Landon Troyer photos
The Hiland Hawks had some unfinished business to take care of in their East Div. III district finals contest on the pitch with the Zanesville Bishop Rosecrans on Saturday, Oct. 27.
The Bishops have dealt the Hawks a couple of losses in recent years, and Scott Bodiker’s crew was looking to put that trend behind them and advance to the regional level as it had in 15 of the 18 previous seasons before 2014.
Hiland scored on a penalty kick and then rallied quickly again a few minutes later to take a 2-0 lead with 10 minutes to play in the first half. Then the Hawks’ defense dug in its heels and stumped the Bishops, never allowing them to pierce the goal line. It added up to a 2-0 win for Hiland that helped ease the pain of those recent losses.
Rosecrans came out aggressively and with great emotion and had Hiland playing defensively early on.
“It’s kind of interesting because we have a history of playing them, and they really pack it in and try to counter-attack,” Bodiker said. “This year I felt they believed they were good enough to play more aggressively and push up the field a little bit higher. We were actually kind of glad because we thought that would open things up for us. It took us a minute or two to settle in, and we had some nerves the first few minutes, but after the first five minutes, I thought we really controlled the first half.”
The Hawks broke the ice when Tyler Schmucker drew a foul in the box in the 28th minute, setting up a penalty shot for senior captain Declan Howell. Howell delivered on schedule and gave the Hawks a lead. One thing Bodiker wanted to do coming in was make Zanesville Rosecrans play catch up, and that one-goal lead was quickly about to double.
TOURNEY SOCCER: Here’s your Howell PK for the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/Rmxm5HcKG8
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) October 27, 2018
Bodiker said junior Chris Miller was an X-factor for the Hawks, and the X-factor proved to be a huge factor when he smoked a ball past the Bishops’ keeper in the 29th minute for a 2-0 lead.
“The whole half we were better than them on the outside, and we kept telling our wide guys ‘get around the end and put the ball in front of the goal,’” Bodiker said. “Chris beat his man to the ball, and it was a great finish at the near post. Chris can do that. Our wide guys can do that, and that is what we need to do to be successful.”
Bodiker said his Hawks were able to take advantage of the frustration the Bishops were experiencing due to the penalty call moments earlier, and he felt like they lost focus for a moment, and it cost them.
Hiland took its 2-0 lead into the half, and after pitching a shut-out through 40 minutes, Bodiker implored his team to ratchet up their intensity for the final 40 minutes.
Bodiker had dangerous Kaid Brown shadowed much of the game by Genaro Gomez and Brady Gray, and he felt that stopping those two was paramount to keeping the Bishops out of goal. He said that at the half they talked about how Zanesville Rosecrans might change their game plan and how his team could counter while maintaining a tough, aggressive defense.
“We didn’t feel like we needed to do a whole lot of things differently because we dominated the first half,” Bodiker said. “We tried to anticipate some things.”
While the Bishops did step up their game and generated some better chances than they had in the first half, Hiland’s defense was more than up to the challenge.
Bodiker said additional pressure from their opponent came twofold: the first because Bishop Rosecrans was in full-out panic mode because of the two-goal deficit and the second due to his team playing a bit more cautiously.
With the win the Hawks improved to 15-3-1 while the Bishops’ season ended at 13-3-3.
After such a long string of district titles including a stretch where the Hawks reeled off nine straight district championships, it was tough sledding the past four years. Bodiker said with the success they were experiencing year after year it was almost expected to make a regional appearance.
After a few lean years, they are taking nothing for granted.
“A little bit of doubt crept into us the past couple of years,” Bodiker said. “To get one again is really big and exciting, and a lot of that is due to the fact that we have skill and know how to play.”
Hiland advances to regionals to face South Webster at Marietta College on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. in a regional semifinal game.