RIVERVIEW — It’s a revered tradition that every Catholic High School League contest begins with the recitation of the “Our Father,” the playing of the national anthem and a reminder that the contest should be played “in an environment of educational athletics.”
In other words, the field or arena is a classroom.
Gabriel Richard’s magenta-colored artificial turf was the “classroom” Oct. 3 for the CHSL boys soccer championship doubleheader.
In the first game, Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (13-0, ranked No. 1 in Division 4 in the state) won its third consecutive Cardinal Division title by beating Macomb Bishop Foley (12-2-1, ranked No. 6), 4-1.
Liggett struck first 10 minutes into the game on junior Bobby Harthorn’s goal. Foley’s freshman Max Easley responded to tie the score, but freshman Brady Ancona restored the Knights’ advantage 46 seconds before the first half concluded.
Seniors Cesar Cooley and Claudio Cavallo tallied for Liggett’s final scores late in the second half.
The two teams, players and staffs went through the post-game hand-shake lineup, received medals and trophies and posed for a team picture.
Turmoil in the classroom
This was the first time Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-0 AA Division, 11-4 overall) and Toledo St. John’s Jesuit (5-0-1 Central Division, 8-3-2 overall) had squared off in soccer.
St. John’s won this Bishop Division encounter, 4-3 (5-4), in a shootout after the game finished 3-all in regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods.
It took less than nine minutes after the customary prayer and anthem pre-game ritual that the atmosphere in the “classroom” had changed.
St. John’s took a 1-0 lead when senior Ethan Batdorf kicked a 35-yard line drive over the head — and maybe to the surprise of — St. Mary’s senior goalie Rhys Golden.
On the same play, one of St. John’s defenders was given a yellow (warning) card. Two minutes later, another yellow to another Jesuit player.
It was the beginning of turmoil in the classroom. Eventually, referees handed out red (ejection) cards to three St. John’s players and an assistant coach for unsportsmanlike conduct and yellow cards to two other players on the St. John’s squad and on St. Mary’s bench, too.
With the ejections, St. John’s played the last 12 minutes and 31 seconds of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime shorthanded, eight players to 11.
Spectators got caught up in the ruckus with horns and cowbells and other noise makers, causing the referees to issue an ultimatum to cease.
Play on the field was becoming more and more physical. Both goalies — the Knights Benjamin Zetocha and Golden — were knocked down and needed a couple of minutes to recover and continue in the nets.
The Eaglets’ sophomore Tommy Rushwin tied the score at 1-1 midway through the first half. Titans senior Quinn Wiklendt scored to give St. John’s a 2-1 halftime edge.
St. Mary’s senior Sam Kerrick tied the game at 2-2 five minutes into the second half. Senior Jack Pelton put the Knights back on top, 3-2. Kerrick responded with another goal at 4:12 to send the contest into overtime.
Senior Eddie Heywood, junior Tiernan Loisel, senior Louis Pino Jr., senior Quinn Wiklendt and senior Abel Taleb scored in the shootout for St. John’s.
Sophomore Anthony Marinco, senior Niko Lulgjuraj, Rushwin and Brett Wojkowski scored for St. Mary’s. Kerrick’s attempt was deflected by goalie Zetocha, who made a half-dozen clutch saves down the stretch.
The St. John’s players exploded onto the field. Gabriel Richard athletic director Kris Daiek carted the referees away from the melee to the parking lot. Coaching staffs corralled their respective teams away from one another.
There was no post-game hand-shake lineup nor the presentation of medals and trophies. Instead, CHSL associate director Mike Evoy gave it all to the coaches to distribute.
St. John’s coach Claudio Cabrera (“No relation to Miguel,” he laughed) said, “It’s a happy ending, but it was a little bit hard to win with some (of the referee) calls in my opinion. But we can’t forget about the heart and soul the kids put into the game.”
“We’re frustrated and disappointed,” St. Mary’s coach Keith Jeffrey said. “We had our chances, but it is what it is. I told the players to remember how they are feeling right now, that they’ll feel worse if we don’t take care of business moving forward.”
The Eaglets, ranked No. 4 in Division 2 by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association, open state tournament play Oct. 17 against either Madison Heights Lamphere (10-9-1) or Waterford Kettering (4-12-3).
Suspensions handed out
In regard to disqualifications of players and/or coaches during a contest for unsportsmanlike conduct, the CHSL’s regulation calls for that person to be prohibited by the school from coaching or playing the next contest and/or day of competition for that team.
“Our rules are tougher in Ohio,” St. John’s athletic director Bob Ronai said. The assistant coach and three players who were ejected are suspended for the next two games on the Titans’ schedule. The two players who received warnings are suspended for one game.
In addition, Ronai said, “Several other players have been suspended because of their misbehavior.”
St. John’s, ranked among the top 15 teams in Division 1, have five games remaining on their regular season schedule before they begin state tournament play.
Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].