Ottawa Hills has climbed to the summit in Ohio Division III boys soccer.
Now if fifth-year coach Nate Baer’s Green Bears are to plant a championship flag, they must overcome perennial state power Cincinnati Summit Country Day in Saturday’s 4 p.m. state final at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.
Although the Bears have been dominant to this point — 20-0-2 season record, 125-14 edge on foes in goals scored — Summit’s Silver Knights (17-3-2) have won two straight D-III state championships and four of the last five.
In the past two title games, Summit has simply hammered its finals foes. The Knights won 9-0 against Canfield South Range in the 2015 title game, then 9-1 against Kidron Central Christian last year.
Still, Ottawa Hills’ young roster appears poised to challenge the Silver Knights with its high skill level and ability to control possession and creating scoring chances.
The big question is, can the Green Bears finish those chances with enough goals to overcome a potent team such as Summit?
“That’s my style as a coach,” Baer said of Ottawa Hills’ scheme. “I’m really possessive-heavy, and the boys know if we can control the game, our [scoring] opportunities will come.
“That’s a training thing. We do a lot of possession training sessions that allow the boys to make good decisions under pressure. We have the type of players now who can be really successful in that environment.”
Baer sees the current state of the Green Bears program as rivaling that of the teams of 2008-2012, a stretch that included the school’s 20-3-0 state championship team in 2008.
“Six of these guys have played club soccer together since they were 12-13 years old, and Dylan Schreder and Kevin Hileman are generational players that you don’t see very often,” Baer said. “They’ll go down as two of the better attacking players in the program’s history.”
The numbers back Baer’s assessment.
Junior forward Hileman, with his game-winning goal in the second half of Wednesday’s 1-0 state semifinal win against Kidron CC at Clyde, has 35 goals and 26 assists this season. With 97 goals in his first three varsity seasons, Hileman is on pace to break Dan Bryant’s school career record of 127 goals.
Schreder, also a junior forward, has 25 goals and 12 assists.
Another top point producer is sophomore midfielder Drew Hoffman, who has added 14 goals and 10 assists. He assisted on Hileman’s winning tally on Wednesday.
A top two-way player is the team’s only regular senior starter, defender Jan Durst, who has 11 goals and eight assists. Durst is the Green Bears’ most steady stopper in front of 6-foot-4 junior goalkeeper Tommy Coil, whose work is made easier because of the possession time created by the midfielders and forwards.
Being able to control play in this manner will be crucial against the Silver Knights.
“Our quality, in certain areas of the game, matches up very well with them,” Baer said of Summit. “They’ve got two midfielders that have committed to D-I [colleges], and they’ve won four out the last five state titles. They’ve got a ton of experience and a ton of quality experience.
“We know Summit’s going to play the game well, but we’re excited to take on the challenge.”
Ottawa Hills will need its best effort to produce its second state championship.
“Winning the midfield will be important, and putting away our chances,” Baer said. “And being really organized in the back. We expect that Kevin and Dylan are going to get chances, and Jan Durst has been really good in the back.
“We have to limit any silly mistakes against the dynamic midfield that Summit has. If we can sustain the midfield, we could put ourselves in a really good spot.”
Rounding out the current group of Green Bears starters are senior Will Tunis (D), junior Ben Roller (D), sophomores Scott Davis (MF), John Kight (MF, nine goals, six assists) and Jack O’Brien (D), and freshman Jack Silk (D, goal, five assists).
Other top producers during the season have been sophomores Daniel Durst (MF, nine goals, seven assists), Donavan Bridges (F, seven goals, 13 assists), and Ignacio Garcia-Mata (F, two goals, 11 assists).
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.