With a limited number of what he calls "true defenders" at his disposal, Wellington boys soccer coach J.J. Bain instituted a system change this season.

Senior Eli Dulle was the Jaguars' leading scorer last season while playing mostly at forward but was moved back to the midfield alongside sophomore Henry Lin in a 3-5-2 alignment.

The result of the move, combined with the progression of numerous key returnees, helped Wellington produce an offense that averaged more than four goals per game and put together the greatest season in program history.

The Jaguars won their first state championship, beating Botkins 4-0 in a Division III state semifinal Nov. 6 at Springfield before defeating Bluffton by the same score in the state final Nov. 10 at Mapfre Stadium.

"Everyone that was on the team last year was on another level of good this year," Bain said. "We could afford to (move Dulle) back. I needed to figure out a way to allow our good midfielders to share the role of filling into the back line, and Henry and Eli were kind of the first obvious options to try there when we tried to set up this (3-5-2) formation. Whenever we got broken down, we felt like we were going to be very secure in this formation."

Dulle, who had 15 goals and 16 assists as a junior when the Jaguars lost in a regional semifinal, became more of a distributor this season as Wellington finished 18-2-3 overall and made its first run to the state tournament.

In the state final, senior forward Ahmet Ozer scored a natural first-half hat trick to quickly remove any doubt about the eventual result.

With 20 minutes, 41 seconds left in the half, Ozer scored off a pass from Lin. He added another goal off a pass from senior forward Freddie Lin with 16:36 remaining and his third goal came off a pass from Dulle with 9:14 left before halftime.

Freddie Lin scored the game's final goal with Henry Lin assisting with 18:09 remaining.

Ozer, who had 18 goals and 11 assists on the season, moved to goalkeeper for the game's final four minutes so that all 11 seniors could play simultaneously.

Bluffton, which finished 18-3-2, also was making its first appearance in a state final.

"It's like something that comes along in your dreams," Dulle said. "When they'd go hard on us, we were able to counter-attack and that was part of our game plan. Ahmet had the day of his life and we really enjoyed it.

"It was about hard work. The culture of the team reflects the strong bond us 11 seniors have with ourselves and the rest of the team. We have a focused attitude, but genuinely just enjoy playing with one another."

Wellington went 4-0-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division to share the league title with Worthington Christian.

The Jaguars played the Warriors to a scoreless tie Sept. 18, but the only other game in which they didn't score was a 3-0 loss to eventual Division I regional semifinalist St. Charles on Sept. 26 when Dulle did not play.

Also in the regular season, the Jaguars beat Division II district runners-up Bloom-Carroll (4-0 on Aug. 20) and Granville (2-0 on Sept. 24), Division II regional semifinalist Bexley (2-0 on Oct. 10) and Division III regional semifinalist Grandview (1-0 on Oct. 2) and tied Division II state semifinalist Columbus Academy at 1 on Sept. 11.

Wellington outscored its seven postseason opponents by a combined 40-0.

"This is incredible," Freddie Lin said. "These are my best friends and it's awesome."

Freddie Lin finished with 31 goals and 13 assists, Ozer had 18 goals and 11 assists and Dulle added nine goals and 14 assists.

Senior forwards Adenola Atekoja (8 goals, 6 assists) and Zak Ahmed (5 goals) also were key contributors.

Junior forward Jordan Livits, who had two goals against Botkins, should be the top offensive returnee next season after finishing with 15 goals and 19 assists.

Sophomore Aurius Calloway is eligible to return in goal after making one save in the state final, as is freshman Jake Johnson.

Junior Eoin Basobas O'Carroll (defender), who had three goals and three assists, and sophomore midfielder Will Starker, who had one goal and nine assists, are others who should join Livits and Henry Lin as key returnees on offense.

Others eligible to return include junior Matt Reid (midfielder) and sophomores Leroy Dannemiller (defender), Elliot Harpham (defender), Sarim Saddiqui (defender) and Christian Wurapa (defender).

Dulle was named league Player of the Year and was joined on first-team all-league by Freddie Lin and senior defender Nick Robinson.

Livits and Ozer were second-team all-league and Henry Lin and Atekoja were honorable mention all-league.

"To me, it is a sense of accomplishment that these young guys hopefully take with them the rest of their life and understand that if you're intentional about achieving something, you can achieve it," Bain said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek