Athens Ends Inspired Run with OT Surge

November 2, 2019

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

COMSTOCK PARK – It was nearly three decades ago to the day that Todd Heugh won an MHSAA Finals championship as a soccer player at Troy Athens High School.

Heugh experienced that same joy as the head coach of his alma mater Saturday after the Red Hawks defeated Traverse City West 4-1 in overtime in the Division 1 Final at Comstock Park High School.  

“I was on the 1989 state championship team at Athens, and now in 2019 I win one as a head coach,” Heugh said. “We’ve talked all season about enjoying the journey and this moment of playing on the big stage at a great facility. They seized their moment, and I’m thrilled for them. I know it’s something that they are not going to forget the rest of their lives.”

Troy Athens (23-2-1) won the program’s fifth Finals title, but first since 1997. Heugh’s 1989 squad won a Class A championship with a 1-0 victory over Salem.

“I think it’s amazing,” said Red Hawks goalkeeper Jason Kemp, who had four saves. “He talked about it the other day in the locker room, and he pulled out his varsity jacket and his medals and everything. He said 30 years ago he won the state championship, and now you guys have the opportunity in front of you yourselves.

“It’s been a while since our school has won a state championship, so to finally give this great institution another state championship is indescribable.”

After a scoreless first half, Troy Athens got on the board with just more than 27 minutes remaining.

After a penalty that resulted in a free kick, senior Andri Myftari ripped a shot from just outside of the box into the left corner of the goal.

Traverse City West (18-4-2), which had won 13 of its last 14 games, answered with less than 14 minutes left when sophomore Colin Blackport scored on a penalty kick. 

“I think for the first time this season, maybe we got a little rattled after they scored on the PK,” Heugh said. “We started to foul, but we had time to calm down before overtime and we talked about seizing your moment. They are going to have theirs, we are going to have ours, and what are you going to do in those moments. I was super proud of them.”

Both teams failed to score during the first 10-minute overtime period. But over the next 10 overtime minutes, the Red Hawks strung together a flurry of goals to take command. 

Troy Athens scored three goals in a span of four minutes.

Sophomore Ryan Gruca had a pair, including the go-ahead goal, and senior Rishi Kalyan added the other to send the Athens faithful into a frenzy.  

“We’ve scored in bunches throughout this tournament, so there wasn’t a doubt that we could do it,” Heugh said. “I didn’t think we would get three, but I knew if we scored one then we might be able to score two. We’ve done it quite a bit in the tournament.”

Troy Athens drew inspiration from last year’s disappointment. The team was unbeaten through the regular season before being upset in the District Final.  

Thirteen seniors returned from that team in a bid for redemption. 

“That was always our motivation coming into the season,” Myftari said. “Just doing better than we did last season, and I think that’s what helped us win. We’ve just always pushed to do better, and we had that grind in us.”

Heugh said last year’s ending was brought up only for a short time.

“We talked about last year for a day, and we were going to make a conscious effort not to do it after that,” he said. “A lot of these kids were on that team and came back as seniors. The just won their 44th game in the last two years playing a difficult schedule, so I’m excited they are champions.”

Titans' keeper Blade Kalbfleisch was outstanding in the net and made a pair of incredible saves. 

Click for the full scoring summary.

PHOTOS: (Top) Troy Athens’ Nikhil Somani (5) and Andri Myftari (10) celebrate during Saturday’s Division 1 championship game win. (Middle) Traverse City West’s Kaden Ales (7) works to get the ball through Athens’ defense and the snow.

Be the Referee: Soccer Offsides or Goal?

By Paige Winne
MHSAA Marketing & Social Media Coordinator

May 23, 2023

Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Below is this week's segment – Soccer Offsides or Goal? - Listen

Today we’re on the soccer field for another You Make the Call.

Team A has a throw-in near midfield. Team A’s No. 9 is clearly in an offside position when the throw-in comes directly to her. She collects the ball and kicks it past the keeper and into the goal. What’s the call?

Should the referee:

► Award an indirect free kick to Team B?

► Award a goal kick to Team B?

► Award a re-take of the throw-in to Team A?

► Award a goal to Team A?

If you said, "Award a goal to Team A" … you are correct, despite the goal-scorer being in a clear offsides position.

The soccer rulebook states that a player shall not be penalized for offsides if she receives the ball directly from a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in. It’s a legal play – and counts as a goal.

Previous Editions:

May 16: Track & Field Exchange Zones - Listen
May 9: Girls Lacrosse Self-Start - Listen
May 2: Baseball/Softball Overthrow - Listen
April 25: Fifth-Quarter/Third-Half Rule - Listen
April 18: Soccer Referee in Play? - Listen
April 11: Softball Strikeout - Listen
March 14: Basketball Instant Replay - Listen
March 7: Hockey Overtime - Listen
Feb. 28: Baker Bowling - Listen
Feb. 21: Ski Finish - Listen
Feb. 14: Swimming Touchpads - Listen
Feb. 7: In or Out-of-Bounds in Wrestling - Listen
Jan. 31: Over the Back - Listen
Jan. 24: Competitive Cheer Judges - Listen
Jan. 17: More Lines - Listen
Jan. 10: On the Line - Listen
Jan. 3: Basketball Measurements - Listen
Dec. 13: Pregame Dunks - Listen
Dec. 6: Gymnastics Judges - Listen
Nov. 22: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 15: Back Row Illegal Blocker - Listen
Nov. 8: Swim Turn Judges - Listen
Nov. 1: Soccer Referee Jersey Colors - Listen
Oct. 25: Cross Country Tie-Breaker - Listen
Oct. 18: Soccer Shootouts - Listen
Oct. 11: Safety in End ZoneListen
Oct. 4: Football Overtime Penalty - Listen
Sept. 27: Kickoff Goal - Listen
Sept. 20: Soccer Timing - Listen
Sept. 13: Volleyball Replays - Listen
Sept. 6: Switching Sides - Listen
Aug. 30: Play Clock - Listen
Aug. 23: Intentional Grounding Change
- Listen

PHOTO: An official raises his flag during this spring's Trenton/Pontiac Notre Dame Prep game. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)