By Steve Gunn and Dave Hart

COMSTOCK PARK – Someone in the press box suggested that the Ludington soccer team was just happy to be in Saturday’s Division 3 state championship game.

And by the time the game was over, the Orioles lost to heavily-favored Flint Powers, a traditional state power, in wet and cold conditions at Comstock Park High School.

But the Orioles definitely played to win, and had a chance to steal a victory until well into the second half, when Powers scored on a penalty kick to seal up a 4-2 victory and the Division 3 state title.

But nobody could say that Ludington just showed up to enjoy the scenery and the thrill of being part of a state title game.

They played bravely against a talented opponent, just like they did against favored Grand Rapids South Christian in the state semifinals.

Ludington teammates console an upset Caleb Schoon after time ran out on the Orioles. Photo/Jason Goorman

“The pressure and the atmosphere affected us during the first half,” said Ludington coach Kris Anderson. “We were a little off and not doing what we usually do in the back. Still, all-in-all, we came back and fought until the call in the box (late in the game), which was the right call, and changed the momentum of the game.”

The Orioles, who finished with an 18-5-2 record, were a Cinderella team in the state tournament, after finishing second in the Lakes 8 Conference during the regular season.

Their hot streak began in the district tournament, when they beat Manistee 2-1 and Shelby 2-0, then continued in regionals, when they downed Boyne City 1-0 and Big Rapids 2-0.   .

Then came the most exciting victory of their season, a 2-1 upset over Grand Rapids South Christian in the semifinals last Wednesday.

But they ran out of gas on Saturday against a high-powered Flint Powers squad.

“I am extremely proud of how these guys came back and came together at the right time of the year,” Anderson said. “You saw the focus and energy during the postseason.”

The Chargers opened the scoring about 14 minutes into the first half when the Orioles tried to clear a ball out of their own box, and it was deflected into the goal by Garret Delamielleure.

Ludington was awarded a penalty kick about seven minutes later after Ben Knoer was taken down by a Powers defender inside the box.

Lucien Chasse (left) reacts with teammates Lynn Richard (middle) and No. 23  Sam Bandstra after Chasse scored for Ludington. Photo/Jason Goorman

Noah Peterson converted the kick from 12 yards out, knotting the score 1-1.

Powers added two more goals before halftime, on goals by Delamielleure and Dominic Ruth.

The Orioles didn’t crawl away in the second half.

They pulled within a goal with 17:18 left in the game when a corner kick landed in front of the Powers goal and was deflected to Ludington’s Lucien Chasse, who scored with a high shot from about 20 yards out.

Suddenly it was 3-2 and the outcome was very much in doubt.

But Flint Powers answered with a penalty kick goal of its own with 16:54 remaining, and that turned out to be the final tally of the game.

“We didn’t have anything to lose coming in as a 16 seed,” Chasse, a senior, said after the game. “Nobody expected us to be here, and they were expected to win.

“It was a great journey with this team, and it’s heartbreaking to lose, but hat’s off to them.”