DeWitt’s two-year run as CAAC Gold Cup champions is over, after Okemos senior Eli Miksicek scored the only goal in the Chiefs’ 1-0 win over the Panthers in their Gold Cup semifinal game on Tuesday.
With the win, Okemos (12-3-3) advances to its first Gold Cup final since the inaugural competition in 2007. It will face Mason, which edged East Lansing 1-0, for the 2012 title on the Chiefs’ home field at 4 p.m. on Thursday.
Miksecek’s goal was a fortunate one, the result of a harmless-looking long ball from midfield toward Josh Robison near the top of the DeWitt penalty area. The ball took an awkward bounce over the head of Panther freshman goalkeeper Isiah Handspike, and Robison watched it roll into the open net just 1:29 into the contest.
DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh said that the lone goal didn’t diminish his enthusiasm for either his talented young keeper or the effort of the team as a whole.
“It was one unlucky bounce,” Mubarakeh said. “He’s a freshman, and I’m proud of what he did after that, he made two great saves.
“We never gave up. We had our chances, but we just couldn’t put it in the net. We moved the ball well, we pressured them well, and we were able to work our plan to keep (Okemos) in the middle of the field.”
Handspike atoned somewhat with a very tough save on a point-blank shot by Carson Covell with about 24 minutes left in the first half.
Chances were few for the bulk of the game, until DeWitt (10-6-2) pressed forward for the equalizer late and came close to getting it with less than five minutes left in the game. Mitchell Smith let fly from just inside the 18-yard line, but Okemos keeper Landon Collier made a diving save at full extension to preserve the victory.
“I thought we played very, very average,” Guggemos said. “DeWitt was a big part of that, but for some reason we didn’t have the focus we needed.
“We’re fortunate to be moving on, for sure.”
Mubarakeh insists that he is not disappointed that his team will play at East Lansing in the Gold Cup third-place game at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
“I’m proud of my kids,” he said. “They motivate me for upcoming games, and showed me what they can do. We lost, yes, but in my heart, we won.”