BY JAMES COOK
ELK RAPIDS — With leading scorer Spencer LaPointe out, Elk Rapids needed someone to step up as its star.
Nobody better than Jesse Starr.
The senior midfielder scored two goals as Elk Rapids posted a 4-0 home victory over Traverse City Christian on Thursday in a battle of two of the area's best soccer programs.
"Spencer is definitely a big goal-scorer," Starr said. "It hurts not having him out here. I just pick up the trash. That's how I get most of my goals."
The Elks did score their first two goals on some miscues.
The contest started after heavy rains hit the area, and Sabres goaltender David Bump made a save, but slipped on the slick grass and lost control of the ball. Preston McDowell pounced on it for an easy tap-in goal and a 1-0 lead 3:19 into the game.
"We'll take what we can get," Plum said. "That could happen to our keeper as well on a night like tonight. Sometimes you're there and sometimes you're not. For us to keep fighting for the ball and we're in that mix. Sometimes you get those breaks, sometimes you don't."
Starr then netted his first of the game, collecting the rebound of a McDowell shot off a corner kick for a 2-0 advantage at the eight-minute mark.
"It opened up and the ball was right there," Starr said.
"We started off the game with a lot of momentum and kept it going with those two goals and rode it until we got to halftime," Starr said.
The Elks (7-3) scored again 13:48 into the second half on a Starr penalty kick after a hand ball in the box.
Miguel Alvarado converted an Andy Atkinson setup into a goal off the right post with 20:17 remaining to finish off the scoring.
"This is a non-conference game, but we're trying to play the best teams we can," Plum said. "They're one of the best teams in the area. These are the games we have to play. We have to see how good were, how well we match up."
After going up 4-0, Starr started cramping up, and senior Riley Weitschat ran out onto the field, scooped Starr up and carried his teammate to the dugout.
LaPointe — who is also the kicker on the Elks' football team — was the ball boy for the game, wearing a sling on his right arm.
"He took a good hit coming across against Grayling (Monday)," Plum said. "It's kind of a bummer, because it was a game where we kind of controlled it and had our way. It's just a sprain. We're taking it easy. If we really wanted to, maybe he could have played tonight, but that might have been pushing it."
Plum said LaPointe may play again next week, but will not suit up Saturday when the Elks travel to play Saginaw Nouvel. He may play football in a limited capacity tonight, however.
"I think I'm going to let him kick (today)," Plum said. "It kind of comes down to me, but I think I'll let him kick. They're going to rush him off the field, is what they told me. He'll kick and run off the to sideline."
Starting midfielder Ryan McChesney, a transfer from Canton last year, is also out with a groin injury.
"We were playing without him tonight and Jesse Starr stepped into the middle and brought total energy," Plum said. "He usually plays outside or up top and we plugged him in the middle for his pure energy. He did really well. He created a lot of havoc for them."
Traverse City Christian — which was playing without starting defender Paul Bump — falls to 9-2.
"We've had our share of injuries," Sabres coach Ron Christie said. "We've got healing time and thankfully it's in the middle of the season. Nonetheles, we didn't have guys stepping up and pressuring the ball and Elk Rapids did a good job of bringing the pressure."
Paul Bump could be back before districts.
"Elk Rapids moved the ball quite well and they had a passion to be first to the ball," Christie said.
TC Christian could have suffered another injury, as junior Jon Tuck left with 14 minutes to go and couldn't put weight on his right leg after the game.
"He took a hit in the first half and tried to play through it," Christie said. "But it slowed him down."
The Sabres' only other loss is a 2-1 setback to Leland, which is when Bump was hurt. Kevin Mannes was injured just prior to the Comets matchup, and Thursday's contest was his first extended action since returning, although he came in and out of the game as he builds his conditioning back up.
Prior to the TC Christian game, the Elks' JV team beat Kalkaska's varsity 8-1 in a Lake Michigan Conference contest.