CLYDE — Ottawa Hills will play for the second state soccer championship in program history Saturday.
Using their trademark up-tempo, high-skill, relentless-pressure attacking scheme, the third-ranked Green Bears (20-0-2) remained unbeaten with a 1-0 victory Wednesday against unranked Kidron Central Christian in a boys Division III state semifinal at Clyde High School.
Ottawa Hills' Kevin Hileman, right, celebrates scoring the game winning goal against Kidron Central Christian with teammate Daniel Durst. A 1-0 win at Clyde High School put Ottawa Hills in Saturday's state championship match.
Ottawa Hills junior forward Kevin Hileman scored the game-winning goal 4 minutes, 10 seconds into the second half, and the Green Bears made that stand to earn a spot in the state championship game at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus against top-ranked Cincinnati Summit Country Day.
“It came in from the free kick and I wasn’t really expecting it to come to me,” Hileman said. “Once it bobbled right in front of me, it was set perfectly and I knew exactly where it was going, and I just put it through.”
The goal was the team-high 35th of the season for Hileman, and the 97th in his career.
Ottawa Hills will now try to match its 2008 team, which beat Worthington Christian 1-0 in the D-III state final that season under former Green Bears coach Greg McElroy.
Summit Country Day (17-3-2), the two-time defending state champion, advanced by beating second-ranked Grandview Heights 3-2 in Wednesday’s other state semifinal in Xenia. The Silver Knight defeated Kidron Central Christian 9-1 in last year’s D-III state final.
“Coming in, we expected Central Christian to be organized and physical and athletic,” Ottawa Hills coach Nate Baer said. “We did control the game with high possession, but it comes down to putting chances away, and Kevin got the one and sometimes that’s all it takes.
“The build-up [on scoring play] was good, and Kevin has 97 goals in his career. I think, in the moment, he’s going to come up big, and he did. He’s a great finisher. We’re excited to move on.”
The Green Bears carried possession most of the first half, and much of it in the Kidron end. But they were unable to create many bona fide scoring chances deep in the Comets’ end.
Ottawa Hills's John Kight (5) uses his head against Kidron Central Christian's Scott Davis.
Ottawa Hills got 15 first-half shots off, but only three required saves from Kidron goalkeeper Brandon Swartz.
But that trend ended not long into the second half, when the Green Bears finally broke through after a free kick from near midfield.
Deep into the Comets’ end, Ottawa Hills sophomore forward Ignacio Garcia-Mata sent a header to Hileman, who popped the ball up between two Comet defenders, then sent a quick right-footed kick into the back of the net.
“I was especially frustrated [earlier in game],” Hileman said. “I was trying to help my players out and tell them what to do. We finally got one through, and that really lifted the game. We started playing so much better after that.
“It wasn’t the most beautiful soccer, but at the end of the day we got it done and got the W. Now we’re going to a state final, so our confidence is pretty high right now. We just have to practice until Saturday and see how it goes.”
Among other prime scoring chances later in the second half for Ottawa Hills was Hileman’s sizzling left-foot shot that required a diving save from Swartz with 7:05 remaining.
Ottawa Hills has now outscored its opposition 125-14 this season.
“We have great kids with great character, and they’re resilient, so I think that’s why we’re moving on right now,” Baer said. “Jan Durst was amazing in the back. He cleaned things up. “And, our middle three — John Kight, Scott Davis and Drew Huffman – did well controlling the game for us.
“We had probably 80 to 90 percent possession, but moving forward now we’ve got to be able to put some of those chances away.”
The Comets finish their season 15-5-2.