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Athens comes out of the gates fast to down De La Salle and head to regional final WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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TROY – The Troy Athens Red Hawks advanced to the regional finals of the MHSAA Boys Soccer Tournament with a 2-0 win over the Warred De La Salle Pilots Wednesday night.

Just 55 seconds into the game, the Red Hawks’ Andy Filips chipped a shot/cross toward the goal, which the goalkeeper caught on the move and bounced at his feet in preparation to throw the ball. But the assistant referee had his flag up and ruled that at some point in the sequence the ball had crossed the line. The net result was a stunning 1-0 lead for Troy Athens.

“I’ve never seen a play like that to be honest. I’m not on the line. But the keeper said he had it, and it did not go in. The referee saw something different,” Pilots head coach Reid Friedrich said. ”It’s very unfortunate.”

“In the state tournament, you’ve got to be lucky, and we got some luck on that,” Athens head coach Todd Heugh said.

Just 13 minutes later, Shamik Patel floated a ball toward the penalty spot that Sami Sami headed over the charging goalkeeper into the now empty net, and the Red Hawks led 2-0.

After that, the Red Hawks ground it out, once again relying on their stout defense that has carried them to so much success this season.

“De La Salle is very active. They get a lot of players forward and a lot of bodies forward, and a big point of contention for us, especially with the wet ground tonight was keeping the game in front of us,” Heugh said. “Keeping the game in front of us and communicating, sometimes it might be a little ugly and we might just launch it. It might look like a kick ball team, but when you give yourself an early lead like that, it gives you the opportunity to try to keep it in front of you. Our kids were competitive, and they’re ball winners. And we take a lot of pride in defending.”

De La Salle would have their moments though. Shortly after Athens got their second goal, the Pilots got their offense going, dominating the next ten minutes or so as they pinned the Red Hawks back and probed for a weak spot, getting a couple of decent shots on goal in the process.

“We started to release our center mids a little bit more, started to bring our outside mids in a little bit to kind of help us out and overlap the outside backs,” Friedrich said. “We started to fight a little bit more. It wasn’t like we weren’t fighting to start the game. It was just realizing... ‘Wow, did that just happen?’ And you have to respond to it.”

Perhaps De La Salle’s best chance came early in the second half when they were awarded a free kick at the edge of the penalty area. The resulting dipping shot through traffic necessitated a nice save from Athens goalkeeper Mason Maziasz, who recorded the fifteenth shut out for the Red Hawks on the year, and third of the playoffs.

With the win, Troy Athens improves to 17-4-2 and will now face Macomb Dakota in the regional final on Friday night.

“They (Dakota) are a good team” Heugh said. “We’re just excited for the chance to play,” he added.

De La Salle finishes the season 13-6-2.

Last Updated: 10/26/2016 11:38:51 PM EST

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