FLINT – There’s been a bubbling rivalry between the Williamston and Flint Powers boys soccer teams in recent years.
Over the past two seasons, the two high school juggernauts have met four times, with both teams winning twice. However, the Hornets’ victories have been more impactful, and Thursday night was a prime example.
Williamston eliminated the No. 1-ranked Chargers from the postseason for the second straight year with a 3-1 victory in a Division 3 regional final matchup played at the historic Atwood Stadium.
The win gives the Hornets their second regional championship in as many years.
“We came into the game anticipating it was going to be a battle of two great teams,” Williamston senior Brian Ganton said. “We battled hard. It’s an incredible feeling.”
The No. 3-ranked Hornets will take on either Grosse Ile or Richmond in the state semifinals on Nov. 7. And after last year’s appearance in the state finals tournament, defenseman Eric Oesterle believes his team possesses everything necessary to complete the championship run.
“We’ve experienced it before,” said Oesterle, whose team lost in the state championship game to Hudsonville Unity Christian, 1-0, last season. “Last year, nerves were … I don’t know about the rest of the team, but they were a big factor for me. Having been here before, of course, I’m not calm, but it’s a lot easier to handle now.”
Williamston forward Zach Griffin scored twice in the regional final showdown. The senior’s first goal came with about 25 minutes remaining in the game when he headed home a Jacob Chisholm corner kick. The score was the first of the game and brought some excitement to a match that was nothing short of a stalemate for the previous 55 minutes.
Ganton made it 2-0 in favor of the Hornets nearly a minute later. The forward chested down a cross from Austin Brown, faked a shot, and then buried the ball past Flint Powers keeper Stephen Wilbur. However, the Chargers made it interesting with 19:27 remaining when Wolfgang Ruth scored in the box off a corner kick.
“The environment, I knew it was going to be this way. It was back and forth, there were ebbs and flows,” Williamston coach Brent Sorg said. “Credit to Flint Powers. They’re well-coached and they’re a quality side. But credit to our guys for persevering.
“We get to play another day.”
For insurance, Griffin dazzled his way through Flint Powers’ back line and scored the Hornets’ third goal less than a minute after the Chargers lit up the scoreboard
“The last goal was a big goal because we stepped on their throat, put them away,” Griffin said. “They were still in it, 2-1, and they could have scored and got the momentum back. I was determined to score that so my team could advance.”
REGIONAL SOCCER SCORES
DIVISION 2 regional at Cedar Springs: Grand Rapids Forest Hills 4, East Lansing 3.
Contact James L. Edwards III at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.