The Skyline Eagles’ run to the Division 1 MHSAA high school state soccer title was capped off on Saturday but what was so impressive was the ground this team covered on the way to hoisting the sport’s ultimate prize. They didn’t exactly have an easy road.
And they were far from healthy as players not only stepped up but others came up huge at big moments, including on Saturday in the championship game.
It didn’t get any better than the mini bicycle kick off the foot of Chris Emerson that ended up being the game-winner against East Kentwood. “I attempted one in the last five seconds against Jackson but it didn’t go in,” said Emerson of his mini bicycle kick goal.
Well, this one went in and sent his team on the biggest ride of the season.
“It just felt great,” he said of the winner. “I turned my back and just hit it. It just happened and I reacted. It was crazy. Words can’t explain it.”
Head Coach Chris Morgan did his best to try and explain it.
“I was so happy for (Chris),” Morgan said. “He has worked so hard but he hasn’t scored a ton of goals. So for him to get that goal I’m super happy for him.”
Morgan also was happy for junior forward Bryce Schaner, who 58 seconds after Emerson scored, pushed the Eagles’ lead to 2-0. Just another player stepping up a big moment to deliver a big play.
The backline was on the frontline of Skyline’s state-title run. Goalie Kyri Wixom was one of the top keeper’s in the state and made some big saves along the way to keep teams out of his net. Wixom made some big saves during the playoffs but he credited his defenders in front of him for limiting opponent’s chances.
“The back four was the heart and soul of this team,” Wixom said. “Our defense is the group that really holds it down. We only allowed one goal but it’s really is a team effort and everyone working together. You can’t ask for four better guys back there and we know we have each other’s backs.”
The Eagles seemed to have each other’s back from the moment they stepped on the field during this incredible state title run.
There was the semifinal victory over Warren De La Salle, a team that hadn’t lost since Sept. 5. In that game, several players stepped up including senior Kai Jurgle who made up for his miss earlier in the season on a penalty kick by turning his redemption PK into a 2-1 lead in overtime. In the same game, Skyline’s Marco Althoen turned a rebound into a 1-0 lead in the first half.
Skyline’s Althoen also had a great tournament run, not only defensively but on the offensive side of the field as well. The senior defender delivered the head ball that hit the cross bar against De La Salle that Althoen booted in for an Eagle goal. Against Dearborn, in the Regional final, Althoen’s header didn’t hit the crossbar but hit the net to get the Eagles off and running against the Pioneers. Also in that game, Zack Kubisiak’s one-time blast gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
Speaking of blasts, Gabe Kellman delivered one against Canton as the sophomore scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 win in the Regional semifinals over the talented Chiefs.
Skyline’s run didn’t start out as an easy jog. They had to get up to speed in a hurry or city rival Huron was ready to send them home before ever getting off the ground. The Eagles brought their A game on defense and netted the game’s only goal to pull off the 1-0 win and advance.
Waiting for them in the District final was Saline, a team that had defeated Skyline twice during the regular season. But beating a good side three times in one season is never easy and neither was Skyline’s 1-0 win over the Hornets to win the District title.
In the end, defense shall lead them. In the very end, the 2018 state title was a total team effort built on hard work, perseverance, skill, leadership and a group of young men determined to overcome any hurdles put in front of them.