It’s not every day that you say goodbye to an All-Ohioan who is oftentimes referred to as a “freak” of an athlete, freak being one of those guys who is so naturally gifted as an athlete that he seemingly can do things that are unimaginable.
That was the case last year when the Hiland soccer team bid adieu to senior goalkeeper Dylan Kaufman, who became the very first Hiland soccer player in the school’s history to earn First Team All-Ohio honors.
At 6-foot-5 and incredibly gifted as an athlete, Kaufman manned the goal and swatted away shots that were clearly aimed at getting to the back of the net. More than one would-be scorer walked away from a shot incredulous that they weren’t celebrating a goal with their teammates. So how do you replace a legend?
Well, according to Hiland head coach Scott Bodiker, you don’t even try.
“Honestly, in some ways replacing Dylan is quite easy, because you aren’t going to replace him,” said Bodiker. “Nobody is going to come in here and exhibit those kinds of freakish skills like Dylan did. So in a way, there is absolutely no pressure on our young kids to step in and replace him.”
Taking over the keeper chores are junior Tyler Hochstetler and sophomore Taylor Raber, both of whom bring some fine qualities in their own right to the net, although neither has the flair for the other-worldly saves Kaufman was able to conjure up.
Together, the two have manned the goal during Hiland’s early season successes, with Hochstetler in particular having a spectacular game against Coshocton that allowed the Hawks to maintain a 0-0 tie. In that contest Raber also made a game-saving, diving maneuver on a shot to the lower corner that had victory written all over it for the Redskins.
“I think both of those kids have some pretty lofty expectations for themselves, and for the team,” said Bodiker. “They understand that if we are going to achieve our team goals that they are going to have to be a big part of it. But we told them from day one that they aren’t Dylan and they are never going to be Dylan. They just don’t have those kinds of physical gifts. We just want them to be the best keepers they can be, so to some degree the pressure is off of them and they just have to do the best they can. They are both more than capable of great success when they are focused and confident, and we have seen that so far this year.”
The two young keepers are different in their skills. Bodiker said that Raber is at his best when he is in the air, making diving stops and knocking away potential scores. Hochstetler prospers with balls on the ground, his coach noting that he is going to get anything within reach. He also said that Hochstetler possesses something any goalie would envy: Soft hands.
“He doesn’t catch as many balls cleanly as we would like him to, but on the other hand he rarely gives up rebounds, because he has such soft hands. He has a knack for knocking the ball down to himself and getting it.”
Bodiker said that the two have done everything asked of them and he is pleased with their progress. For the team’s biggest question mark coming in, the position has been a solid one thus far, and Bodiker couldn’t be more pleased with their effort and the communication skills they have exhibited.
It appears as though replacing an All-Ohioan is a whole lot easier when you don’t have to replace him at all.