Midland High’s defense held strong for nearly 48 minutes on Wednesday night at Midland Stadium, but Saginaw Heritage’s relentless attack eventually bested the Chemics.
The Hawks’ John Hoff and Spencer Schwellenbach scored seven minutes apart in the second half in a 2-0 victory over the Chemics that left both teams still in the hunt for the Saginaw Valley League soccer title.
Heritage improved to 6-1-1 in the league and 14-3-2 overall, while Midland is now 6-1-2 and 6-7-5. Both teams trail first-place Dow High (8-1-0) in the SVL. Midland will visit Dow next Thursday.
“We knew we had to come in and win because Midland was ahead of us (in the standings),” Heritage coach Brian Lechel said.
MHS coach Ricco Barassi noted that he’s leaned on his defense throughout the season as injuries have limited the Chemics somewhat on offense.
“It’s been a defensive game (for us) the whole season,” said Barassi, whose team had allowed only one goal on league play coming into the game. “In the end, (Heritage) managed to break through our defense.”
The Hawks were buzzing in the Midland end of the field from the start.
Heritage had seven corner kicks in the first half and put three shots on Chemics’ keeper Ethan DePierro in the half, all in the first 15 minutes, including one shot on which DePierro made a diving deflection and another on which he collided with a Heritage forward and fell down, resulting in an MHS free kick.
Midland didn’t have a shot until the 26th minute, when the ball sailed over the Heritage crossbar.
In the 34th minute, Jose Moreno had the Chemics’ best chance of the half when he drilled a shot over the bar from close range.
An athletic play by Schwellenbach in the eighth minute of the second half was the catalyst for the game’s first goal. He redirected a long free kick with his header at the goal line, and Hoff drilled the ball into the right corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Seven minutes later, another long free kick was deflected by DePierro and Schwellenbach was in position to deposit the rebound and make it 2-0.
The Hawks had four more corner kicks in the second half, one of which set up a shot that was thwarted by DePierro’s best save of the night, on which he dove and punched the ball away.
“I think Ethan is, if not No. 1, then one of the two best goalies in the Valley,” Barassi said. “Nobody has to work as hard as he does because we rely so much on our defense.”
The Chemics put more pressure on the Heritage end in the second half, finally getting their first and only corner kick of the game with 16 minutes left when a shot was deflected over the Hawks’ crossbar.
“Midland picked up the attack after we took the lead, but our defense held strong,” Lechel said, crediting goalie Sam West and defensive anchor Eathan Zerger.
After the Chemics visit Bay City John Glenn on Monday and Dow on Thursday to finish the regular season, Heritage and Midland will meet again to open district tournament play on Monday, Oct. 16 at White Pine Middle School.
“I’m going to be able to bring extra players from the JV team (for that game),” Barassi said. “We’ve got to get stronger and heal (from our injuries). That makes a big difference.”