Saline fought to the last minute and scored with 5.1 seconds left to salvage a 1-1 tie against Huron Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for the Hornets, since Skyline defeated Bedford, 1-0, a win at Huron was needed to capture the SEC Red crown.
“It’s disappointing. We wanted to come here and win today and win the SEC. But I thought we played well, especially in the second half,” Saline coach Ryan Williams said. “We have one more game and then we focus on the playoffs.”
Saline hosts the MHSAA Division 1 District 5 tournament starting Monday. The Hornets host Ypsilanti at 7 p.m. and then play either Woodhaven or Belleville at 5 p.m., Oct. 18. The championship game takes place Oct. 21.
For a team with as many wins as Saline has, Tuesday’s tie was a familiar story. The Hornets fell behind early and then spent the rest of the game pouring on pressure for the equalizer.
The Hornets dominated the game territorially and had the River Rats hemmed in their own zone for the opening five minutes of the game. But it was Huron who struck first when sophomore Dante Bailey unleashed a magnificent 30-yard shot that bent into the wind and sailed into the top corner.
“We made it a point not to give him time and space because he’s a great player. He showed what he can do with just a little bit of room,” Williams said. “Full credit to him because that was a great shot.”
The Hornets spent most of the remainder of the half pressuring the River Rats. Despite the pressure, Williams didn’t think the Hornets were playing their best.
“I didn’t sense enough urgency and I thought our shot selection wasn’t great. We missed the net or we put shots right at the goalie,” Williams said.
The Hornets were 0-for-3 on corner kicks in the first half.
Zeke Gray had Saline’s best chances. With about 14 minutes to play, he intercepted a throw-in deep in Huron territory, spun and kicked it on goal – forcing a good save by the Huron goalie.
With 1:40 to play in the half he took a nifty short pass from Jake Caldwell, in traffic, and then fired a low shot past the diving goalie but two feet wide of the far post.
Early in the second half Mitch Kalitta intercepted a pass and fired shot on goal from close range.
About 10 minutes into the half, Gray’s free kick from 30-yards wasn’t contained by the goalie. A defender kicked the ball past the wide open goal before a Hornet could get there.
On the other side of the field, North York made a sliding tackle to prevent Huron from having a point blank shot on goal.
With about five minutes to play Andrew Doran found himself in prime shooting position at the side of the goal, but his shot was deflected a few feet wide.
It seemed like Saline might end its conference schedule with its second loss, but with 12.3 seconds later, the Hornets were awarded a free kick from about 30 yards out. Gray lofted a kick to the left side of the goal and Anthony Sweier headed it past the goalie, just inside the post, and Saline celebrated the dramatic goal.
“We would have loved to have won this game, but this was the kind of game that will make us better in the playoffs. We kept playing and kept fighting and refused to lose the game,” Williams said.
Here are your Michigan Power Rodding 3 Stars
- Zeke Gray – Was a shooting machine and had several great chances. He finally set up the game-tying goal with a great free kick in the clutch.
- Anthony Sweier – The fiery attacker was hustling all night – and he was extra fired up after missing a shot from in close late in the game – so nobody was happier than he was when he scored the game-tying goal.
- North York – Made a couple key defensive plays to help the Hornets stay within a goal.