MIDLAND — Stunning, shocking, thrilling and downright gritty.
Those simple terms are just a few to describe the Petoskey High School boys’ soccer team’s grind-it-out 1-0 overtime win over East Lansing Saturday in a Division II regional championship match at Midland High School.
After weathering a complete barrage of offensive chances from the Trojans late in the second half, the Northmen forced overtime and then scored the lone goal of the game on their best offensive chance just five minutes in.
Sophomore Eric Hoffman out raced a Trojan defender to the right outside and crossed a ball from the corner to the far post to Hunter Viles, who sprinted some 50 yards to head-flick the ball back into the box to wide open Evan Altman who calmly tapped it in.
From there, Petoskey’s defense took over as they thwarted East Lansing’s attack in the second overtime period to lift them to a 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, state semifinal match against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.
Cranbrook-Kingswood, 17-2-1, advanced to the semifinals with a 1-0 win over St. Claire Shores Lake Shore in its regional final match.
Petoskey, 16-8-2, is 13-1-1 in its last 15 games including Saturday’s shutout win over a Trojan team that had many talented players spread across the pitch.
“Great game, I’m a little bit speechless,” Petoskey coach Zach Jonker said as his team earned its first regional title since 2009 and eighth regional championship and state semifinal appearance since the first in 1993. “I don’t think at the beginning of the year people would predict we’d be in this position, but internally we’ve been talking about a regional championship since the summer. These guys have been working towards that goal and it’s a great achievement for them.”
Playing against the Trojans, who entered the game with a 17-2-4 record and a No. 4 ranking in the Division II state coaches poll, the Northmen expected Saturday’s match to be one of their toughest.
“I thought we’d have more possession in the first half, but we had less than that against these guys,” Jonker said. “They (East Lansing) just have so many forwards and midfielders who move so well off the ball. Our guys did a great job of just kind of keeping them in front of them and weathering the storm.”
Each team had quality scoring chances in the first 20 minutes of the opening half as East Lansing worked a dangerous combination inside the penalty area off a Trevor Earley cross, while the Northmen responded minutes later as Viles nearly converted a header off an Eric Hoffman cross.
The second half saw East Lansing crank up the offensive intensity — particularly in the final 15 minutes — as a number of Trojans had the game-winning goal on their foot, but couldn’t convert.
“Nobody’s played us that way for the past few weeks,” Jonker said. “We sat back, we absorbed some pressure and we looked to counter and that really was the game.”
Sophomore Deuan Jones nearly broke the ice with 16 minutes to play in regulation as his hard, left-footed shot from 18 yards out was handled by Petoskey senior goalkeeper Drew Smith.
Seven minutes later, Smith mishandled a Trojan shot and gave up a rebound in front to Grant Uecker, whose rebound chip sailed over the crossbar.
East Lansing also rang a shot off the crossbar minutes later before Jared Howenstine also had a point-blank chance off a feed from Cam Dotson.
“We were on a journey this year and we went through some ups and downs,” East Lansing coach Nick Archer said. “We had some chances and they didn’t have as many chances, but they converted their chance. I thought we played our hearts out and did what we had to do, but we were just unlucky.
“That’s the heartbreak of athletics sometimes.”
Under a tremendous amount of pressure through regulation, Jonker said he felt his team had enough pace up top to generate on the counter attack.