By: Dan Stickradt
BOYS SOCCER: Walled Lake Central upsets Rochester in shootout; Grand Blanc edges Midland Dow in OT
BY DAN STICKRADT
FLINT — It wasn’t until the opening week of the postseason that Walled Lake Central even broke into the Division 1 top 20.
Now the Vikings are surely on everyone’s radar.
Ranked 15th, Walled Lake Central took 10th-ranked Rochester, a state semifinalist last season, to a shootout Wednesday before escaping with a 2-1 upset of the Falcons at Flint’s Atwood Stadium — a game that reached six shooters in the shootout.
The Vikings (20-1-2) will face unranked Grand Blanc at 5 p.m. Saturday, also at Atwood, for the regional championship.
Walled Lake Central lost to Grand Blanc, 1-0, in the 2012 regional finals, but got its signature win against a premier program from the Oakland Activities Association Wednesday.
“This was the kind of benchmark-type of win we have been seeking. We hadn’t seen a team as skilled as (Rochester) this year, but our guys battled and when you get to a shootout anything can happen,” offered veteran Walled Lake Central coach Joel Sharpe. “This was two outstanding teams and fortunately for us we scored one more in the shootout than they did.”
The Vikings withstood Rochester’s array of talented playmakers throughout regulation, had more quality scoring chances in 20 minutes of overtime play, and saw junior Brian Ostapenko stand tall in goal for Walled Lake Central.
After tipping Sid Osborne’s bicycle-kick over the crossbar in with just under two minutes to go in the second overtime, Ostapenko saved three shots and saw another sail over the crossbar in the shootout.
He stopped Rochester’s sixth shooter, Marco Gomez, to end the shootout moments after KC Fegely converted his PK to give the Vikings a 3-2 edge.
“It was all in God’s hands. It wasn’t me. It was truly a blessing for me to be in there to make those saves,” smiled for Ostapenko, quick to give divine-intervention for his late-game heroics. “I guessed left. You see it coming and you go for it. It’s truly amazing.”
Despite Rochester controlling possession throughout most of the first half, it was Walled Lake Central that scored first. Western Michigan-bound Alex Dalou’s 45-yard long serve down the middle of the field was controlled by Nikolas Parafox, who turned and floated an 18-yard shot that snuck inside the far post with 12:02 to go in the first half.
Rochester pulled even just 3:13 into the second half when Gabe Baylon found a streaking Luciano Erracande just inside the box and Erracande blasted home his team-leading 24th goal of the season.
The Vikings’ defense thwarted Rochester the rest of the way, silencing the Falcons’ high-powered offense — which had outscored its previous 10 opponents, 31-4.
Rochester goalkeeper Luke Kastran also stopped three shots during the shootout and had six saves during 100 minutes of open play.
“We had a great season. Our seniors led us to back-to-back district titles for the first time in Rochester history,” sighed Rochester coach Chris Purgatori. “We just came up a little short. We had some chances. Hats off to their defense and their goalie. They did a fantastic job slowing us down. It’s disappointing that it ended a little earlier than we had hoped. We had higher aspirations of going further like last year. We jump came up short.”
Unheralded Walled Lake Central is one win away from its first Final Four.
“You need performances like that (in the tournament),” said Sharpe. “He (Ostapenko) didn’t have to make very many saves. But when he had to near the end of overtime and in the shootout, he came up big.
“Icewater in his veins,” continued Sharpe. “I never seen a kid come up and save the No. 5 kid to keep it going and that’s what he did, then Brian stopped their sixth shooter. That’s a testament to his character and how hard he’s worked. I couldn’t be more prouder than Brian.”
GRAND BLANC 4, MIDLAND DOW 2 (2OT): Muaz Asperger scored a goal in each overtime period, and unranked Grand Blanc rallied for this regional semifinal victory over Dow at Flint Atwood Stadium.
Mohamed Ali gave Grand Blanc the lead with 19:51 left in the first half, helping the Bobcats to become the first team to score on the Dow defense in 11 games.
Dow knotted the game with 15:13 remaining in the first half, when Casey LaRue set up a streaking Andrey Hofius down the middle with Hofius heading home the cross.
LaRue gave the Chargers (21-4-1) a 2-1 advantage with 8:28 left in the half when he converted his free kick from 20 yards out.
Chase Clark eventually tied the game for the Bobcats with 22:02 remaining in regulation when he redirected a cornerkick.
Asperger intercepted a clearing attempt following a cornerkick and notched the game winner with 33 seconds left in the first overtime period. It was Asperger who deposited a feed from Jacob Tali with 6:50 to go in the second extra season, which gave the Bobcats (15-7-1) a two-goal cushion.
Grand Blanc advances to the regionals finals Saturday at 5 p.m. at Atwood against 15th-ranked Walled Lake Central.