Boys Soccer: Veterans set positive tone for Central Crossing

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior defender James Johnson is among nine returning starters for the Central Crossing boys soccer team, providing stabilizing leadership for the Comets.

Will Denney is excited about the look of his Central Crossing boys soccer team.

The third-year coach is seeing the pieces fit together thanks to the Comets' veteran leadership and the addition of two impact players who moved into the school district.

"The thing is we're becoming a mature group," said Denney, whose team finished 3-14 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central Division last season. "We do have some key senior leaders that really help. They are pretty resilient and they are stout in terms of defense."

The Comets have nine returning starters in seniors Bladimir Castillo Hernandez (defender/midfielder), James Johnson (defender), Isaiah Prophet (midfielder; special mention all-league), Alex Smetanko (defender) and Tyler Terrell (midfielder; special mention all-league), junior Oscar Herrera Castro (defender/midfielder) and sophomores Brody Corum (midfielder), Owen Foley (defender/midfielder) and Yuriy Gorobchuk (goalie).

Senior midfielder Alex Quintero Hernandez, who is from Honduras, and senior forward Hamad Alshakhatreh, who is from Jordan, have joined the team.

"We're looking really solid so far even after losing two key players like Marcos (Rios-Gutierrez) and Ben (Kelly to graduation)," Terrell said. "We filled those roles with two transfer students -- one from Honduras and one from Jordan -- (and) they have stepped up into those roles. We have a chance to make some noise this year."

The Comets have had difficulty scoring in the past, but Denney believes his team's offense is headed in the right direction.

"We found the net more toward the end of last year and into this year," he said. "In the past, we put the ball in a scoring position but we didn't have anyone to get anything on it. This year we're finding the net more.

"I'm really impressed with Tyler Terrell's shot and his accuracy. I'm impressed with Isaiah Prophet with his finesse and his ability to beat people off the dribble and score. On the outside wing, Brody Corum is a high-IQ guy who has a lot of club experience."

Denney also likes the look of his defensive players, beginning with Foley, Johnson and Smetanko. The addition of Castro to the back has been a boost.

"I have to praise Oscar since he slid back from the midfield to defense and has done everything we have asked of him," Denney said. "He really has helped to shore things up back there."

The Comets opened with a 3-0 loss to Westerville South on Aug. 21 before defeating Marion Harding 6-1 on Aug. 24. They then lost to Teays Valley 6-2 on Aug. 27 and Marysville 7-0 on Sept. 1.

Central Crossing has moved to the OCC-Buckeye, joining Groveport, Newark, Lancaster, Pickerington Central and Reynoldsburg. It begins league play Tuesday, Sept 15, at home against Lancaster.

'Hounds seek another winning season

Playing in the realigned OCC-Ohio, the goals remain the same for Grove City.

Last season, the Greyhounds finished 9-6-2 overall and went 1-3-1 in the OCC-Ohio to place fourth behind champion Reynoldsburg (4-0-1).

Grove City is now joined in the league by Gahanna, New Albany, Pickerington North, Westerville Central and Westland. Like the Greyhounds, Gahanna and North are holdovers from the previous OCC alignment.

"Our goals don't change," said coach Bryan Mulvany, who is in his seventh season. "The process doesn't change, the goals don't change and if we can keep our standards where we need to keep them, we should have plenty of success."

The Greyhounds are seeking their fifth consecutive winning season. They were 1-1-1 through three games and open league play Tuesday, Sept. 15, at New Albany.

"We played well enough at times to be 3-0, and at times played where we could have been 0-3," Mulvany said.

Senior forward Nick Isaac was first-team all-league and third-team all-district last season, finishing with 13 goals and five assists. He has committed to Ohio State.

Also back are seniors Jack Bogner (defender), Jarod Fuchs (forward), Tyler Lantzy (defender), Tyler McGonagill (forward), Jaden Poole (defender), Alec Ray (midfielder), Ryan Seitz (defender) and Luke Taylor (midfielder) and junior Brayden Harvey (defender).

Other players are seniors Joey Lepard (midfielder), Pragnesh Patel (midfielder) and Al Repeta (forward), juniors Will Brace (forward), David Haack (defender) and Dylan McDougal (defender), sophomores Michael Boling (forward), Anthony Carey (goalie), Anton Gagliardi (midfielder), Grant Liskany (forward) and Dylan Stevens (defender) and freshmen Kyle Querry (midfielder) and Elijah Williams (goalie).

Carey and Williams should split time in goal in place of 2020 graduate Casey Thompson, who was second-team all-league last season.

