The Division 3 boys soccer state final kicked off at noon, but the clock struck Midnight for Williamston’s Cinderella tournament run, as the Hornets took second-ranked Grand Rapids South Christian to double overtime before falling 1-0 at East Kentwood’s Crestwood Middle School on Nov. 3.
It was the team’s first-ever trip to the state finals, a remarkable run in a year in which the Hornets (19-8-1) finished second in the CAAC White and lost in the final of the CAAC Silver Cup. Williamston coach Brent Sorg said that this postseason would leave a lasting legacy for the program.
“This team made history,” Sorg said. “Twenty-three years into the program and the first time making it to the state finals. That’s something you’ll remember 10, 15, 20 years down the road.”
Although the Hornets had never made it out of the regional in the history of their boys soccer program, Wiliamston senior goalkeeper Charlie Coon struggled to find consolation after the loss in the state finals.
“It’s a lot to think about right now,” he said. “I’m always going to be proud of this team. Making history is something special. Although it’s hard now, it’s just incredible.”
Williamston was kept back on its heels for the bulk of the game, but although the Sailors (21-2-3) sent wave after wave of attacks at the Hornet goal, they managed to create few good chances.
“They definitely had the run of play, and more possession than we did, credit to them,” Sorg said. “They did a great job of pressing us and causing us to turn the ball over. They’re a quality team.”
The only goal of the game came 4:08 into the second 10-minute overtime period, a left-footed blast by South Christian’s Kevin Doornbos in traffic from 18 yards out that gave Coon no chance.
Sorg said the team was looking to hang on and take the game to a shootout that never came.
“We thought that if we could go into PK’s, if we could get to that moment, we were liking our chances,” he said. “It just didn’t happen that way for us. That happens.”
Williamston’s best scoring chance came in the waning seconds of the first half, when Josh Flint carried into the box and sent a hard pass to Mark Farness, whose first-time effort smacked the goal post.
Williamston nearly stole a winner with 3:35 left in regulation, when a free kick by Ross Needler from about 40 yards out was headed inches over the bar by Phil Erickson.
Coon was called upon to keep the game scoreless on several occasions, including a diving save on a diving header by South Christian’s Cody Kok with three minutes left in the first overtime period.
“Charlie Coon is an All-State goalkeeper,” Sorg said. “He’s a class kid, and he made some tremendous saves for us, keeping us in many games this year.”
Coon had one more save to make to keep it a one-goal game with 2:45 left in his high-school career, when a Sailor corner kick pinballed around in the Williamston box and ricocheted off of Akos Bajtel toward the Hornet net. Coon made an acrobatic backwards leap to tip it over the bar.
Coon said that the vocal support from the Williamston faithful will provide a lasting memory of his final game as a Hornet.
“This atmosphere is just amazing; you can’t simulate it,” he said. “I’ll never feel anything like this again.”