34th District Boys Soccer Preview: Dixie Heights seeks more than district championships

G. Michael Graham
G. Michael Graham
Mike Graham covers sports for LINK nky

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One verse in the Imagine Dragons song ‘Whatever It Takes’ describes the plight for the Dixie Heights Colonels.

“I do whatever it takes ‘Cause I love how it feels when I break the chains.”

Those chains are a much higher goal than the 34th District Tournament that the Colonels have won five years in a row, and dropping just one district contest over that span. It’s the elusive 9th Region crown.

Sixth-year head coach Trey Crone has helped build the Colonels into a region contender since taking over the program in 2018 with three region semifinal appearances and one region championship appearance.

But while Dixie Heights has beaten Covington Catholic in the regular season the last two years, the red Colonels have yet to earn that elusive 9th Region Tournament victory over the blue Colonels. CovCath has eliminated Dixie Heights four times in the last five years including a 2-1 verdict in the semifinals in Park Hills last year, scoring a late goal on an unlucky bounce.

Dixie Heights graduated 12 seniors from last year’s team that finished 16-3-3, including leading goal-scorer in Bennett Gerak and goalkeeper Braden Blackburn. The Colonels have replenished with another deep senior class to go with what Crone described good young talent. Brady Meyer and Brandon Honnerlaw are fighting to take over at goalkeeper.

“They’re hungry,” Crone said. “A lot of the returners have that taste of what it takes to get (to the region semifinals, championship) and what it’s going to take to win. We’re just hoping we can take that next step forward this year and do it. We’re putting those puzzle pieces together to figure out what’s going to work this year.”

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Sophomore midfielder Trevor Bolte is the leading returning point-scorer with six goals and three assists. Junior forward/wing Aiden Sanders gives the Colonels another scoring threat with senior striker Austin Seng returning after playing just two games last year due to a season ending injury.

“This group has been here for six years now,” Seng said. “We’ve known each other for a long time so the team chemistry has been there for a long time. It’s easy connecting the balls.”

Dixie Heights outscored opponents, 67-20 in 2022. Senior Jotham Mweneziko hopes to help control the midfield and keep that up. Seniors Andrew Kohls, Ryle Cullen, Will Rechtin and sophomore Donovan Lameier anchor the defense.

Dixie Heights is scheduled to begin their season on Aug. 11 against Lexington Lafayette at 8 p.m. It is part of the Fayette County Public Schools Soccer Showcase.

St. Henry Crusaders

St. Henry has a rich tradition with 16 district championships, six region championships, five All “A” State titles and a state runner-up finish in 1999. But the last district title came in 2017, 9th region title in 2014 and 9th region All “A” title in 2019.

Second-year head coach Jacob Litzler’s big priority has been increasing numbers since taking over the program. Litzler said the Crusaders fielded a varsity and junior varsity team with 38 boys in the program last year when the Crusaders finished 7-11, culminating with a loss at Ryle in the 9th Region Quarterfinals.

The Crusaders have seven seniors on the roster including goalkeeper Rick Erwin, who is back off an injury. Sophomore Kayden Durrett led the Crusaders junior varsity team in goals last year and hopes to bring that to the varsity level.

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Teams outscored St. Henry 45-36 last year. Juniors Cody Crowder and Jackson Popil hope to help control the midfield to change that. Sophomore Logan Thoss anchors the defense.

“It’s not an easy schedule right now. We’ve been doing two-a-days from 7-8 a.m. with conditioning and 5-6:30 p.m. with ball work,” Litzler said. “They come in the morning and know they’re not going to touch a ball. But they come with the same attitude that they do at night, work together as a team and really push each other.”

St. Henry opens the season Aug. 12 at Simon Kenton at 5 p.m.

Villa Madonna Vikings

The Vikings have taken their lumps, finishing a combined 11-23-1 in Adam Matthews’ first two seasons as head coach. But with the graduation of just one senior from last year in outside back defender Hunter Pickens, the Vikings hope to take bigger steps forward this year.

“This year, we really have a strong core of players, a strong group that I’ve been with for a few years now ever since they were freshmen on the team,” Matthews said. “I’m just really excited with everything we’ve been building.”

Opponents outscored Villa Madonna 44-22 last year. But Villa Madonna’s leading goal-scorer in senior forward Carson Patrick returns after scoring five goals and two assists last year. Senior Neil Adley and junior Vini Vieria anchor the midfield hoping to create more scoring opportunities for Patrick and others.

Senior goalkeeper Jacob Thornberry returns after recording 101 saves last season. Four experienced defenders return in front of Thornberry in senior Tommy Wenning, junior Ben Murray-Cirulli, along with sophomores Jay Meyers and Joe Rice.

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Villa Madonna opens the season with four home games starting Aug. 8 against Pendleton County.

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