Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
MINFORD — Anyone who watched Minford play last year knew that it had all the potential to be really good during the 2021 season.
Not only was most of the team back, but its leading scorer Zane Miller was returning and leading the charge.
What followed from opening night on Aug. 21 against New Boston through mid-November was possibly the greatest season in program history.
“I believe this season was so successful because of my team’s hard work and dedication to the game. All the 6 a.m. practices really did pay off the very first practice. We said we were going to win SOC II and win a district,” Miller said. “From the start, we knew it was going to be a good season. We just needed to keep our eyes on the prize. We really focused on teamwork over individual skill this year. Every player on the team had a purpose and a place. We all worked together and made it happen.”
The team had its goals, and Miller was the driving force behind making sure it accomplished everything it set out to do.
All eyes pointed towards a Sept. 14 matchup with Wheelersburg, a game in which Miller scored the game-winning goal for a 2-1 victory — his favorite memory for another reason outside of the goal.
“I had to go out of the game due to cramps, so I drank a whole bottle of mustard on the sidelines and [Minford] coach [Jacob] Hackworth told me to stay out and stretch my cramping calf,” Miller said. “I continued to tell him no and that I needed to go back in. He let me back in and moments later, I scored the game-winning goal.”
From that point, Miller went on to pile up 26 goals and pass out six assists on the season, guiding his team to goals it hadn’t accomplished in quite some time.
The Falcons were the SOC II champions, won a sectional championship and captured their first district title since 2011 with a 3-2 win over Peebles — the same team they beat for the crown 10 years prior.
Miller’s season also earned him awards like SOC II Player of the Year and Division III District Player of the Year alongside a first-team All-Ohio nod. He can now add to that as SOSA’s Co-Player of the Year.
“The best part of the season was being undefeated in our conference. That has always been my dream since I was a freshman and I was blessed with a very skillful team around me this year,” Miller said. “None of it would be possible without the players, coaching and support from our community. And to be the captain of all of it was the best thing that individually happened to me.”
With Miller on the pitch over the last four years, the Falcons compiled an overall mark of 49-18-7, topping off his senior year by going 18-2 before bowing out in a Division III regional semifinal at the hands of Hiland.
He found the back of the net 59 times and set up his teammates 14 times to score during his time as a Falcon, leaving his mark as one of the best to ever do it in school history.
“Over the years, the Minford soccer program has taught me how to be a teammate. But this year was different. With me being a senior and captain, I had to learn how to be a leader, too,” Miller said. “My coaches have taught me that there are going to be ups and downs and no matter what, you have to work hard and not give up. I’ve learned that when I’m not playing my best, I can count on my teammates and when they’re having an off game, they can count on me. We have learned to work together and be a team.
“I will definitely miss playing with this group of boys. I’ve played with most of these guys my whole life and this will definitely be tough saying goodbye to this team. My teammates are my family.”