The Worthington Christian boys soccer team over the years has certainly had Hiland's number.
That number's now at six.
For the sixth time in eight years, Hiland met Worthington Christian in the regional tournament and each time the Warriors have knocked the Hawks out of postseason play. In Saturday's Div. III Zanesville Regional final, WC scored three goals in the opening half en route to a 4-2 victory. The defending state champion Warriors advance to their ninth straight Final Four.
"All three captains scored tonight," said WC coach Dan Roads. "You have to have guys that want to be heroes. They've been here and done that. The tradition's shown us how to do these things."
The Warriors (19-5-2) took an inside-out approach to pressuring Hiland's defense. With the Hawks' defenders playing back, the Warriors chose to attack them with long balls. WC scored three goals in the last 23 minutes of the half, with Albert Miller, Sam Condon and George Miller all scoring from outside the box. The last score, which came five minutes before the break, was a booming kick from nearly 30 yards out.
"We thought we were going to have opportunities from outside the 18," said Roads. "They play organized defense so we knew we'd have to play the ball in front of them."
Hiland (14-5-1) coach Scott Bodiker said his team simply wasn't aggressive enough at the outset.
"They were great shots from 25 yards out," he said, "but we were too deep. We needed to put more pressure on them sooner."
As a result all the pressure was on Hiland, which was outshot 7-0 in the first 40 minutes, at the intermission. The Hawks finally got on the board 12 minutes into the second half when a corner kick caused a scrum in front of the goal and Trey Riggle punched it in with 28:25 to play. Seven minutes later, Hiland took advantage of another corner, pressuring keeper Jake Kress, who fell backwards for an own goal. Those two scores got Hiland's momentum going, but it never found the equalizer. While the Hawks made the Warriors, who held a 15-2 edge in shots, nervous late in the game, Quinn Miller punched the Warriors' ticket to state with 6:02 left when he juked and dribbled around four Hiland defenders before burying the Warriors' fourth score.
"We knew they'd play 80 minutes," said Roads. "We changed some formations and were able to weather that storm. They didn't get frazzled -- they got more intense."
Bodiker credited the way his team rebounded in the second half.
"They know when they play us it's going to be a battle," he said. "They don't look past us like they used to."
Hiland enjoyed a banner day from keeper Tyler Hochstetler, who had 10 saves, including a couple key stops late in the contest that kept the Hawks within striking distance.
Bodiker said that while it was frustrating for his squad to again find the road to the state semifinals blocked by WC, the only thing it could do was turn its attention to next season.
"What are you going to do?" he said. "Our goal is to be the best team we can be and if it puts us against this them, then so be it.
"This is their ninth straight Final Four," he said. "You can't do that without great players. They'll likely be back here next year and hopefully so will we."
Maybe the Hawks can take a different number the next time.