Canton’s season ended with a 17-5 blowout loss Thursday night to Troy.
Yet Chiefs’ varsity boys lacrosse head coach Fred Karam had an unmistakable smile on his face following the Division 1 first-round regional game at Troy High School.
That’s simply because his team matched the state-ranked Colts during the second half to close out the contest in competitive fashion.
“They’re a good team, they’re ranked sixth in the state,” said Karam about the Colts. “They came out, I think we were a little flat-footed in the first half.
“We started better in the second half. They were up big, by 10 goals, but if you look at the second half, the way our boys played, we competed. I think in the second half we matched them goal for goal.”
Karam said his team had difficulty slowing down Troy’s fast, athletic offense, until going to zone coverage in the second half.
“Our defense really stepped up and we played the second half fairly even with them,” Karam noted. “I was proud and couldn’t have asked for more from the kids.”
According to Troy head coach Nate Reynolds, whose 13-4 team will advance to 7 p.m. Tuesday’s regional semifinal at Northville against Grosse Pointe South, the Chiefs “moved the ball a lot better than we expected, given the film we watched. I was definitely impressed with their offense and they had a nice little run at the end of the game.”
Of course, the outcome never really was in doubt. Just 30 seconds into the match, senior midfielder Jack Percy scored.
Adding another marker with 10 minutes to go in the first quarter was senior attacker Kyle Fietsam, who went on to score five times.
The action was tilted toward beleaguered Canton junior goalie Trevor Stahl throughout the first half. (All told, Troy outshot the Chiefs 29-13.)
It was 6-0 after one quarter and the Colts enjoyed a 9-0 advantage midway through the second before Canton finally found the back of the Troy goal (on a tally by junior midfielder Ben Phillips, from senior midfielder Jay Krebs).
Canton (11-7), hot on the heels of a pre-regional victory over Plymouth, trailed 12-1 at halftime.
And Troy goals came from several different players, an indication of the team’s offensive firepower.
Percy and Fietsam each scored three times in the first half while senior midfielder David Fracassa and senior attacker Kevin Thomas each registered two goals.
“We have 18 seniors, so guys have been playing together for the past four years,” Reynolds said. “So the chemistry’s there, it’s like a well-oiled machine. They’re very smart, they’re best friends, they make it real easy on the offensive side of the ball.
“Our focus is to have six guys playing offense instead of having one or two. … We try to get as many guys involved, so we spread the wealth, for sure.”
Making a run
The Chiefs did start to grab some territorial play late in the first half, with junior midfielder Micah Rinke and senior attackman Brocton Baechler robbed in close by Troy senior goalkeeper Bergess Young.
Troy did net the first goal of the second half, when Jake Parry, stationed along the left wing, took a feed from senior attackman Blake Best and flung the ball past Stahl.
However, the Chiefs were giving as good as they got by this point and were rewarded for their improved play with a three-goal surge in just over a minute.
Baechler cut in from the left side of the Troy cage and buried a shot with 3:08 left in the frame.
Just 23 seconds later, it was fellow senior attackman Austin Bauer doing the same — he zeroed in on Young and found the mark to make it 13-3.
Then, with 1:56 remaining, Bauer scored again. He hit the target after collecting a loose ball that Baechler successfully knocked away from a Troy player about 15 yards in front of the goal.
“In the second half we really got our focus down,” Bauer said. “We started hitting the corners, keeping possession on the ball. And our defense really stepped up, too. That really helped out.”
Bauer said being able to score a few quick goals against such a strong team “felt really good and it gave our defense a break, they needed a breather out there.”
Troy scored in the last 30 seconds of the third to go up 14-4, then the Chiefs netted their final goal of the season with 8:55 to go in the contest.
Junior attackman Carson Pakula scored, receiving a pass from Krebs (who finished with two assists).
The Colts then put a capper on their big win with three goals in the final 8:30, including two by Fietsam.
Way to finish
Outcome aside, Karam was happy with how his seniors closed out the game and their prep careers.
“They (seniors) came out and provided the leadership for our boys all season long,” said Karam, who termed his first season as Canton coach a successful one. “In the second half, they really led our team and we played that 6th-ranked team hard in the second half.
“I don’t care what the score ended up being, I was just proud of the way they hung in there, they didn’t give up.”
Karam also pointed to successful and more-established programs such as Troy’s as a model for relative newcomer Canton to follow.
“They’ve been around longer, they’ve got the youth programs,” he emphasized. “… They’ve got a pipeline system established and that’s what we’re trying to do in Canton.”