"I have a great group of seniors. I have a whole bunch of them," said Mulvany, whose senior class features 12 players. "We couldn't be happier."

Another key loss to graduation was forward AB Abdullahi, who led the team in scoring with 13 goals and six assists. He was special mention all-league.

"We're just really excited," Mulvany said. "We're playing under guidelines that nobody ever imagined, but there were times when we thought we wouldn't have a season. Whatever we need to do to make that happen, we're going to do it. The kids are great. The kids are just excited to be back to something that feels like normal for them."

--Frank DiRenna

Eagles face 'rebuilding year'

After losing 16 players to graduation, Grove City Christian has a new look this season.

"Technically, we're in a rebuilding year," said coach Dan Milam, who is in his fifth season. "I lost 16 seniors last year. I have one senior this year (in midfielder Sebastian Sosa), but we have a good group of juniors and we have a good group of sophomores and freshmen that just need some game time under their belts."

The Eagles opened with a 3-2 win over visiting Madison Christian on Aug. 27.

Sophomore Cameron Stedtefeld (defender) and freshmen Brayden Ison (forward) and Noah Kauffman (midfielder) scored and sophomore goalie Luke McCoy had 10 saves.

Grove City Christian began MSL-Cardinal play Sept. 2 against Fisher Catholic.

Last season, the Eagles finished 8-7-2 overall and went 5-2-1 in the league to finish second behind Zanesville Rosecrans (7-0-1).

"Bishop Rosecrans and Fisher Catholic are pretty tough," Milam said.

Along with Stedtefeld and Sosa, other returnees are juniors Daniel Gonzalez (defen-der), Juan Mendez (midfielder) and Adam Orrell (forward).

Also looking to contribute are juniors Dominic Difolco (midfielder/defender), Kevin Hernandez (midfielder) and Aaron Nazeck (midfielder), sophomores Lucas Beal (midfielder), Danny Claffey (defender), Landon Milam (midfielder) and Majarak Ruggles (forward/midfielder) and freshmen Emma Babcock (defender), Liam Benson (defender), Addy Buttler (defender/midfielder), Andrew Gallant (forward), Reese Garner (midfielder), Samuel Gilliland (goalie), Caleb Ransom (defender) and Donavin Webster (forward/defender).

"The challenge is different this year," Milam said. "It's helping kids to realize their potential and teaching fundamentals and basics again. We're teaching style of play to a younger player. ... When we had an experienced team, we were working on some more specific characteristics of the game."

--Frank DiRenna

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At a glance

CENTRAL CROSSING

*Coach: Will Denney, third season

*Top players: Owen Foley, Yuriy Gorobchuk, James Johnson, Isaiah Prophet and Tyler Terrell

*Key losses: Ben Kelly, Jonathan Murillo, Marcos Rios-Gutierrez and Dylan Triplett

*Last season: 3-14 overall

*2019 OCC-Central standings: Hilliard Davidson (5-0), Upper Arlington (4-1), Dublin Coffman (3-2), Marysville (2-3), Westland (1-4), Central Crossing (0-5)

*2019 postseason: Lost to Marysville 4-0 in second round of Division I district tournament

GROVE CITY

*Coach: Bryan Mulvany, seventh season

*Top players: Nick Isaac, Alec Ray and Luke Taylor

*Key losses: AB Abdullahi, Colby Ross and Casey Thompson

*Last season: 9-6-2 overall

*2019 OCC-Ohio standings: Reynoldsburg (4-0-1), Pickerington North (3-0-2), Pickerington Central (3-2), Gahanna (2-3), Grove City (1-3-1), Lancaster (0-5)

*2019 postseason: Lost to Gahanna 1-0 in first round of Division I district tournament

GROVE CITY CHRISTIAN

*Coach: Dan Milam, fifth season

*Top players: Daniel Gonzalez, Juan Mendez, Sebastian Sosa and Cameron Stedtefeld

*Key losses: Davey Claffey, Juliana Hunt, Zach Lauron, Griffin Milam, Seth Ortega and Carter Stedtefeld

*Last season: 8-7-2 overall

*2019 MSL-Cardinal standings: Zanesville Rosecrans (7-0-1), Grove City Christian (5-2-1), Fisher Catholic (3-2-3), Millersport (1-5-2), Harvest Prep (0-7-1)

*Note: Millersport does not have a team this season.

*2019 postseason: Lost to Fairbanks 2-1 in first round of Division III district tournament

Dan Milam is in his fifth season as coach of Grove City Christian, which is rebuilding after losing 16 players to graduation.