The Centerville Elks soccer program is steeped in tradition, and the members of the 2010 team added a mark in the history books on Friday night at Columbus Crew Stadium.  The Ohio High School Division I state soccer finals took place on Friday between the Centerville Elks and the #1 nationally ranked St Ignatius Wildcats.  The Centerville Elks have not won a state title since the Gary Avedikian coached team of 1984.  However, the Centerville Elks hold the record in the state of Ohio for the most number of appearances in the state finals with 13.  Coach Brad Loveless, the 4th coach in Elks history,  brought his 22-0-2 Elks to Columbus on Friday night to try to add to the extensive and impressive accolades of previous teams.

Centerville Ohio has always been known as a hotbed in the development of talented soccer players.  From the inception of the Centerville Soccer program by Gary Avedikian in 1973, to the current player turned coach in Brad Loveless, there has always been a desire by all involved to stand above the rest.  It is this culture of the Centerville program that drives its players and coaches to play and perform at a superior level.  This dedication to being known as the premier high school soccer program in Division I, is a result of the hard work and commitment to excellence and elevated standards instilled by Coach Gary Avedikian during the inception of the program.  Coach Avedikian retired from coaching soccer years ago, yet his high standards, commitment to excellence, and ethical gamesmanship continues to permeate the program .

The 2010 Centerville soccer team is a direct reflection of the past coaches and players approach to excellence.  This year’s team went the entire season without suffering a loss.  Having an unbeaten record, after facing the high-caliber quality teams that tested them through out the year, is a remarkable feat.  The men held their opponents to 7 goals throughout the entire fall season.  They brought their talents to the Columbus Crew stadium with the intention of taking down the #1 ranked St Ignatius.  Coupled with the fact the St Ignatius team has two players that play on the National Soccer Team, the Elks knew that they had their work cut out for them.

The first half was a very closely contested battle.  Both teams came out playing very aggressively and each had varied opportunities to score throughout the first 45 minutes.  The Elks used the right side of the field quite a bit to put pressure on the St Ignatius defense.  St Ignatius’s goalkeeper was tested in the air quite a bit and looked as if he would be able to handle the pressure the Elks were putting on him.  The Elks would play tough defense, as they had all year.  The Elks goalkeeper Andrek Kreger didn’t see much of the ball throughout the year, but that would change quickly towards the middle of the first half.  The Wildcats pushed the ball down the right side of the field quite often, and in doing so, the Elks defense would over compensate to help defend.  As a result, the Elks would occasionally leave the opposite side of the field wide open.  St Ignatius seemed to see this fault and used it to their benefit.  In anticipation of the weak side defensive collapse, and a quick change of field with the ball, the Wildcats were able to catch the Elks of guard.  St Ignatius managed to get off four decent shots that would test Kreger’s skills.  As the teams went into halftime tied at 0-0,  it was apparent that changes in the defensive communication would need to addressed.

The second half started off almost identical to the previous 45 minutes.  Both teams came out aggressive but poised.  The Elks would drive down and move the ball nicely on the right side of the field, making the Wildcats scurry to find defensive answers.  Putting pressure on the right side of the field would test the St Ignatius defense.  The Wildcats started to play a bit scrappy and were giving up throw-in after throw-in, deep in their own territory.  This resulted in many set pieces for the Elks to try to knock one in the back of the net.  After many attempts to get a shot off, the Wildcats gained their composure and mounted a fierce counter attack.  The ball moved down the left side of the field testing the right mid fielder and right back of the Elks defense.  When the pressure was being thrown upon the Elks defense, the weak side collapse that was evident in the first half reared its ugly head.  Right when you could see the collapse developing, the Wildcats switched the field of play with the ball.  As a result, this left St Ignatius’s star player wide open for a direct shot on goal.  The ball would fly by Kreger, and this brief mental breakdown in the Elks defense would be the only thing St Ignatius would need to open the flood gates.  Over the next 10 minutes the Wildcats would score three more goals, making it a 4-0 game.  As time started to run out on the Elk’s hopes of a second state title in school history, the coaches from both teams started to rotate in players that had yet to make it into the game.  As each player got their opportunity to take the field at a State Final, the Elks would put on a bit of pressure that the Wildcats couldn’t contain.  The Elks would score with 4:45 left in the game, making sure St Ignatius wouldn’t go home with a shut out.  The Elks battled hard and fought a great fight against what many call, “The best high school team in the country”.  The Elks fell sort of their ultimate goal this time, but the 2010 team won in the hearts of the families, fans, former coaches and players that love and support the best soccer program in Ohio.

The history, tradition and culture of a premier soccer program is alive and well at Centerville High School.  The men of the 2010 Elks Soccer team can hold their heads high knowing they are worthy members of the Centerville soccer family and have made their mark in the history of this storied program.  Congratulations to the 2010 Elks Soccer program as Ohio Division I State Runner-up.

-Written by/Photographs by:  Joshua N Timmermans – Former Centerville Elks Soccer player ’88-’91-

(Many thanks go out to Brad Loveless, Kyle Hetman, and Coach Vacchiano for taking time to speak with us after the game and keeping the Centerville soccer tradition and family alive.) (Thank you to Tim at the OHSAA, your assistance is much appreciated)

(All images are property of The Noble Visions and the OHSAA.  Reproduction, manipulation, or selling of images is strictly prohibited.)

The Elks take a warm-up lap

The Elks take the field for player introductions and the National Anthem

Brandon Klepach is introduced

The 2010 Centerville Elks

The team circles up for a last second talk

The starting 11 seconds before kick-off

Coach Brad Loveless looks on as his team starts battle

The Elks battle in the air

Aggressive play was apparent the entire first half

Centerville continues to battle

Memme Onwudiwe fights for possession

St Ignatius's goalkeeper going up strong

Mid-field action was physical

Ross Gabbard works the corner of the field

Physical play was evident everywhere

Coach Loveless instructs his players before they go in

Coach Loveless, Coach Hetman, and Coach Vacchiano look for answers

The Elks receive their 2010 Division I State Runner-Up trophy

The 2010 Elks console one another after their State Final loss to St Ignatius

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