“State”ment Win

Written on 11/08/2023
Paul Batterson, Contributing Writer

WC boys soccer team returns to the state tournament after a long absence.

In his final year with the Worthington Christian boys soccer team, senior forward Sam Owusu-Sarfo has collected a handful of accolades. Owusu-Sarfo:

  • has led the Warriors with 27 goals and had six assists going into the Nov. 8 state semifinal with Waynesville;
  • was selected as the Division III Central District player-of-the-year;
  • earned team medals for winning the district and regional tournaments.

However, Owusu-Sarfo said his biggest honor came after Worthington Christian’s 5-0 conquest of South Webster in a Division III regional final Nov. 4. Not only did he help the Warriors return to the state semifinal for the first time since 2013, he earned the respect of his brothers, Peniel (WC ’18), and twins Jeremy and Jodi (WC ’20).

“After the game, we were holding up the regional championship trophy. Jodi approached me and said, ‘Let me touch it,’” Sam said, laughing. “It was a bittersweet moment for them because they never got a regional championship. I guess I’m one up on them in the brotherly rivalry.”

The ultimate capstone for Owusu-Sarfo and his teammates would be a state championship, something Worthington Christian has accomplished three times. The 2011 team was the last squad to capture the state championship, beating Gates Mills Hawken 2-0 in the final.

To repeat that feat, the Warriors (currently 17-2-3 overall and ranked first in the final Division III state poll) must contend with unranked Waynesville (15-6-2 overall) Nov. 8 in Xenia. The semifinal winner takes on either unbeaten Willoughby Andrews Osborne (unranked and 16-0-1) or unbeaten Ottoville (ranked eighth and 21-0-1 overall) in the championship game at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 in historic Crew Stadium.

Coach Dan Roads, who guided Worthington Christian to state championships in 2009 and 2011, said it feels great to be back in the hunt.

“The program is back on track,” Roads said. “The guys really feel like they worked hard to get back to this sort of storied level they’ve heard about in the past from other teams.”

For a while, it seemed like the regional trophy was so close and still so far out of reach for Worthington Christian. Since their last voyage to a state semifinal in 2013, the Warriors have lost in a regional final once (2021), a regional semifinal three times (2014, 2017, and 2022), and a district final five times (2015, 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020). Seven of those nine season-ending losses were by a single goal or in a shootout.

In this year’s run to a state semifinal, the Warriors left it to chance. Since giving up a goal in a 7-1 win over Groveport Madison Christian in its tournament opener on Oct. 23, the Warriors have garnered five consecutive shutouts and have outscored opponents 28-1 before facing Waynesville in the Nov. 8 semifinal.

The offense had been clicking most of the season, with Worthington Christian averaging 3.77 goals a game. While Owusu-Sarfo has been the team’s leading scorer, the Warriors have been very balanced. Ben Jende (12 goals, six assists), Eli Funderburke (12 goals), Max Glick (10 goals, four assists), Caleb Van Dop (seven goals, nine assists), and Baden Wood (six assists) have made it difficult for opponents to focus on one player.

Defensively, Worthington Christian allowed only .77 goals a game and had four shutouts in the regular season. Only two opponents, Dayton Christian and Bexley, had two goals against the Warriors.

In the postseason run to a state semifinal, only one team truly tested Worthington Christian, rival Grandview. The Warriors claimed a 1-0 win over the Bobcats in a district final.

Since 2013, Grandview has tripped up WC four times in a district championship game and twice in a regional semifinal level. All of the losses were by a goal.

Rather than being apprehensive about facing the Bobcats, Owusu-Sarfo was ecstatic when he saw on the tournament draw sheet that the path to a district title went through Grandview.

“All my brothers have lost to Grandview in a district final,” he said. “When I saw it was my chance to finally beat them, I was really excited.”

“Every Grandview game is intense,” Roads added. “At the beginning of the season, I didn’t know if we had the maturity needed for such a big game. These guys came in and put in the work every day, and they answered the call.”