus, their sense of urgency. We decided to keep pushing and pressuring rather than laying back and playing defense the entire second half."
Yana Napier added the final goal and the Stars followed the script, as goalkeeper Sarah Clifton made only one save the entire game.
"I think being on the bigger field was an advantage to us because of our system and speed," Melig said. "We've got great speed and Whetstone uses just three defenders, so we were running onto through balls without much pressure. Our girls had more room to make things happen."
Melig lauded the play of midfielders Nina Zimmerman, Napier and Schutte and center backs Sophia Pizzurro and Hannah Wolfe. Last season, Zimmerman and Pizzurro made the team's penalty kicks as Centennial snapped Whetstone's six-game winning streak in the City final. The teams have met in the final nine times, and the Braves have a 6-3 lead.
The Stars were 6-6-1 before beginning Division II district tournament play Oct. 15 at ninth-seeded Licking Valley. Centennial was seeded 10th of 15 teams. The winner plays second-seeded Big Walnut or 14th-seeded Heath in the second round Thursday, Oct. 18, at the home of the better seed.
That winner plays third-seeded Jonathan Alder, fourth-seeded Bloom-Carroll, fifth-seeded Bexley or 15th-seeded Whitehall in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the home of the better seed. The district final is Oct. 27 at a site to be determined.
Boys runners win City championship
With three runners finishing in the top 10 and all five scores among the top 19, the boys cross country team rolled to the City championship Oct. 10 at Walnut Ridge.
Centennial totaled 60 points to outdistance International (79), Whetstone (84), Eastmoor Academy (94), Walnut Ridge (109), Northland (137), Africentric (183), Mifflin (214), Briggs (233), Beechcroft (288), South (288) and West (316).
Jeff Kimball finished sixth (18 minutes, 28.7 seconds), Nick Loudner was eighth (18:39.7) and Kaleb Turner placed 10th (18:54.4) to lead the way. Myles Martinez was 17th (19:29.7) and Jabe Miller was 19th (19:34.4).
"We had four (personal records) and a season-best time," coach Michael Klingler said. "I thought Miles and Jabe made the difference and were outstanding at No. 4 and (No.) 5. Myles and Jeff had (personal records) by 90 seconds and Nick cut 30 seconds off his (best time). What a race.
"We thought our main competition was going to be Whetstone, so we were focused on beating them and all five of our guys finished before their No. 3 runner. International kind of snuck up on us. They didn't have a full team last year and they had three of the top nine finishers. Plus, they should have everyone back next year, so they won't surprise us next year."
Competing as individuals in the girls race, Camilla Richards was 11th (24:53.4), Jana Kimball was 13th (25:17.7), Aly Magge was 35th (29:19.1) and Giana Francescon was 45th (36:49.5). Northland (29) won the title ahead of Whetstone (51) in a five-team field.
The boys will compete in the Division I, district 1 meet Saturday, Oct. 20, at Hilliard Darby. The top five teams and top 20 runners advance to the regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
None of the girls will compete at district.
Football team aims to clinch winning season
The football team will be looking to lock up its first winning season since finishing 6-4 in 2001 when it plays at Mifflin on Friday, Oct. 19.
Centennial went 7-3 on the field in 2002 but was forced to forfeit the first three games and officially went 4-6.
The Stars enter the contest at 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the City-North Division after beating Linden-McKinley 42-0 on Oct. 12. The Punchers are 2-6 overall and 2-3 in the league after losing to East 14-12 the same night.
This will be Mifflin's league finale before playing host to Aurora on Oct. 26. Centennial closes the season at home against Whetstone that night.
"The kids are excited about the possibility, but a winning record truly isn't what we're focused on as coaches," coach Donte Goosby said. "We're focused on the growth of the kids on and off the field. We've got young guys and we're trying to get them to tie up loose ends with grades and other issues. They're exceptional athletes and are showing maturity on the field, but we want to see that maturity off the field."
Mifflin is led by running back Tavion Scales and quarterback Aman Thornton. Scales had 89 yards rushing and a touchdown against East, and Thornton threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Elijah May and finished 7-for-22 for 97 yards. The Punchers were outgained 405-247 in total yards and allowed 313 yards rushing.
Against Linden, Centennial quarterback Jaylen Gilbert threw touchdown passes to Syquee Womack and C.J. Dean and ran for another score, and Luchene Davis rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown. Marquise Scott returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown and Jamal Erby added a 5-yard touchdown run.
Defensively, the Stars forced six turnovers, with Womack making two interceptions and Justin Bridges grabbing one. Dean had 4.5 tackles, including a sack, and Noah Hatem had two tackles for loss.
"I thought Kevin Motley had a great game on the defensive line," Goosby said. "He has a lot of gifts and he finally had a breakout game. Kelvin Gilliam also had a good game on the defensive line."
Volleyball team loses City final
The girls volleyball team fell to Eastmoor 25-15, 25-16, 25-21 in the City championship match Oct. 13.
The Stars defeated Mifflin 25-8, 25-14, 25-12 on Oct. 9 to finish 13-1 in the City-North and earn a share of the title with Whetstone. Centennial was awarded the berth in the City final based on the fact Whetstone represented the City-North last season.
Centennial, which also lost to Eastmoor 25-23, 25-19, 25-22 on Sept. 12, fell to 14-8 overall.
The Stars were seeded 47th of 49 teams for the Division I district tournament and had a first-round bye. They open the postseason in the second round Thursday, Oct. 18, at second-seeded Dublin Coffman or at home against 49th-seeded Franklin Heights.
The winner advances to a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Whitehall, where it will play 21st-seeded Newark, 26th-seeded Licking Heights or 36th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley. The district final is Oct. 27 at Whitehall.
Boys soccer team begins postseason
The boys soccer team was seeded 10th of 24 teams for the Division II district tournament and played host to 12th-seeded Independence in the first round Oct. 16.
The winner plays at third-seeded Bexley on Saturday, Oct. 20, and that winner advances to a district semifinal against fifth-seeded Granville, 18th-seeded Cristo Rey or 20th-seeded Linden-McKinley on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the better seed.
The district final is Oct. 27 at a site to be determined.
The Stars were 6-3-1 entering the postseason.