FINDLAY — Ottawa Hills is appropriately nicknamed the Green Bears.
Just take a peek at the boys soccer roster to see how green and youthful the squad is with just three seniors and a large number of sophomores and juniors.
One of those juniors, Dylan Schreder, had a pair of slick goals that Ottawa Hills rode to a 4-2 Division III regional semifinal win against Bluffton at Findlay’s cold and wet Elmer Graham Soccer Stadium on Wednesday night.
“We are really young,” Green Bears coach Nate Baer said. “Last year, with [our team] being so freshmen and sophomore heavy, we knew we would be good this season.
“If you look at our team goals, a regional title was what we were expecting. We knew it would be a long road, but we are excited to be here to try finish it off.”
Ottawa Hills, 18-0-2 and ranked No. 3 in the final Ohio Soccer Coaches Association poll, moved on to play Mansfield Christian in Saturday’s regional final at a site and time to be determined.
Mansfield Christian advanced with a 3-1 win against Worthington Christian, also on Wednesday.
VIDEO: Ottawa Hills-Bluffton
Ottawa Hills came out pressuring Bluffton (12-6-2) and scored first when leading scoring Kevin Hileman recorded his 34th goal.
Ignacio Garcia-Mata got the play started when he pulled in a loose ball, giving the Green Bears a 2-on-1 attack. Garcia-Mata pushed a pass ahead to Hileman, who went in alone on Bluffton keeper Dakoda Clymer and scored with 17 minutes, 55 seconds left in the half.
The Green Bears gave themselves breathing room with two goals in a 19-second span around the 10-minute mark.
The first came as Schreder was attacking the net but lost control of the ball. Two Bluffton defenders overran the ball, allowing Schreder to circle back to it and nail a laser high into the center of the net at the 10:09 mark.
Nineteen seconds later, the youngest Green Bear of them all, freshman Jack Silk, scooted a low shot into the right corner past Clymer.
“It is crucial in the regional semifinal to jump out to a big lead,” Baer said. “It’s about being patient. We have to value the ball and put away our chances.”
Schreder showed his speed late in the first half when he ran past the Bluffton defense for a breakaway goal — his 25th of the season.
That goal, with 15 seconds remaining, came after Bluffton had a free kick from about 25 yards out that the Green Bears cleared and the ball ended up at Schreder’s feet.
Bluffton, making its second straight regional appearance, tried to make things interesting in the second half as Jesse Montel scored with 31:29 remaining, and Braden Conrad tallied at the 22:27 mark.
“I was nervous at [allowing] one [goal],” Baer said.
“I told the boys we had to come out and get the fifth goal early, because in high school soccer one or two goals can change the momentum in a hurry.”
But Ottawa Hills regained control. The Green Bears held a 24-4 shots advantage and attempted eight corner kicks to the Pirates’ 5.
Tommy Coil stopped two shots in goal for the Green Bears, who captured regional championships in 2008, 2010, and 2012, and a Division III state title in 2008.
“We are very excited,” Baer said. “This is my first regional final and for all of the boys. The kids are very excited.”
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