2018-11-08 / Sports

Comets capture State Championship

by Grant McPherson
of the Enterprise staff


LELAND PLAYERS hoist the state championship trophy high at Comstock Park. LELAND PLAYERS hoist the state championship trophy high at Comstock Park. State Champions.

The Leland boys soccer team has waited a long time to hear these words, but the Comets turned the first appearance to the state championship match into a state title with a 1-0 win over Ann Arbor Greenhills at Comstock Park.

“I think we came out a little timid at first, but we started attacking and our boys wanted to control the game,” Leland coach Joe Burda said. “They (Ann Arbor Greenhills) were chasing us all match, and the boys kept their composure and stepped up in the last 20 minutes.”

Roughly seven minutes into the match, Leland pushed down by the Gryphon’s net and Jesus Calderon- Balcazar scored a goal. The ball rolled harmlessly passed the goalie for the lone goal in the match. The Comets combined for 17 shutouts on the season.

“Nothing compared to this group,” Burda said. “These guys wanted it so bad and as a coaching staff, they made us proud. They were on a roll all season.”


JESUS CALDERONBALCAZAR is greeted by his teammates after he scores the lone goal in the state championship game. JESUS CALDERONBALCAZAR is greeted by his teammates after he scores the lone goal in the state championship game. After the match, family and friends rushed onto the field to greet the team and congratulate them on the championship win.

“It doesn’t feel real, it’s amazing,” Owen Kareck said. “Everyone who came out to support us was the difference in us winning and losing. They were huge today, and the support we got was unbelievable. This is the best moment of my life.”

JJ Popp was at a loss for words after the match.

“I’m just so excited,” he said. “They’re (supporters) our 12th man on the field, and we were happy to have them here.”

Assistant Coach Brandon Wheeler said it was an unreal feeling to be on the field with the team and the trophy.


OWEN KARECK, right, runs past his school’s student section and shows off the Leland logo on his jersey. OWEN KARECK, right, runs past his school’s student section and shows off the Leland logo on his jersey. “I’m so incredibly proud of our boys,” he said. “The adversity we faced all season, and starting all the way back in July, we’ve had every reason to not get here. We’ve had to play some quality teams to get here and the guys have done everything I’ve asked them to do. They did it for their brothers (each other).”

Leland battled with Kalamazoo Hackett in the State Semifinal match, and came out on top with a 3-2 victory in Holland.

“This was the guys goal from the beginning,” Burda said. “There were no heroes today, the guys did it all together.”

About six minutes into the match, Jack Munoz found the back of the net to give the Comets the early 1-0 lead with 34 minutes left in the first half. Kalamazoo Hackett tried to come back with a goal of its own, but Gavin Miller made a great save on a strong shot to hold the Comet lead.

Leland added a second goal in the first half, as Calderon-Balcazar found twine with a goal on a pass from Nick Saffell to increase the lead, 2-0 with 16 minutes left in the first half.

“The guys kept their composure throughout the match,” Burda said. “The cards were flying tonight and we took some hits but got back up. We kept playing our game and turned them (Hackett) into a kick and run team.”

The Comets had another true scoring opportunity, but the Hackett goalie was up to the task. Aidan Gillig got the Irish on the board, as he scored on a crossing pass from Brennan Creek. Leland led 2-1 at halftime.

Early in the second half, Hackett was able to tie the match, 2-2 with 34 minutes left in the match.

Calderon-Balcazar found the net once again for his second goal of the game and Leland took the lead, 3-2 with 26 minutes left in regulation. Miller stayed strong in the net for Leland, as he made save after save to hold the Hackett team off the board the rest of the match.

“We haven’t talked about the season at all from a coaches standpoint and we haven’t needed to,” Burda said. “Losing on your first day and then being on this roll has been amazing.”

Mosqueda was just as happy about the victory.

“I’m super excited with the win, it is a very emotional thing for us,” he said. “It means a lot that our friends and families made the trip down to Holland for the match.”

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