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SOCCER: Three county teams at Grosse Pointe North regional

Dakota, Fraser and Utica all play Tuesday night

Fraser's Matt Lang, the team’s leading scorer, hones his art at practice Monday afternoon. (The Macomb Daily Photos/RAY J. SKOWRONEK)

Fraser head coach Thaier Mukhtar prepares his team at Monday’s practice for a regional semifinal match against Bloomfield Hills High that will be played at Grosse Pointe North Tuesday.

Fraser goalie Alec Sharpe dives on a shot during practice Monday afternoon as the Ramblers prepare for Tuesday’s regional game.

Macomb County credentials are very nearly a prerequisite at the Division 1 soccer regional hosted by Grosse Pointe North.

Of the four teams involved in Tuesday’s semifinal games, three are from the county named after General Alexander Macomb, a hero in the War of 1812.

Who will lay claim to soccer heroics is still up for debate, but Utica and Dakota will play at 5 p.m., Tuesday. In the second game of the night, Fraser takes on Bloomfield Hills.

Bloomfield Hills High School, which is located in Oakland County, is the result of a merger of Lahser and Andover High Schools. This is the first year for the combined school.

Utica might be the most surprising team in the brackets. Coach Carl Territo Jr.’s talented Chieftains, who finished 4-4-2 in the rugged MAC Red Division, upset previously undefeated and top-ranked Troy Athens 3-2 in overtime to clinch a district championship Saturday.

That victory came thanks to a goal by Ryan Bankstahl, whose free kick came with less than eight minutes to play in the second overtime.

The Chieftains (16-5-3 overall) will take on MAC Blue Division champion Dakota in the opening game at Grosse Pointe North.

“We have not played Dakota, and I haven’t seen them,” Territo said. “I talked to a lot of coaches who have played Dakota, and I know they had a great regular season. Dakota won the Blue Division, and I told my kids that winning is sometimes contagious no matter where you play; the MAC Red, the MAC White or the MAC Blue. They’ve already beaten a MAC Red opponent in the tournament (Chippewa Valley). Anything can happen. We have to play our game.”

That game is possession soccer, and some of the key players for the Chieftains are central midfielders Matt Wilkie and Joey Zaremski; strikers Noah Brenizer and Austin Perry; defender Kyle Watters and goalie Peter Gjini.

Coach Stefano Moraccini’s Cougars got past Port Huron Northern 1-0 Saturday for their district title. Marco DiStefano scored in the first overtime and Eddie Becker was in goal to record the shutout for the winners (17-1-2).

Dakota won its second consecutive Blue Division championship in Moraccini’s second season as the varsity coach. He’d previously been the school’s junior varsity coach.

The win over PHN represented the program’s first district title since 2000.

“When I came to the varsity last year, we talked about what our goals and expectations would be for the season. We wanted to win the MAC Blue championship and wanted to perform well in the tournament. Last year, we lost a 3-2 heart-breaker against L’Anse Creuse North in the district semifinals.

“This year, our expectations were to win the MAC Blue as well as the district and move into the regionals and perform well,” continued Moraccini.

The coach credited his four captains – seniors Pasquale Madonna, Alex Bozinovski and Drew Jacobs, as well as Becker – with leading the team.

Everybody will have to a lead in the effort against a quality Utica team Tuesday.

“I know Utica is a very solid team. They have a couple of very good forwards, and all of their other players are very solid,” said Moraccini.

Fraser coach Thaier Mukhtar respects the Bloomfield Hills team.

“They are organized. They have a good record (13-2-5) and they have some very talented players,” he said.

Among the top Bloomfield Hills players are junior midfielders Alex Joneson and Jordan Werthmann; senior captain Conor Wahl, a mifielder/forward; and senior goalie Griffin Hamel.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a very good game,” said Mukhtar. “I think we match up pretty well.”

The Oakland County’s Bloomfield Hills Black Hawks will have to contend with the likes of Fraser’s Matt Lang, who is called the most dominant player in Macomb County by his coach. Lang has 27 goals and seven assists. He’s just one goal away from tying the school record.

The defense is led by seniors Nate East and David Driest, who have helped the Ramblers record 17 shutouts. Fraser has allowed just six goals in 23 games. The goalie is junior Alec Sharpe, who has been in the net for 15 of those shutouts.

Another key player for the Rambler is senior Zach Tosoian, the team’s second-leading scorer.

“One of my favorite sayings is `Seize the Day.’ I ask the boys, when all is said and done, will people be talking about you being a hero?” asked Mukhtar.

Just like General Alexander Macomb. Who will be the hero of the soccer wars of 2013?

Last Updated: 10/21/2013 9:52:38 PM EST

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