West Holmes

Versatile Knights take OCC clash from Tygers

West Holmes’ Eric Biltz (left) begs teammate Teddy Oliver (16) for a high five following the Knights’ win over Senior.

There is one trait that the West Holmes boys soccer team oozes.

They are extremely versatile.

West Holmes’ forwards can move back a level and play some mean midfield. Their midfielders can drop back and hold their own on defense. And coming off the bench they have a plethora a speed and hungry players that can make a difference at just about any spot on the pitch.

Heck, if coach Dave Zimmerly wanted to, he could throw his goalkeeper Drew Campbell in the field and he’d fit right into the Knights’ mix.

Loaded with multifaceted players has helped Zimmerly and the Knights play well all season.

And that luxury of many talented players has helped the Knights win an Ohio Cardinal Conference (OCC) game against Mansfield Senior on Oct. 4 in Millersburg.

The Knights got three goals from three different players, there you go again more depth, and took down the Tygers on a gorgeous night for soccer 3-1.

West Holmes bumps up their record to 5-6-1 and 2-4-1 in the OCC.

“Being versatile helps us a lot,” said Zimmerly. “Even during games it helps because we are able to find mis-matches all over the field. We really don’t have a true center midfielder, we just have to counter our opponents play with our guys who can play multiple spots.”

The first 25 minutes between the Tygers and Knights were very neutral. Both teams built attacks, but neither were able to find the net, nor sniff it for that matter.

West Holmes’ Leonardo Calienno then finally ended the deadlock with 14:46 to play in the game’s first half when he connected on an easy look with Tygers’ keeper Shandon Kiah out of position and put the Knights up 1-0.

Just 20 seconds before his goal Calienno missed a great look at the goal, but it didn’t take long for the fan-favorite to totally redeemed himself and gain some glory back with the opening goal of the night.

The Knights weren’t done in the first half.

Teddy Oliver was able to get off a strong shot with just under eight minutes left in the first half when he took a ball at his feet at the top of the box and worked around a pair of Tygers. Oliver got the opening he wanted, but blasted it just over the top right corner of Kiah’s goal.

With 2:42 Zach Buchanan said enough is enough and the West Holmes forward sped around a defender, juke another one, and made a class finish that he made look easy. Buchanan’s beauty-of-a-goal put the Knights up 2-0 at halftime.

Now with the lead in tow, Zimmerly said that he added a fifth defender to his back line for the second half to make up for the dangerous forward laying the weeds in the Tygers’ attack, Drew Weeks.

Weeks still hurt the Knights.

Nine minutes into the second half Weeks was able to trap a high ball right to the ground nicely and then he decided to take on the West Holmes’ defense. Weeks shook off a defender and then blasted a shot that Campbell got a hand on and pushed to the side of the net.

Problem was Senior’s Duane Heiser bounced on the rebound and calmly placed it home in Campbell’s net. The Tygers had struck and the Knights’ lead was cut in half, 2-1.

“Weeks is a nice player,” said Zimmerly. “He’s very dangerous and that is why we put another player in the back for the second half. They got really direct on us the first ten minutes of the second half.”

The Knights needed an answer because they didn’t want the game to go down to the wire and then need to defend Weeks up just one goal.

That’s when the youngster stepped in. Grant Miller pressed the freshman alert button when the ninth grader trapped a cross from Javen Miller, took one touch around the defender and ripped a shot by Kiah for the Knights’ third goal. Miller lit the lamp with 18:57 left in the game to make the rest of the match a little less anxious for West Holmes’ fans.

The Knights finished with 11 shots on goal to Senior’s five. Campbell was efficient in the Knights’ net with fours saves including one early in the second half that he tapped over the bar.

Kiah made 10 saves for the Tygers with three or four of them being highlight reel material.

The Tygers fall to 1-11-1 on the season and 0-6-1 in the OCC.

Pitch Points

1. Youth (K)night.

Tuesday night at West Holmes Soccer Field was the annual youth night. Kids of all ages from 1st grade to 8th grade were announced at halftime along with their coaches and sponsors. That also meant that a larger crowd was on hand for the game and they were treated to a Knights’ win. When you hear the opposing fans mention how nice the WHHS facilities are and comment on the amount of folks in attendance, you’ve done well West Holmes.

“Our youth programs are getting better. The 7th and 8th grade classes also have a lot of kids that have been playing together forever. We just need some more size,” said Zimmerly with a grin.

2. Full Throttle

The Knights have one speed. It’s fast. Buchanan and Landon Hawkins bring a ton of speed to the Knights’ offense and defense. West Holmes simply seemed as though they had more urgency than that of the Tygers and it helps when you’re blessed with team speed. Zimmely said that his team speed and aggression are its style, but can hinder them at times too.

“Our team speed and aggressiveness is good, but it can also hurt us,” said Zimmerly. “Against a team that plays the ball quick, like Mt. Vernon, you can really take us out of our physical game which is something we do really well.”

3. Shandon, don’t call him Shannon, Kiah

Not only did Kiah make a couple fantastic saves, the junior was also great pouncing on balls inside the box, outside the box with his feet and was a treat to watch in the air. A shot-saver and a shot-preventer. Give him conference honors.

4. Freshman Alert

Kudos to Grant Miller, nice goal. But fellow freshman Tyler Masters patrolled the middle back spot on Tuesday for the Knights and filled in nicely for the injured Slade Barnes. Barnes is nursing a collar bone setback, one that Zimmerly hopes he can recover from before the tournaments fire up for the Knights.

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