By Josh Brown
BRANDT — When asked to discuss his favorite memories from his illustrious career, many of the games Bethel boys soccer coach Bob Hamlin brought up involved thrilling finishes, overtimes and shootouts.
Which made how his Bees achieved his latest milestone all the more fitting.
A penalty kick with less than six minutes remaining in a tie game completed a Bethel rally in a 3-2 victory over Brookville on Oct. 11, giving Hamlin, the architect of one of the most successful boys soccer programs in Miami County, his 400th career victory — a career that has spanned 34 years and left a legacy of winning at the school.
And while some may joke that 400 wins is a reflection on a coach’s longevity, in the Bees’ case there is a level of consistency year in and year out, as well.
“Everyone else says keeps saying it means you’re getting old,” Hamlin said with a chuckle. “Over the course of those 35 years, we’ve only had five losing seasons — and I think two or three of those were just one game under .500. We’ve created a winning tradition, and the kids have bought in to what we’re wanting to accomplish. And I’ve been blessed with good, hard-working kids and some great parents who are able to provide and support us with what we’ve needed to make this happen, make it a reality.
“I think this year was the first in 12 years that we didn’t make the district semis (what was referred to as the sectional final until 2017). We have a lot of good soccer teams in this area, so it shows that our kids have done very, very well.”
This year’s Bethel team was a young one, going 8-5-4 overall and falling 2-1 in double overtime to Greeneview in the second round of the postseason.
Hamlin entered the season needing seven more wins to get to 400. After reaching six and then losses to Miami East and Kenton Ridge in the previous two games, the Bees hosted Brookville in the regular season finale.
Aiden Flomerfelt and Nick Schmidt both had goals for the Bees, with Schmidt’s tying the score at 2-2 in the middle of the second half. And with 5:55 left, Bethel earned a chance at a penalty kick, and one of the team’s three seniors, Micah Mutlu, converted to put the Bees on top — and that was how the game ended.
“It was a very special evening,” Hamlin said. “The kids played really well that night. Coming back from being a goal down in the second half and scoring the winning goal with 5:55 left to seal the win and hold on during the last five minutes, it was a fun night and a special night. It was one of those ones you won’t forget.”
Hamlin has experienced many of those nights during his career. And when asked about his favorite memories, he had a difficult time narrowing it down.
“Oh wow, different people have asked me different things over the years,” he said. “One of the big ones was in 1995 … actually, there was two of them in 1995, because they were back-to-back games. We were playing Tipp City in the sectional final then, what’s now the district semis, and we had never beaten Tipp. We had tied them in the regular season, and a ball came squirting to a kid on the back side of the goal, and he totally mis-hit it. But somehow, in the midst of a mass of humanity, it goes by everybody and into the goal, and we beat Tipp for the first time to go to our first district final. We kept saying that it was ‘the shot heard round Tipp City and Bethel.’
“Then we go down and play in the district final against Bellbrook, and it was one of those weather disaster days. It was 35-38 degrees, the wind was howling and it started sleeting during the game, ice pellets. We go to a shootout, and my goalkeeper then, Seth Perkins, makes this great save on an upper-90 shot and we beat them and earn our first district title. Those are two back-to-back games in the same year that stick out a lot.”
It was far from the end, though.
“In 2000, on our road to the regional final, we played Springfield Catholic Central in the sectional final then, too, and they were ranked No. 2 in the state. We beat them in a shootout that night, and that helped propel us to the regional final, where we lost in double overtime to Madeira. And then in 2010, we beat Seven Hills in the district final to go to the regional, and maybe more so that year since I had a son (Kyle) playing on the team, it was one of those special moments, also.
“I’ve had my other sons, Kurt and Korry, on the team, too, and they’ve all three been able to go on and play college soccer. And I’ve had other kids on the team that have been able to go and play in college, and it’s good to see them be able to have that experience.”
And with so many big games — and close games — over the years, Hamlin felt his Bees were always ready to play at a consistently-high level.
“A lot of special games, and obviously when you get into the tournament, the teams get tougher and tougher. A lot of the games I’ve mentioned were high-level games,” Hamlin said. “It says a lot about our kids and rising to the occasion, not being overwhelmed by the level that you’re at. Our kids have been prepared, and they like the challenges. They’ve embraced those challenges.”
And as to the question of when his long and storied career ends? Hamlin only knows that the answer is “not yet.”
“I keep saying I’m not sure. I’ve probably got at least a year or two more in my belt,” he said with a laugh. “I’ve got a good group of kids coming back, and I think we can make a statement next year and we can go out on a good note, I hope.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.