For the first 60 minutes of the Hiland Hawks boys soccer game with a talented and experienced River View team, the Hawks looked fantastic.
Then for about 19:35 the Hawks went through a period when they were constantly back on their heels, chasing, trying to recover and struggling to keep pace as the Black Bears went into attack mode.
Then there were the final gut-wrenching 25 seconds when River View found the back of the net as the Hawks just seemed to implode, the team’s inexperience rearing its ugly head in what turned out to be a devastating 1-0 loss.
Hiland came into the Saturday, Aug. 26 game looking to make an early season statement against a Black Bears team that sports 10 seniors, six of those having been varsity letter winners since their freshman season.
Considering how hard and well Hiland played throughout the first hour of the contest, the Hawks were in position to make a real statement. Hiland outplayed River View throughout that span but had no score to show for the effort. That included Kyle Mast banging a PK off the top-right corner of the goal that narrowly missed.
Even into the first portion of the second half, Hiland controlled the ball and the tempo. Then it seemed as though the Black Bears flipped a switch, and the attack on the Hawks was on.
Hiland was reeling, and it did not respond well to adversity, as what had been a smooth passing attack devolved into a series of simply kicking the ball downfield and trying to stop River View’s attack. With less than 35 seconds to play, River View took what had been a Hiland throw-in on the Hawks’ offensive end and turned it into an attack of its own down the right sideline. The ball traveled the length of the field and was crossed in front of the net, where a point-blank shot was turned away by Hiland keeper Derek Burke. The ball ricocheted to the far side of the net, where Black Bear Nathan Bullock was more than happy to smack it into the net past a diving Burke to lift the Black Bears (3-0) to victory.
It was a heartbreaking way to end a game that had held so much promise for the young Hawks (1-2).
“We were the better team for 60 minutes against a really good, experienced team,” Hiland coach Scott Bodiker said. “I don’t see too many losses on their schedule, and that makes this loss all the more aggravating. It is a hard result to take because we put so much effort into the game for 60 minutes. Then we just lost our heads.”
Bodiker said at some point the Hawks are going to have to learn to step up in leadership and take control of situations like the one that transpired. Hiland had done everything it needed to do to win, yet when it came down to crunch time, they couldn’t muster the clam demeanor to handle the pressure the Black Bears applied.
“We needed someone to just tell our kids to settle down,” Bodiker said. “That whole last sequence we went from attacking, did something stupid and didn’t understand what needed to be done. The last 20 minutes we kind of lost our minds and didn’t play very smart soccer.”
Hiland had put together a solid attacking plan that had generated quite a few good looks throughout the first 60 minutes, but Bodiker said once things went sideways, all sense of what they wanted to accomplish went out the window.
“I don’t think we put two passes together the last 20 minutes,” Bodiker said. “All we did was kick, kick, kick and chase after we had been passing and moving the ball and playing well. We totally forgot what we were trying to accomplish and had been doing so well all game.”
Bodiker said his senior leaders are going to have to figure out when and where to gather the team together to dole out some calming advice to settle guys down. He said it is part of the learning process for a team that has lost 15 seniors from last year’s squad.
“We continue to get better, and I still have very high hopes for this team,” Bodiker said. “Hopefully they can start to believe that in themselves.”