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Utica's Matt Wilkie (20) takes a shot at Dakota's goalie Edward Becker but the feet of the Cougars' Sean Guevara (13) deflects the kick in the first half. (Macomb Daily photos/RAY J. SKOWRONEK)

Soccer - Boys

BOYS SOCCER: Chieftains good enough to get by Cougars and reach D1 regional final TOUT VIDEO

Dakota's Drew Jacobs (22) tries to save the ball from going out of bounds action against Utica.

Dakota's Dominic White (9) and Utica's Michael Bailey (5) battle for control of the ball.

Game Info

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS – Utica boys soccer coach Carl Territo Jr. had no problem holding back his thoughts Tuesday night at Grosse Pointe North High School.

And it didn’t paint a good picture of the Chieftains’ performance.

“That was the worst game we’ve played all year hands down,” Territo Jr. said.

And his team had just won.

The Chieftains got a second-half goal from Matt Wilkie and keeper Peter Gjini made five saves to blank Dakota 1-0 in a Division 1 regional semifinal match.

“But I told they guys in the state tournament you have to have three things,” Territo Jr. said. “You have to have a good team, number one. You have to have a good draw, or you have to play (a top-ranked team) and win. Number three, you have to be lucky. We’ve done all three today.

“We didn’t play our best, but we preserved and scored,” Territo Jr. continued. “We gave the ball away to them some many times in the first half it was sickening. But I’m proud of them because we won the game and in this format that’s all that matters right now. We’ll fix what we need to fix and be ready to play here Friday.”

Utica (17-5-3 overall) will face Bloomfield Hills (14-2-5) in the regional final Friday at 5 p.m.

The Black Hawks beat Fraser, which tied the Chieftains 1-1 earlier this season, to reach the championship match.

“It’s bad that we played that way, but when it comes to the state tournament you just have to win,” Territo Jr. said. “On paper it’s not going to look like the ugliest win. It’s a win and at this point nobody cares.

“It’s the worst game we’ve played all year, but hey we can deal with it,” Territo Jr. said. “To play our worst and come out with a win, great. But we can’t do that at our next game or the games after that. We won’t be around if we keep doing that.”

Utica got the game-winner less than four minutes into the second half.

The Chieftains were awarded a free kick inside the 40-yard line after Ryan Bankstahl was taken down hard.

A scramble ensued after Ryan Butterworth served the free kick it into the penalty area and Joe Zaremski put a short ball outside to Wilkie, who was making a run to the far post. The junior midfielder got a right foot on the ball to flick it into the open net just seven seconds after the free kick was awarded.

“It was ugly,” Wilkie said. “We got our goal and it’s finished. Now we move on and hope to play our best game on Friday.”

Coincidently, it was Bankstahl who recorded the game-winner off a free kick against top-ranked Troy Athens in a district championship game.

“I know that’s how they scored their one goal against (Troy) Athens,” Cougars coach Stefano Moraccini said. “I told them we couldn’t take fouls in our defensive third.”

Dakota (17-2-2) controlled the majority of the play in the first half.

“The second half we were back on our heels,” Moraccini said. “We weren’t playing the ball to the outside. We kept trying to play down the middle. The numbers weren’t in our favor.”

Dakota keeper Edward Becker, who made four saves, came up huge just six minutes after Utica took the lead, sliding out to stop a shot by Steven Wasik.

“We went back to our normal way,” Territo Jr. said. “We told them to relax, just combine and hang out with us. Once we settled down and started to combine with us things got better. The first half we gave the ball and found them.”

Utica had the best scoring chance in the first half with 16 minutes to play.

The Cougars cleared the original free kick that was just outside the penalty area, but the ball got played back in and over a Dakota defender’s head to Wilkie. After making one touch to himself to get by the keeper, his left-footed chip hit the outside of the net.

With 10 minutes to play in the first half, Dakota nearly took the lead.

The Chieftains tried to head the ball back to their keeper, but it wasn’t a firm enough pass. Marco DiStefano was able to run onto it and tried to chip his shot over the keeper, but was unsuccessful.

Utica came with numbers again late in the first half and it resulted in another scoring chance by Paul Conway, who flicked a ball with his back to goal that was saved by Becker.

Send comments to chuck.pleiness@macombdaily.com

Last Updated: 10/22/2013 10:49:32 PM EST