Gage Potter

Lexington's Gage Potter passes to a teammate during a 2-0 win over Wooster during the regular season.

MANSFIELD — It has become a late-October tradition.

The leaves change color, everything gets pumpkin-spiced and Lexington and Ontario play for a district championship in boys soccer.

For the fifth time in the past seven seasons, the Minutemen and Warriors will duke it out for a district crown and a berth in next week’s Division II Sweet 16. The Richland County rivals will renew hostilities at 6 p.m. Thursday at Clear Fork High School’s Colt Corral.

Top-seeded Lex (13-1-4) will be playing in the district final for the eighth straight year. The Minutemen are 5-2 in their previous seven appearances and have won three straight district crowns.

The last time Lex didn’t hoist the district trophy was 2017, when Ontario beat the Minutemen 2-1 in overtime at Arlin Field.

“It’s always exciting to play for a district championship, especially this year,” said Lex coach Peter Them, who took over at his alma mater in 2013. “A lot of people didn’t think we’d be back here with the amount of guys we graduated off last year’s (Elite Eight) team.

“The group of seniors we have took it to heart and decided they weren’t going to be the group that let it fall off.”

The Minutemen have been overwhelming to this point, winning their first three tournament games by a combined score of 35-1. Lex opened tourney play with a 15-0 win over Tiffin Columbian as senior Gage Potter set a single-game program record with eight goals. The Minutemen blanked Clyde 13-0 in the sectional final before roughing up No. 4 seed Huron 7-1 earlier this week in the district semifinals.

“The boys are playing well,” Them said. “We have played a pretty good schedule, as has Ontario. We do that for games like this.”

The Warriors (13-5-1) are in the district final for the fourth time in the past five years and, like Lex, have been dominant through the first three rounds of the postseason. Ontario has outscored its first three opponents by a combined score of 19-1 and is coming off a come-from-behind 4-1 win over Clear Fork.

The teams met in the season opener in late-August and battled to a scoreless tie.

“Here we go again,” Ontario coach Chris McClenathan. “It’s going to be an exciting game between two great teams. Lexington has improved since then and so have we.

“I’m excited. They are our rival and if we can get to that game, we know how close we are. I think it’s going to be a great game and we’re looking forward to it.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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