Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Before Unioto’s boys ever scored one goal, made one pass, or possessed one touch this season, something special happened.
As the team boarded the bus for their first regular season match at Hamilton Township, way back on Aug. 17, that morning’s bus driver pulled Shermans coach Brandon Hanes to the side.
“She told me that she was so impressed with our boys and that she had never had a team, every single member, get on the bus and say, ‘Good morning and thank you,’” Hanes said. “I told her that had been three years in the making. But those are the types of things we’ve tried to build our program on. That’s when I knew this team would be special.”
In a 4-0 victory over county rival Zane Trace Monday evening, Hanes’ Shermans (9-4) continued to impress. The win was spearheaded by Vijay Wangui, who’s been the team leader all season.
Wangui scored a hat trick, finding the back of the net once in the first half and twice in the second, while consistently beating defenders in a race to the goal. His trifecta gives him 24 goals this season.
“[Wangui] makes my job super easy,” Hanes said. “You’ve seen what he does with the ball at his feet. He’s just a special athlete.”
Wangui got the scoring started with 23:55 left in the first half, scoring from the left side of the box to put Unioto ahead. The 1-0 score stood at halftime, and until the 32:59 mark in the second half, when Wangui found the net again on an acrobatic play where he beat three defenders.
Just over five minutes later, off an assist from J.C. Stark, Wangui completed the hat trick, giving the Shermans a 3-0 lead with 27:13 remaining. Unioto’s Jayce Wingo later capped the night’s scoring, thanks to an assist from Gage Stout, with just over a minute left to play.
The Tanks’ win gives them a 14-8 lead in the Ross County Cup series, which started in 1998.
“This is a pretty big deal,” Wingo said. “It’s been a big deal for both teams. It was emotional out there. We struggled in the beginning but we got back up there, talked it out, and finished the game strong. This game meant a lot to us.”
Unioto’s next test comes against Athens on Saturday afternoon while the Pioneers (6-4-1) are back in action Wednesday, traveling to West Union.
“Athens is a tough game for us. It’s another step to being the team we want to be, which is a district title contender every year,” Hanes said. “We’re going to have to show up and play our best.”