The first goal is always the same for the Catholic Central High School boys soccer team – win the league championship.
Last season, the Irish won its 14th Ohio Heritage Conference title in 17 years – a run of success that began before many of its current players won born.
Catholic Central coach Shane Latham is entering his 33rd season as head coach. He’s won 476 games, including two Division III state championships (2001 and 2007), ranking No. 2 all-time in career victories in Ohio high school boys soccer, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
“I have the same level of enthusiasm,” Latham said. “We’re doing the same things we’ve always done. Whether it’s a young team or a returning state champion, we do the same things.”
Catholic Central started the season 3-5 last season but went 7-1 down the stretch to win the league championship.
The Irish graduated seven seniors from last year’s team, Latham said. Several were four-year starters, including Bryce Roberts, Jack Brougher and Will Clark.
Catholic Central will have to rely on its young players this season if it wants to win its 15th OHC title. The Irish will have just two seniors, Jake Korte and Sam Catanzariti, and two juniors, Collin Roberts and Isreal Leal.
The roster is loaded with talented freshman and sophomores who will see plenty of playing time, Latham said. They’ll be tested early with games against West Liberty-Salem, Northwestern and Miami East. They’ll also play non-conference games against Yellow Springs, Cincinnati Country Day and Dayton Christian.
It’s gotten more difficult the last few years, Latham said. Greeneview won the league in 2015. In 2016, the OHC added Fairbanks, who won the championship in its first season.
“With the expansion of the league, it’s become more difficult with the addition of Greenon, Fairbanks and West Jefferson,” Latham said.
The eight-team league – members Cedarville, Triad, Mechanicsburg don’t field boys soccer squads – plays a single round robin, meaning each game is crucial. West Liberty-Salem, a district finalist last season, and Greenon will each have strong teams, Latham said.
“If you lose one game, you have to rely on somebody else to help you,” Latham said.
1. Three in a row, Part 1?: Tecumseh edged out rivals Kenton Ridge, Bellefontaine and new division foe Jonathan Alder for its second straight Central Buckeye Conference Kenton Trial title last season. Tecumseh went 7-1-1 in the conference, which includes nine games against every team in both the CBC Kenton Trail and Mad River Divisions. KR, Bellefontaine and Jonathan Alder each had six wins in the division race.
Since 2007, the only two teams to win the Kenton Trail are former league powerhouse Tippecanoe (8) and Tecumseh (4). The teams shared the title in 2013.
2. Three in a row, Part 2?: Northwestern (4-4-1) narrowly defeated Indian Lake (4-5-1) to win its second straight CBC Mad River Division title. The Warriors will have a new coach this season in Andrew Wildman, who previously coached at Northwestern from 1994 to 1997.
3. New squads: The CBC will see two new teams enter the fray this season, including London (Kenton Trail) and North Union (Mad River).
4. Bulldogs back: Yellow Springs won 11 games last season, but finished tied for second in the tough Metro Buckeye Conference. The Bulldogs will look to end Dayton Christian’s run of four straight league championships. Yellow Springs won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014.
5. Who’s going to fill their shoes?: The area also lost strong scorers including Kenton Ridge’s Quinton Roach and Catholic Central’s Bryce Roberts, both named to the All-Ohio second team last year.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Northwestern senior forward Jeremy Howard: He had 41 points, including 18 goals and five assists, for the CBC Mad River Division champs last season.
2. Kenton Ridge senior midfielder Joshua Maurer: He scored three goals and three assists last season, earning All-CBC Kenton Trail First Team honors.
3. Greenon sophomore striker Trent Green: He tallied 19 goals and 3 assists for the Knights last season as a freshman
4. Catholic Central senior defender Jake Korte: The three-year starter will anchor the Irish back line.
5. West Liberty-Salem junior midfielder Ethan Cole: The midfielder returns to the Tigers squad that set a school record for most victories in a season with 17 last fall.