BOYS SOCCER STATE FINALS PREVIEW: Cranbrook, Roeper looking to make the most out of state finals appearances
Saturday afternoon will be 80 years in the making for Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
The Cranbrook boys soccer program, which is in 80th season of existence, has never appeared in a boys soccer state championship game.
That is, until 3:00 pm on Saturday afternoon.
With a thrilling 3-2 win over Dexter on Wednesday night, the Cranes punched their ticket to make their first ever appearance in the state finals and it’s a chance that they’re not taking for granted.
“We’re fortunate and we’re grateful for this opportunity,” Cranbrook coach Chad O’Kulich said. “This is our 80th year of having a soccer program at Cranbrook and it’s our first time to be in the state final. We’re grateful for this opportunity to play a team like Dexter and come away with a victory and we have one more game to go.”
The Cranes will have their hands full on Saturday, as they will face defending Division 2 state champion, East Lansing, which topped No. 1 ranked Mason in its semifinal game on Wednesday
East Lansing, the No. 4 ranked team in the state, also needed more than regulation to outlast Mason as the Trojans used an overtime goal from Will Uecker to pull out the win.
O’Kulich knows that coming out with a win against East Lansing will be tough, but the Cranes are not only hoping to win a title for the soccer program, but for all of Cranbrook as well.
“This isn’t just about our Cranbrook soccer team, we’re a part of a phenomenal school at Cranbrook and a phenomenal community at Cranbrook,” he said. “High school sports, to me, is about community. Club soccer, doesn’t have that, in club soccer, you’ll never get that, this is about a community and it would mean so much to the entire community of Cranbrook, which is a phenomenal place and in my opinion, there’s nothing better as far as the support from everybody. We would love to bring this home not just for the soccer team, but the community.”
The Division 2 state championship game will be played at Brighton at 3:00 on Saturday.
In Division 4, there is a similar scenario as Bloomfield Hills Roeper is looking to capture not only the first state championship in the soccer program’s history, but the first state title in school history in any sport.
Last year, the Roughriders had a taste of success, reaching the Division 4 semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Lansing Christian, 4-1.
But this year, Roeper is a year older and using that experience to its advantage and have had the expectation of winning a state championship since the beginning of the season.
“Last year I think they were a little shell shocked going into the state semis,” said Roeper coach Ed Sack. “This year they knew what it was like to lose it last year and now they’re going into the state final wanting to win it and expecting to win it and they’re going to be competitive on Saturday.”
Roeper will be facing a hungry Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, which is advancing to its third straight Division 4 state title game, but is still in search of its first state title.
Roeper currently sits with a 22-1 record entering Saturday’s final at East Kentwood’s Crestwood Middle School, while Covenant Christian holds a 21-3-2 mark.
Roeper is coming off of a dominant semifinal performance where the Roughriders scored six first half goals on their way to a 6-0 win over Harbor Beach.
Sack noted that his team has the capability of scoring a handful of goals in almost any game, but had seen shots go off the post and crossbars, but were on point on Wednesday.
“The final words was if you’re going out to any other team, they better outplay you,” he said. “Those kids could do that against any team, last two games they hit shots off the post and crossbar and they were just able to put them in against Harbor Beach.”
Covenant Christian, on the other hand, picked up a 3-1 win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and has lost by just one goal in each of the last two state championship games, something that Sack said gives the Chargers an edge in experience and familiarity, but added that his team’s 10 seniors and ability to put the ball in the back of the net is a big advantage for his team as well.
“That’s huge, they’re confidence, being at that field. The familiarity of everything, we can’t match that, but we have 10 seniors on our roster and it’s a big difference and goals win games and goals put pressure on teams. Our teams will never be out of it. It’ll be a fun game and very competitive.”
Roeper has only played in one other state championship game, where the Roughriders fell to Western Michigan Christian, 3-1 in 1995.
The Division 4 state championship game will take place at 3:00 pm at East Kentwood’s Crestwood Middle School.