The Pioneer boys’ soccer team came off the field after the first overtime with Saline in the District finals on Friday night. And unlike their opponent, the Pioneers were fired up, full of energy, positivity and even a few colorful words of enthusiasm. They could tell they had the Hornets on the ropes and looked poised to go and claim a District title.
Saline, meanwhile, looked tired and lacked the fire of their fired-up competitors. And during both overtimes, Pioneer dominated play – until Saline hit the post with a sweet shot with 3:56 left in the second overtime. It came that close to be all over for the Pioneers.
The two outstanding teams played 90 minutes in regulation and two 10-minute overtimes and still couldn’t decide a winner. This District final in Dexter between two quality sides would be decided in a shootout.
Pioneer never missed and when the Hornets failed to score for a second time the Pioneers celebrated an exciting 3-2 victory in an extremely well-played, fairly even and very hard-fought soccer game between two great schools.
Pioneer (15-1-4) advances to Wednesday’s Regional at Dearborn High. They will play Grosse Pointe South (13-2-5) in the first of two semifinal games at 5 p.m. Dearborn plays Salem in the 7 p.m. game. The finals are at 6 p.m. on Oct. 23.
First, the shootout.
Pioneer’s Garrett Stroud fired the first shot. Saline’s Jason Head answered.
Pioneer’s Andrew Lee delivered. Saline’s Eric Kent answered.
John Yerkes delivered the Pioneers’ third goal. This time, Saline’s Zeke Gray – one of the best players on the pitch all night long – fired a shot to the left side and Pioneer goalie Caleb Shoup got a hand on the ball and pushed it wide.
Daniel Gutenberg scored again for the Pioneers to go ahead 4-2.
The Hornets needed to score. Saline’s Zackary Mitzel’s shot went over the crossbar and it was Pioneer pandemonium as they celebrated an incredible victory over one of the best programs in the state. The second “best program” they had knocked out in 48 hours.
Saline took a 1-0 lead late in the first half when Brayden Stavros scored off a perfect pass with 4:12 to play until halftime.
While the game was fairly even up to that point, Pioneer came out strong in the second half, forcing the action with great pressure. Just a few minutes in, they had consecutive corner kicks, both resulting in quality chances. But the Hornets kept the Pioneers out of the net.
At the 33-minute mark, Pioneer pressured again resulting in another corner kick. This time, they didn’t miss. Austin Jacobs delivered a perfect header into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1 with 32:48 left in the game. The cross was perfectly lofted into the middle and Jacobs cut in between the defenders and headed the ball into the upper left corner.
At around the 30-minute mark, Pioneer’s Oliver Snelling made a nice move on a couple Saline defenders and fired a shot from about 15 yards out that Saline keeper Samuel Herner made a nice save on. Herner was solid in goal all night for the Hornets.
After some buzzing by the Hornets, Pioneer had another good chance when Brendan Novar let a shot fly from the left side that was again handled by Herner.
At 18 minutes, Saline’s Dominic Rossi fired a shot from about 20 yards out that Shoup handled for the Pioneers.
Shoup then made a save that saved the Pioneers – at least for a few seconds. The senior goalie made the play of the game with 12:25 left in the second half when he flat-lined for a spectacular diving save of a rocket off the foot of Saline’s Dominic Rossi.
The save kept the District Championship game between Pioneer and Saline deadlocked at 1-1. But Shoup’s save gave Saline a corner kick and the Hornets broke the tie as Jaden Pickett delivered a header into the right corner of the net with 11:48 to play in the game. The goal was very similar to Pioneer’s goal.
With 4:41 left to play in the game, Pioneer got the equalizer when John Yerkes scored on a beautiful shot that Herner had no chance on.
In the first overtime, Pioneer had two quality chances to go ahead in the first 2 minutes but couldn’t convert. They also had some good chances in the second overtime. Saline had a few including the best chance of all late in the second OT when a shot hit the post and bounced back into play instead of into the net.
Pioneer advanced to the finals with a 2-1 win over Skyline on Wednesday. The Hornets knocked off Dexter 1-0 in their semifinal game on Wednesday.
LOOK FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THIS GAME COMING SOON TO WLAA