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Detroit Catholic Central wins first state title, takes down Walled Lake Central, 1-0

By: Dan Stickradt, November 4, 2017, 5:16 pm

Rochester Hills – Detroit Catholic Central showed patience in Saturday’s Division 1 state final on Saturday at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek.

Despite holding a significant shots edge, the Shamrocks, ranked No. 6, remained quite patient against Walled Lake Central’s organized backfield and finally got the break they needed with Ryan Pierson’s goal.

Catholic Central went on to capture its first state title with a 1-0 victory over No. 15 Central.

“This was 39 years in the making, so I think the first one is definitely historic,” Catholic Central coach Gene Police said. Catholic Central lost in a state semifinal in 2015 and lost in a pre-district last season. “As a coach to be the first coach to lead his team to the first (soccer) state championship in school history is impactual (sic) for sure. Everybody put it together and we came out and played hard today and finally did it.”

After Central marking back Karl Tavadia left the game with a knee injury with 33:20 remaining in the second half, the flow of the match changed abruptly.

Consistently pressing the Vikings’ half of field over the final 33 minutes, Pierson beat two defenders on the right side before being tripped up inside the box by Alex Sayeg. Pierson scored on the penalty shot with 6:49 to play in the second half for his 32nd tally and the Shamrocks held on for the thrilling triumph. It capped Catholic Central’s 39th season of soccer with a 21-2-4 record. 

“I thought I got fouled a lot in the game and they shut me down in the first half,” said Pierson. “We had more chances in the second half and when I go the ball (on the play), I (nut-megged) him and he took me down in the box. I felt confident when I took the shot and I was quite confident after we were up 1-0 that we had the game won because we weren’t allowing them much.”

Central’s run featured a pair of shootout wins and victories against traditional powers Troy, Rochester and Grand Blanc. 

The Vikings (22-2-2) had a great chance with 40 seconds left in the first half when Western Michigan-bound Alex Dalou’s chip into the box was redirected by Ellton Pllumbaj off the crossbar and down to the goal line. The Shamrocks cleared the ball away to keep the game deadlocked at 0-0 at the half.

“I thought we broke them well in the first half and we hit the crossbar. We should have been up 1-nil at the time,” Central coach Joel Sharpe said. “I thought when Karl Tavadia went down — it might have been an ACL tear — that it changed some things. We moved a forward back to defense to mark Pierson because I thought we did a good job of shutting him down up until that point. We just never got much going offensively in the second half and they scored the penalty kick. It’s hard to come back against a team like that."

Catholic Central, making its first final appearance, outshot Walled Lake Central, 11-5, including 6-2 with shots on frame, and also held a 5-2 advantage on corner kicks. The Shamrocks had a difficult time solving Central junior goalkeeper Brian Ostepanko until the 74th minute.

Kevin Blossfield and Andrew Nicholson each had a save in recording the Shamrocks’ fifth shutout in seven tournament games and 17th of the season. 

Central, making its first semifinal appearance, ended its season one win shy of the crown. The Vikings outscored its opposition 83-7 with 20 shutouts over 26 games.

“Give us 24 hours, but I’m sure it will eventually sink in everything that we accomplished this season,” added Sharpe. “Look at their faces and the heartbreak that is on their faces. But we accomplished more than any other team in school history. We just came up short.”