Every year, senior athletes everywhere are energized and pumped to get what is supposed to be their shining moment under way. Apparently, Grant Stutzman was pretty fired up to get his senior season going.
Stutzman scored a goal just 17 seconds into the Hiland Hawks season opener on Friday, August 25 against River View. Hiland High School, then added a second one later in the half, pacing the Hawks to a 4-0 victory over the Black Bears (1-2).
Stutzman scored in stunning fashion just seconds into the game, spinning and driving a beautiful left-footer past Black Bear keeper Matt Prior for the lead.
“I don’t think anyone ever thinks they will have a game like this to kick off their senior year,” said Stutzman. “They gave me some time and space to turn on that first shot and the goalie was out, and I hit it well.
“One of our goals is to score in the first five minutes at the start of each half. That is devastating for the other team, and we did it in both halves tonight, which was nice.”
Stutzman’s second goal was almost as sensational, the senior right-footer spinning just past 25 yards out, and driving home an archer that nestled in just under the bar over the leaping Prior’s hands.
Hiland didn’t appear satisfied to sit on the 2-0 lead, and stretched it to three when Stutzman dribbled along the right end line, skirted a pass to Trey Riggle, who no-looked a back-footer into the lower right corner.
The final goal came late in the fourth when Hunter Herrera whipped a sharp liner into the back of the net.
“The start of the preseason and into our first game here has been really good for us,” said Coach Scott Bodiker. “We have really challenged these guys with the competition we played early on this summer and it was pretty brutal at times. We played some top-level competition. But we were never really outclassed and we stayed competitive. In a strange way that has really given us a lot of confidence even though we didn’t win.”
With Hiland outshooting River View 21-0, Bodiker had to like what he saw of his offense, but his biggest question mark coming into the season was his defense, which had to replace a ton of solid talent from last year.
How good the defense is still remains to be seen, because although the Hawks and goalies Tyler Hochstetler and Taylor Raber pitched a shutout, there was little to do for Hiland’s defense but stand and watch as the offense completely took over and presented a relentless attack on Prior in goal.
“We knew they were a solid team defensively, and Prior is tough in goal,” said Bodiker. “So it was nice to see us attacking the entire game and keeping them on the defensive.”
What he did see of the offense was good news for Bodiker, and he knows he will get to see exactly what his defense can do soon enough, but he added that a seemingly small move has paid big dividends on the defensive end already this year.
“We moved Josh Phillips back to sweeper, and when we did that, it just solidified our defense so much,” said Bodiker. “He is just one of those kids who is a stabilizing figure back there. He is smart and knows how to play. We asked him to move from mid back to sweeper and he did so without any fuss at all. He has made the transition in a very short time.”
Bodiker is no stranger to that move, since he was asked to do the same thing in his college days as a player.