Boys Lacrosse: Olentangy Orange Pioneers thrilled to return to action

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Orange's Julian DiSabato takes a shot on goal during a scrimmage against Big Walnut on March 16. The senior midfielder is one of the top scoring threats for the Pioneers.

Jarrod Gilliam lost his debut as Olentangy Orange boys lacrosse coach, but a bit of a smile still crept across his face. The sun was shining and the Pioneers were playing.

Gilliam should have coached his first game last spring, but the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. After opening with a 9-5 home loss to Berlin on March 20, he saw the bright side of things.

“It was a tough season to navigate last year, but the biggest thing is to see the kids get a chance to play again,” said Gilliam, who previously was an assistant for four seasons. “To miss out on a season last year was heartbreaking for all teams. This is about appreciating the game and our kids showing up and putting in the work to get better.”

Senior defender Luke Applegate, senior midfielders Julian DiSabato and Tanner Hegarty and senior attacker John Stearns are the most experienced players for the Pioneers, who went 8-9 in 2019.

DiSabato, Hegarty and senior midfielder Dylan Dempsey are top scoring threats along with junior midfielder Blake Dustin and freshman midfielder Ayden Hanna.

“We have a lot of scoring threats in DiSabato, Hegarty and Dylan Dempsey with all of them being able to get to the cage and score,” Gilliam said. “John Stearns is more of the feeder back there.

“We have really good depth this year. We’re getting a freshman up there, and he’s handling the pressure well. Last time he played was as a seventh-grader at Berkshire Middle School. He stuck out from the beginning with his great stick skills.”

Applegate, senior Cannon Evans and junior Luke Houston hold down the defensive end of the field, and senior Connor Imes plays in goal.

INSIDE THE PIONEERS

Coach: Jarrod Gilliam, first season 

Next game: April 2, home vs. Westerville Central

Key athletes: Luke Applegate, Julian DiSabato, Dylan Dempsey, Blake Dustin, Cannon Evans, Ayden Hanna, Tanner Hegarty, Luke Houston and John Stearns

Veteran Bears looking

for successful season

Second-year Berlin coach Dominique Alexander will have a seasoned lineup this spring.

The Bears, who went 2-15 in 2019, earned the program’s third victory by defeating Orange 9-5 in the opener March 20.

“I have everyone back and some more,” said Alexander, whose team lost to Liberty 13-8 on March 23. “We lost a couple seniors, but we were a pretty young team in 2019. Some of our juniors and seniors played a lot as freshmen and sophomores and they can use that experience to take it to the next level.”

Junior attacker/midfielder Gavin Angell, a Jacksonville commit, had seven goals and four assists in the first two contests. Junior attacker Drew Haver had four goals and one assist, while junior attacker/midfielder Drew Mark and junior midfielder Zack Zielinski both scored twice.

Senior Sam Warner returns in goal, with senior Connor Forlenzo and junior Tyler Lambert leading the defenders. Senior Max Garrabrant, a move-in from Delaware, and junior Blake Gerst, a transfer from Orange, also play on the defensive end with freshmen Josh Gavin and Aaron Nebraska.

“We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball,” Alexander said. “We have too many unforced turnovers, and it’s just simple stick work. We have to clean up our passing and catching and make sure guys are moving to the ball and catching it and securing it.”

INSIDE THE BEARS

Coach: Dominique Alexander, second season 

Next game: April 2, home vs. Hilliard Bradley

Key athletes: Gavin Angell, Connor Forlenzo, Drew Haver, Tyler Lambert, Drew Mark, Sam Warner and Zack Zielinski

—Scott Hennen

Patriots excited 

about potential 

Liberty coach Jason Godwin is looking forward to seeing if his team will contend in the OCC-Central Division, which features 2019 Division I state champion Dublin Coffman as well as perennial power Upper Arlington. 

Liberty went 13-6 overall and won the OCC-Buckeye at 7-0 in 2019. 

“We’re excited about the new OCC alignment,” Godwin said. “It makes for great conference games. … Returning to lacrosse has been a breath of fresh air. These kids and coaches want to compete and are eager to have this season. It was heart-wrenching last spring for our 2020 seniors and families. We had some solid pieces all over.” 

The top returnees are seniors Aidan Kenley (midfielder) and Alex Theuerkauf (attacker), who have committed to Ohio State and Robert Morris, respectively. 

The other seniors are Keaton Butler (defender), Jayce Fitzpatrick (faceoff/defensive midfielder), Drew Kern (midfielder), Adam Marks (faceoff midfielder), Hagen Schiffer (midfielder) and Joey Wiseman (midfielder). 

Junior Declan Johnson and sophomore Brayden Spencer also should be among the top midfielders, with junior Charlie Howenstine and sophomore Owen McGee expected to be among the top attackers. 

Juniors Freddy Noday and Andrew Stamp should be the top faceoff and defensive midfielders, with junior Dan Kelly and sophomore Grant Kenley also among the top defenders. 

Juniors Nathan Foskey and Max Ruppe and sophomore Preston Mullett are the goalies. 

“The 2021 squad is very inexperienced due to the loss of last season,” Godwin said. “There will be growing pains, but the potential we have on this team is exciting. We’re just happy to be able to play the game we’re all passionate about.” 

INSIDE THE PATRIOTS

Coach: Jason Godwin, eighth season 

Next game: April 6, at Bradley 

Key athletes: Charlie Howenstine, Declan Johnson, Dan Kelly, Aidan Kenley, Freddy Noday, Andrew Stamp, Alex Theuerkauf and Joey Wiseman 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

Veteran Braves

maintain lofty goals

Although a handful of key players are back from two years ago, when Olentangy advanced to a regional semifinal for the third consecutive season, first-year coach Austin Ford said this year’s team bears little resemblance to that one.

“We had a lot of firepower on offense that graduated. Right now, we’re looking for who is going to grow into those positions,” said Ford, who coached his alma mater, Westerville North, in 2019. “We’ve also had a run of three goalies who graduated that are now student-athletes in the (Ohio Athletic Conference), so we have to get our goalies up to speed.

“The team is giving our coaching staff trust and buying into what we’re selling – that the brand of Olentangy lacrosse is fast, aggressive, hard-nosed and technically sound.”

Midfielder Brady Miller, a Wittenberg recruit, leads a group of seniors that includes Daniel Kelley (midfielder), Alec Palmer (goalie) and Ben Wilch (defender). Juniors Tommy Kipfer (defender), Mike Parsio (attacker) and Ryan Petrone (midfielder) also are key players.

Senior Toby Wilson, who helped the football team to Division II regional finals each of the past two years as an offensive lineman and will be a preferred walk-on at Ohio State, is a midfielder and faceoff specialist.

Twenty-nine of the Braves’ 42 players are freshmen or sophomores.

“That also means we have starters and contributors who have never played a varsity, let alone a high school, game,” Ford said. “Our offense is trying to find their groove and the coaches have been tinkering with who is playing where and what.”

—Dave Purpura

INSIDE THE BRAVES

Coach: Austin Ford, first season

Next game: April 1, at Dublin Scioto

Key athletes: Daniel Kelley, Brady Miller, Alec Palmer, Mike Parsio and Ben Wilch

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