Photos and articles courtesy of MIPrepzone
By Michael Wallwork
OXFORD – The Rochester Adams Highlanders claimed a tough win over their rivals, the Rochester Falcons 1-0 in Thursday in a Division 1 soccer district semifinal.
“It’s a rivalry game, (against) a great team. They’re hard to break down, and in a playoff game everybody’s playing for their last breath. It’s a different environment than a regular season game. You’ve got to give them credit; they fought hard,” Adams head coach Josh Hickey said.
The Highlanders won a war of attrition, finally scoring an 11-on-9 goal with 5:21 remaining in the game. Tim Greiss fired a long throw in into the box and John Stevens flicked it on to Parker Raymond, who headed in in from close range for the only goal of the game.
After a spirited first half that saw both teams play well defensively but fail to generate any offense, the Highlanders came out strong in the second half and got a couple of early shots on goal. Spearheaded by the creative play of Logan Janes, the Highlanders were a different team after halftime as they started creating chances right from the opening whistle.
“I’m very proud of their creativity. It was huge,” Hickey said. “A lot of guys played well today. I have no complaints. Honestly, they all played great.”
As the half wore on, Rochester would lose their composure, however, getting one red card with 31:28 to play, forcing them down a man. The Falcons were able to make some adjustments and limit Adams to just one shot on goal over the next 15 minutes.
“We had to obviously compress, and we were pushing to go to overtime or to sneak a goal in if we could in that second half,” Falcons head coach Chris Purgatori said. “A big credit to our kids for holding them scoreless with one (player down) until five minutes left in the game for them to score. I thought defensively all game we played pretty well.”
But once the Falcons were assessed a second red card with 11:42 remaining, they were just fighting too much of an uphill battle, and Adams was finally able to break through.
“Ultimately, it’s on me.” Purgatori said. “I thought there were some questionable calls that led to some of the cards, but ultimately we’ve got to learn to keep our composure. Hopefully, this is a teaching moment for the boys and for us.”
Even then, the Falcons were able to generate a couple of decent chances late, including one with just over a minute to play that forced a good save from Adams goalkeeper Derek Larson. Rochester Adams (12-7-2) moves on to Saturday’s District Final and will face another OAA Red opponent, the Clarkston Wolves, whom they defeated 2-1 in mid-September.
“We played them in the regular season,” Hickey said. “They have a great keeper. They work hard. They’re organized. They’re coached well. And it will be just like this. We just have to find a way to finish and ultimately end up