BRIGHTON On Monday night in a win over Walled Lake Central, Brighton assistant soccer coach Nate Grabowski said his team played a fantastic game. On Wednesday against Salem, the story, he admitted, was quite different.
“Monday we had a great game,” said Grabowski after the Bulldogs suffered a 5-0 loss to the Rocks in their regular-season finale. “We beat Walled Lake Central, 3-2. Tonight, Plymouth-Salem was obviously the better team. We had a couple of setbacks and just didn’t respond the way we should have.”
The first of those setbacks came with 8 minutes and 53 seconds left in the first half, when Salem was awarded a penalty kick, which it connected on for the game’s first goal. Prior to that, the two had battled to a scoreless tie, although the Rocks held the advantage in shot attempts.
The penalty-kick goal essentially opened the floodgates.
Before four more minutes could pass, Brighton found itself trailing by three goals. A two-goal deficit is perhaps feasible to come back from, especially with another half left to play. But a three-goal hole is often insurmountable.
It proved to be the latter Wednesday night for the Bulldogs, who let up two more scores in the final 40 minutes and were shut out for the third time this season, all of which have come this month — the previous two came on Oct. 1 against Grand Blanc and Oct. 3 against Novi.
“That’s a tough situation to come back from,” said Grabowski of trailing by three. “Could we have responded better? For sure. But we’re gonna look forward and hopefully learn from this and do the best we can in districts.”
The Brighton players had already seemed to be doing just that, looking forward to next Thursday’s start of districts and erasing, in their minds, any evidence of the game they had just played. The memory of a five-goal loss to the KLAA Central’s second-place team was gone as soon as they sat down to untie their cleats.
“None of us have anything to say about tonight’s game,” senior Steven Hall said.
For Brighton, the five goals were the most it had allowed all year. It was the most Brighton’s allowed in a regular-season contest since at least 2009, according the records kept on the KLAA league website, KLAAStandings.com.
Although it started with the penalty kick, Grabowski refused to single out any one play.
“I wouldn’t say it was the penalty kick,” he said. “I wouldn’t blame it on one incident. I’d say it was a series of things. They exploited a few things on us and they were able to capitalize and, in the end, come out on top.”
Brighton will look to rebound quickly from the loss with do-or-die postseason play beginning next Thursday with districts. The Bulldogs are fortunate enough to have a first-round bye in the Hartland-hosted district and will play the winner of Lakeland and Milford. Milford finished just behind the Bulldogs in the West while Lakeland was the KLAA North’s bet team with a league record of 8-1-1.
So the Bulldogs are aware they have their work cut out of them starting with the first game.
Grabowski’s hopeful Wednesday serves as the wake-up call his team needs.
“I’m definitely glad this isn’t districts,” Grabowski said. “Hopefully .. we can take some things from this and get our minds forward and straight, and roll into the postseason (and go) as far as we possibly can.
“It’s always tough coming off a loss rolling into the postseason, but hopefully we can take our win on Monday and take some learning points from tonight and roll forward with the momentum that we have.”