Joliffe surpasses 100, Comets survive ’Cats
The playmaker picked up three goals and an assist Monday in a 8-4 comeback victory over Northport in Northwest Conference play. The scores give Joliffe 102 career markers and counting.
“Dylan is averaging 2.5 goals and we are averaging over five goals,” Leland coach Joe Burda said. “Dylan’s production is actually creating just as much offense for the rest of the team as it is himself.”
Joliffe, who got his 100th goal in the first half, added two critical ones in the second half that broke a 3-3 halftime deadlock.
He wasn’t really thinking about the milestone, all he wanted was a victory after the Comets struggled early to be themselves.
“I think we came into the game thinking we were going to beat them pretty bad,” Joliffe said. “That was our first mistake.”
The second was having to play short-handed for most of the game against the Wildcats as senior Will Gauthier was red-carded for taking down a Northport player in the box and taking away an apparent scoring chance less than 10 minutes into the contest.
“It obviously hurt us to lose a player to a red card,” Burda said. “It wasn’t a malicious foul, but a situation that the official had no choice but to issue red.
“Our guys had to play a man down for almost the entire game and for a while, our heads were spinning in confusion.”
But Joliffe put the Comets, and their following, at ease with two strikes in the second half. The first came in four minutes into the second half and the another came three minutes later.
“I was just trying to get us back on focus,” Joliffe said.
“That was a tough, physical match and I credit Marshall (Collins) with his preparation of his team,” Burda said. “They came to play and we were not ready for it.
“We had a few defensive breakdowns early that led to easy goals. We cannot continue to do that.”
Senior center mid Matt Fleis added two goals and an assist for the Comets. Omar Roman, Cam Stowe and Collin Platts also scored goals. Mike Farese got the win in net.
“I think the halftime break really helped,” Fleis said. “We were very nervous and we needed to calm down.”
Joliffe’s 100th goal, which tied the match at 2-2 in the 13th minute, was an easy one.
He took a cross from Luke Nesbitt and drilled it past Andy Sledder.
“It was a perfect ball, I just had to put it past the keeper,” Joliffe said.
“Dylan has always had the talent,” Fleis said of his teammate. “If he continues this way, he’s going to go far.”
Northport, which fell behind 1-0 on Roman’s goal, tied the match with a goal by Alex Thelander on a breakaway. Armando Hernandez gave the Wildcats a 2-1 lead on the penalty kick on Gauthier’s foul. Fleis put Leland ahead 3-2 on penalty kick, however Thelander scored again to create a tie at the half.
Bill Stowe added a second-half goal for Northport.
“The game was a little different, but it reminded me of the old rivalry between Northport and Leland,” Northport coach Marshall Collins said. “It was back and forth with everyone on the edge of their seats and a good old fashioned ‘cross county rivalry.’
“My young men came out fired up and ready to play and I was really impressed with the way they played and controlled a good portion of the game.”
While Collins admitted Joliffe was a handful, he felt a couple of his players were equally as challenging.
“We have athletes that caused Leland some problems also,” he said, noting Thelander, Stowe, Hernandez and Daelin Irvine.
Although it’s still early in the season, Burda said he’s noticed a big change in this year’s team from a year ago.
“I think the difference this year is that the rest of the team is finishing their opportunities which gives the defense more guys to mark, and they cannot just focus on Dylan,” Burda said. “The other interesting part of it is Dylan’s efficiency, his goals/shot average is pretty high.
“I credit it all to his determination to succeed and he is bringing that out in a lot of the other guys.”
Joliffe credits the young team’s development.
“I’m surprised that we have done this well,” Joliffe said. “We have a good group of freshman that have helped us a lot.
“And it helps that we’ve had an easy schedule. It will prepare us for the tougher schedule ahead.”
“The underclassmen are really stepping up,” Fleis added.
As for Joliffe reaching the century mark, he wants more.
“My goal is to get 50 this year,” said Joliffe, who had 40 a year ago. “And maybe break the top 10 list in the state.”
The state record is 172.
“Congrats to Dylan on 100 goals,” Collins said. “That’s a big accomplishment.
“Dylan is a tough competitor and a good soccer player. I have watched him mentally mature over the years and that has helped improve his play. My players did hold him in check for a while but he’s so explosive. “
“Is Dylan a better soccer player or scorer this season compared to last season? I don’t know,” Burda said. “He is very fast with or without the ball.
“He has become stronger and I think has concentrated on winning the ball defensively, too. And he is determined to get the ball to the back of the net and that is how he plays.”
In preparation for the Northport match, the Comets went 2-1 in the Elk Rapids tournament on Saturday. They beat Tawas Area, 2-0, and Cadillac, 4-1, before bowing to Elk Rapids, 7-2.
Joliffe had both goals against Elk Rapids. He and Fleis each scored in the first two games. Nesbitt and Will Saffell had goals against Cadillac.
“I felt great about going 2-1,” Burda said. “The boys went into this tournament not knowing what to expect from any of the teams participating, except that the Elks were going to be good.
“They were better than good and their score shows it.”
Last Thursday, the Comets blanked Buckley 8-0 in the NW opener.
Joliffe had four goals. Fleis added two goals and Ian Duvall and Platts also scored. Farese got the shut out in net.
Northport, now 1- 1, plays Cadillac Heritage Christian at home tonight and hosts Benzie Central on Tuesday.
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SUTTONS BAY fell to 0-2 on the year, bowing to Ludington 4-0.
Keeper Aaron Orban only played the first half as he continues to make progress from a knee injury.
“Overall I thought we played well,” Suttons Bay coach Ben Darling said. “I think the game was closer than the score would indicate, however Ludington was impressive defensively and didn’t allow us to generate a consistent attack.”
The Norsemen host Glen Lake on Tuesday in its NW opener.
“Hopefully our effort in practice will result in goals and a much needed victory for us as we look to start the conference season on the right foot,” Darling said.