Sure, Saline controlled the ball for 95 percent of the first half the district championship game against Bedford Saturday at Hornet Stadium. But the score was 0-0 at half time. And in the playoffs, in a 0-0 game, all it takes is one bad break to end your season.
At halftime, Saline coach Ryan Williams turned to senior Jack Fenelon and told him he was going to score a goal.
Fenelon took the message to heart – because he came out and scored two goals in the second half, propelling Saline to a 4-0 victory, which earned the Hornets the district championship trophy for the second consecutive year.
Fenelon said it was great to repeat as district champs.
“Last year we won, but I wasn’t able to be part of that game because I was injured. This year, it was awesome,” Fenelon said. “It’s a great feeling.”
Saline advances to the regional semifinal against Plymouth at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“I’m proud of these guys. This was a goal they set and they accomplished it. They won a trophy for this program. That’s something you can’t take away from them,” Williams said.
Saline dominated the first half territorially but struggled to penetrate with possession because Bedford loaded up the box.
The Hornets fired shot after shot. Some missed the net. Some were handled easily. The Bedford goalie robbed Ryan Nichols with a diving stop on a short, quick shot. Logan Dejanovich had a low shot spin off the goalie and roll six inches past the post.
Saline adjusted its strategy a little bit in the second half.
“We knew their flanks were their weakness, so we had to start going wide and beating them out there,” Fenelon said. “The minute we started going wide we were beating players and getting balls into the box.”
Fenelon said the Hornets knew they only needed one goal to break the backs of Bedford.
“Because they’d put their heads down. They didn’t have anything going forward and the flood gates would open at that point. That’s pretty much how it played out,” Fenelon said.
It didn’t take Saline long to score in the second half.
Anthony Sweier, who sat out the first half, beat his guy on the far sideline. He played it across and it came to Fenelon, who picked the low corner with a well-placed shot.
A short time later, Fenelon made it 2-0. Nichols played a great ball from the left side. Fenelon sped to catch up. He beat the goalie, who was charging out of the net, to the ball, and then he just popped the ball up and over the goalie and into the wide open net.
Zeke Gray and Sweier combined for the third goal. After some strong play at midfield, Zeke Gray sped up the near sideline and closed in on the goal. The Bedford goalie was focused on Gray and didn’t see Sweier speeding up behind him. Gray played the perfect ball across and Sweier, in full stride, kicked it into the goal before he crashed into the mesh and got all tangled up.
Saline’s fourth goal came from freshman Brayden Stavros, who unleashed a 30-yard rocket up and over the goalie.
Sam Herner made three saves for the shutout – his second of the playoffs.
The Hornets are now focused on the regional tournament at Novi. Saline plays Plymouth at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Novi. Saline did not play Plymouth this year.
No matter, the Hornets are playing with confidence.
“We’ve had some big wins in districts and we just want to keep all that momentum going,” Fenelon said.
Senior co-captain Jake Caldwell said it was awesome to repeat as district champs, but the team has loftier goals.
“Our goal is to win the state championship. We’re just going to take it one game, one practice at a time, and get better each and every day,” Caldwell said.
The Michigan Power Rodding 3 Stars
- Jack Fenelon – Scored the goal that broke the ice and proved to be the game winner, and then he added the first insurance goal.
- Zeke Gray – Set up Anthony Sweier’s goal and was generally a force that Bedford couldn’t contain.
- Ryan Nichols – Didn’t score, but he set up Fenelon’s second goal. He just kept coming at Bedford with attack after attack.