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Cranbrook picks up first regional title since 2011, ousts Linden with 3-1 win

Soccer   | Jeff Dullack

Cranbrook picks up first regional title since 2011, ousts Linden with 3-1 win

Ortonville – As Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood rolled into the regional semifinals with a 7-0 win over Marysville on Tuesday, the Cranes were sure to have a little bit of a tougher challenge on Thursday night as they faced a 20-win Linden squad in the regional final.

Cranbrook jumped out to a two-goal halftime lead and added another second half goal to pick up a 3-1 win over Linden to earn its first regional title since 2011.

The Cranes now advance to the Division 2 state semifinals where they will face Dexter, which picked up a 2-0 win over Dearborn Divine Child on Thursday.

Cranbrook (19-2-1) head coach Chad O’Kulich said that he and his team are happy to have won a regional title, but feel that the Cranes still have work to do, starting with next week’s semifinal game.

“It’s a great feeling to win the regional, and we’re grateful for it,” he said. “But we still have some goals yet that we’re looking to achieve, so we’re taking it one game at a time and we’ll look forward to the next opponent that we have and be prepared, stay within our system of play and continue to play Cranbrook soccer.”

The first goal of the game came from sophomore forward Kolin Clark, who scored on an assist from Simon Heidingsfelder to give the Cranes a 1-0 lead early on.

Then, late in the first half, Clark found junior Ken Kernen, who put the ball in the back of the net with 4:44 left to play before halftime to give Cranbrook a 2-0 lead going into intermission.

Throughout the entire postseason, Clark has continued to get better and better, breaking out as a scoring force for the Cranes as the sophomore scored four goals in his last two games.

Clark noted that what has fueled him through the postseason run is that it is a win or go home situation every game and he and his teammates have been playing with some desperation to stay alive.

“I think it’s just that our team’s desperate to continue on and not get knocked out,” he said. “Players step up and great things happen.”

In the second half, Cranbrook pushed its lead to 3-0 with 19:40 left to play when Clark dribbled through Linden defenders and into the box and sent a shot past the Eagle’s keeper for his second goal of the game.

O’Kulich said that getting the first goal of the second half was crucial for his team, allowing the Cranes to play a bit more relaxed in the final 20 minutes.

“That first goal (of the second half) really let us relax a little bit because they (Linden) put a lot of pressure on us initially and they came out of the gates just charging,” he said. “We were able to weather the storm and we were compact and we had a strong defensive effort from everybody on the field and scoring that goal was positive, because if it’s 2-1 with a few minutes left, it’s a whole different game than 3-1.”

Linden managed to get on the board with 4:50 left to play when senior Kevin Wright found the back of the net to cut the deficit down to 3-1 for the Eagles.

Linden then had a few scoring chances in the final minutes of the game, but those opportunities were turned away by keeper Trevor Stormes and the Cranbrook back line.

“They were hammering us in the box,” said Stormes of the final minutes of Thursday’s game as the Cranes looked to close out the win. “We just had to go for the ball and play our hearts out. We were desperate to keep the ball out of the net and we were lucky.”

Cranbrook will look to advance to the Division 2 state title game when it faces Dexter on Wednesday at Auburn Hills Avondale at 6:00.