Spurred by an outstanding defensive game plan and clutch playmaking in the second half, the Muskegon Catholic Central varsity boys soccer team pulled a huge upset of No. 4-ranked North Muskegon on Wednesday on the Crusaders’ home field, 2-1.
The Crusaders advance to Saturday’s district championship game against Kent City Algoma Christian, which got past Kent City, 4-3 in double overtime. The title game will get underway at 4 p.m., also at MCC.
Crusaders head coach Bill Moulatsiotis said his squad entered Wednesday’s clash against the Norsemen with something to prove.
“We’ve been watching WMC and North Muskegon hold high rankings all season,” he said. “Last week, they were No. 1 and No. 2 in the state in Division 3. We were never ranked, rightfully so, because it took us awhile to buy into the system and trust each other, causing us to drop some games early in the season.
“Having the media and opposing coaches cast the WMC vs. North Muskegon game at ‘state championship level game’ only fed our fire.”
North Muskegon struck first on Wednesday, however, as standout Justice Sikkema cut across the 18-yard box and rifled a laser to the top left corner of the goal past the outstretched reach of MCC goalie Conner O’Neil.
The Norsemen (15-2-2 overall) took a 1-0 lead into the half, but the momentum changed early in the second half. Crusaders’ captain Nick Morgenstern was taken down in the box and buried the ensuing penalty kick to tie the contest 8 minutes into the second half.
Just two minutes later, fellow MCC captain Bobby Ahern lofted a long, soaring pass toward Jose Zambrano. Zambrano beat the North Muskegon goalie by mere inches by slipping a soft touch into the net.
The Crusaders’ defense did the rest, as they kept the dangerous Sikkenga under wraps.
“Our strategy was simple. Stop Sikkema and make someone else beat us,” Moulatsiotis said. “Evan Morse did a good job at containing Sikkema.”
O’Neil tallied eight saves in goal for MCC.