Hiland Hawks and West Holmes Knights were engaged in an entertaining, hard-fought battle that saw Hiland nursing a 1-0 advantage.
However, in the blink of an eye, the Hawks scored twice and put the screws to West Holmes. They rode that huge wave of momentum to a 6-0 victory.
The momentum was strong enough that it carried over to the second half, where the Hawks then came out in the first 10 minutes and played what head coach Scott Bodiker said was the best soccer of the season. Hiland scored three goals in an eight-minute span to put the game away.
“We have had some games lately where we have gotten big leads and momentum at the half and then come out to start the second half flat, and I really challenged our kids to come out strong in the first 10 minutes, and that is as well as we have played this season,” Bodiker said.
The first 37 minutes were a spirited battle between the two clubs. Eleven minutes in, Hiland’s Taylor Mullet whistled a bullet that ricocheted off the left post and out of play. West Holmes answered back when Brandon Barkman sent a shot high and wide and Tyler Masters sent one over the top of the net. Hiland’s Declan Howell then sent a screamer inches over the top, and with just under 16 minutes left in the half, Hiland took advantage of a foul called on the far sideline. The direct kick was banged around for a few seconds before it found the foot of Declan Howell, who stroked home a sizzler into the lower right corner to break the scoreless tie.
The next 12 minutes passed without a score, but with 3:15 left in the half, Howell sent a ball through the middle of the Knights’ defense. West Holmes keeper Brendan Yoder and defender Tre Anderson went flying after it along with Hiland’s Chris Miller, and Miller got there first and smacked it past a diving Yoder for the score. Then with 1:38 left to play in the half, the Hawks got another corner kick, and Miller drove a ball to the far post, where Howell delivered another score, this one on a beautiful header.
It was elation for the Hawks, but West Holmes head coach Dave Zimmerly said the scoring runs to end the half and to begin the second half boiled down to his team’s inability to move the ball out of dangerous spots, something they failed to do all night.
“We couldn’t clear a ball to save our lives tonight,” Zimmerly said. “We’re down a single goal, and all of a sudden we are down three, and it was very much about us not clearing balls that we absolutely needed to clear. We just didn’t do a good job of that tonight. We were late on pressure and then unable to clear, and they took advantage.”
The Hawks had the Knights reeling, and in the first eight minutes of the second half, they simply put the Knights away.
In the 43rd minute Hiland scored an ugly goal as a throw-in seemed to bounce around in the box forever as West Holmes couldn’t come up with it. The ball bounced right to Josh Schlabach, who was happy to drill it home into an open net for a 4-0 lead.
In the 47th minute Taylor Mullet found Brayden Gray for a score, and one minute later those roles were reversed as Gray returned the favor, allowing the red-hot Mullet to make it 6-0.
From there the two teams played even, but it was simply a matter of playing out the final 20-plus minutes.
“One of the biggest differences tonight was that they attacked and we waited around for someone else to do the job,” Zimmerly said. “They were aggressive tonight and wanted it worse than we did.”
Bodiker said advancing the lead from one to three before the half was a huge part of the victory, and he said his team’s willingness to be aggressive to the ball also was a huge factor.
“Whenever we play them, they always come prepared with a great game plan, and we knew that they would start a little deeper and would sit back and try to counter-attack because of our speed up front,” Bodiker said. “On our part I thought we were pretty patient, and it took a little time to open them up. But once we got the lead, they had to step out a little bit farther, and that helped free some things up for us.”
Bodiker also said watching his defense put up another shut-out was a big deal, noting it was good to see his defense didn’t give away cheap opportunities for the Knights to post a score.
Zimmerly said his team must give a better effort in doing the little things right if they want to compete with quality teams.
“We have the skill. We have the ability to compete at a high level,” Zimmerly said. “This is the most skilled team I have ever had, but we need to become more disciplined. Yes, we are young, but we can’t continue to use that as an excuse. We’ve got to work harder to do all the little things right.”
Hiland improved to 10-2-1 while West Holmes fell to 4-9-1.