Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — When Brandon Hanes walked into Unioto’s soccer program five years ago, he didn’t know what type of ride the Shermans would take him on. But he did have an idea of where he wanted to go.
Fast forward to the present day and Hanes has built a Southeastern Ohio soccer juggernaut.
But life takes precedent over sport and, for Hanes, he’s being led down a different path.
With every goal he and his team had at the beginning of his tenure now marked off the list, Hanes has stepped down from his head coaching position — creating an opening at the top of a program that surely has more success to come.
“Unioto boys soccer needs new blood,” Hanes said. “Five years ago, when we took over the high school program, we set two goals. We wanted to win a district title by the fourth year and get to state by the fifth year, and that’s exactly what happened. Also, we never wanted to lose to an SVC school. We needed a new score board. A dugout. Weight room. Locker room. The best grass field ever. A strong youth league and middle school club. We now have those things.”
All in all, Hanes was 51-26-4 at Unioto and steps away after leading the team to back-to-back district titles.
This past fall, he led the Shermans to, arguably, their best-ever season. Unioto finished 16-4-2 and reached the program’s second-ever state semifinal — its first-ever in Division II.
Hanes’ crew breezed through SVC play, beat Marietta by a 1-0 final to claim a district title and turned in a 3-2 win over St. Clairsville — a victory in which they trailed 2-0 in the second half — to get to a regional final. When they beat Athens by a 2-1 tally on Nov. 6, they etched their legacy in stone.
Those moments, and many more, will stay with Hanes as he moves on to his next calling.
“Watching the hard work change the culture of a student-athlete playing soccer at Unioto, the regional final game against Athens, and the state final four against Cincinnati Wyoming at Teays Valley … all of those moments,” Hanes said. “People that would never come watch a soccer match were coming to support something special. We brought school buses full of fans to support us. It was unreal.”
That run, and the progression each year his program showed, came from a simple mindset Hanes has used in his everyday life for quite some time.
“It’s a simple mindset I learned from the opportunity to compete and excel at a Division I college program at Northeastern University,” Hanes said. [Amazon’s]Jeff Bezos uses the same mindset I learned and gave to this program. Work hard. Have fun. Make history. This is a growth mindset that I carry in everything I do.”
So the questions begs itself … what’s next for Brandon Hanes? The answer is more of the same … just in a different way.
“Make more history. I will help the new coaches transition and with any offseason strength and conditioning if they want my assistance,” Hanes said. “Also, I decided to start a boys tennis program at Unioto and bring tennis courts on campus in the very near future.”
While tennis will quite literally take center court for Hanes, he’ll always have an eye on the soccer pitch. After all, his son Lucas still has two years left and a stable of talent resides on the roster.
“We started coaching middle school soccer seven years ago. There were only 70 kids from preschool to 12th grade boys and girls who were playing soccer at Unioto,” Hanes said. “We are leaving the program seven years later with 350 student-athletes playing soccer at Unioto. This program will continue to grow and be the leader in soccer in our soccer community.”