Even with players falling to the ground, balls being miss-hit and passes going waywardly, the soggy grass couldn’t stop the Harper Creek Beavers in their quest to win a Division 2 District Championship.
Using a ball that was described as “squirrelly,” Tuesday night’s first round contest of districts held at Harper Creek High School between the Pennfield Panthers and the Beavers was anything but easy to play through. But a team had to win.
The Beavers managed to come out ahead, 3-0, and move on in Michigan High School Athletic Association boys’ soccer state tournament play.
“I was happy with how we played,” Harper Creek coach Shel Kunji said. “We practice with the ball a little bit more on the ground than in the air, so that helped us with the elements tonight. Obviously, when it gets wet, we must be more accurate with our passes. I felt like we did a better job of that in the second half.”
Looking ahead, Harper Creek (6-7-3) will face the district host, rival and honorable mention Marshall Redhawks (13-3-5) on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Despite scoreless play in the game’s first 10 minutes, a Harper Creek free kick from 30 yards out by Jacob Carlsen to Diego Subiza – who headed it in with 29:11 left in the first half – gave the Beavers a 1-0 advantage.
Overall, the Beavers dominated on the offensive side of the ball in the first half. Tallying five shots on goal and six corner kicks – compared to Pennfield’s no shots on goal – Harper Creek controlled the game’s tempo.
In the first three minutes of the second half, Beavers’ Nick Robinson blasted a penalty kick into the back of the net to make it a 2-0 Beaver lead. With five minutes left to play in the game, Robinson would score his second goal of the night after an assist from Josh Fleisher and Subiza set him up perfectly.
When asked if the weather had an impact on his team, Pennfield coach Steve Kipp said it only had a minor impact.
“Yeah, I mean, the wet conditions caused them to miss, drop a lot of balls – and us, too,” Kipp said. “We are not as skilled as they are. If anything, it balanced out because of the rain. … We are just a young team right now.”
Statistically for the Beavers, Robinson led with two goals and two shots on goal, while Subiza took three shots – two on goal – an assist, and the other Harper Creek score. The Beavers’ goalkeeper Jack Bohannon had one save to pick up the shutout.