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October 24, 2012

Cranbrook, Groves and Country Day soccer teams all claim district title

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Cranbrook, Groves and Country Day soccer teams all claim district title
Guys on the Groves soccer team celebrate with the district championship trophy after beating Berkley High 3-2 in overtime.

For some, facing the defending state champions with a district title on the line would have been an overwhelming, if not impossible, task.

For the Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood soccer team, it was a challenge to attack head on.

Now the Cranes can use the same approach in the regional round.

“We knew we’d have our work cut out for us,” Cranbrook coach Chad O’Kulich said a day after his team beat Auburn Hills Avondale 1-0 in double overtime of a Division 2 district final at home. “That’s an outstanding team that won one of the best divisions in soccer this year and had a state title to defend. We devised a system we thought would work best, and the guys executed it perfectly.”

John Whiting notched the game’s lone goal, converting on a pass from Jack Christides with 7:38 remaining in the second overtime.

The Cranes, who beat Bloomfield Hills Andover 3-0 in the semifinal after drawing a bye in the opener, are now 15-2-1 and take on Riverview High at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Bloomfield Hills Lahser regional.

The final is set for 4 p.m. Oct. 27.

“This was an awesome team victory,” O’Kulich said of the first district crown since 2009. “This wasn’t one or two guys carrying a team, we needed every single guy on our roster to make this possible.”

As for the next step?

“We’re going to continue to take things one game at a time,” O’Kulich added. “Our focus right now is on winning that next one. Looking anywhere beyond that would spell trouble.”

Comeback kids
Trailing 2-0 heading into the final 40 minutes of regulation in a Division 1 final against Berkley High, Jim Stachura said the key for his Beverly Hills Groves team was  simple.

“We had to stick with what’s worked for us all year,” he explained. “Very little went right for us in that first half, but the guys focused on the successes we’d had, and we attacked.”

Forty more minutes of regulation and two overtimes later, the Falcons kept their season alive in a 3-2 double-overtime thriller.

“Huge,” Stachura boasted. “It’s huge for this program and for these guys. … The first half was weird in the sense so many things went wrong for us. We gave up two weird goals. We were battling the wind and everything else. But they never quit.”

Groves improved to 11-5-8 with the win, and advanced to a regional semifinal at Fraser High.

The semifinal against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North was played after press time.

The final, against either Utica Ford II or Grosse Pointe South, is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Fraser.

Willie Thompson got Groves on the board three minutes into the second half on a free kick, and then Erik Lundin tied things at 2-2 with 27 minutes remaining in regulation.

Lundin notched the winner eight minutes into the first overtime session.

“It’s awesome to be part of this,” Stachura said. “I’ve had success as a player and a coach, but this is all about the kids. To see them enjoy this is what counts for me. It’s something they will always remember.”

Champs still alive
Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day kept its state title defense going, claiming a D-3 district title at home by beating Pontiac Notre Dame Prep 4-1.

The Yellowjackets defeated St. Clair Shores South Lake 7-0 in the semifinals after sneaking past Clawson High 3-2 in overtime in the playoff opener.

Country Day faced Jackson Lumen Christi in the Farmington Hills Harrison regional after press time.

The final, against Almont High or Grosse Ile High, is set for 6 p.m. Oct 25.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.