BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HIJLLS — No lead is safe. Rochester found that out the hard way Tuesday evening on the big stage.
Holding a 2-1 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining, the host Falcons watched arch-rival Rochester Adams score twice down the stretch and rally for a thrilling, 3-2, victory in a Division 1 pre-district.
“I grew a couple of gray hairs tonight,” admitted Adams coach Josh Hickey. “What a game.”
Adams’ Josh Kidder knotted the game with 8:05 left, knocking in a rebound after an AJ Shaw shot in the box was deflected.
The Highlanders (8-6-5) cashed in again with 6:24 left in the contest, this time with sophomore Kevin Lencioni converting a pass from Shaw for what proved to be the go-ahead and game-winning tally.
“We never stopped working and never stopped believing,” admitted Hickey, whose team lost in the district opener to Troy last season. “We knew this was going to be a great game. We are both evenly matched and this game went back and forth (as anticipated). We were just able to finish the two late shots and hold them off the board during the last five minutes. That’s the difference. It could have gone either way.”
Adams won the first meeting in September, 2-0, while Rochester won the second game, 2-1, just last week, setting up the rubber match. Adams prevailed to advance to Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. district semifinals against ninth-ranked Utica Eisenhower.
Rochester (9-8-0) came out strong and rode the coattails of sophomore Nash Popovic. Rated as one of Michigan’s premier 10th-grade talents, Popovic scored both of Rochester’s goals, one in each half.
Popovic’s first goal came when he headed home a cross from Spiro Gliakos in the 15th minute. He scored again with the game tied at 1-1 when he ripped home a shot from 20 yards out with 24 minutes left.
The Falcons could not take advantage of the lead twice.
Adams, which held a 13-10 edge in shots, tied the game at 1-1 with six seconds left in the first half on a close-range goal from Bryan Kane.
“That was a huge because we scored with six second left in the half and that gave us a little momentum,” said Hickey. “Rochester was able to take the lead again, but we were never out of it. We believed we could come back. It wasn’t like we were down three goals. We found a way to come back and win.
“Rochester has three really good players and Nash was really, really dangerous tonight,” said Hickey. “We were able to contain him in the last 20 minutes. Our defense played tough when it had to.”
Rochester had one late chance when a free kick was served into the penalty box with two minutes left. The Highlanders were able to clear the ball away without the Falcons getting off a shot.
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