Troy Athens’ Tyler Gasko (8) celebrates his goal with teammates Prabhnoor Bhatti (17) Adam Antosh (13) and Dave Schmidt (R). Gasko’s goal came 1:04 into the match and was the only score as Athens defeated Rochester Stoney Creek 1-0. The match was played on Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013 at Troy Athens High School. (For the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Soccer - Boys
BOYS SOCCER: Athens continues unbeaten season with win over Stoney Creek
Stoney Creek teammates Drew Shea (17) and Aashil Mehta (19) climb the back of Troy Athens’ Marc Hebbeker (23) during the first half of the match played on Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013 at Troy Athens High School. Athens won the match 1 nil. (For the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
Troy Athens’ Massimo Barczys (24) and Stoney Creek’s Andrew Pitlock (23) battle for the ball during the first half of the match played on Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013 at Troy Athens High School. The Redhawks defeated the Cougars 1-0. (For the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
5 on 5 soccer as Stoney Creek’s Blake Garavaglia (L) battles for the ball with Troy Athens’ Bryan Lawson (R) during the first half of the match played on Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013 at Troy Athens High School. The Cougars lost to the Redhawks 1-0. (For the Oakland Press/KEN SWART)
TROY – Coming into Tuesday night’s showdown of perennial OAA Red Division powerhouses, both Troy Athens and Stoney Creek knew what was on the line.
A win for the visiting Cougars would’ve positioned coach Adam Bican and his boys nicely to make a run at the highly coveted league crown. A win for the Red Hawks would keep their perfect season alive and set up the chance to clinch back-to-back OAA Red titles.
Behind a goal that came just 64 seconds into play, it was Troy Athens, which outworked and outplayed Stoney Creek on its way to a 1-0 victory on Tuesday night.
“Every win in conference play is a good win,” Athens coach Todd Heugh said. “Every team is good in our conference, and you have to come and play. We were fortunate to get an early goal at an opportune time.
Senior captain Tyler Gasko scored the Red Hawks’ lone goal on a low shot to the far post after fellow senior captain Bryan Lawson fed the ball out front. The early tally proved to be all Athens needed, as goalkeeper Aaron Nufer kept the Cougars from breaking through.
“It could’ve been a lot worse,” Bican said. “They’re a good team. They played hard, they were at home and played with a lot of intensity. We weren’t able to match that tonight. They played simple, and they wanted it more. They wanted the loose balls more, they worked harder, and we got beat.”
It was all Red Hawks (13-0, 4-0 OAA Red) in the first half. Heugh’s squad fired off 14 shot attempts, including six that forced saves by Stoney Creek’s keeper. Athens’ leading scorer Luis Anaya, who played in the middle against the Cougars on Tuesday because of an injury to one of its forwards, helped generate a lot of the chances, controlling possession and distributing the ball effectively.
“He doesn’t get as many chances to score, playing in the midfield,” Heugh said of Anaya. “But he still had some good shots and is just such a dynamic player for us.”
As many opportunities as the Red Hawks had in the first half, they couldn’t get an insurance marker to go, keeping Stoney Creek’s comeback hopes alive. Cougars’ senior leader Griffon Dean worked to create for himself on a pair of scoring chances, including a breakaway that was stopped by Nufer.
“His confidence is getting better, and the team’s confidence in him is getting better,” Heugh said of Nufer. “His ability to keep coming up with a big save every game has everyone feeling really good about him in net. He’s been really good for us. Tonight was about the fourth time in our last five games where he needed to come up big, and he did.”
With the loss, Stoney Creek falls to 9-4-4 overall and 2-1-1 in the league. The Cougars, who graduated a number of seniors from last year’s team, are working hard as a young team. But in the OAA Red Division, no nights can be taken off, and Athens made them pay on Tuesday night.
“We’re a young team, and I think we can take some things away from tonight,” Bican said. “We had some chances to tie, and I thought my defense and goalie played well. Athens played with a great work rate, and I think our younger guys can learn something from that.”
Along with Gasko, Lawson, and Anaya, the Red Hawks got offensive contributions from senior forward Marc Hebbeker, a sizeable skill player who is seemingly always looking to let it rip. The newly added foreign-exchange student from Germany has three goals and an assist in five games played for Athens.
“He’s really good with his back to the goalie,” Heugh said. “He has a quick turn and a very quick release for shooting. He’s filled in really nicely so far, and the guys are glad to have him around.”
The Red Hawks have a busy week coming up, with a game on Thursday against Lapeer East and games on Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday against West Bloomfield, U-of-D Jesuit, and Berkley. Athens’ 13-0 start is one of the best in the school’s history, and Heugh has his team playing as well as anyone in the state.
“I’m proud of the way we’re playing,” he said. “Not just offensively, but with how well we defend. We don’t give up a ton of chances, and our guys aren’t getting complacent. Everyone wants to get better, and they’re coming out to work every day. We have a lot of seniors, and these guys want to really have a good year.”