Plot thickens for CCA soccer

EXTENDING THE SEASON: Crossroads Charter Academy defenseman Gregory Woolen (left) and the Cougars will compete in a Division 4 regional semifinal against Bellaire at 5 p.m. today. (Pioneer file photo)

EXTENDING THE SEASON: Crossroads Charter Academy defenseman Gregory Woolen (left) and the Cougars will compete in a Division 4 regional semifinal against Bellaire at 5 p.m. today. (Pioneer file photo)

Cougars hoping to reach regional final for second time in program history today

BIG RAPIDS —It all seemed like the perfect ending to a feel good movie with all of the plot twists and turns one would expect a sports team to encounter in the face of adversity.

The Crossroads Charter Academy soccer team captured its first district title since 2008 on Friday in a thrilling 3-2 double overtime win over Hart. The game-winning goal scored by Caleb Bennett with 5:15 to go in the second overtime helped CCA (20-3) hoist its first district title since 2008. The win also came against a Hart team that had ended their season in each of the past two seasons, including a 7-0 loss in last year’s district final.

All of it came after CCA coach Ross Meads was ruled ineligible to coach or attend the Cougars’ games for the remainder of the season due to a Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) rule regarding missing online rules meetings.

But there is yet another plot twist for the Cougars: The movie isn’t over yet.

The Cougars will take on Bellaire (23-1) in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. today at Muskegon West Michigan Christian with hopes of reaching a regional final for the second time in the program’s history.

“It means a lot because all four years we’ve played them somewhere in districts,” senior defenseman and captain Justin Thorne said. “Last year was kind of upsetting to have a 7-0 loss against them. To come back and beat them in overtime was a great accomplishment for us.”

The Cougars are preparing for a Bellaire team they compete against in the Northern Michigan Soccer League. Meads, who has still been coaching the team during practices, said he expected to meet Bellaire in the final of the NMSL tournament this season but the Cougars were unable to reach the final.

Despite not being able to lead the Cougars to a district title, Meads said he was satisfied to hear his team was able to overcome adversity in capturing a district title.

“To hear that they had let (Hart) tie it up with less than two minutes left, they could have gotten down again,” he said. “But they didn’t. It was exciting for them.

“I’m not sure how much difference I would have made on the sidelines,” he added. “They don’t have to wonder ‘what if?’ (Assistant coach) Josh (Yurick) stepped in has done a wonderful job leading the team along with the two senior captains. I’m glad that my mess-up didn’t change things for them.”

Meads spent Monday preparing the team for today’s regional semifinal with hopes of avenging a 3-1 loss to the Eagles in last season’s NMSL championship game.

“The funny thing about soccer is, even though you can talk about things during the game and substitute guys in and out, there are no timeouts and they’re going out there for 40 minutes based on what you’re talking about,” he said. “Soccer is different in that most of your coaching is done before the game even starts.

“We really expected to be back playing (Bellaire) this year and we weren’t,” he added. “It’s kind of exciting and a redeeming thing for us. We went up and watched them in the NMSL final. We feel like we can play with them.”

Bennett said the chance to compete for a regional title is special for the Cougars, particularly after jumping a big hurdle to get into regional play.

“We’ve been wanting to take it to Hart ever since (last season),” he said. “I remember our sophomore year we lost to them in overtime and we lost 7-0 to them last year. We definitely wanted to have a little revenge on Hart and we finally took it to them.”

Bennett said not having Meads on the sideline is the only thing that makes the district title bittersweet, but the Cougars will be ready for the regional semifinal regardless.

“We don’t have coach Meads, which is one of the most disappointing things, because we loved having him as a coach (on the sideline),” he said. “We just need to play the style that coach Meads likes.”

Thorne said he feels CCA has taken the setback of not having Meads available to coach as motivation to come together even more as a team.

“I feel like it has (brought us together),” he said. “Meads has taught us all that he knows. For all of the seniors out there to take that knowledge and use it has been huge.”


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