AUBURN HILLS – It’s been a different hero every game for the . On Wednesday night in the Division 2 semifinals, it was midfielder Skyler Russ.
Russ scored the game-winner with 4:24 left on the clock to give his team a 2-1 win over to advance to the state final.
“I don’t know how many goals he’s scored this season, not many,” Yellow Jackets head coach David Muczynski said smiling. “He was there and one touched it, the unsung hero.”
The junior’s goal came off an Avondale corner kick. Russ was in the right place at the right time to knock it in.
“Basically I just saw the ball and just got it,” Russ said.
The goal capped off an exciting second half comeback for the Yellow Jackets.
Andover midfielder Will Neef scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season 10 minutes into the game. Jacob Rosenzweig set up the score with a great pass across his body to the middle of the field. Neef shrugged off two defenders right outside the goal box and hit a strike into the back of the net.
Down 1-0 at halftime, Avondale (17-5-2) came out of the break with a sense of urgency.
Muczynski adjusted his offense by opening the second half with an extra player up top. The switch to the high pressure offense helped the Yellow Jackets keep the ball in the Barons' zone for much of the half.
The change paid off when Joe Davison tied the game at the 17:17 mark. Erik Koberstein’s corner kick bounced out to the top of the goal box and Davison was there to clean it up.
“They weren’t pretty shots,” Muczynski said. “(Both goals were) off corner kicks, ball bouncing around and us just getting the ball on the frame finally and just getting through a window.”
Andover head coach Geoff Parkinson felt the game’s momentum shifting when his team couldn’t clear the ball for long stretches. Avondale had a half-dozen corner kicks in the span of 10 minutes.
“You know you are in for trouble when you have that many scrums in front of your own goal,” Parkinson said. “Something bad is going to happen.”
Goalie Truman Lorick did the best he could to keep the Barons (13-7-3) in the lead. He showed a lot of range in net and blocked numerous point blank shots.
“Their goalie played out of his mind,” Muczynski said. “He made some stops out there that kept them in the game.”
Muczynski didn’t keep the high pressure offense going after his team tied the game, but it didn’t matter. The Yellow Jackets kept up the pressure without the extra man forward.
“That was our true team right there,” Russ said. “We always have been pushing, pushing and pushing. We never give up and we finish strong.”
The strong finish has Avondale on the brink of a state title for the first time. Muczynski has been the Yellow Jackets coach since 1994 and said he can’t wait for the team to play in the finals on Saturday.
“Been building towards this,” Muczynski said. “I said it at the beginning of the season that this is the team that I had that could make a run. We’re not an impressive looking team physically, but what we do is get the job done.”
Avondale’s opponent will be Spring Lake. The Lakers beat Mattawan 2-0 in the other semifinal on Wednesday night. The time and location of the game is still to be determined.