Junior Nick Scott scored the game’s only goal as Saline stunned previously undefeated Skyline, 1-0, to win the district championship Thursday at Saline High School.
Scott used his head to redirect North York’s long free kick under the glove of the diving Skyline goalie 14:18 into the second half. Skyline players will have nightmares about Saline keeper Nolan Krause, who shocked everyone with a kick save on a shot that seemed destined for the back of the net with less than two minutes to play.
Saline and Skyline were no strangers. The teams played twice, with Skyline winning each game by one goal. Saline coach Ryan Williams believed his team could win but knew it was a tall order. It was an order the Hornets followed to a tee.
“We told the guys it was going to take every second of that game, no matter what. We knew how great the Skyline team is. They’re very well coached. They put together one of the best high school seasons any high school team ever has,” Williams said. “We told the guys to fight through every play. It’s a total team effort. Do whatever it takes to keep the ball out of the net and they did that. It was a total team effort.”
Saline will play the winner of the Salem-Dearborn Heights Crestwood game in the regional tournament at Ann Arbor Huron. The game will be played at 7 p.m., Oct. 25.
Both teams came out flying on the soggy turf at Hornet Stadium. The game began in a steady drizzle. Saline looked sharper for the first five minutes. Anthony Sweier, streaking down the right wing, fired a shot that hit the mesh, but on the wrong side of the goal post.
While Saline seemed to have some success running up the wings, Skyline had some success driving up the middle. The Hornet defense kept a lid on the Eagle attack and most of the saves Nolan Krause made were of a routine variety.
About 18:30 into the game Matias Carcamo fired a hard shot from 20 yards out straight into the breadbasket of Krause. Two minutes Jack Bakker-Arkema fired a hard shot just over the crossbar.
Considering the field conditions, the game was played at a break-neck speed. With 17:47 to play in the half, Cole Larance headed a ball on the Skyline goal. Only 16 seconds later a Skyline player ripped a shot off the football upright.
The first half ended without a goal, though Skyline had the better chances.
The second half began in driving rain and the Eagles pressing hard for a goal. Saline scrambled around their own end for six minutes but was able to prevent the Eagles from scoring.
Tension rose with both teams fighting for their season. The game grew more physical. About 14 minutes into the half a Hornet was fouled at midfield. North York lined up near the 50 for a free kick.
“We knew there would be a lot of attention on Cole Larance. Everyone knows we go to him. So we wanted to take Cole out of the equation there and see if someone else could do it,” Williams said.
York’s kick went into the box, but short of Larance, who was covered by two Eagles. Instead, it was Nick Scott who got his head on the ball.
“It was a great ball by North. I got a head on it. I watched the ball go into the back of the net and had the celebration of a lifetime,” said Scott.
Scott’s header found its way under the glove of the diving Skyline keeper. The Hornets mobbed Scott as he ran to his team in front of the Saline sideline.
“Nick came up in the clutch. He hasn’t scored a ton of goals this year, but he’s had clutch goals when we need them. I couldn’t be happier for the kid,” Williams said.
Now the Hornets had to prevent Skyline from scoring in the game’s final 25:42.
Skyline came with numbers but the Hornets kept them to the outside, for the most part. Still, the pressure was on. And with just under two minutes later, the Eagles had a throw in from the sideline deep in Hornet territory. The played the ball through the middle and got a shot from inside the box. The shot seemed to catch Krause going the wrong way, but he kicked out his leg and stopped the ball, which was a foot off the ground. Then ball sat in front of the goal line. Krause was able to pick himself up and get to the ball before the Skyline attacker. The Eagles couldn’t believe their eyes, as Krause had just snatched their last best chance from them.
“Skyline was able to feed it through the middle. They got a shot on target and I had some sort of instinct. I kicked my foot out and was able to get it. And I was able to dive on it before Skyline was able to take another shot,” Krause said.
As Williams watched the play unfold, he thought Skyline was about to tie the game.
“I honestly thought it was going in. But he kept the ball out and did his job,” Williams said. “Nolan isn’t the prettiest goalie, in terms of technique, but he makes the big saves. He always comes up clutch. He’s been doing it his whole life. I’m so proud of him. Especially in that moment.”
The Hornets held off the furious attack and celebrated as time expired.
“I told the guys to do whatever it takes to keep the ball out of the net, and they did. They got their bodies in front of the ball,” Williams said.