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 Troy Athens boys soccer players hoist the Division 1 state championship trophy after beating Traverse City West. The state title was Athens' first in more than 20 years.

Troy Athens boys soccer players hoist the Division 1 state championship trophy after beating Traverse City West. The state title was Athens' first in more than 20 years.

Photo by Mariusz Nowak

Troy Athens boys soccer wins Division 1 state championship

By: Mark Vest | Troy Times | Published November 2, 2019


COMSTOCK PARK — Troy Athens boys soccer won the program’s first state title in more than 20 years with a 4-1 victory against Traverse City West in the Division 1 state championship Nov. 2 at Comstock Park.

With the game tied 1-1 after regulation and the first overtime, the Red Hawks scored three goals in the second overtime to seize the victory and give the program its first state title since 1997.

With approximately 7:20 remaining in the second overtime, Athens sophomore Ryan Gruca scored the go-ahead goal for his team.

After senior Rishi Kalyan made things even more comfortable for his team with a goal, Gruca scored again to give Athens a 4-1 lead.

Athens coach Todd Heugh can now lay claim to being part of two state championships with the program. He was a player on the 1989 state title team.

“I’m thrilled for our kids,” Heugh said. “They seized their moment, and I’m thrilled for (them). I know it’s something they’re not (going to) forget for the rest of their lives.”

The closeness of the team can make things even more memorable for Athens’ players.

“There’s a close bond,” Heugh said. “The fact that they get to do it together, be champions together, is something special. For many of them, they might of just played their last competitive soccer game, and they get to do it on a day like this — great.”

Like some of his teammates, goalkeeper Jason Kemp got to end his senior season as a state champion.

"Every game we go in saying, 'This could be our last game, but let's not make it our last game. We want that feeling to come in the state championship,'" Kemp said. "We talked about it in our little huddle before the game. We were like, '80 minutes, that's all we have left as seniors — 80 last minutes to give everything we have.' It went to overtime, so we got an extra 20 minutes. I'm so proud of our guys for giving their all today."

Athens senior Andri Myftari scored the first goal of the game on a free kick in the second half.

Later in the half, Traverse City West sophomore Colin Blackport evened things up via a penalty kick.

The finale to this season is a far cry from how things ended for the Red Hawks last year.

Athens was undefeated until losing to Utica Ford II in a district final last season.

“We talked about last year for a day, then we said we’re (going to) make a conscious effort to not use the term, ‘last year,’” Heugh said. “I’m so excited they’re champions.”

Athens' previous state championships came in 1981, 1983, 1984, 1989 and 1997.

Heugh is keenly aware of the program’s tradition.

“I was a player there, and I know the tradition and the history,” Heugh said. “My goal when I was given the opportunity to take over for coach (Tim) Storch in 2011 was to appreciate that legacy, appreciate the institution that is Athens soccer, have the kids appreciate it, and continue to try to push for championships.”

Athens finished the season at 23-2-1.