Hiland Boys Soccer

Trojans’ magical ride continues as TV deals Hawks 2-0 district final loss

Trojans and Hawks mix it up for a district title

Coming into its Div. III East district tournament showdown versus the Hiland Hawks, the Tusky Valley Trojans had two things that were not in their favor. Two years ago the Hawks had defeated the Trojans in tournament play 9-0, and since the inception of the Tusky Valley soccer program in 1990, the Trojans had never beaten the Hawks.

However, Tusky Valley (17-1-2) also had two things going for them. Earlier this season the Trojans had tied the Hawks 0-0 at Tusky Valley High School, just the second time they had even tied Hiland. In addition the Trojans were riding a 16-game streak in which they had not lost a game since dropping their opener this year.

After playing 80 minutes of inspirational soccer, the Trojans saw that number rise to 17 and saw that winless streak against Hiland erased as they captured the program’s first-ever district title in a 2-0 victory.

“We did not play well at all today and give credit to Tusky Valley,” Hiland coach Scott Bodiker said. “They had a good game plan. They played one guy on top, breaking hard through the middle of the field, counterattacking. We didn’t play well, and we didn’t play smart. We did the same thing over and over again, and it wasn’t working.”

The first half saw both teams battle to produce some kind of offensive rhythm, but neither really had a ton of chances. At one point Hiland keeper Sam Raber made a very athletic stop on a strike to the lower-left corner, but most of the Trojans’ looks ended up either soaring high or wide of the intended mark.

Hiland struggled to move the ball into scoring position and really had just one good look, that coming as the final seconds ticked off in the first half when Taylor Mullet sent a ball along the end line to the far post where Kyle Mast tried to get on top of the high bounder. His kick sailed just over the cross bar as time expired, sending both teams into the half tied at nil.

The one thing the Trojans did do in the half was establish the fact that they were not going to let Hiland beat them on corners and long throw-ins.

“[They] certainly negated our throw-ins and corner kicks, but the reality is that we never really tested that,” Bodiker said. “We kept trying to play a lot of side-to-side stuff on a 57-yard-wide field, and that wasn’t going to work. We needed to play a lot more direct to get the ball in the box. We talked about that at half and didn’t do that today.”

Both coaches knew the start of the second half was crucial. Both also knew that whoever got on top early would have a huge upper hand. That turned out to be Tusky Valley on a strange play in the 47th minute.

“It was one of those games where both teams were pretty evenly matched,” TV head coach Shawn Miller said. “If you’re the first one to score, it goes a long way, and I thought momentum started to go our way when the first goal went in. To break through gave our kids a lot of confidence because we have not had much success against them in the past.”

A crossing pass from right to left sailed just past hard-charging Josh Ragon. It appeared as though the ball would bend out of play, but instead it stayed in. When that happened, everyone kind of stopped playing. The ball was sent back in, and Ragon turned and reacted, heading the ball in before Raber could react.

“I missed the first cross, didn’t realize it was staying in, and it came back across and headed it in,” Ragon said. “It was a pretty crazy moment. I was kind of shocked it came back to me.”

The goal changed the complexion of the game. In an effort to respond, Bodiker moved to three players on offense up top, meaning they had one less player in the middle of the field. He said looking back, he would have opted to not do that, but he wanted to try to stretch the game out by doing so.

Raber made a sensational foot stop at 25:45, and Trojans keeper Tyler Boyd also did at 22:23. Ragon, who has scored upward of 30 goals this season, just missed a second when he sent a shot skittering just wide with just under 20 minutes to play. As the Trojans sought a big insurance goal, the Hawks fought desperately for their life.

But as time began to become an issue, it would be the Trojans who would get their wish. After a hand-ball was called just outside of Hiland’s 18, TV’s Cameron Salapack delivered a picture-perfect shot into the upper-90-left corner to make it 2-0.

Tusky Valley then went into defensive mode, and as the final seconds counted down, the celebration was on.

“On a big stage like this, these kids have a lot to be proud of,” Miller said. “We’ve really built up to this the past couple of years, and we have a good senior class. There has been a lot of tough times for this program. We talked about breaking through the ceiling. We’ve been to this point before but have never broken through. Now to get to the next level, we’re very excited.”

For Bodiker’s crew it marks the third straight time they have fallen in districts after a long run to regionals. Bodiker said this year’s team struggled to produce consistently on offense, and it bit them.

“We didn’t crate many chances, and you can’t score if you don’t create chances,” Bodiker said. “That has been a theme for us all season.”

Having lost an unprecedented 15 seniors off of last year’s team, many people wondered if the Hawks could reload. Not only did they reload, they performed extremely well in fashioning an 11-4-4 record.

“I am proud of these guys,” Bodiker said. “A lot of these guys had to wait a long time to play a meaningful role for this program, and that is tough because they have played in the shadow of last year’s group for a long time. I thought they really gave us everything they had this year.”

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