Center Grove boys soccer coach Jameson McLaughlin refers to senior midfielder Ben DeRose as “one of the quietest people you’ve ever met.”
It has become clear in recent years that McLaughlin was speaking strictly from a vocal standpoint — because DeRose’s game speaks pretty loudly.
A contributor on the Trojans’ 2015 state championship team as a sophomore, DeRose is hoping to close out his high school career with yet another title.
This marks DeRose’s third year in the Center Grove program — during his freshman year he missed the high school season while playing at the Indiana Fire Development Academy in Westfield.
Though he said he thought that playing there was going to put him in a better position to reach his goal of Division I college soccer, DeRose left the Fire after one year and joined up with the Trojans just in time for the title run.
“I had to travel about an hour (to Westfield) every night,” DeRose said, “and I decided that I should probably be playing with the high school team, because I knew that they were really good coming into my sophomore year.”
Last season, the Trojans were in reloading mode after graduating 10 starters, but DeRose still helped the team return to the regional. He had a hand in nearly a quarter of Center Grove’s goals, scoring two and assisting on eight while earning All-MIC honors.
The player that McLaughlin calls “the straw that stirs the drink” is eager to contribute even more this fall.
“I’m an attacking mid, so I try to create opportunities for everyone on the team,” DeRose said. “I try to score goals, try to help the team win in any way that I can.”
That includes embracing more of a leadership role. DeRose isn’t the most gregarious player on the Trojans’ roster, but he said he thinks he can make more of an impact with his actions than his words.
“This year especially, being a senior, my role is to lead by example in every single training session, set the tone, set the level,” he said.
DeRose still harbors ambitions of playing for a Division I program next year, but while he has had talks with some coaches, he’s not putting much thought into the recruiting process until he’s done taking care of business at Center Grove.
“My main goal when I play is to lead the team to a state championship,” DeRose said. “Then, once the season’s over, I’ll put my focus into whatever college it is that I want to go to.”
That goal is one that the Trojans consider entirely realistic. There’s plenty of veteran talent returning, and DeRose says that the squad has been “coming together as a family, not just as a team.”
Center Grove also has the luxury of leaning on at least one senior leader who’s been there before.
“I’ve had the experience,” DeRose said. “I’ve been in the state championship game, and I know what it takes to get there. I’m definitely ready to do it again.”
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Jameson McLaughlin
Last year: 12-4-3, lost to Perry Meridian in Mt. Vernon Regional semifinal
Who’s back: Will Bowling, Jack Cooley, Ben Derose, John Nystrom and Dawson Raymond, seniors; Luke Boha, Jack Neal and Nick Shirer, juniors
Who’s gone: Gus Caito, Connor Campbell, Griffin Smith and Jared Wilkerson
New kids on the block: Colin Parry and David Pham, sophomores
Outlook: McLaughlin has one of the youngest teams he’s had during his tenure, but several of the young players got experience last year and should be battle-tested. Cooley is as good a goaltender as there is in the state, and the Trojans’ back line, anchored by Bowling and Nystrom, tends to choke out most offenses anyway. With Perry Meridian, Roncalli and Southport now in Center Grove’s sectional, the postseason road will be tougher — but this team should be up to the challenge come October.
McLaughlin says: “I don’t talk about the tournament this early, but obviously we want to go as far as we can. … We’ve got a lot of talent to go pretty far.”
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Tony Harris
Last year: 14-2-2, lost to Center Grove in Center Grove Sectional final
Who’s back: Joe Nerding, Robert Velasquez and E.J.Young, seniors; Owen Atkison, Drew Beasley and Garrett Snyder, juniors; Owen Mahin, sophomore
Who’s gone: Austin Barnard and Fernando Lopez-Perez
New kids on the block: Dylan Bastin and Danny Prochazka, juniors; Ethan Pheifer, freshman
Outlook: The Grizzly Cubs are coming off of the best season in program history, and Harris hopes to keep the forward momentum going this fall. The offense should again be potent with Atkinson and Nerding, both all-county players a year ago, leading the way. Beasley, Velasquez and Young anchor a solid defense in front of Bastin, who takes over as the starting keeper. Franklin’s sectional gets much tougher with the addition of state semifinalist Perry Meridian, but the goal is to again be playing for a sectional crown in October.
Harris says: “We’ve got a lot of movable parts, so I feel like we can slide guys into different spots. We didn’t necessarily have that last year. … This is probably the deepest team I’ve ever had.”
Coach: Dan Weber
Last year: 1-14-1, lost to Whiteland in first round of Center Grove Sectional
Who’s back: Logan Wheeler, senior; Brian Gonzalez, Cole Mahan, juniors; Jaden Clites, sophomore
Who’s gone: Damon Maynard
New kids on the block: Salim Abdulhadi, Gabe Dougherty and Hudson Welliver, sophomores
Outlook: First-year coach Weber inherits a team that won just one match in 2016, but he’s encouraged by the amount of ability he’s seen in the preseason. The players have put in a lot of work on fundamentals, and Weber expects it to pay off. If the Woodmen can get a win or two early in the season, he believes, confidence should snowball and lead to more success.
Weber says: “There’s a lot of talent on this team; there really is. If they can learn how to play together, they can win a lot of games. If they can’t, it’s going to be another tough season.”
Greenwood Christian Cougars
Coach: George Huizinga
Last year: 11-5, lost to Southwestern (Shelbyville) in Southwestern Sectional final
Who’s back: Gerrit Huizinga and Gavin McCabe, seniors; Griffin Huizinga and Jack Kovacs, juniors; Josue Mier and Gabe Vessely, sophomores
Who’s gone: Ethan Chupp, Jackson Cross, Jeremy Miller and Camden Peters
New kids on the block: Champ McCorkle, sophomore; John Amedor and Styles McCorkle, freshmen
Outlook: George Huizinga takes over on the sidelines for GCA athletics director Dan Carmichael, and he inherits a team that should again be a Class A sectional contender. A lineup that features several returning starters should be further bolstered by an influx of young talent and the return of Kovacs, who missed most of last season with a broken leg. Greenwood Christian beat Greenwood and Whiteland a year ago and figures to be competitive with both once again.
Huizinga says: “We’ve got a lot of strong freshmen coming in. I think we’ll be a little bit more competitive than last year. We’re excited about seeing the season unfold.”
Coach: Justin VanHorn
Last year: 5-11, lost to Franklin in Center Grove Sectional semifinal
Who’s back: J.T. Beers, senior; Alec Given and Shawn Sullivan, juniors
Who’s gone: Andrew Morgan
New kid on the block: Isaac Couch, junior
Outlook: Having struggled through a rebuilding season last fall with a young roster, the Warriors hope to reap the rewards now that several of the players thrown into the fire as underclassmen are returning with experience. VanHorn doesn’t have a team full of superstars, but he feels he’s got a deep and balanced team with a good blend of role players that can be highly competitive.
VanHorn says: “Last year was a trying year; we had a lot of sophomores starting. I think this is going to be a really good year. I think we can make some noise in the conference this year.”