Over the years Hiland head boys soccer coach Scott Bodiker hasn’t played a lot of sophomores. Usually the deep Hawks’ program sees its freshmen and sophomores toiling away on the JV level to earn their stripes and gain experience. This year has been an exception as a trio of sophomores have found plenty of playing time at the varsity level and have had good success.
However, the level of success reached by sophomore Chris Miller on Tuesday, Sept. 12 was a true rarity. In Hiland’s 4-2 road win over Canton Central Catholic (1-4), Miller scored the equalizer with eight minutes to play in the first half and then knocked home a pair of second-half goals to record a hat trick in leading the Hawks to victory.
“I might have done that in middle school, but it hasn’t been recently,” Miller said of the hat trick. “I am not really thinking about scoring. I just want to come into the game and provide a spark and play the best I can to help the team win.”
Miller has been coming off the bench for Hiland, but Bodiker said the sophomore has been the team’s most consistent player through seven games (3-2-2), and he is pushing for even more playing time with his hustling style of play.
“Last game I told the guys that Chris has been our most consistent player game in and game out, and he has proven that he is very deserving of a starting spot,” Bodiker said.
When attacking midfielder Johnny Sisson, a key piece to Hiland’s success, went down with an ankle injury in the first half against CCC, it opened the door for more playing time for Miller, and he capitalized. “It’s great when a young guy steps up when he gets a chance.”
The Hawks came out firing on all cylinders, getting all kinds of great looks at the goal. Unfortunately the one thing they couldn’t do was convert any of the numerous easy looks, and 20 minutes into the game, what felt like a game that should have been a huge Hiland lead was locked up in a scoreless tie.
“That was frustrating because we have talked about finishing, and the great looks we had, we weren’t even making the keeper make a play,” Bodiker said. “We were shooting the ball wide, and we wasted some really nice scoring chances.”
With 10 minutes left in the half, Canton Central Catholic’s Philip Savastano fired a great shot to the lower-right corner past a diving Sam Raber, the ball deflecting slightly off the Hiland keeper’s mitts before finding the back of the net.
Chris Miller then got his first goal just two minutes later, taking a pass from twin brother Pat Miller to knot things up at 1-1 heading into the half.
While Hiland’s starters played a lackluster first half, the subs gave the Hawks a real lift by playing hard and tying things up.
Bodiker said one thing the coaching staff really wanted to focus on was getting the bench plenty of minutes, and Hiland substituted liberally as the bench got plenty of action throughout the contest.
“We told the kids we were playing all of them, no matter what,” Bodiker said. “If it had stayed 1-1 in the second half, we were going to play everyone. A few of these guys hadn’t played in a week and a half, and at some point we are going to need them down the road. They came in and gave us a nice boost.”
Bodiker didn’t mince words with his starters at the half, telling them he needed more effort, desire and communication. That speech paid off as a different starting crew entered the lineup to begin the second half.
“We came out more focused,” Bodiker said. “We are still trying to figure out who our leaders are. We need some more vocal leadership from some of our seniors and captains, and we looked a lot better in the second half.”
It took Hiland all of two minutes to take command in the second half. Keeper Derek Burke grabbed a ball in the box and sent a booming kick downfield, where Taylor Mullet redirected a pass to Chris Miller, who charged toward the keeper and sent one into the back of the net for a 2-1 lead. Three minutes later those two sophomores teamed up again as the hat trick was complete, and the Hawks had a 3-1 edge.
“I got the ball in great position to score,” Chris Miller said. “By the end of the first half we were all pretty bummed out because we weren’t converting some good chances. But we came out and did what we had to in the second half.”
Another three minutes later Hiland made it 4-1 when it was awarded an indirect kick near midfield. Lakota Mast wound up and delivered a long, perfect ball into the box. It took one giant hop over several players, and Mullet was there to clean it up and deposit it into the back of the net.
Central Catholic would score a goal in the 71st minute, but the Hawks were never really threatened after the three-goal outburst to begin the second half.
Both Burke and Raber recorded one save apiece while Eric Varacky had five and Tyler Parson recorded two for Central Catholic. Hiland outshot CCC 19-5 and took 10 corners to Central’s three.