High School Soccer: Centerville boys coming together, want another state run

CENTERVILLE – Jeff Monbeck moves up and down the sideline with confident intensity, shouting instructions to his Centerville boys soccer team or pulling a player close for more instruction during a lull in the action.

And he’s thinking. The look on his face shows you that.

On this cool Tuesday night, Springboro was the opponent. The Panthers are the second-best team in the Greater Western Ohio Conference behind the Elks, who won 2-1 and clinched a third straight league title.

“This was kind of like our coming out party where we just really started to get in the groove,” Monbeck said. “The key to this match was our counter pressing in the midfield. Every time we gave the ball away, we immediately were pressing them and not allowing them to complete any passes. And then we went on the counter attack. I thought we were brilliant at it tonight. It’s the best performance that we’ve had top to bottom for 80 minutes.”

The Elks’ program identity in recent seasons has been as one of the best Division I teams in the state. Last year they lost to powerhouse Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state final under the bright lights of Lower.com Field in Columbus. But the identity of this year’s team is defense. The Elks are 12-1 with nine shutouts and have allowed five goals. Junior keeper Luke Shrivers has eight clean sheets. He shared another shutout with sophomore Hudson Day.

“We all we know our defense is good, like they’re probably one of the best in the state,” Monbeck said. “No one breaks us down really. They had one shot in the second half on a header that didn’t challenge anyone and they had a free-kick goal. We didn’t give them anything. So that’s not the concern.”

The offensive identity has been the concern as the Elks have had to replace last year’s star goal scorers Jack Drabenstott and Drew Boettcher. The Elks, ranked No. 3 in the coaches state poll, lost 2-0 on Sept. 24 to unranked Columbus St. Charles Prep. But against No. 12 Springboro, the Elks’ were much happier with their offense.

“We bounced back from that loss,” said junior defender Drew Gaydosh, who leads the Elks with nine goals and 19 points. “We’ve been moving the ball around and we had possession for most of the game. Our team just keeps getting better and better and getting ready for tournaments.”

Regaining possession and turning those situations into attacks gave the Elks a lot of scoring chances. Senior midfielder Eddie Kuper scored his first goal when he suddenly had a wide-open shot from the top of the box for a 1-0 lead in the first half. And junior defender Alex Bucher put a long kick into the upper right side for his third goal for a 2-0 lead with 14:48 left.

“Tonight was a very good test,” Monbeck said. “We had struggled in the month just with creating chances and being dynamic on the ball. The concern is, can we be creative enough through midfield and then clinical in front of goal.”

Tournament brackets will be set this Sunday and the Elks expect to be a No. 1 seed again, setting up possible regional showdowns with Mason and Cincinnati St. Xavier, which hosts the Elks on Saturday night. St. Ignatius is ranked No. 1 in the state again but its margins of victory have not been as dominating this season.

The Elks would love another shot at St. Ignatius after last year’s 2-1 loss in overtime.

“They can go do exactly what they did last year,” Monbeck said. “We’re clicking, and although this team is different – we don’t have the true goal scorer that we had in Jack and Drew last year – but we’re not going to give up much. So it’s like, which would you rather have, you know what I mean? So I love this team’s chances.”

Colin Gottron scored the tying goal late in last year’s state final on an assist from Drabenstott. The Elks obviously miss the play of him and Boettcher and Caleb McComas, but Gottron said the team hasn’t lost those leaders’ influence.

“They showed me what it took to be a leader in those tough situations and how to be resilient,” Gottron said. Tonight we were dominating, but things didn’t always go our way and scoring goals. It showed us that no matter how we were doing, we had to stay resilient.”

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