GRANDVIEW HEIGHTS – The Olentangy boys soccer team couldn’t find an answer for Pickerington North’s speed and pressure Saturday night.
And when Brayden Durbin corralled a ball that pinballed in front of the Olentangy goal, he dispatched it into the back of the net to give the Panthers the lead with 22:37 left in the first half.
That’s all they needed to capture the school’s first district title with a 2-0 win over Olentangy.
“They’re a very fast team and they’re a very physical team,” Olentangy coach Kyle Hamrick said. “They have no bones about trying to hide any of that. They have a ton of talent. Their pressure was hard, but we were able to keep possession of the ball, quite honestly.”
“It’s exciting for us,” North coach Darin Monhollen said. “I thought we came out strong and were very organized against a good team. A district championship is quite an accomplishment and we hope to accomplish quite a bit more before we’re done.”
Will Harr started the play with a centering pass from the left side that deflected a couple of times before finding Durbin for the goal on the right.
Reece Allbaugh added the second with 13:51 left in the game.
It came almost nine minutes after a collision between Durbin and Olentangy goalkeeper Grant Robinson. Robinson left the game with an injury and Durbin was issued a red card, which will cost him the next two games.
Robinson finished with six saves for sixth-seeded Olentangy (13-5-2).
Cory Pulles had 10 saves in goal for the fourth-seeded Panthers (18-1), who have won 18 straight after a 2-0 loss to St. Charles in the opener.
“They had two goal-line saves against us,” Hamrick said. “We had a decent amount of chances … that’s a product of them being aggressive to the ball, which has served them well all season.”
Hamrick, who finished his first season, expects that Olentangy will be back in the district final round in the near future.
“We lost 27 players to Berlin and we’re the six-seed in the Central District and made it to the district final,” he said. “This is something that should be a trend with Olentangy High School and something that will be a trend with Olentangy High School. We should be here every, single year and we shouldn’t just be here – we should be winning it.”
Pickerington North faces Olentangy Liberty in a regional semifinal Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Dublin Jerome.
“We’re going to enjoy this one,” Monhollen said. “We’ll make sure we’re ready for Liberty prior to Wednesday for sure.”
Olentangy Liberty 6, Westerville Central 1
The top-seeded Patriots picked up their first district title since 2014 Saturday, shrugging off a slow start with six second-half goals on the way to a lopsided win over the eighth-seeded Warhawks in Saturday’s Division I district championship at Bishop Hartley.
Down a goal at the break, Ash Rajmohan got Liberty back to even by finding the back of the net with 35 minutes to go. The Patriots proceeded to score five more times as Liam Garcia, Ludwig Conrad, Nathan Rothert, Jaggar Brooker and Tyler Harris combined to smooth out the scoring summary.
Also: Bexley 1, Olentangy Berlin 0
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.