All-State goalkeeper anchors stingy Trojans defense

Last fall, having lost 13 seniors and all but one starter from his 2015 state championship team, Center Grove boys soccer coach Jameson McLaughlin took a much more cautious approach.

He’s since realized that he doesn’t have to.

Jacob Cooley stepped into the starting goalkeeper role last fall for the Trojans and sparkled immediately, yielding just nine goals in 19 matches and making 144 saves on the way to first team All-State honors.

With Cooley back for his senior season, McLaughlin knew he had a little more room for error on defense, and he’s adjusted accordingly.

“I run a completely different system, because I know that I’ve got Jacob back there to be that last line of defense,” the coach said. “I let my two outside guys get up quite a bit, which at times will leave openings, and to know that he’s back there gives me comfort.”

Even with the backs roaming a bit more, Cooley still has been on point in 2017, yielding just 13 goals and making 112 saves in 16 matches. Four of the goals he’s surrendered have come on penalty kicks and one more was an own goal.

While Cooley provides comfort for his coaches and teammates, he’s just as quick to deflect praise as he is opposing shots. His comfort, he said, comes largely from the players in front of him.

“With the guys I’ve been playing with, that confidence has kind of always been there,” said Cooley, who plans to study business (and maybe play soccer) at Indiana University next year.

The Trojans posted 12 shutouts last season and have seven more this fall heading into the tournament, which gets under way today when Center Grove plays longtime rival Perry Meridian.

Though they’re considered the sectional favorite, the Trojans know better than to overlook the Falcons, who scored a 1-0 victory when the two met in last year’s regional final. Center Grove was a 1-0 winner this August.

“Perry always plays us tough,” McLaughlin said.

The more aggressive tactics being employed this year put a little bit more pressure on the Trojan defense, particularly inside backs Ian Dwight and Will Bowling, but they’ve proven to be up to the task.

Besides, opponents know that even if they can get past that back line, nothing is going to come easily with Cooley manning the net.

“He’s made a couple of saves where it’s just him and one kid, and he’s come up big for us,” McLaughlin said. “Having that is invaluable.”

If you go

Class 3A Franklin Sectional

Today

Center Grove vs. Perry Meridian, 6 p.m.

Tuesday

Franklin vs. Whiteland, 5 p.m.

Greenwood vs. Roncalli, 7 p.m.

Wednesday

Southport vs. Center Grove-Perry Meridian winner, 5 p.m.

Tuesday’s winners, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Championship, 2 p.m.

Class A Indianapolis Lutheran Sectional

Today

Indianapolis Lutheran vs. Greenwood Christian, 5 p.m.

Oldenburg Academy vs. Southwestern (Shelbyville), 7 p.m.

Wednesday

Today’s winners, 5 p.m.

Hauser vs. Morristown, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Championship, 2 p.m.

Sizing up the field

A look at what Johnson County’s teams are up against this week:

Class 3A Franklin Sectional

Teams competing: Center Grove, Franklin, Greenwood, Whiteland, Perry Meridian, Roncalli, Southport

Favorite: Center Grove

Dark horse: Franklin

Players to watch: Center Grove — Luke Boha, Jacob Cooley, Ben DeRose, Colin Parry; Franklin — Owen Atkison, Owen Mahin, Joe Nerding, E.J. Young; Greenwood — Cole Mahan; Whiteland — Shawn Sullivan; Perry Meridian — Van Tha Sang, Nick Vaux; Roncalli — Vince Agramonte, Mateo Gonzales, Robert Thang, Daniel Woodruff; Southport — Mang Biak Lian, Dawt Thang

Outlook: The Grizzly Cubs are eager to host and hoping to break Center Grove’s choke hold on the sectional title. They’ve got a shot — and both Perry Meridian and Southport could threaten as well — but even facing the tougher half of the bracket, the Trojans remain the clear favorite until proven otherwise.

Class A Indianapolis Lutheran Sectional

Teams competing: Greenwood Christian, Hauser, Indianapolis Lutheran, Morristown, Oldenburg Academy, Southwestern (Shelby)

Favorite: Oldenburg Academy

Dark horse: Greenwood Christian

Players to watch: GCA — Jonathan Amador, Gerrit Huizinga, Griffin Huizinga, Styles McCorkle; Hauser — Joe Sweet, Andrew Titus; Indianapolis Lutheran — Garrin Hartson, Riley Wilson;  Oldenburg Academy — Drew Kersey, Stuart Lamping, Lucas McFee; Southwestern — Eirik Shackelford, Jacob Swanson, Zachary Swanson, Noah Swift

Outlook: Bolstered by the addition of freshmen Amador and McCorkle, the Cougars are primed for a deep postseason run. They’ll be strongly tested, though, by Mid-Hoosier champ Southwestern and a powerful Twisters club ranked fifth in Class A.

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.