After a near three-month hiatus, high school sports are back in Southern Ohio … thankfully.
The fall calendar brings promise in our area as several programs always seem to turn late-season momentum into historic postseason runs. That’s especially true on the soccer pitch.
Last fall, we had three boys programs win district titles while Wheelersburg won its first regional crown and advanced to a state semifinal. We expect more of the same in 2021 with rosters full of talent and expectations in place.
So as we get reacquainted with the soccer pitch, here’s a list of 10 players in our coverage area, and in no particular order, to keep an eye on this fall.
NOTE: This certainly does not mean there aren’t other players who will have great seasons. This is simply a list of 10 players we’ve randomly compiled.
Andrew Cumberland, Lynchburg-Clay
If you’re looking for one of the area’s best defenders, you might just find the best defender with Cumberland. Sure, that’s saying a ton but he was an important piece to a unit that allowed just 21 goals last season. In effect, the Mustangs won 14 games alongside SHAC, sectional and district championships. Expect him to continue to make an impact wherever he roams this fall.
Nolan Haislop, Jackson
Jackson graduated 10 seniors and eight starters from arguably its greatest senior class ever, so a lot of new faces will shine this year. However, Haislop is one of three starters back and he’ll be asked to do a lot from his midfield position. Whether it’s making the pass up top or taking the ball himself and firing for a goal, his name will be consistently mentioned for the Ironmen.
Lucas Hanes, Unioto
Replacing the District Player of the Year surely isn’t easy, but it’s easier when Hanes is on your side. He quickly made a splash in the area by scoring 24 goals and passing out 19 assists as a freshman for the district champion Shermans. With nine of their starting 11 back this year and a year of experience under their belts, don’t rule out a potential repeat with Hanes leading the way.
Cody Hesler, North Adams
While Jayden Hesler did most of the Devils’ damage last season, Cody showed that North Adams is in good hands in the near future. Just a freshman, Hesler found the back of the net six times and passed out 11 assists as the Green Devils won 13 games and advanced to a district final. Cody now steps to the forefront of the attack as the Green Devils aim to get back to the district tournament.
Zach Johnson, Ironton St. Joe
The Flyers were a senior-heavy team, but Johnson made himself a force to be reckoned with as a sophomore. He connected on 21 goals and dished 14 assists for a 17-win team that was undefeated until a penalty shootout loss to Lynchburg-Clay in a district final. Johnson will be relied on heavily to handle the scoring load, but the Flyers won’t miss a beat with the ball at his feet.
Zane Miller, Minford
Minford has the potential to knock off anyone, and Miller is a major reason why. With the skills to match his accuracy, he netted 17 goals last season which helped lead the Falcons to 10 wins, and competitive matches against Wheelersburg and South Webster before ultimately capturing a sectional title. Keep an eye on the Falcons. They’re certainly worth the watch.
Reese Sauerbrun, Teays Valley
Behind every good team is a great goalie who comes up with one save after another. And Sauerbrun is at the top of that list. The Vikings won 11 games last fall, and nine of them came via shutout as the junior goalie tallied 60 saves. He’s as good as advertised, and aims to be even better in his final go-around.
Austin Sommers, Valley
The Indians might not get enough credit for how tough they are, but let it be known that they possess one of the best scorers in the area in Sommers. He did major damage by scoring 22 goals and passing out four assists last season. That led to Valley finishing with a 9-6-3 mark alongside a sectional title before falling 1-0 to Wheelersburg in a district semifinal. Much of the team, including Sommers, is back. The Indians aren’t going anywhere.
Ian Waits, Lynchburg-Clay
The Mustangs didn’t run into much trouble last year, but any time they did, Waits was right there to keep everything calm. As the last line of defense in the goal, he tossed his body around with reckless abandon and seemed to always come through with the save. He tallied 80 of them last fall, helping his team win SHAC, sectional and district championships.
Brady Wood, Chillicothe
Wood showed up every night ready for action. It’s really just that simple. The junior forward led the Cavaliers with 11 goals and nine assists — both team-highs — and led his teammates to a share of the FAC Championship. All eyes will be on Wood as he’ll be the focal point in the Cavs’ offense this fall.