All year long the Hiland Hawks’ defense has been nothing short of spectacular while the offense has had games in which it has struggled to get things going.
On Thursday, Oct. 5 in Doylestown, it was a complete 180-degree turn as the offense took the lead role, and the defense had an unusual hiccup. It was all good enough for the Hawks to turn in a 4-3 win over a gritty Chippewa team.
In a reversal of roles the Hiland offense carried the torch in a back-and-forth game that saw the Hawks score the game winner with 20 minutes to play. At that point the defense kicked back into high gear and held the Chipps out of the net for the remainder of the game.
“It was not a great game for us,” Hiland coach Scott Bodiker said. “We played sloppy on defense. Our defense has been absolutely great all season. I am so proud of them. Both of our goalies have been awesome all year, but we just didn’t have a good game tonight. Fortunately that was as good of a game as our forwards have played this season. We played aggressively and moved the ball well and communicated, and really we could have scored more goals than we did.”
Chippewa scored an early goal before fans had a chance to settle in when a pass was fired from the end line. The ball nearly hit the right post. The ball hit keeper Sam Raber in the hands, and the ball deflected right into the goal for a 1-0 Chipps lead.
Hiland finally got on the board 18 minutes into the game when Chris Miller slipped through a pair of defenders and knocked home a shot, and the Hawks then took a lead several minutes later when Declan Howell drove home a score with 12 minutes left in the half.
With time winding down in the half, the Hawks staged one final attack that paid off handsomely. Cam Keim sent a ball into the box on a throw, and Johnny Sisson skipped a header across the six to a waiting Kyle Mast, who smacked it into the goal with just two seconds remaining.
“Ultimately we won by one goal, and that shows you how soccer is,” Bodiker said. “You can’t lose focus at any time, or it can hurt you. We did early on in the game, and they scored, and that kind of a goal at the end of the half really hurts.”
Hiland came out of the half on fire, taking the ball inside the Chipps’ 18 and pretty much keeping it there. Hiland had several golden opportunities to score but came up empty, and Chippewa sent a long ball down field and took advantage of Hiland’s usually stout defense. Eric Karl managed to get behind the Hiland defense and plunked in a goal to trim Hiland’s edge to 3-2 as keeper Derek Burke got caught away from the net when he was unable to secure a ball that went wide right.
Chippewa then got the equalizer from Nick Long in the 59th minute, and suddenly what seemed like a Hiland blowout was locked at 3-3.
It stayed that way for less than one minute. Mast found himself with the ball at the top of the 18 and was able to maneuver enough to find a little space. His shot rolled perfectly to the far left corner, where it snuck inside the post for the eventual game-winner.
“We haven’t had defensive boo-boos like that all year,” Bodiker said. “But Chippewa is always very active, and they put a lot of pressure on a team up front by being active, and they have some speed up there. They have some really nice young attacking forwards who are going to be a handful the next couple of years.”
While Hiland’s defense struggled to get stops through 60 minutes, it responded by playing its usual solid game over the final 20 minutes and kept the Chipps at bay to secure the win.
The victory improved the Hawks to 7-2-3 overall, and while the Chipps always give the Hawks fits in Doylestown, Bodiker said this game was a great one to play late in the season.
“Their style of play is very similar to what we will have to face from a number of opponents we’re going to have to face in the tournament,” Bodiker said.
Once again, win or lose, a gritty Chippewa team that has seen plenty of success over the past decade provided Hiland with a great challenge, one that should help the Hawks immensely down the road.