Williamston will play in the boys soccer state championship game for the first time in school history after a heart-stopping shootout win over Elk Rapids in the Division 3 semifinals at Grand Rapids Christian on Wednesday.
The Hornets (19-7-1) took a 1-0 lead into the last three minutes of regulation, but survived a late equalizer to force the shootout and claim the win.
Phil Erickson scored Williamston’s only goal in regulation and also converted his penalty kick in the shootout.
“It’s so surreal, this run that these guys have made,” Williamston coach Brent Sorg said. “We don’t have any superstars, we just get it done by a total team effort. We beat a very, very good (team) tonight.”
Indeed, the Elks (20-6) controlled the play in the opening minutes of the game, with goalie Tim Barber getting his first touch on the ball about 10 minutes in, and that on a missed long pass.
Meanwhile, Hornets keeper Charlie Coon kept his team in it, making tough saves on two long but difficult Elk Rapids shots on goal.
Williamston found its stride late in the first half, and was rewarded when Erickson teed up the ball for his left foot near the corner of the box and blasted a shot into the upper corner of the far post with 2:35 left in the first half.
“To be honest, I was just trying to get it on target,” Erickson said. “This feels amazing, everybody just played their hearts out.”
The Hornets came out in a more defensive posture after the break, keeping 10 players behind the ball for virtually the entire second half.
Elk Rapids attacked with desperation, and finally broke through with a goal by Spencer LaPointe from just inside the 18-yard line with 2:57 left in regulation.
“We were trying to win the game with a one-goal lead, and that’s what happens sometimes,” Sorg said.
“They capitalized on a great little ball and made us pay for it.”
Each team had good chances in the first extra period, but not so much in the second d, and the game went to the shootout.
Ian Blanchard, Hunter Lyle and Zach Sundin converted their spot-kicks in the shootout before Coon came up big on Elk Rapids’ third attempt, diving to his left to make the save.
“It’s something as a keeper you look forward to your whole life,” Coon said of the shootout. “I felt the pressure, but I loved it.”
Ross Needler had his kick saved by Barber, but Erickson stepped up and converted the next Hornet attempt.
“I knew that I was going to fake left and bury it in the right corner,” Erickson said. “No pressure at all.”
Elk Rapids went out in the state semifinals for the second straight year on the next kick, which Ryan McChesney lifted over the bar to send Williamston to the state final.
The Hornets will face Grand Rapids South Christian at noon on Saturday at East Kentwood for the Division 3 state championship.