BOYS SOCCER: Athens exercises demons with shootout win over Utica Ford

| October 21, 2014 | Comments (0)




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TROY — Troy Athens saw a magical season come to an abrupt end last October after opening the campaign with 20 straight wins.

The Red Hawks were ranked No. 1 in the state, captured the coveted OAA Red Division title with a perfect record and were steamrolling opponents left and right.

Still, even with a senior-laden squad and hopes of winning its first state title since 1997, Athens found itself on the outside looking in during regional play last autumn, as the Red Hawks were 3-2, double-overtime upset victims by Utica in the Division 1 district finals.

Aspirations in the clouds were dashed away in a heartbeat.

Although only one starter returned and a host of reserves from that squad were back in uniform, the sour taste of that defeat was still very much alive in the mouths of the current players and coaching staff.

Athens made up for last year’s stunning defeat, topping Utica Ford II, 1-0, Saturday in a shootout at Troy High School, site of this year’s Division 1 district finals. The Red Hawks posted a 5-4 edge in the shootout that went six players deep to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2011.

The district title marked Athens’ 17th crown in 33 seasons of boys soccer at the school.

“Even though we only had one starter back, everyone remembered that loss,” admitted Athens coach Todd Heugh. “We talked about how anything can happen in the state tournament. We learned that last season.”

The Red Hawks were not favored against the Falcons, who were honorable mention in the polls and state semifinalists two years ago. Ford was the MAC Red Division runners-up and in the midst of one of its best seasons in school history.

Athens had lost to Ford, 1-0, early in the season when the Red Hawks were trying to mold in 10 new starters into the mixing bowl and try to find the right combinations and fill the depth chart. The Red Hawks, a very respectable 15-5-4 and third-place finishers in the OAA Red Division this season, have come a long ways in two months.

“We were something 5-4-3 early in the season, then we started to really come together,” said Heugh. “We lost to Ford rely in the year. This is a different team than the beginning of the season. We had a lot of positions to fill. It took a while for us to gel. Other than a loss to (Detroit) U-D (Jesuit a couple of weeks ago, we have been playing some very good soccer lately.”

Sophomore Mason Maziasz notched the shutout between the pipes with seven saves, including one in the shootout. As the sixth shooter in penalty kicks, Collin Kermath netted the tie-breaking goal in the shootout to keep the Red Hawks alive in this year’s postseason.

“I was confident that he could make it,” said Heugh of Kermath. “He’s been good in practice (at taking PKs) and he stepped up in this game.”

Ford finished 14-3-2. Connor Steinwascher stopped eight shots during 100 minutes of open play and one in the shootout for the Falcons.

“We just kept battling and battling and were able to get to the shootout,” said Heugh. “Once you get to a shootout, anything can happen.”

Alejandro Parra, Ryan Griffin, Alek Nestorovski and Javier Steinwascher converted their penalty kicks for Ford. The Falcons missed their first attempt, while the attempt by Oliver Donevski sailed over the crossbar, setting the stage for the Red Hawks to steal the show.

Athens’ Andrew Galczyk, Marko Barczys, Noah Arabbo, Nick Watkins and Kermath all buried their shots in the shootout for the Red Hawks. Athens only missed its second attempt.

Heugh said that this year’s group got a chance to etch their own mark in Athens’ soccer lore.

“Last year’s team wasn’t able to accomplish what this year’s team did with a district championship,” said Heugh. “This was an opportunity for our guys to put our stamp on the tradition at Troy Athens High School.”

The Red Hawks will face fourth-ranked and unbeaten Fraser (17-0-3), the MAC-Red champion, in the regional semifinals Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Athens. Bloomfield Hills and Clinton Township Chippewa Valley will play in the other contest at 6 p.m.


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