Leland Gets Defensive to Score 1st Title

November 3, 2018

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

COMSTOCK PARK – All season long, the Leland boys soccer team has been an offensive force.

Heading into Saturday's MHSAA Division 4 title game at Comstock Park High School, the Comets had scored 158 goals over 27 games, and out-scored their opponents by 139. 

But against reigning champion Ann Arbor Greenhills, Leland needed to show off some solid defense – and play under a little more pressure.

The Comets did just that, winning the program's first MHSAA Finals boys soccer title with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Ann Arbor Greenhills. 

"We had a few teams in the past that we thought may make a run, but nothing compared to this group.," said Leland coach Joe Burda, whose team ended the year with a 24-1-3 record. "We have soccer players everywhere, and these guys wanted this so bad ever since July. As a coaching staff we are so proud of them. They set their goal, and they did it." 

The did just that by controlling tempo with solid defense, passing and an offensive attack that was quieted Saturday but showed Gryphons coach Lucian Popescu why his team was facing Leland in its return to the championship match. 

"They pushed harder, especially 10 minutes after the game started," said Popescu, whose team ended with an 11-9-3 record. "I thought there were times we were able to match them, but the tempo was higher on their end."

Leland scored the only goal six minutes and 54 seconds into the first half, when junior midfielder Jesus Calderon-Balcazar sent through a nice unassisted one-touch finish.

The Comets had several chances after that, most coming off the explosive play of senior captain and forward Cobe Lund. But they were held out of net the rest of the way.

Leland out-shot the Gryphons 12-5.

"We were only one goal up, but that is all you need to win the game," said Lund, who ended his impressive senior season with 42 goals and 18 assists. "It is scary being up only one goal, but we held on and we got the win."

And got that win in front of a good majority of the town of Leland, which made the trip south to cheer on the Comets.

"This was the goal ever since boot camp," Lund said. "I remember I gave a speech-type thing then. I said we have to work harder and get our fitness up, because I wanted to win state. This was the season basically, and we made history and I am so happy. We worked so hard for this."

Ann Arbor Greenhills keeper Leo Fried had a busy day in net for the Gryphons, and played extremely well with 10 saves. 

Leland goalie Gavin Miller also was solid, stopping three Ann Arbor Greenhills shots 

"I thought we came out a little timid at first, but then we started attacking," Burda said. "Our boys want to play on the ground and play possessive, and they controlled the offense and they controlled the game. They were chasing us the whole second half. It was obvious desperation, but I think our boys kept their composure and we really stepped it up in the last 20 minutes. We just passed the ball around and kept the ball at our feet.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Leland hoists its first boys soccer Finals championship trophy Saturday at Comstock Park. (Middle) Greenhills keeper Leo Fried snags a Leland header before it reaches his net.

Roy's Homecoming Success Continues for Division 1 Contender Clarkston

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

September 28, 2023

For Sebi Roy, there’s definitely been no place like home.

Greater DetroitJust as last season started, Roy moved back to his hometown of Clarkston to play high school soccer after spending roughly 1½ years training with Major League Soccer’s Cincinnati FC as part of the MLS Next program. 

Going from training with a professional organization to high school soccer might seem like a major downgrade to the average soccer follower, but it hasn’t been the case at all for Roy.

“It’s great to go from a super high skill ceiling where every touch matters, to something a little bit more free,” he said. “I know a lot more people and it’s a great way to get confidence. I didn’t get a whole lot of training in Cincy, and back here I get so much more individual training in general. Getting the touches and getting development was crucial.”

Ever since Roy came back to Clarkston last year, opponents have certainly wished he stayed in Cincinnati. 

It’s especially been the case this year, as Roy, a center forward, has been just about unstoppable. 

The 6-foot-3 Roy entered Thursday with 15 goals and five assists over 11 games despite being the constant focal point of opposing defenses and playing in arguably the state’s toughest league, the Oakland Activities Association Red.

Against 2022 Division 1 champion Rochester Adams, Roy scored five goals in a 7-3 win. 

Clarkston head coach Ian Jones said he hadn’t even met Roy before last year, then heard rumors from others on that team he was coming back in town.

Still, Roy showed up after tryouts had ended, so Jones had Roy go through a personal two-day tryout. 

It obviously didn’t take long for Jones to realize Roy was too good to not have on the team, and that was reinforced during the first game last year when he scored a goal on his first touch of the game. Roy went on to make the Division 1 all-state first team as Clarkston finished 16-5-2 and reached the Regional Finals.

Jones, who has professional experience playing in England and has coached for more than 20 years in the United States, said Roy definitely has the tools to be a professional player.

Clarkston's Sebi Roy monitors the action against Oxford.“I’ve never seen anything like him,” he said. “He’s got unbelievable touch. He’s left-footed and right-footed. He’s got vision and strength. It’s fun to watch him, forget coaching him. You find yourself watching him in games because he’s so good.”

Roy’s father is Travis Roy, who in 1991 won the state's Mr. Soccer Award playing for Livonia Stevenson before going on to play in college at Wisconsin.

Also on the Clarkston team this year is Roy’s brother, Fagan, who is a freshman. 

Sebi Roy said his dad started him in soccer “as soon as he could walk,” and he has loved it so much that he hasn’t dabbled in any other sport.

Despite already getting a small taste of what professional soccer would be like, Roy said he prefers to play in college and is still in the process of determining the best spot. 

Asked if there’s any top professional player he likes to emulate, the answer was a hard no.

“I want to be my own person,” he said.

Thanks to Roy’s production and a core of other talented players who could be playing at the next level, Clarkston earlier this month achieved a program first – the No. 1 ranking in Division 1. 

Clarkston (9-1-1) is down to No. 4 this week after losing its first game last Thursday, a 2-1 decision at now-No. 2 Oxford.

There could soon be a rematch, as Clarkston and Oxford are in the same District in the upcoming Division 1 tournament. 

If the teams meet again, Oxford will know the main player to stop – and Clarkston will know the main player to ride as it pursues what would be a first state title in boys soccer. (The Wolves were Division 1 runners-up in 2007).

“He’s the most dangerous player we’ve seen by far,” Oxford coach Adam Bican said. “His size, his athleticism, and his IQ is off the chart. He’s so dangerous, and he has one of the better shots I’ve seen. He’s a pure finisher.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

(Photos by Keith Dunlap.)