By Rob Kiser
When you think of the most prolific boys soccer scorer in the GWOC this fall, you probably instantly think the player must play for Centerville or Beavercreek — if not than probably Vandalia-Butler or Lebanon who topped the North and South divisions respectively.
But, you would be wrong.
Piqua’s Bradley Hohlbein was at the top of the scoring list from game one and never lost that spot, finishing with 21 goals and nine assists in 16 games for a total of 51 points.
He also led the GWOC in goals, with Centerville’s Jarrod Fersti scoring 20. Xenia’s Zach Brunsman was second in points with 45.
“It is a great way to go out in my senior season,” Hohlbein said.
What makes it even more surprising is Hohlbein had just three goals and three assists a year ago.
“I didn’t see this coming at all,” Hohlbein said. “One thing I did notice in the offseason is that last year most of the players were defensive players and this year most of the players were offensive players. So, I thought this might be a good year.”
Hohlbein showed his nose for the goal from the start, scoring three goals in a 4-3 win over Miami East in the opener.
“I had a hat trick in the first game,” Hohlbein said. “I thought this might be a pretty good season.”
Piqua coach Danny Henry realized what he had after making a move in the pre-season.
“At first I didn’t expect this because we still had him playing midfield,” Henry said. “Because of his size and speed, we decided to move him up top in a pre-season game and see what he could do.”
At that point, Henry knew there was the making of something special.
“Absolutely, from the start,” Henry said. “He scored three goals in that first game against Miami East and that kind of set the tone for the season. Did I expect him to lead the entire GWOC in scoring, probably not — but he has had a great year.”
Little did Hohlbein know what was to follow.
He had five hat tricks, which could well be a school record. He also scored three goals against Fairmont, Meadowdale, Trotwood-Madison and Stebbins. He added two goals against Indian Lake and in three of the games where he recorded hat trick, he also had assists.
Hohlbein credits freshman teammate Cade Lyman for that success. Lyman had 13 goals and six assists.
“We just worked really well together,” Hohlbein said. “We clicked from the start. Cade (Lyman) really has a bright future in the game.”
Henry’s only regret is he only had the pair playing together for one year.
“I say all the time I wish Brad (Hohlbein) was a junior with Cade (Lyman) being a freshman so I could have them together for one more year,” Henry said. “Brad has phenomenal touch and Cade has a nose for getting to the goal and finishing things. They work really well together.”
And while Hohlbein is happy for the honor, team accomplishments would mean much more. The Indians start down the tournament trail tonight. As a 13 seed, they will play at fourth seed Fairmont.
“Two get a couple of tournament upsets, that would be a great way to finish the season,” Hohlbein said.
Henry was not surprised to hear that.
“That is the kind of kid Brad (Hohlbein),” Henry said. “Caleb (Vallieu), all the seniors, that is what is so great about them. I remember Caleb told me he didn’t care about his stats, he just wanted Brad to get his, because he deserved it.”
And Henry would like nothing better than to knock off Fairmont tonight.
“That would send us down to Troy and fired up for another upset,” Henry said.
So, what exactly is it that made this season happen.
“Brad’s (Hohlbein) size and speed are huge,” Henry said. “But, truthfully what makes Brad so good is his touch. He is the kind of guy that can score with two or three guys on him and score in traffic. He is a very special player”
He got more and more chances to prove that as the season went on. There were times he literally couldn’t move in the box on corner kicks he had so many bodies on him.
“I could see Brad getting frustrated at times,” Henry said. “I told him to get used to — teams know who you are. I told him the Butler’s, Sidney’s and Troy’s are going to find him. Springfield was a great example of that. He just kept getting fouled the whole game.”
Hohlbein has another ace in the hole — his brain.
Not only is he a standout on the soccer pitch and basketball floor, he is a scholar athlete.
“I think he told me he has a 4.0,” Henry said. “Soccer is a sport of speed and strength — but it also a sport of strategy and thinking. Brad is always smart — he play smart in soccer, he is smart on the basketball floor and smart in the classroom. It helps him in everything he does.”
So, it should come as no surprise he can now add leading scorer in the GWOC to the list.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.