Brock Netter, Staff Writer
One state semifinalist, three district champions, and a handful of sectional title winners … needless to say, this past boys soccer season — one that was in doubt at one time — was as successful as they come.
Southern Ohio Sports Authority was right there every step of the way, covering individual milestones, improbable feats and wins that changed history.
After a fun-filled year, take a look at our All-Area team, which consists of 25 area players who were at their best throughout the fall season.
Bryce Balestra | Senior | Forward | Ironton St. Joe
While the Flyers had multiple options to score, Balestra was the engine that made them go. He finished the season tied for the team-lead in goals with 24, but showed unselfishness by passing out 27 assists for the SOC I champions. That outpour of production earned him SOC I Offensive Player of the Year honors as well as all-district and All-Ohio nods.
Hunter Balon | Senior | Midfielder | Lynchburg-Clay
Lynchburg-Clay was a team all about ball control and pace. The Mustangs made you adapt to what it was doing because of players like Balon in the midfield. He was a triple threat when it came to ball possession, soccer IQ and scoring, in that order as well. He earned all-SHAC and first-team all-district honors.
Caden Banks | Senior | Defender | Minford
Minford was one of the more underrated teams in the area. The Falcons’ biggest problem, however, was that they couldn’t get by Wheelersburg. Still, they gave the Pirates and a lot of other teams fits because of players like Banks on the back row. He was one of the leaders of a talented back line that allowed just 21 goals on the year and won a sectional final.
Braeden Bergstrom | Senior | Midfielder | McClain
Bergstrom was the go-to guy when it came time to put up goals. He did so at a supreme rate, connecting with the back of the net 18 times. But he set his teammates up even better, passing out 20 assists, as he helped lead the Tigers win a share of the FAC title. He was named the FAC Player of the Year and earned all-district and All-Ohio honors.
Ryan Boone | Senior | Forward | Eastern Brown
The Warriors were a tough, gritty group, which also describes how Boone played night in and night out. As versatile as they come on the soccer field, he was the tone-setter, and anytime he had the ball at his feet, good things often happened. He finished the season as one of the Warriors’ top two scorers, who were always a tough challenge in the SHAC.
Ty Broermann | Senior | Goalkeeper | Jackson
Although Jackson didn’t reach its goal of capturing a district title, it still accomplished a ton with Broermann as its goalie. The senior class won 44 games, an FAC title and three sectional titles, establishing itself as one of the greatest classes in Jackson history. Broermann finished the season with over 70 saves and earned all-FAC, all-district and All-Ohio honors.
Andrew Cumberland | Junior | Defender | Lynchburg-Clay
No team wins titles without a good defense, and Lynchburg-Clay possessed a very solid back row, featuring Cumberland. The Mustangs surrendered 21 goals on the year, eight of which came in one match. Cumberland’s efforts to keep opponents from scoring helped the Mustangs win 14 games, including SHAC, sectional and district championships. He earned all-SHAC and second-team all-district honors.
Logan Davis | Senior | Defender | Wheelersburg
Davis had a huge part in Wheelersburg allowing just 13 goals this season. He was one of the leaders in the back row that gave opposing forwards nightmares. Davis also had his moment in the spotlight in a regional semifinal against Lynchburg-Clay by scoring the game-winning goal. He earned all-SOC and first-team all-district honors after helping the Pirates reach a Final Four.
Collin Ghearing | Senior | Midfielder | Jackson
One thing about No. 37 is that he’ll put his body on the line each and every night … literally. The 2019 FAC Player of the Year was a menace in the midfield, weaving through opposing defenses and setting his teammates up for scores, or simply taking it himself. He helped lead his team to a third straight sectional title, and a share of the FAC title after finally beating Chillicothe.
Eric Green | Senior | Goalkeeper | Wheelersburg
Much like his fellow counterparts on this list, Green gives you everything you want out of a goalkeeper. Here’s a quick stat to chew on; Green pitched more shutouts this season (14) than goals that Wheelersburg allowed (13). Pretty impressive, huh? He finished with 78 saves on the season, earning himself all-SOC, all-district and All-Ohio honors.
Lucas Hanes | Freshman | Forward | Unioto
Hanes just scored another goal, and it’s not even soccer season. That’s how good he already is. And to think, he’ll be around for three more seasons. He ended his freshman year with 24 goals and 19 assists, both second-most on the team, showing Sherman fans what they can look forward to. He earned all-SVC and first team all-district nods, the only freshman to do so.
Jayden Hesler | Senior | Midfielder | North Adams
North Adams had a number of players it could turn to for a goal, but none bigger than Hesler. The senior had a knack for finding the back of the net, connecting to score 31 times while also passing out 19 assists on the season. He helped guide the Green Devils to a sectional title and a district final appearance, and was rewarded with SHAC, all-district and All-Ohio honors.
Aaron Jolly | Senior | Forward | Wheelersburg
It says a lot about a player when you know what’s coming, yet you still can’t stop him. Quite possibly the greatest player in Wheelersburg soccer history, Jolly ended his final year with 48 goals and 21 assists, while racking up SOSA, SOC II and Division III Player of the Year honors alongside a first-team All-Ohio nod. He led the Pirates to their third district title in four years and to the program’s first-ever regional title. He’s a special talent.
