During a Division II regional semifinal Oct. 31 at London, coach Jay Scott saw the competitive spirit that helped his Bexley High School boys soccer team win its first district championship since 2013.
The Lions were down three goals to Cincinnati McNicholas but rallied to close within one in a 3-2 loss that ended their season at 13-7 overall.
Junior midfielder Miles Joseph scored an unassisted goal and senior forward Ted Schoedinger scored off an assist from senior midfielder Noah Luehmann.
"We were down 3-0 with 20 minutes to go in the game and we came roaring back," Scott said. "We got ourselves in a hole, but we came back doing what we do. Sometimes we get in a hole and we have to fight to get back.
"Soccer is a game of bounces, and we didn't get them this time. The guys played really hard and did what we asked them to do."
Junior goalie Ben Ziegler had six saves.
The loss came four days after the third-seeded Lions defeated seventh-seeded Olentangy Berlin 1-0 at Wellington to win a district championship. Sophomore Charlie Breyfogle scored, and Ziegler had seven saves in the last of his nine shutouts this season.
"We excelled when we needed to excel," Scott said. "We won our first district title in five years and fought to make it to regional. That says a lot about our capacity to play. They continued to work and did everything we asked them to do."
In the MSL-Ohio Division, Bexley (2-2) tied Whitehall (1-1-2) for third behind co-champions Columbus Academy and Grandview (both 2-1-1).
Schoedinger led the Lions in scoring with 10 goals and five assists, and senior midfielder Will Simpson (second-team all-league) had eight goals and three assists. Luehmann had six goals and two assists, and senior defender John Niermeyer added two goals and one assist.
Defender Teague Beachler, midfielder Nick Cory, forward Mason Dorrian, defender Grant Halliday, midfielder Christian Roddy (first-team all-league, second-team all-district) and defender Reid Wagenbrenner (honorable mention all-league) rounded out the senior class.
"The senior class is a big, loving group of guys and having them and learning stuff from them has really helped us out," Ziegler said.
Scott also was appreciative of his senior class.
"The entire team was led by the seniors," he said. "We had some players that had some of the highest soccer IQs that I have coached. They have a lot of drive and passion, and they were great leaders on the field, in the classroom and in the community. They are leaving a strong legacy for us to build upon, so it's bittersweet to see these guys go."
Breyfogle (5 goals, 2 assists), Joseph (second-team all-league; 7 goals, 3 assists) and Ziegler (first-team all-district and all-league; 41 saves) lead the expected returnees. Juniors Ford Cowan (midfielder; 4 goals) and Miles Goldman (forward; 5 goals, 2 assists) also are expected back along with sophomore defender Grant Nguyen.
"We should have a good nucleus coming back with numerous kids with varsity experience and several good j.v. players coming up," Scott said. "We should have a solid foundation, and we have a great opportunity to build on this."
Football team expects future to be brighter
The football team finished 1-9 overall after going 0-10 last fall.
Second-year coach Nathan Castorena saw the Lions battle injuries and a difficult schedule that included losses to four playoff qualifiers in Harvest Prep (32-21 on Aug. 24) and MSL-Ohio foes Grandview (35-13 on Sept. 21), London (56-0 on Oct. 19) and Whitehall (37-10 on Oct. 12).
"I think we saw a lot of growth in terms of our younger players," said Castorena, whose team finished sixth (0-5) in the MSL-Ohio behind champion Whitehall (5-0). "There were a lot of improvements offensively and defensively.
"When you compare averages from this year to last, game by game we performed better. Offensively we really added in terms of yardage and we scored more."
The Lions scored 76 points this fall compared to 55 last year, and they were shutout five times in 2017 as opposed to three times this season.
Senior Anthony Welsh led Bexley offensively and defensively and was named first-team all-league. At quarterback, he was the top rusher with 472 yards and two touchdowns on 119 carries and completed 73 of 158 passes with five touchdowns and nine interceptions. At defensive back, he had 53 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass break-ups.
Senior running back Antonio Truss had 305 yards rushing and one touchdown on 75 carries, and senior wide receiver Zack Welz had 15 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns. Senior two-way linemen Simon Keller and Tommy Lee (32.5 tackles, team-high 7.5 for loss) both were honorable mention all-league.
"I'm really proud of this senior group," Castorena said. "They weren't the biggest class, and they went through some tough seasons. They battled injuries and worked really hard. They put in the time in watching film and in the weight room."
Junior Carter Brenner (WR/DB; second-team all-league) caught 35 passes for 294 yards and one touchdown. He also had 22.5 tackles, forced two fumbles and recovered two more.
Junior linebacker Grant Sheridan (second-team all-league) had 52.5 tackles, including five for loss. Junior two-way lineman Luke Robinson (honorable mention all-league) had 25.5 tackles, including 5.5 for loss.
Junior Patrick Beck (RB/LB) had 36.5 tackles, including five for loss, and sophomore Tommy Bloebaum (WR/DB) caught seven passes for 168 yards and one touchdown.
Juniors Jack Dawson (OL), Ethan Fosnaugh (TE/LB; 31 tackles, 4.5 for loss) and Justin Mauk (OL/DL) are other key players expected to return.