Cougars take South Division title

Crossroads boys soccer nets win over Comets for title

BIG RAPIDS — Ross Meads kept it simple for his team.

Win and take the top spot in the Northern Michigan Soccer League South Division. Lose, and take a three-and-a-half hour bus ride to Burt Lake or Bellaire.

UP AHEAD: Crossroads’ Blake McKenzie (3) plays the ball ahead during Thursday’s soccer match against McBain Northern Michigan Christian. (Pioneer photo/Bob Allan)

Fortunately for Meads and his Crossroads Charter Academy boys soccer team, they were able to come out with a 1-0 victory over McBain Northern Michigan Christian and win the NMSL South Division.

CCA is now 8-1 in the NMSL and 13-2 overall.

Going into Thursday’s contest, the Cougars had one loss in the league — to the Comets. McBain NMC, however, had a pair of losses.

If the Comets won, they would have tied CCA with the first tie-breaker being head-to-head.

“I wanted them to know this was for all the marbles,” Meads said. “I think it adds excitement to the game.”

There was plenty of excitement through the course of the 80-minute contest.

The Comets almost scored the first goal of the game on a shot that was saved by the Cougars’ Joseph Balanda. The rebound went directly to a McBain NMC player, who looked to have an open net to shoot into.

Balanda, however, was able to get back up and make the second save. Though the Comets would get

other chances throughout the game, the defense was up to the task.

“It took a lot of talking on defense, getting back and getting proper rotation,” sweeper Justin Thorne said. “(Balanda) helped out by making some big saves, but the big thing was we kept our cool.”

Crossroads Charter Academy got a few chances early, but they became more frequent as the game wore on.

The score stayed 0-0 through halftime when the Cougars put pressure on the Comets defense. CCA was finally able to break through as Brooks Angell sent a crossing pass that found Leonel Partida and fired a shot past keeper Kiffin Smallegan for a 1-0 advantage, eight minutes into the second half.

“We play as a team, it’s not one man,” Partida said. “We all played well.”

McBain Northern Michigan had a pair of good chances through the remainder of the game. Trevor Gernaat took a left-footed shot that was saved by Balanda.

The Comets changed their offensive alignment in an effort to get the equalizer, but walked away empty.

“To shutout a team like McBain (NMC), you have to play well defensively,” Meads said. “I thought a key was our mids controlled the game.”

Crossroads is in action today when it travels to Mason County Eastern.


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