BOYS SOCCER: Plymouth Canton edges Rochester Adams for D-1 state title

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BRIGHTON — Jason Ren wasn’t called upon to provide much offense for Plymouth Canton this season. In fact, the junior midfielder only found the back of the net only twice in 26 games entering Saturday.

His third tally of the season was by far the biggest of his career.

On a team that scored more than 90 total goals with multiple offensive weapons hailing from a deep well off goal scorers, Ren knocked home the eventual game-winner with 25:51 left in the first half, and second-ranked Canton went on to claim the Division 1 state championship with a 1-0 triumph over Rochester Adams at Brighton High School.

It marked the second title in four seasons for unbeaten Canton, and third in 21 seasons, the others coming in the Class A finals in 1994 (1-0 over Warren DeLaSalle) and in the 2011 Division 1 title match (1-0 over Grand Haven).

The Chiefs finished 24-0-3, while Adams ended the campaign with a 13-5-7 mark.

“He picked the right time to come up big for us,” said Canton coach Mark Zemanski. “He wasn’t our leading goal scorer by any stretch. But he found himself in the right spot at the right time and came through with the goal.”

Adams was making its fifth Final Four appearance in 16 seasons, and first appearance in the state finals since 2001. The Highlanders, who came into the postseason listed as honorable mention in the state rankings, had lost in the 2001 D-1 finals to Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-1) and also won the 1999 D-1 title with a victory over Plymouth Salem (2-1)

“Canton is a really good team — there’s no shame in losing to a team like that,” conceded sixth-year Adams coach Josh Hickey. “They are big, strong and fast and very disciplined. They finished undefeated for a reason.”

Canton and Adams tied 1-1 in a non-league contest in early October. This time the stakes were much bigger. The Chiefs stole the moment with a clutch goal and their 16th shutout of the season.

Both teams traded off six total shots in the contest, with Canton holding a narrow 3-1 edge with shots directly on frame. Senior Andrew Loehnis made one save in collecting the shutout between the pipes for Canton. Sophomore Devin Beyer made two saves for Rochester Adams.

Jack Zemanski set up the game’s only goal, sending a quick touch to an onrushing Ren, who ripped a shot inside the right post. The Chiefs’ stingy defense, who yielded only 13 goals over 27 games, made it stand.

“I thought all along that we were one of the best teams in the state and we proved it again today,” noted Coach Zemanski. “The way we move the ball. When we play our game, we are tough to beat. We played our type of game today and came out on top.”

Adams, which carried a six-game win streak into the finals, ran out of time and luck against Canton. Shots by Nick Kumsden and Kevin Lencioni midway through the second half following restarts were off the mark.

“It’s not that we didn’t have any chances. We did. We have been coming back on teams all season long, especially in the tournament,” offered Hickey. “We came back in our first game against Rochester, we came back on Traverse City Central and Clarkston in the regional, and we found a way to win two games in the shootouts. I think time just ran out on us this time. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. We worked so hard. It just didn’t happen for us this time. We lost to a great team.”

Canton, which had several players turn down the U.S. Soccer squads in Michigan, played for a common cause to win the school’s third title. “We have a lot of history at Canton,” said Coach Zemanski. “We had a few guys come back from the academy, a few others turned down opportunities with at the Academy to play for Canton. This was a special group of guys that played for a purpose and that was to win a state championship.”

Dan Stickradt is a veteran sports journalist of more than 21 years in the Detroit area. He is founder of the Stickradt Media Group Public Relations, senior editor of digital daily www.northoaklandsports.com and freelance writer for multiple publications in Michigan. He can be reached at (248) 884-1051, email [email protected]northoaklandsports.com or follow on Twitter @LocalSportsFans.

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