Clio — Gannon Welch had to make the save.
If he didn’t the Fenton varsity boys soccer team’s season would’ve come to an end with a third straight loss to area rival Linden at Clio High School’s soccer field Thursday.
The two teams were in the fifth round of a shoot-out tiebreaker in a district championship game that ended tied 1-1 after 100 minutes of play. And now, with the Eagles leading 4-3 entering the fifth round, anything less than a save and Fenton’s district title hopes would’ve ended.
Welch made the save. And after teammate RJ Stack made his PK to tie the shoot out at 4-4, Welch made another save in the sixth round. That set up teammate Jimmy Myers’s game-winning PK goal, giving the Tigers a 1-1 (5-4 on shoot-outs) district championship victory.
“It was really stressful,
Welch said about the first save. “I had the whole team hoping I’d make that save. It was really stressful, but I am glad it came out good.
“The second save, I was just trying to choose my side. I chose it and it worked out good for me.”
Of course the save wasn’t enough. Myers had to make his shot and did.
“Honestly, I was just trying to get it on targett and make (Linden keeper Ian Downarowicz) make that save. It was really stressful, but I’m glad it came out good.”
The district championship sets the Tigers up for a regional semifinal game at Fenton High School Tuesday against Madison Heights Lamphere at Ivan Williams Field at 5 p.m. The winner of that game will play the Detroit Country Day-Goodrich semifinal winner in the Fenton regional title contest Thursday at 6 p.m.
Linden (18-3-1) beat Fenton (14-5-1) twice during the regular season, making this the Tigers’ chance at redemption, and the game was a classic battle between the two foes. It was such a great contest, the two teams came together and took a combined photo after the game.
“It’s stressful, but it’s really fun. I love playing against Linden,” Welch said. “They’ve always been great competition.”
“We knew it was going to be a typical Fenton-Linden battle,” Linden varsity soccer coach Kevin Fiebernitz said. “It didn’t matter what happened the first two games. It was a great game.”
“It’s intense,” Fenton varsity soccer coach Matt Sullivan said. “As players go out there and with the coaches going through it, it takes everything in your power just to not lose it. You need players to have poise, to stay calm. It’s hard. I’ve screamed hard so many times.”
Both goals came in the first period just a few minutes apart. Both were set up on set plays. Fenton scored first when Andrew Hutchins took a free kick. It was deflected by Ben Chapple for a Fenton 1-0 lead with 19:26 left in the opening half.
Linden responded and tied it with 16:44 left. Off a corner kick cross, Ryan Gillespie scored off a header. The game remained tied at halftime, after the end of regulation and after two 10-minute overtime periods, forcing the shoot-out.
To start both teams selected five shooters to compete for five rounds, and that wasn’t even enough to decide the game’s victor. Linden’s Gillespie, Hunter Hall, Tyler Light and Colin Love each made Linden’s first four shots. Fenton’s Alex Flannery, Cal Curtis and Hutchins scored their PK attempts, but the Tigers’ third attempt went wide resulting in the 4-3 Linden edge entering the final round. However, that’s when Welch made his first save, diving to his left on a low shot. Stack tied it up with his goal, forcing a sixth round. Welch made another save while Myers made his shot, resulting in a Fenton celebration.
“We practiced PKs the last couple of weeks,” Sullivan said. “(Gannon) just tried to save the ones you can. He stayed poised the whole time.”