COLOMA – Soccer games between Dowagiac and South Haven have been hard-fought, physical affairs.
Wednesday’s game was no different, as the Chieftains edged the Rams 4-2 in a blustery Division 3 district final at Coloma to win their third straight district title.
“I think we played well,” South Haven coach Carlos Aguayo said. “It was a hard-fought match that could’ve gone either way. Kudos to (Dowagiac); they had their chances and they put them away. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.”
Dowagiac and South Haven were very familiar with one another heading into the matchup, having faced off twice in the regular season. The Chieftains defeated the Rams 5-0 on Aug. 24 and 2-1 on Sept. 30.
“It’s our third time playing each other and each game has been tougher than the last,” Dowagiac coach Mike Williams said. “It’s what we’ve come to expect. It’s been a battle the past few years.”
South Haven struck first as freshman Christian Moreno beat Dowagiac goalkeeper Alejandro Martinez to go up 1-0 lead over Dowagiac 25 minutes into the game. Dowagiac responded just a few minutes later with Christian Wilson heading in a cross-kick from Cole Weller to tie the game at 1-1, which became the halftime score.
“I felt like they were pressuring our center mids a little bit too much, so we made some adjustments there,” Aguayo said. “We needed to be more active up front, which showed in our goal there.”
The Rams were the first to score in the second half when Luis Mora caught Martinez out of position and snuck a goal past him to give South Haven a 2-1 lead. But Dowagiac countered once again when Matt Mosier found Wilson for his second goal to tie the game at 2-2.
Wilson transitioned from scorer to facilitator when he passed to a cutting Cole Weller for the game-clinching goal with 14 minutes remaining.
“(Wilson) has been doing this all season,” Williams said. “As a team captain, he’s a leader for us. We expect a lot from him. He stepped up today when we needed him to.”
The game was physical throughout. Each team had a player given a yellow card in the second half, with the card on Dowagiac’s Jose Carillo giving South Haven a chance to tie the game via free kick with 30 seconds remaining.
The kick was no good for the Rams and the Chieftains’ Wilson fed a through ball up to Chris Mosier. South Haven had brought goalkeeper Chebio Perez out into the field for an extra man, and Mosier beat Perez back to the net and chipped in a goal with two seconds remaining to ice the game.
Dowagiac moves on to face Grand Rapids South Christian (17-4-2) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the regional semifinal at South Christian.
“This is our third district in a row,” Williams said. “We’re happy to get this but at the same time, we want to take the next step. Our region is always tough; the state champion usually comes out of our region. It will be a challenge but we’re looking forward to it.”
Dowagiac 4, South Haven 2
Goals – Dowagiac: Wilson 2, Cole Weller, Chris Mosier. South Haven: Moreno, Mora.
Assists – Dowagiac: Wilson 2, Cole Weller, Matt Mosier.
Shots on goal – Dowagiac 11, South Haven 6.
Saves – Martinez (D) 4, Perez (SH) 7.
Halftime – 1-1.
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