Pioneer men’s soccer prevails in districts, advancing to regionals

Pioneer High School men’s varsity soccer team took on their cross-town rival Skyline High School for the third time this season on Oct. 16, 2019. Skyline had beaten Huron 4-0 on Oct. 10, 2019, advancing them to the district semi-finals; Pioneer took on Ypsilanti the same night beating them 8-0. It was a cold Wednesday evening as fans filled the wet, cold bleachers at Al Ritt Stadium in Dexter. Tensions were high as Pioneer and Skyline have tied both times they have played each other this season. 

As the whistle blew, both teams advanced with purpose. Skyline dominated play during the first half, but Pioneer senior goalie Caleb Shoup made many clutch saves keeping the score at the end of the first half 0-0.

At the start of the second half, Pioneer came out stronger. They created many more opportunities and gave the Skyline defense a lot to handle. In the 32nd minute, Pioneer’s Oliver Snelling scored.The Pioneer parents and student section erupted in celebration. With their 1-0 lead, Pioneer now had momentum and worked the ball up the field with more confidence. Less than ten minutes after his first goal, Snelling scored again. 

As the clock wound down and down by two goals, Skyline played with determination. They had more attack on offense by keeping the ball on Pioneers half. With 14 minutes left in the game, Skyline’s Tyler Warren volleyed the ball from 20 yards out right past Shoup and into the top left corner. It was too little too late.

The clock turned to zeros, The referee blew the final whistle. For the Skyline seniors, it signaled the end of their high school soccer career. Pioneer celebrated with their teammates, while the Skyline players laid on the field in heartbreak.

The final score of the district semi-finals was 2-1, with Pioneer being victorious.

Saline played Dexter in the game following Pioneer vs Skyline. The final: Saline won 1-0. Two days following the district semi-finals, on Friday, Oct. 18, Pioneer and Saline faced off in the district final. The winner would receive the district five Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) trophy and advance to the regional round.

 There was a lot of sunshine during the Friday afternoon matchup. Saline was motivated to play Pioneer, who had beaten them 2-0 the last time they met, although Saline had won 1-0 in their earlier matchup this season. 

The game kicked off around 5:15 p.m. Both teams were hopeful to score and win this game. Saline found lots of chances to score in the first half but didn’t convert until there was only four minutes remaining in the half. Saline’s Brayden Stavros took the lead with his score, 1-0. 

Head coach Jon Sundermann gave a powerful message that encouraged his Pioneers to score. It took eight minutes for Austin Jacobs to find the back of the net for Pioneer, tying the game at 1-1. Midfielder Dominic Rossi created opportunities for Saline to score by passing to his teammates in front of the goal. Saline’s Jayden Pickett finished one of Rossi’s assists to the middle, putting Saline back in the lead 2-1. Pioneer fought to score again with only 12 minutes remaining in the game. Five minutes passed and the game was seemingly slipping away from Pioneer, but forward Jack Yerkes was inspired to score Yerkes dribbled around defenders and shot towards goal, he scored. Pioneer had tied the game once again. 

The clock ran out and the teams prepared for extra time. Each team had two additional 15 minute periods to score. The team who leads at the end of extra time would be the winner. The two teams battled but the extra minutes decreased the energy level on both sides. Both goalkeepers had no shortage of saves during the two fifteen minute periods. 

The game was still tied at 2-2. Penalty shootout. With five scorers in the lineup on each side, the two teams went back and forth, shooting and scoring, until Pioneer goalkeeper Caleb Shoup saved a shot. This was the first missed shot during the penalty shootout. Then Community high and Pioneer soccer player Daniel Gutenberg scored. This was it for Saline, If the player missed, Pioneer would win. The player prepared the ball on the dash. He stepped back and took the kick. The ball sailed over the crossbar. 

The Pioneer bench ran out onto the field, screaming and cheering; Pioneer had won the game. They celebrated with their fans while the Saline players displayed their emotions after the loss. Saline goalkeeper Sam Herner laid on the ground in tears. His final season as a Saline Hornet had just come to an end.

“I was completely ecstatic after the win,” Pioneer senior defensive back David Schnell said. “Our team feels we haven’t gotten the respect we deserve this season and being able to go show our worth was a great feeling.”