By JAMES COOK
Walled Lake Central had plenty of opportunities.
Traverse City Central snuffed them all out but one.
The Vikings scored 42 seconds into the second overtime Tuesday to claim a 1-0 Division 1 regional semifinal victory at Midland High School.
The Vikings (13-6-2) will play in Thursday's regional final at Troy.
"I think we had the possession time, but they defended so well and they're such a well-disciplined team. And that goalkeeper, boy, that team was a tough one to crack," said Vikings' 16-year coach Joel Sharpe of TC Central. "It was such a relief to get one."
Joey Miller's pass to Mark Gjura in the box was converted for the game's only goal.
"Joey tried to get one in and it flicked off his heel and I was there to clean it up," Gjura said.
The matchup featured two teams making their furthest playoff runs in a long time.
TC Central hadn't won districts since 1995, while Walled Lake Central won its first district crown in its 30 years of the boys soccer program.
"We really struggled to finish," Gjura said. "That was our main problem most of the season — we've been playing well, but just lacked the finish."
After falling behind, Central generated several scoring opportunities as well, as a couple of passes to Owen Stratton just missed their mark or were deflected. Noah Mitchell-Ward had a long shot that nearly found its mark early in the first overtime as both teams increased the tempo.
"They were good technically," TC Central coach Rob Boynton said of Walled Lake Central. "You could tell they've played on turf. They were used to it — the pace, the bounce, the touch. They were good, and Colin (Lesoski) made some amazing saves. Our outside defenders, Mitchell Ward and Kurt Frick, did a good job stifling their wide attack that they like to use."
With a rainstorm about to roll in, the second half was played in a slight fog.
Central was able to thwart the Vikings' high-powered offense through 80 minutes of regulation and the first 10-minute overtime, and the game appeared headed to penalty kicks.
"With Colin in goal, I'm confident any time we go to penalty kicks, that's for sure," Boynton said.
The Trojans finish the season 14-6-5 and with their first district title — and postseason win over rival TC West — since the split.
"They accomplished things that no (TC) Central team ever accomplished before," Boynton said. "They have nothing to hang their head about. After awhile, they'll remember all the good things they did and be proud of their accomplishments."
Strahinja Ljubevic had four quality opportunities, and each one was snuffed out by Lesoski.
Lesoski beat Ljubevic to a long pass near the 18 and got a hand on another shot within 40 seconds in the 35th minute. Lesoski cut off a Ljubevic dribble into the box and forced a shot wide with 9:45 left, and tipped a shot over the crossbar 4:15 before the intermission.
The Trojans' best first-half scoring chances came from Briac La Guen and another opportunity when Mitchell Ward almost connected with Reilly deTar on a give-and-go.
TC Central's Jacob Muessig and Walled Lake Central's Elton Gjura both left 7:13 before halftime after a mid-air collision. Gjura was given concussion tests on the Vikings sideline and didn't return, while Muessig came back in the second half.