Whitehall-Yearling Roundup: Boys soccer team builds foundation for future

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Junior forward Jesus Yanez (right) recorded 14 goals and four assists as Whitehall finished 9-3 to post its first winning season since 2016.

As Geral Leka began his first season as boys soccer coach, he hoped to guide Whitehall-Yearling to a more prominent status in the area. 

Leka moved closer to that goal as the Rams finished 9-3 overall for their first winning season since going 7-4 in 2016. It also is the most victories in a season since finishing 10-6-2 in 2010. 

“It’s important to me that the players enjoy the season and by all indications, I think they really enjoyed this year,” Leka said. “I was happy to see them pull off some close wins. Each game had its own obstacles and I did enjoy this season from the wins and losses perspective, but more importantly just navigating this COVID-19 environment that we’re all living in.” 

Whitehall went 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division to tie Grandview for second behind champion Worthington Christian (5-1). 

The Rams handed the Warriors their lone league loss, 3-1 on Oct. 3, and another highlight was beating Bexley 1-0 on Oct. 10. 

“It was a great season,” senior midfielder Jefferson Martinez said. “It’s the best record we’ve had in a long time. The key thing that made this better was everybody committed the same amount. Whether it was in practice or during a game, we all wanted to work hard for each other.” 

Seeded 20th in the Division I district tournament, Whitehall lost 1-0 at 15th-seeded Westerville North in the second round Oct. 24. 

“Westerville North was a good team,” Leka said. “Their defense was solid. We had two or three good scoring chances to where you’re anticipating a goal, but unfortunately it did not come to fruition.” 

Goalie Edwin Gutierrez, one of 12 seniors for the Rams, finished with five saves. 

Whitehall had no practices leading up to the game, which was delayed two days, as the team was quarantined because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“That was tough,” Leka said. “The no practice for a week definitely impacted our organizational positioning. On top of that, having a few of the varsity starters out as well impacted our depth, so our bench was a little bit depleted.” 

Junior forward Jesus Yanez led the team in scoring with 14 goals and four assists, followed by senior midfielder Ebrima Jorbateh (five goals, four assists) and senior forward Yared Yesuf (three goals, four assists). 

While also promoting strong play on the field, Leka put an emphasis on academics. Leka has been a social studies teacher at Whitehall since November 2017. 

“The seniors have been instrumental for the culture shift of this team, which started a few years back,” Leka said. “These guys have taken it to a new level and added their own legacy to this program. As they get older, I hope they experience some athletic success, but also more importantly some academic success and they all put things in perspective and continue to give back to Whitehall soccer.” 

Leka, who served as an assistant the previous five years, replaced T.J. Mohammed, whose contract was not renewed after three seasons. 

Others eligible to return are juniors Jonathan Alvarez (defender), Jordan Burchnell (forward), Manuel Dominguez (goalie) and Daba Hordofe (defender), sophomores Danny Arriola Gonzales (midfielder), Finan Beyene (forward), Dawit Gebreyesus (forward), Endi Martinez (defender), Franklin Rodriguez (forward) and Carlos Sandoval (forward) and freshman Biniyam Beyene (midfielder). 

“It’s definitely a season I’m going to remember,” Leka said. “It’s a nice way for me to start off my coaching career as a head coach.” 

Cross country teams 

end season at district 

The boys and girls cross country teams competed in the Division I district meet Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby. 

The boys team finished 10th (342) of 14 teams in the section 1 race behind champion Hilliard Davidson (27). 

Eyobong Ita finished 48th of 95 runners in 18 minutes, 21.3 seconds to lead the Rams, whose other competitors included Keteme Feye (71st, 20:14.6), Mike Hernandez (73rd, 21:05), Shea Jordan (77th, 21:33.6), Sam McQuate (78th, 21:51.7) and Brian Holloway (80th, 22:51.2). 

The top five teams and top 20 runners advanced to the regional meet Oct. 31 at Pickerington North. 

In the district section 3 girls race, Haleigh Jordan (90th of 95 runners, 29:16.7), Ashley Castillo (92nd, 29:33.2) and Alicia Pulido (95th, 31:08.6) competed. 

The top six teams and top 24 runners advanced to regional. 

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekFrank 

BOYS SOCCER 

•Record: 9-3 overall 

•MSL-Ohio standings: Worthington Christian (5-1, 15 points), Grandview and Whitehall (both 4-2, 12), Columbus Academy (2-2-2, 8), Buckeye Valley (2-4, 6), Bexley and Wellington (both 1-4-1, 4) 

•Seniors lost: Jose Alvarado, Kirubel Amare, Jose Arias, Adonay Estifanos, Miguel Godinez, Jonathan Guijosa, Edwin Gutierrez, Ebrima Jorbateh, Erik Martinez, Jefferson Martinez, Haben Woldemelak and Yared Yesuf 

•Key returnees: Jonathan Alvarez, Danny Arriola Gonzales, Daba Hordofe and Jesus Yanez  

•Postseason: Lost to Westerville North 1-0 in second round of Division I district tournament