By Jim Newell
OXFORD – The Oxford varsity boys soccer are district champs, claiming the MHSAA District 6 title after defeating the Clarkston Wolves 3-2 in an intense back-and-forth match at Oxford High School on Oct. 18.
Heading into the game, both teams knew it would be a battle and likely decided by a single goal. Oxford, ranked No. 7 in the state, had previously beaten Clarkston 2-1 on Sept. 21. At the time, Clarkston was the No. 1-ranked team in the state but entered the district final ranked eighth.
For Oxford coach Adam Bican, there’s no doubt that his team is full of talent, camaraderie and knowledge of the game. But just as much as any of those traits, it was Wildcat grit that led his team to raise the trophy after the game.
“They’re (Clarkston) a very good team. We have to outwork teams and we have to be able to sustain that for 40 minutes (each half), and we have to be intelligent because they’re so good. I think our boys played extremely tactically disciplined. And when it was time to attack, I thought we did a fantastic job,” Bican said.
In the first 10-15 minutes of the game, Clarkston controlled of the ball well, attacking the Oxford defense and keeping the Wildcats on from mounting a sustained attack. Most of Oxford’s opportunities early on were quick counterattacks, but after that the Wildcats seemed to find their rhythm and created more opportunities.
“With an atmosphere like this you have to keep your head about you – to be able to play with intensity but also level-headed. And I think we did a great job of that,” Bican said. “It’s a district final, it’s at home. I think that once we settled in a little bit I think we played with more confidence and generated more opportunities.”
Clarkston (11-3-1) got on the scoreboard first, getting a long through pass to Brendan Gerard, who put it in the lower left corner for a 1-0 lead with just under 33 minutes to play in the first half.
Senior midfielder Diego Medel scored Oxford’s first goal, firing a free kick past the Wolves goalkeeper to tie the game at 1-1 with 14:30 left in the first half. Medel said he was confident he could find the back of the net when he lined up his shot.
“I knew what I wanted to do and I knew how to shoot it and I knew that they had a new goalie. I knew I could make it,” Medel said. “We were hyped up the whole time, just the energy the whole time. Everyone felt like we could win the game. We knew it would be a rough game. Then when we went down one (goal) early we knew we had to battle back. We knew it would be tough, and a long game.”
With the goal, the victory over Clarkston and a district trophy, Medel was elated after the final whistle.
“I don’t know the emotions, I’ve never been that happy,” Medel said. “We play hard until the end. We’ve never won a title or anything and we knew we didn’t want it to be our final game. We knew we could do it.”
The Wildcats took the lead just over two minutes into the second half when Cooper Caufman cleaned up a rebound after a free kick, making it 2-1 with 37:53 left in the game.
“He’s a special player and has been dangerous for us. He’s a captain and a four-year starter. In these moments, he stepped up, he wants the ball and you couldn’t ask more for a captain than him.” Bican said.
The Wolves tied it just over four minutes later when Sebi Roy fired the ball inside the right post for a 2-2 tie.
Ryan Clark scored the game-winner with just over 26 minutes left to play. The rest of the game was an intense back-and-forth battle, with Clarkston trying desperately to tie the game.
While the Wildcat offense found the back of the net three times – four counting a goal that was called back on an offside call – the Oxford defense held off several scoring opportunities and kept the Wolves in check. Goalkeeper Nolan Mauser made several great saves and the Wildcat defense played fiercely against a Sebi Roy and a potent Clarkston offense.
“Nolan Mauser is one of the best keepers around, no question. He is just absolutely solid. We ask a lot of him and he always delivers. I will say that my defense turned themselves inside out. Jay Cady, Drew Cady, they’re just tough as nails and they’re physical. And you have to be physical when you have a player like Sebi Roy on the other side. His second goal was a laser. He was a worry.
“And I also thought that Tony Jaboro and Max Myrand played extremely played extremely tough tonight and I’m really proud of the way the defense played. Everybody played really well,” Bican said.
The Wildcats (16-4-3) will now face Detroit Catholic Central (11-7) in the MHSAA Region 2 semifinals at Grand Blanc. Game time was 7 p.m. Tuesday after Oxford Leader press time.
Heading into regionals Bican said his team is ready both physically and mentally for the next round.
“We’re healthy, we’re happy. At this time of year both those things are important. Our boys are extremely disciplined tactically,” Bican said. “They’re ready for it.”
“Keep the game plan, work hard until the end and our team will handle it,” Medel said.
By Jim Newell