BIG RAPIDS — Someone new was going to be in the Division 4 state title game.
Two teams looking for their school's first state finals berth met on a cold, wet field in Big Rapids Wednesday, and Grand Rapids Covenant Christian earned the right to move on to Saturday's championship match with a 2-0 victory over Leland.
The Comets end of their most successful years in program history with a 25-4 record and their first trip to the semifinals in about three decades.
"We haven't had to play from behind often this season," Leland coach Joe Burda said. "We got lucky against North Muskegon in the regional semi. We weren't planning on doing it again. We wanted to get one or two early. They scored that first goal, and it's a huge momentum swing."
The game's first 30 minutes were played to a virtual standstill, with each team recording several scoring opportunities, but each defense and goalie stepping up to thwart the chance.
That changed Jordan VanOostenbrugge rocketed a free kick from about 25 yards out over the Leland defensive wall and into the upper left corner of the net.
"I was thinking that far post was kind of open," VanOostenbrugge said. "The goalkeeper was standing in the middle, so I was planning on hitting it far post. I got a good kick on it and just found the back of the net. I just let it rip."
That totally changed the game's outlook and Leland was suddenly behind, although the Comets were able to generate scoring opportunities on many occasions, but not get the ball in the net.
In the second half's fifth minute, the Chargers' Corbin Prince was able to slip in and faked right before delivering a shot to the left to give the Grand Rapids club a 2-0 advantage.
"I'm proud of the guys," Covenant coach Mike Noorman said. "They've made a lot of games look comfortable when other teams played really well. Leland is a very skilled team. They made us work really hard for this win."
It might be hard to characterize either team as comfortable, however.
With the game-time temperature hovering around 40 degrees, winds gusting in the 20-30 mph range and a heavy mist falling through most of the second half, the estimated crowd of 700 and the players on the field felt it.
"I hand it to those guys," Burda said. "They came out ready to play. We didn't finish our chances we had and didn't execute a couple of things in our game plan. But I think we fought hard. They had one well-hit ball on the free kick. We tried to minimize our mistakes. And like I said, two mistakes, two goals and Grand Rapids is moving on."
Burda had several scouting reports on the Chargers, all of which said to expect a very physical team to show up. While the contest had its physical moments, it wasn't as much so as the reports predicted.
"We were ready for that," Burda said. "It was actually quite a bit less physical than we were expecting. Maybe we came in a little intimidated, too. Maybe we didn't expect it to be as clean a game as it was. They were starting to back down, waiting for a hit and we weren't getting hit. It caused us not to do what we were planning on doing."
Leland goalkeeper Mike Farese made many saves to keep the Comets in it as they tried to come back.
"We were trying to get deep into the corners and for whatever reason, we tried to punch it down the middle," Burda said. "It was completely opposite from what we tried to do. And the time we got down there, we were creating chances, but we didn't finish them."
Covenant Christian (19-4-1) heads to its first state final Saturday against Hamtramck Frontier International, which beat Genesee Christian 2-0.
"I thought back when they were ninth-graders that we could go this far," Noorman said of his team that features 11 seniors, 11 juniors and only three underclassmen. "I was looking forward to this year for quite awhile."
Leland loses five seniors, including Dylan Jolliffe, Will Gauthier, Matt Fleis, Ian Duvall and Luke Nesbitt.
"The defense really stepped up," Noorman said. "Leland has a really talented player in (Jolliffe) and a very good supporting cast."
BIG RAPIDS — Someone new was going to be in the Division 4 state title game.
Prep Sports Roundup: Early goals do in Trojans
Traverse City Central scored three of its four goals on the power play, but an explosive Houghton offense scored eight times in an 8-4 victory over the Trojans on Saturday at the Rick Miller Invitational. (Plus more)Continued ...
No. 10 Michigan St. shocks No. 2 Ohio St. 34-24
Connor Cook was determined to shake things up in the Big Ten title game. By the end of the night, the sophomore quarterback's teammates were bouncing up and down right along with him.Continued ...
West prevails, Central falls
Traverse City West scored two unanswered goals in the third period Friday to win at Calumet 3-1. Meanwhile at Hancock, the host Bulldogs bolted out to a 3-0 lead and then held off Traverse City Central 6-4.Continued ...
Girls Basketball Roundup: Frankfort tops TCSF in Challenge
Guards Pauline Lausten and Shayla Soto led Frankfort to a 42-38 girls basketball win over St. Francis in the Lake Michigan-Northwest Challenge here Friday night. (Plus more)Continued ...
- Today in Sports: 12/07/2013
Big Ten title game looks like a classic
The Big Ten championship game already looks like a classic contest.Continued ...
Bullough, Sadler earn honors
Michigan State senior linebacker Max Bullough and junior punter Mike Sadler have been named to the Capital One Division I Academic All-America first team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).Continued ...
- Friday, December 6, 2013
High school sports scoreboard: 12/06/2013
A roundup of prep sports results from across northern Michigan:Continued ...
TCSF student gets equestrian scholarship from UT-Martin
Reiley Wilson is not unlike most high school athletes who aim to continue competing at the collegiate level.Continued ...
Girls Basketball Roundup: Titans drop opener
It wasn’t the best of starts for Traverse City West in Thursday’s girls basketball season opener against Grand Haven, but the Titans played the Buccaneers even the rest of the way in a 43-31 loss. (Plus more)Continued ...
Bob Gwizdz: How old to be a legend?
It depends, I suppose, on your field of endeavor. Athletes can attain legendary status at a relatively young age.Continued ...
- Today in Sports: 12/06/2013
- Thursday, December 5, 2013
Girls Basketball: Grand Haven beats TC West
Traverse City West fell behind early and couldn't recover as Grand Haven defeated the Titans 43-31 tonight.Continued ...
Hebden sparks Central, 5-2
Parker Hebden may have "park" in his first name, but he's started the season in high gear.Continued ...
Video: St. Francis captures Heintz tourney title
When it came down to crunch time on Wednesday night, Traverse City St. Francis did not respond like a young and inexperienced team.Continued ...
Prep Sports Roundup: Titans erupt to beat Gaylord
Traverse City West erupted for four goals in the third period Wednesday to beat Gaylord 4-1 in a Big North Conference hockey contest. (Plus more)Continued ...
Sports in Brief: 12/05/2013
Krejcik wins goalie award; Hounds add defenseman Schumacher; Farmland 5K set for Saturday.Continued ...
- Today in Sports: 12/05/2013
- Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Chemics overpower Trojans
Traverse City Central’s girls basketball season tipped off Tuesday with a 69-32 loss to Midland.Continued ...
Reports: Tigers close to signing Texas reliever Joe Nathan
Finding a closer was a top concern for the Detroit Tigers this off-season.Continued ...
TC Central AD to leave for MHSAA
Cody Inglis called it "an opportunity of a lifetime."Continued ...
Girls Basketball Roundup: Frankfort tops Elk Rapids
Frankfort outscored Elk Rapids by 10 in the third quarter to overcome a 29-28 halftime deficit and go on to a 57-40 victory. (Plus more)Continued ...
Ski Report: 12/04/2013
Michigan ski report for Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013:Continued ...
- Today in Sports: 12/04/2013
- Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Young Gladiators reach title game
Traverse City St. Francis tipped off the season with not only a tournament victory, but an unusually early league contest as well.Continued ...
- Prep Sports Roundup: Early goals do in Trojans