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.