ELIDA — All season long, Shawnee freshman Austin Miller has been involved in most of his team’s set plays.
The 6-foot, 3-inch Miller pops up near the goal on a regular basis, where he uses his tall frame and jumping ability to head shots past opposing goalkeepers.
In Thursday’s Division II boys district final soccer matchup against Western Buckeye League foe Kenton, Miller led Shawnee to a hard-fought 2-1 victory.
Miller scored both of Shawnee’s goals, while taking all five shots on goal against Kenton.
With the victory, Shawnee (18-1) will take on Toledo Central Catholic, a 3-0 winner against Napoleon, on Wednesday in a regional semifinal at a site to be determined .
Kenton ends the season 11-4-4.
“It’s kind of hard to defend a guy that big, when he can get up higher than what the goalies can reach with their hands,” Shawnee head coach Ryan Quatman said about Miller. “It’s an immediate opportunity for us, every single time. It’s very difficult to defend him. I’m just glad he’s on our team.”
Miller is used to being the focal point on those set plays.
“Coach usually wants me to set up in the middle of the box, because of my height,” Miller said. “Our midfielder puts the ball in the same spot every time. I just go up and try to get it.”
It didn’t take too long Thursday for Miller to get an opportunity to jump up and head the ball into the back of the net.
Less than 14 minutes into the contest, Shawnee’s Matteo Fusillo placed a corner kick near the goal. Miller jumped up and headed the ball past Kenton goalkeeper Brent Rader (two saves) to give Shawnee the 1-0 lead.
For most of the first half, Shawnee possessed the ball and kept Kenton from attacking. Kenton mustered just one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes of action, as Shawnee took the 1-0 lead into the halftime break.
However, less than four minutes into the second half, Kenton’s Nick Anderson broke away with the ball and quickly moved it down the field, where he eventually drove a shot past Shawnee goalkeeper Landon Hoehn (two saves) for a goal. That knotted the game at 1 apiece.
“We always tell them that the first 10 minutes (of the half) you have to weather the storm,” Quatman said. “(Kenton head coach) Jamie Bartlett does an incredible job (of making adjustments) at halftime. He came out, made some changes and they did a good job. Those Kenton boys left everything on the field.”
Then, with 4:31 left to play in the game, Miller received a nice cross from Carter Jensen on a corner kick and headed the ball into the back of the net for the go-ahead goal for Shawnee.
After the goal by Anderson, Kenton managed just one more shot on goal the rest of the way.
For the game, Shawnee took a total of seven corner kicks. Kenton took just two corner kicks.
In Monday’s district semifinal, Shawnee defeated Ottawa-Glandorf, another WBL foe.
“It’s a really difficult district to get out of,” Quatman said. “We beat the crap out of each other all year long in the WBL. Then, we do it again in the district tournament. This is the first time for me, as a coach, to get out of districts. I’m so proud of these guys.”
Next up for the Indians is Toledo Central Catholic, a team they are pretty familiar with.
Shawnee defeated Toledo Central Catholic in the first week of the season, 3-2.
“That was our first game of the season,” Quatman said. “I think we were tied going into the last five minutes of the game. It was our first game (of the season) and we really wanted to win it. We threw the kitchen sink at them. We went to a new formation that was super offensive and got a goal in the last minute or two. It will be a good matchup.”
Added Miller, “It’s going to be a good game. We’re just going to do our thing – stick to our formation, stick with what’s working and hopefully beat them again.”