Ethan Kerns | Senior | Forward | Unioto
If Unioto goes on a tear over the next three years, just remember where it all started. Unioto’s senior captain elevated his game and team to heights unseen as he finished with 38 goals and 22 assists. He earned SOSA, SVC, and Division II Player of the Year honors while collecting an All-Ohio nod after leading the Shermans to a 15-5 mark and their first district title since 2004.
Jimmy Malmeister | Senior | Goalkeeper | Ironton St. Joe
Just think about this for a second; the Flyers gave up eight goals this season. Eight. That’s what happens when you have a great back line and a great goalkeeper. Enter Malmeister, who could make a case as being the best GK in Southern Ohio after tallying 149 saves for a team that went 17-1-1. He was the SOC Defensive Player of the Year and an all-district and All-Ohio selection.
River Pettigrew | Freshman | Forward | Unioto
There’s only two freshmen on this list. Both scored over 20 goals and both attend Unioto. That’s why the Shermans have a bright future. Pettigrew made an impact early in the Shermans’ comeback against Bloom-Carroll and never took his foot off the gas en route to a district title. He finished the season with 21 goals and six assists, earning himself second-team all-district honors.
Noah Reeves | Senior | Goalkeeper | McClain
McClain’s success came out of nowhere, but the Tigers gained a measure of respect after handing Chillicothe its first FAC loss since the conference’s formation. After that match, they pitched six straight shutouts (nine on the year) because of the play of Reeves in goal. The Tigers won 12 games, in part thanks to Reeve’s 118 saves, which earned him all-FAC and first-team all-district honors.
Jackson Rowe | Senior | Forward | Ironton St. Joe
The Flyers had four guys who reached double-digit goals, which probably explains why they were so effective the entire season. Rowe ended up being tied for the team-lead with 24 goals, but additionally set up his teammates as well, passing out nine assists for the 17-win sectional champions. He was an all-SOC and an all-district selection.
Braxton Sammons | Junior | Midfielder | Wheelersburg
A lot of attention for Wheelersburg goes towards Jolly, and understandably so. However, if it wasn’t for Sammons, the Pirates don’t win a regional final. The junior scored both goals in that win over Grandview Heights, allowing the Pirates to hoist regional hardware for the first time in school history. He finished the season with 12 goals and eight assists, and will step to the forefront of the Pirates’ attack next season.
Austin Sommers | Senior | Forward | Valley
Valley pushed teams to their limits, and had a dynamic forward to push the team over the top. Sommers was the driving force of an Indian team that nearly knocked off both Ironton St. Joe and Wheelersburg from the ranks of the unbeaten. He scored 22 goals and passed out a handful of assists while leading his team to a sectional title. He earned all-SOC, all-district and All-Ohio honors.
Connor Tyree | Senior | Midfielder | Lynchburg-Clay
The Mustangs were too good of a team for opponents to concentrate on just one player. But Tyree was the one guy you always had to mark. He had a sneaky ability to get behind defenses, and could finish 1-on-1 chances. As part of the district champion Mustangs, he finished the season as the team’s leader in goals and assists, earning him SHAC Player of the Year, all-district and All-Ohio honors.
Seth Vogel | Senior | Forward | North Adams
If it wasn’t Hesler scoring for the Green Devils, it was usually Vogel. Either way, a goal was going to be scored. The senior picked up where he left off last season, ending his career at North Adams with 16 goals and 13 assists. He elevated his team to a new height every season. He earned all-SHAC and first team all-district honors for his production.
Tanner Voiers | Senior | Midfielder | New Boston
It doesn’t matter if it’s the basketball court or the soccer pitch, just know that either way, Voiers is going to score. The Tigers’ schedule pushed him and the team to elevate their game. That happened as he scored 15 goals and passed out eight assists, both team-highs. He was a first-team all-district selection for his efforts in helping the Tigers reach a sectional final.
Brady Wood | Junior | Midfielder | Chillicothe
Chillicothe has developed such a high standard of itself that the season it had in 2020 was seen as a step back. But Brady Wood took a step forward and did everything he could to keep the Cavaliers afloat. He finished the season as the team’s leader in goals and assists while the Cavaliers still managed to win a share of the FAC, continuing its conference title streak.
Spencer Wycinski | Senior | Forward | Zane Trace
There are very few players in the area with as quick of a first step as Wycinski. Skilled with a strong foot to match, he guided the Pioneers to a sectional final appearance after leading the team in goals this season. Although the Pioneers have a number of players returning next year, replacing a talent like Wycinski is not an easy thing to do. He leaves big shoes to fill.
Honorable Mention Selections
Michael LaPurga, Chillicothe; Isaac Kuhn, Jackson; Logan Weber, Hillsboro; Bryson Badgley, McClain; Parker George, Southeastern; Ethan Steele, Miami Trace; Ethan Nelson, Zane Trace; Jayce Wingo, Unioto; Caleb Boyer, Waverly; Andrew Brand, North Adams; A.J. Johnson, Valley; Kyle Sexton, New Boston; Noah Nichols, Piketon; Trae Zimmerman, South Webster; Skyler Knore, Minford