ELK RAPIDS — The Elk Rapids boys soccer team has lived dangerously so far in the Division III district tournament.
After getting past Boyne City in a 1-0 win in Monday’s first round game, the Elks advanced to the district final with a thrilling 2-1 win over Grayling in Wednesday’s semifinal at Elk Rapids High School.
The game wasn’t decided until the final minutes as Andy Atkinson broke a 1-1 tie with a goal that trickled across the goal line with three minutes remaining in the second half.
“It was pretty non-climactic,” Atkinson said of his game-winner. “Hit the goalie, hit the post and rolled in. It was a big goal and a nice win. We got a lot of opportunities on goal, but we couldn’t connect.”
Indeed, the Elks dominated most of the second half — they outshot Grayling 12-1 in that time — but had nothing to show for it until Atkinson took a pass from Garrett Koss, shot it at the goal, then after a slight deflection by Grayling keeper Matt Burrell, got a favorable bounce off the post. The harrowing part of the first 37 minutes of the second half for Elk Rapids was the inability to score left the door open for Grayling to spring the upset. The Vikings had a few solid chances to take the lead — including a penalty kick in the 25th minute that was stopped by a diving Jackson Waugh in net — but the Elks held them off each time.
“That puts a lot of pressure on our defense and props to them,” said Atkinson, who had both goals for the Elks. “They got a lot of stops and got the ball up to us and we got a lot of opportunities and we finished a couple.”
Trouble scoring and Grayling’s quality attacks didn’t make for an easy night to be on the Elks’ sideline, according to head coach Nate Plum.