Troy — Troy Athens took a 3-1 lead into halftime and didn’t let up, rolling to a 5-2 victory over Salem on Wednesday in a Division 1 boys soccer state semifinal at Troy High.
Temperatures in the mid-40s and steady rain did little to dampen the scoring opportunities. Athens had a chance to strike early in the first half around the fifth minute mark with headers off corner kicks, and Salem's keeper had to stay alert for the quick possessions by Athens.
Salem’s Luke Benford scored the first goal in the 10th minute off a blocked kick that came from Tanner Locke.
“In the first 10 minutes I thought we had pretty good pressure on them ... They’re very fluid in their movement, and that movement cost us that first goal,” Athens coach Todd Heugh said.
Anthony Kapala tied the game for Athens when he scored at the 20:49 mark. His kick went in after a close throw in by the corner.
Both teams were getting opportunities for the next 10 minutes of play. The goalkeepers, Salem’s Chris Pohl and Athens’ Jason Kemp, were making difficult saves during the first half, especially with a high amount of corner kicks.
Davis DiGiovanni broke the deadlock with a goal for Athens. DiGiovanni also scored in the second half.
“I was really proud of our kids. We don’t get rattled very often, but we took the game back over,” Heugh said.
Athens (22-2-1) scored just minutes later to make it 3-1 when a shot went off the left post and into the goal. Salem (15-7-4) had near misses to close the gap but didn’t convert.
“We just weren’t sharp defensively, when usually that part is our calling card,” Salem coach Kyle Karns said.
The second half was all Athens, which added two more goals to go up 5-1. Athens took a lot of possession time away, until both teams substituted for their bench players late.
“The teams we knocked out before helped prepare us for this. It just wasn’t our night in terms of playing as a group,” Karns said.
Athens will face Traverse City West, a 3-2 overtime winner over Novi, in the state final at 12 p.m. Saturday at Comstock Park High.
►Troy Athens 5, Plymouth Salem 2
►Traverse City West 3, Novi 2 (OT)
Final: 12 p.m. Saturday at Comstock Park High
►Melvindale 4, Fenton 1 (OT)
►Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 1, Mattawan 0
Final: 12 p.m. Saturday at Novi High
►Grosse Ile 1, Macomb Lutheran North 0
►Grand Rapids South Christian 2, Ludington 1 (SO)
Final: 3 p.m. Saturday at Comstock Park High
►Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 5, Clarkston Everest Collegiate 0
►Muskegon Western Michigan Christian 2, Dansville 0
Final: 3 p.m. Saturday at Novi High
Zach Sturgill is a freelance writer.