Fielding a team of 15 players this season, the Catholic Central High School boys soccer team has never been smaller. Despite that, the tradition-rich program continues to put up big numbers.
Catholic Central won its 14th Ohio Heritage Conference title since 2001. The team netted its 10th win with a 3-0 victory against Carlisle in the Division III postseason. The biggest win came on Oct. 14. That’s when Central rallied to beat Miami East 4-2 to give coach Shane Latham his 475th career victory.
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Latham is 476-119-46 in his 32nd season with Catholic Central. He’s No. 2 all-time in career victories in Ohio high school boys soccer, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
To think the Irish started 3-5 this season.
“From the start we had to end up where we are now it’s been a successful year,” Latham said. “(The small roster) makes it even more rewarding. My goal was to win the league, if possible, and win 10 games. Preseason I thought that was going to be a stretch given the league. They’ve surpassed my expectations, especially in the later part of the season. It’s been great.”
Catholic Central carries a six-game winning streak into the D-III sectional final against Troy Christian 7 p.m. Tuesday in Sidney. The Irish, seeded No. 9, enter as underdogs against the No. 3 Eagles. The Irish are familiar with that role.
Counting Tuesday’s game, Catholic Central’s schedule includes games against the top six teams in the Miami Valley Soccer Coaches Association’s area D-III poll – No. 1 Bethel, No. 2 Dayton Christian, No. 3 Troy Christian, No. 4 West Liberty-Salem, No. 5 Yellow Springs and No. 6 Miami East.
“I think we got a set lineup and became comfortable with our roles and positions,” Latham said of the turnaround. “They’ve overachieved at certain areas and had some really good wins against good teams. To win the league this year was great.”
The OHC title was the first for the Irish since 2014. That was Bryce Roberts’ freshman year. He was determined to bring it home for his senior season.
“At the beginning of the season there were 1-0 losses, 2-1 losses,” Roberts said. “Once we got going into the season we started playing with a little more passion, a little more fight and we got the results we needed.
“It’s feeling pretty good. Freshman year we won the OHC. Two years not winning it, to come out and win it our senior was was a big accomplishment for our team our coach.”
Playing with small numbers isn’t the only challenge facing the Irish. Four players are involved in a second fall sport. Jacob Woeber, Jack Brougher and Will Clark also play golf and Sy Roth runs cross country.
“(Coach Latham) can take a team full of cross country runners and golfers and turn it into an OHC champion team,” Roberts said smiling. “It’s a good feeling knowing your coach can do something other coaches can’t. It’s fun playing under him. He’s always pushing us to play better. He’s never mad at us but he’s disappointed if we don’t play up to our ability.”
Latham trails Mario Gerhardt for most wins in Ohio history. Catching him is a long shot. Gerhardt started the soccer program at Chagrin Falls in 1970. He left this season to coach at West Geauga and is 530-265-115 entering his team’s sectional final Tuesday.
A couple more good seasons will get Latham to 500 victories. After that?
“I thought I was done (after 2012),” said Latham, who seriously considered retiring after his son, Calum, graduated. “But this is the sixth soccer since I was going to retire. Every year I find a reason to come back. I enjoy it. But I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing it.”
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