Tigers see positive signs in retooling program

Circleville Tigers Boys Soccer

Coach: Evan Callihan

2022 finish: 1-15, eighth place in Mid-State League Buckeye Division

Key returnees: Senior midfielder Luke Stout (1st Team All-MSL, 1st Team All-District), senior midfielder/forward Liam Goodhart (2nd All-District, Honorable Mention All-MSL), senior goalie Justin Darnell (2nd Team All MSL, honorable Mention All-District, sophomore Will Flory (Honorable Mention All-MSL, Honorable Mention All-District) senior defender Slater Search, senior Josiah Gaines, senior Johnnie Bocook, junior defender Greyson Buckley, junior midfielder Jackson Hatfield, sophomore defender Zack Bell, sophomore defender Ashton Groff, sophomore midfielder Anthony Wade

Key newcomers: Senior midfielder Payden Dillion, senior defender Donovan Dillion and freshmen Kaden Paxton, Blain Fowler, Brady Reuter, Austin Bartchy, and Logan Huggins.

Season outlook: Circleville alumnus and former girls soccer coach Evan Callihan looks to begin retooling the boys soccer program this fall.

Callihan has been encouraged by the leadership and buy-in he has received since taking the helm of the program, which he wants to grow from the ground up.

“We have many returning players this season and I feel like we have a lot of strong leadership from our upperclassmen.  This is a group that wants to improve and wants to be successful,” Callihan said. “Two big words that we have used a lot this off-season have been growth and attitude.  We want our program to grow from our high school, down to our middle school, and into our youth league.  Our numbers have grown this season and we hope to continue to build off of that in the future.  Right now, we are working on building consistent habits.  We haven’t really even talked about wins and losses. 

“We are focusing on just putting our head down and working hard and having an attitude that can give us opportunities to be successful.  Those are the only things we can control and that is our main focus at the moment.”

Callihan discussed the roles that seniors Luke Stout and Liam Goodhart will play this season for the Tigers.

“Luke and Liam will both play pivotal roles for us this year.  Those are two players that have put a lot of time into this program over the past three years and it means a lot to both of them,” he said. “They are both talented athletes and soccer players but even more importantly those are two high character individuals that make others around them better. I feel like it is having two coaches on the field with those two.”

One of the goals for Callihan as he looks to retool the Tigers is to build a strong defensive identity.

“As a program we want to emphasize defense and we want our defense to be tough and physical. Senior goalie Justin Darnell returns and will be surrounded by defenders Greyson Buckley, Donovan Dillion, Slater Search, Ashton Groff, Zack Bell, Austin Bartchy, and Logan Huggins,” he said. “Sophomores Lucas Cameron and Bear Cruic are two more that can contribute on the defensive end with us.  Greyson Buckley has been steady for us on the defensive side for us this summer and into the pre-season. He is a hard worker that has been a leader for us this off-season as well as a junior. 

“Donovan Dillion is tough nosed and gives us a physical presence as well as Senior Slater Search. Slater is someone that no matter the sport is going to be consistent with his diligent work ethic.  Sophomore Ashton Groff is a competitor and is going to push those around him to be better.  Zack Bell is one of our more athletic guys on the team.  He just picked up soccer in middle school but he’s someone that is always going to give everything he has and is a physical and tough kid.”

The Tigers want to increase their offensive production from a season ago, and will look to a mix of experienced high school players and newcomers to varsity to make that happen.

“In the attack we will look to a variety of players such as Will Flory, Jackson Hatfield, Josiah Gaines, Payden Dillion, Blain Fowler, Kaden Paxton, Anthony Wade, Brady Reuter, alongside our seniors Luke Stout and Liam Goodhart,” Callihan said. “Will Flory plays with a high motor and is someone that will make a major impact for us.  He plays with relentless effort and I’m not sure I have seen him get tired. Jackson Hatfield has improved over the summer and has shown a desire to improve and get better. 

“Payden Dillion is one of our most skilled players and we look to him to help us create and find ways to score goals.  Freshmen Kaden Paxton has had a great summer for us and was our leading goal scorer at Rio Grande camp for us in July.  He’s played club soccer for many years, and we are excited to see him continue to grow over the next four years.”

Callihan discussed how interchangeable his lineup can be and again touched on the commitment he has been happy to see over offseason workouts.

“We feel like we have many guys that can play a lot of different positions and roles for us this year.  I’m proud of our guys for the commitment they have shown in the off-season leading up to this point.  It shows that they want to work hard and be committed and that’s where it has to start,” he said. “We had three guys that didn’t miss a single workout all spring and summer which were Liam Goodhart, Kenton Phifer-Woods, and Garett Phifer-Woods.  Senior Josiah Gaines has shown a lot of commitment, as well, this offseason and has put a lot of time and effort on his own even outside of our scheduled workouts.  He has a passion for soccer and is extremely knowledgeable about the game.”

Callihan knows that a strong coaching staff will be needed to build a strong program from ground up, and he feels fortunate to have assembled a quality staff.

“As a program, we also want to emphasize that we are all in this together.  I feel fortunate to have a great coaching staff,” Callihan said. “Jason Paxton, our Varsity Assistant, has been around the game of soccer his whole life.  He works tirelessly to help out our program and our players. He is a former player here at Circleville and had a lot of success.  Him and his dad Rob Paxton refereed many years together in the Youth League and I remember them both refereeing some of my high school games.  He has a lot of ideas and brings a lot to this program.  Steve Gaines is also on staff.  He is passionate about soccer and helping our guys reach their full potential. He was the head coach at Westfall for several years and did a lot of good things to help that program grow out there.  We also have Bo Buckley who wants to see this program grow and he runs our Youth League here in Circleville and puts a lot of time into providing opportunities for kids to play soccer in this community. 

?Kurt Young is our middle school coach and he’s doing a great job with those guys and he’s putting a lot of time in right now.  Steve Wastier is also coaching a travel team that consists of 5th and 6th graders, many of which are Circleville kids.  So, he is still involved and helping our program out in a lot of ways.  
Like we said earlier, right now our main focus is building successful habits and attacking everything we do with a relentless work ethic.  We want to take pride in representing our school and community and we hope to continue to grow and improve each day.”

Pickaway County Family YMCA
(740) 477-1661

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