By: Dan Stickradt
BOYS SOCCER: Clarkston earns draw with Athens to play spoiler
BY DAN STICKRADT
CLARKSTON — In the midst of a season of inconsistent play, Clarkston is far removed from the OAA Red Division title chase.
The unranked Wolves still played the role of major spoiler Thursday night.
Seventh-place Clarkston posted a 1-1 draw Thursday with Division 1 third-ranked Troy Athens, officially eliminating the third-place Red Hawks from the title hunt with 13 points.
With Athens failing to gain the three points needed to stay in the hunt, Rochester Adams clinched at least a tie of a third straight league title, as the Highlanders are tied with Rochester atop of the league standings with 14 points and one game to go.
Adams can win outright with a tie or win against No. 17-ranked Troy, which currently stands in fourth place with nine points. An Adams loss to Troy will leave the Highlanders and Rochester as co-champs with 14 points apiece.
“Glad we can still have a little say,” admitted Clarkston coach Curtis Payment. “I thought we played very well tonight. We moved the ball around and had several quality chances. We just gave up that one great goal in the end. But I’m pleased with our effort and result against a quality opponent.
“I think our one problem is our (inconsistent) finishing. We get the ball into the final third but we don’t always finish,” added Payment. “We create chances against good teams. I think we showed again that we can compete against anybody. We have several ties and 1-goal losses to state-ranked teams and in this one we could’ve won.”
Athens, the D-1 state runner-up last season which also finished third in the conference standings a year ago, began to apply some late pressure in the final 10 minutes.
The Red Hawks’ attack finally got untracked and that resulted in the equalizer. Junior Elio Zoto uncorked a bending 20-yard blast that sailed inside the left goal post with 1:26 remaining in the game.
Athens (15-3-1, 4-2-1) had one more shot on frame in the final minute, while Clarkston also had a close-range shot with two seconds left blaze just outside of the post.
Clarkston outshot Athens 13-11 overall, although the Red Hawks did hold a 6-4 edge with shots directly on frame and even held a 5-2 edge on cornerkicks. Still, a majority of Athens’ best chances came over the final 10 minutes.
The Wolves (8-6-5, 1-3-3, six points) grabbed the 1-0 advantage with 13:49 to go in the contest. Following a restart 30 yards out in front of the goal, sophomore Ethan Wise’s long serve into the box bounced around with senior Brady Dickens eventually knocking it home from five yards out.
Clarkston had four point-blank chances in the contest but could not convert with another tally, allowing the Red Hawks a chance to draw even.
“We for some reason do not play well on the road,” admitted Athens coach Todd Heugh. “For some reason, the long bus rides and sitting around in the JV game hurts us. That’s a little bit on me not having them ready. All of our losses and this tie are on the road. We gave up a goal to Novi Catholic Central with four seconds left in a similar instance there and we were kind of flat in this game instead of being fired up the way we should. And we’re trying to get geared up for districts, too. We don’t have ll of players.”
Clarkston will host No. 2 Rochester Adams Monday in its D-1 pre-district contest, while Athens will host unranked Birmingham Brother Rice.