In a rematch of the 2011 CAAC boys soccer Gold Cup final, DeWitt and Holt played to a similar result, a 1-1 tie on Wednesday night.
Panther junior Mitchell Smith’s deflected header less than five minutes into the game was matched by Holt senior Alex Hadick halfway through the second half in a game that showed why these are two of the very top teams in the area.
Last year’s Cup final, which was also played on DeWitt’s home field, ended scoreless after regulation and overtime, and the Panthers won the championship in a penalty-kick shootout. This time, with nothing on the line but early-season bragging rights, both teams walked off satisfied.
“I am happy with the result,” DeWitt coach Jamal Mubarakeh said. “Our kids played really well, they moved the ball, they played with good positioning.”
Brandon Wright started the play that led to the first goal for DeWitt (3-3-2), eluding his defender on the right wing and sending in a perfect cross. Smith’s header sent Holt keeper Abel Mixaykham to his left, but the ball caromed off of a Holt defender’s head in the opposite direction and into the open net 4:31 into the game.
Chances were few the rest of the first half, but Holt came out with more energy in the second, nearly tying the game in the first two minutes. A long throw-in by Jake McCreery was headed by Alec Gnass toward the far post, but freshman Panther keeper Isiah Handspike dove backwards at full extension to get a fingertip on it and turn it just wide.
Holt (4-4-1) broke through with 21:38 left, on a cross by Zach Hernandez from about 30 yards out. Tucker Pape got a toe on it near the 6-yard line to roll it past the leaping Handspike, and Hadick finished it off at the goal line.
“I’m happy that we fought back,” Holt coach Aaron Smith said. “We have a problem sometimes at the beginning of the game getting going. They (DeWitt) played better in the first half and we played better in the second half, so (the result) is fair in that way.”
The newly energized Rams pressed hard for a second goal, and kept DeWitt on their heels for much of the rest of the game. The Panthers withstood the onslaught and even had a couple of decent counterattacks, but the game ended 1-1.
“I’m happy in that I think we can play with anybody,” Smith said. “To come back and do what they did made them a little stronger today.”