NOVI – For three quarters of the Division 1 championship match Saturday at Novi High School, undefeated Okemos’ offense was lifeless against New Baltimore Anchor Bay.
The Tars paid close attention to Jack Guggemos, and the Chiefs had no answers until suddenly, their preparation for a late-game, must-score scenario played out with a dream result.
Down by a goal, Okemos (20-0-4) scored two within two minutes, 17 seconds of each other during the final 10 minutes to claim its third Finals title in a physical 2-1 victory.
Ben Hussey scored off a great assist from Guggemos to tie the game at 1-1, and Aidan Antcliff scored the game-winner on a free kick from 20 yards out with seven minutes, 42 second to play.
“I just tried to get to the end line, and Ben was there,’’ said Guggemos. “He made a great run to the box and tapped it in. You have to deal with what’s thrown at you.
Guggemos had a lot to live up to. His coach and father, Brian, won a Class B title as a senior at Mason in 1989.
“No pressure, right,’’ Jack said, laughing. “It’s a great feeling being able to celebrate this with him.’’
Antcliff knew his shot was in once he booted it.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,’’ said Antcliff, who scored just his second goal of the year. “It was a great shot. I practice that shot in the summertime. I got the opportunity in this game, and I made the most of it. Once I hit it, I knew it was going in.’’
Anchor Bay (22-2-1) made its first appearance in Final, while Okemos won the 2004 Division 1 title and was the B-C champ in 1984.
Okemos was led by all-state senior Guggemos, who set the school record with 45 goals this fall. Anchor Bay featured three past all-state players in Tanner Hodgson (first team), twin brother Carson Hodgson (second team) and goalie Evan Linsley (second team).
The Tars made sure Guggemos was surrounded any time he had the ball, sometimes with as many as three defenders.
“He was part of our game plan,’’ said Tars coach Nate Williams.
“It was a great game between two great soccer teams. We knew even up 1-0 we couldn’t take our foot off the gas.’’
Neither team generated offense in the first half, with most play at mid-field.
With 2:03 left in the first half, junior midfielder Francesco DiLorenzo blasted a shot past the Okemos keeper to give the upstart Tars a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
Anchor Bay came out even more aggressive in the second half with the lead and a chance at the state title.
Guggemos was shackled, but he got free to send a pass near the net with 9:59 left that Hussey redirected into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
“It’s funny because my assistant coaches were talking about it,’’ said Okemos coach Brian Guggemos. “I’ve been doing it long enough to know you need to prepare for moments where you’re going to be down a goal. In the last three weeks we’ve practiced being down a goal. We’ve tried to make sure we were prepared for it. We said look, if we’re down a goal here’s the formation. We went into it right away, and then I told Ben and Owen (Brewer), our two forwards, get in there and crash the goal. That obviously turns the game around a little bit.
"Aidan hits a banger to win the state championship. We also practice those things everyday this time of the year. The guys have listened to the things we needed to do in practice. They paid attention, and that attention to detail has been pretty good for us."
PHOTO (Top) Okemos celebrates its first Finals championship since 2004 on Saturday. (Middle) Anchor Bay's Tanner Hodgson (14) works to control possession with Okemos' Ben Hussey defending. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)
For Sebi Roy, there’s definitely been no place like home.
Just 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.
“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 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.)