Royal Oak Tribune
Early goal propels Cougars past Mountaineers in D4 semifinal
TROY » Falling behind Adrian Lenawee Christian early certainly isn’t a recipe for success. Just ask each of its last nine opponents on the pitch.
The Cougars scored 1:26 into Wednesday night’s Division 4 state semifinal game at Troy Athens, helping to propel them past Clarkston Everest Collegiate, 2- 0, and into the first state championship game in program history.
Lenawee Christian caught the Mountaineers off guard thanks to a big throw-in by senior Zeke Clymer and smooth breakaway finish by senior Scott Knoll less than two minutes into the game.
“The last three games we’ve had quick starts, magical starts,” Lenawee Christian head coach Nate Sharpe said. “Zeke’s been throwing and chucking that ball all season. Yeah, I think it caught them off guard a little bit and Scotty did a great job. His finishing has been improving the last three weeks and he put it right where it needed to be.”
What would prove to be the game-deciding goal caught the Everest defense off guard, but it’s something head coach John Haezebrouck was well aware of coming into the game.
“I talked to the boys at practice because I saw (Lenawee Christian) play on Friday and I told them (Clymer) has got a long throw, and I don’t think we were prepared for a 40-yard throw,” Haezebrouck said. “It kind of caught us on our back foot and they were able to cash in. When you get a walk-in kind of breakaway inside the 18, a one-touch, it’s obviously going to fuel them and kind of put us behind the 8-ball there.”
Playing with a lead is something the Cougars have perfected this season. They’ve allowed just three goals over their past 10 games — all victories. Sharpe’s team came out firing on all cylinders early
Wednesday, putting three early shots on Everest senior goalkeeper John Suran.
“We were kind of baptized by fire in the first five minutes there,” Haezebrouck said. “They had a ton of shots, a ton of opportunities and our goalie kind of stood on his head a little bit.
“We settled down as the first half progressed. We carried the play and had some opportunities but their goalie is so big and he’s got those long arms so he took out some of those angles for us.”
Lenawee Christian goalie Evan Hendershot stopped all five Everest shots on goal to pick up the shutout for his team, which improved to 15-2-1 on the season. Senior midfielder Brennan Griffith scored the Cougars other goal off a penalty kick with 25:32 left in the second half. Sharpe’s team advances to face Grandville Calvin Christian in the state championship game Saturday in Novi.
“I told the boys all week it’s hard to find someone who’s played in ‘ The’ last game of the season, not because your season is over, but because it’s the championship game,” Sharpe said. “So that’s what we’ve been pushing for all week.”
For Everest, the season ends with a 10- 6-2 overall record and a second-consecutive trip to the state semifinals. Haezebrouck pointed out that just six years ago the Mountaineers struggled to win just a single game. The culture has certainly changed in Clarkston. The team will lose Suran and fellow seniors Emiliano Ramirez, Dominic Cross and Anthony Felix. But it will return 16 players next year.
“We’re chasing bigger dreams, bigger goals,” Haezebrouck said. “The boys know, it stings now, but we’re chasing and we’re chasing and we’re getting better. We don’t want to have a good team, we want to have a good program. It’s all because of the dedication they put in, in the spring, in the summer, just working their tails off to make sure this becomes a successful program.”