Fate played a cruel trick on the Northville boys’ soccer team in Sunday’s Class D state championship game.
Less than 24 hours after battlng through a tough semifinal that was decided on penalty kicks, a game in which the Falcons played two men down for 50 minutes, Northville lost, 1-0 — on a penalty kick.
The crushing defeat ended a run through the playoffs that saw the Falcons come from behind five times to advance, including Saturday’s semifinals where they played two men short due to ejections.
Northville’s luck changed dramatically in the final, one day after goalkeeper Mike VanNostrand followed a penalty-kick save in regulation with two more in the tiebreaker.
Freshman Brandan Laurin stepped up and ripped his shot into the upper right corner of the Northville goal with 2:21 to play. The Eagles held on for their fourth state championship since 2004.
“It was pretty much a 50-50 game the whole time. Like you saw, one play can change the game,” said senior captain Josh Ostrander, who moved from midfield to central defense to make up for the absence of Josh Bedell, one of two Northville players who had to sit out the final after picking up red cards in the semi.
VanNostrand, who has been playing with a tear in his left shoulder all season, guessed correctly on Laurin’s attempt, getting a hand to the shot as he dove to his left.
But Laurin had enough behind his penalty kick to drive if off VanNostrand’s hand and into the upper right corner.
“It was a very good shot,” VanNostrand said.
The deciding goal came after VanNostrand tried to punch a Chazy corner kick away. His effort deflected the ball to the ground in the penalty area, but the bounce came up and hit a defender on the hand.
“A PK is a given. You expect it to be a goal,” said Northville coach Steve Clapper, who noted the irony of a penalty kick deciding his team’s fate for the second consecutive day. “Michael made several PK saves yesterday and showed that he’s an outstanding ’keeper. Today, he made a great attempt at it.”
“It was a good PK. It was a good attempt on Mike’s part, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” Ostrander said.
Without two key players, the Falcons battled the Eagles evenly, trying to take advantage of the absence of starting Chazy back Nathan Reynolds, who was injured in the semifinals.
Northville desperately pushed forward after going down a goal yet again. Ostrander, in addition to getting forward, also had to sprint the width of the field several times in order to use his long, accurate flip throw-in.
It was to no avail.
“We played a long time with nine guys through double overtime yesterday, and we played with a new lineup today, and they were willing to step up and do the best they could,” said Clapper of his 17-2-2 team. “I knew, physically, it would be a drain. But at no point are they going to give up. They have no reason to hang their heads.”
Senior striker Jimmy Cole, who was banged around by the Eagles’ defenders, admitted Saturday’s effort left his team a little drained.
“We got tired a lot quicker than usual. They’re a physical team, and they got to the ball,” he said. “And we had to start two new guys, so there were new combinations we were trying to work.”
“It was tough, but we had to push through it,” said Ostrander. “It was something we just had to do. Everybody on the team wanted this win.”
Northville, which had to replace its starting back four from last year’s team that lost in the regional finals, loses a dozen seniors from this team.
“It’s been a great season, it’s too bad we couldn’t pull out the win,” said VanNostrand.
“At the beginning of the season, I wasn’t sure what to expect, losing our whole defense,” said Cole. “They’ve played great, and our offense stepped up all year.”
“They’ve accomplished so much. They deserve everything they’ve gotten,” said Clapper.