VINCENT - So far this postseason, the Warren boys' soccer team has been something of a force on the pitch.
Everything seems to be working, offensively and defensively.
The Andrew Johnson-coached Warriors are hoping that trend continues when they play the Bexley Lions in an Ohio Division 2 regional semifinal, or "Sweet 16" match, at Logan High at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
ETHAN YABS Special to The Times
Warren’s Greyson Cantley, left, delivers a boot on goal as several Waverly players try to defend during district final action at Lucasville Valley Saturday. The Warriors won 4-0 and will play Bexley in a regional semi at Logan Wednesday night.
ETHAN YABS Special to The Times
Warren’s Alex Miller dribbles the soccer fall during district final action at Lucasville Valley Saturday.
"There's a lot of good soccer teams in Division 2 in the Columbus area," Johnson said. "So, we know this is going to be a really tough game."
Warren senior defensive mid Evan Yabs agreed and added, "We feel that Bexley will be the best team we'll face this season. Their players play year-round, and they're real disciplined."
Warren (12-2-4) defeated Jackson and Marietta, 3-0 and 2-1 in overtime, respectively, in the sectional round at Vincent, then blanked Fairfield Union and Waverly by the identical score of 4-0 in the district tournament round at Lucasville Valley.
Doing the math, Warren has outscored the opposition 13-1, and blanked three foes. Only Marietta has scored and had a lead on the Warriors, but even in that come-from-behind OT thriller, the royal blue and white dictated the tempo and had the advantage statistics-wise.
It's been a total team effort as everyone on the Warren squad has contributed to the tournament run.
"The underclassmen, and everybody has stepped up," Yabs said. "The chemistry has been really good."
Bexley probably won't be able to key defensively on any one Warrior as several have found the back of the net in the playoffs. Eli Duff has four goals in four games, Greyson Cantley has two; Alex Miller, Nick Koch, Seth Hall, Nate Robinson, Ty Kroner, Sam Goodman, and Yabs each has one tally apiece.
On the season, Duff has a team-leading 17 scores, and Koch, a two-time Southeastern Ohio Athletic League Player of the Year, has 11.
Against Waverly in last Saturday's district final, Warren jumped all over the Tigers in the first half, scoring four goals - two by Duff, and one each by Miller and Koch.
After the break, the Warriors pretty much coasted home with their second consecutive district title against Waverly.
"It was real cool for our team to go back-to-back," Yabs said. "I don't think people at the beginning of the season expected us to do this (repeat as district champs).
"We were pumped up (vs. Waverly), and expected a tough game. I think we just hit our stride and were clicking on all cyclinders."
Defensively, Warren has been rock solid, making keeper Cody Stanley's job a lot easier between the pipes. Some of those backline defenders have been Aaron Mazurkiewicz, Wyatt Lynch, Ben Koch, Hall and Yabs.
Rounding out Warren's roster are Adam Garlow, Sean Lofty, Hayden Smith, Zach West, Kendrick Hendrix and Nick Robinson.
"This team has been playing great soccer," Johnson said. "And, we want to move on."
Warren figures, and rightfully so, that the Bexley match could be one of most challenging of the season.
The Greg Kullman-coached Lions, 12-3-4, are coming off a 2-1 triumph over Columbus St. Francis DeSales in the district final. DeSales, of course, was the school that ended Warren's tournament run in the regional at Logan a year ago.
Bexley, like Warren, also has a balanced scoring attack with Jacob Cini and Jacob Hodge leading the scoring parade.
Cini had both of the Lions' goals in the win against DeSales.
Micah Linger, who had two goals in a 9-0 rout of London, is another Lion striker the Warriors will need to keep an eye on.
"Bexley likes to control the ball and dictate the tempo of the game," Johnson said.
Bexley has kind of been bitten by the injury bug this month with key players like Will Gingery, Tucker Stas, Sam Addison, and keeper Sebastian Parra-Maya all nursing some form of ailment.
Parra-Maya actually broke his nose in a match, but he and the others are expected to play against Warren.
Bexley's backup goalie is Eli Feuer.
On the pitch, Bexley has a tradition, having won state titles in 2003 and 2005. The Lions have also been in the State Final Four six times and have been a regional participant eight times.
"It's going to be a tough game," Yabs said.
And, if it rains or snows, the Warriors aren't worried.
"We've played in wet, windy, cold weather before," Johnson said. "We're used to that."
Notes: Johnson played his prep soccer at Parkersburg High under the guidance of current legendary coach Don Fosselman. "When I played for Coach Fosselman, I was in the best condition of my life," Johnson said...Johnson played his college soccer at Bluffton University in northwest Ohio. There, he was a sweeper...Warren graduated 12 seniors from last year's regional semifinalist team. This year, 10 seniors on the squad are expected to get their diplomas in the spring of 2013.