BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — Shayen Shushtari was promoted to the varsity ranks seven games into the 2012 boys soccer season. The junior took the right time to score his first goal of the campaign.
Shushtari, only substituted into the game moments before, found the back of the netting in the 67th minute Thursday at Rochester High and his heroic goal proved to be the game-winner in Rochester Adams’ 1-0 victory over ninth-ranked Utica Eisenhower in a Division 1 district semifinal.
Adams, which began the year in a rebuilding mode and finished sixth out of eight teams in a loaded OAA Red Division, are one win away from a district championship. The unranked and unheralded Highlanders (9-6-5) will face fourth-ranked Rochester Stoney Creek (14-2-7) at 1 p.m. Saturday for the district trophy.
On the game’s only tally, freshman AJ Shaw found a hole down the right side and laced a laser cross through traffic where senior Ted Hurst was able to redirect the ball over to the far post. Shushtari was at the right place and right time to finish off the play.
“I just came in and I scored one for my team,” Shushtari said. “A.J. got that cross in and I got open and headed it in. I was just hoping I could get something. It feels great to help my team.”
Eisenhower held a narrow 5-4 shots edge in the defensive struggle. Ironically, Adams goalkeeper Grant Gibson never had to make a save, as none of the Eagles’ five shots were on frame.
“The expectations from us has always been the same, but I think from everybody else, we haven’t been noticed in the rankings and everything,” added Hickey. “I think that kind of put a little chip on their shoulder throughout the season. I think they just want to prove people wrong.”
Eisenhower finished the season with a 19-2-0 record. The Eagles were a fine 40-3-3 over the past two seasons but have not been able to advance deep into the postseason.
“It’s hard, but what are you going to do. Last year we lost in the regional semifinals and this year the districts,” noted Eisenhower coach Josh VanHouten. “I know this was a tough district and there was another one on the other side of the state with East Kentwood and Rockford and some other teams. It’s a shame that we were all together here.
“You have to give Adams a lot of credit,” continued VanHouten. “They had a game plan and were able to execute it.”
Eisenhower pulled a surprise lopsided 5-1 win two days earlier over Troy, which reached the Final four last season. The Highlanders made no major switches to try to halt one of the state’s top offenses.
“We didn’t really do anything special,” said Hickey. “We just played how we usually do to be honest with you. We are a little banged up in the back, so we had to switch some things around. But the guys who rotated in did what they were trained to do. They did a great job.”
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