CHEBOYGAN — On Monday, Bob Miller was probably as angry as any high school coach in Michigan State.
On Wednesday, the Cheboygan boys’ football coach was probably as happy as any high school coach in Michigan State.
Just days after her team had arguably their worst performance of the season — and as far as Miller is concerned, the worst performance since taking over two seasons ago — they reacted in a big way.
Miller’s team also did something the program had never done before – defeat McBain Northern Michigan Christian.
Boosted by terrific goals from junior Jaxon Dann and senior Blaine Baldwin, the Chiefs held on for a thrilling 2-1 win over the previously unbeaten Comets in an intense Northern Michigan Soccer League clash.
“They did what they are capable of doing,” Miller said. “They got closer to the ball, they got positive touches, pushing the ball forward. Everyone did their job, but that’s what this team is capable of, and I was telling them about it right after the game. That’s why I was so frustrated (after Monday’s 0-0 draw at Tawas), it’s because you see what they can do, and then you see what they don’t do sometimes. They are capable, they are capable of playing, and they did it today – I told them I was proud of them. That’s the kind of football they are capable of, and this weekend with this tournament in Alpena, it will hopefully allow them to see what they are capable of.
“I think this game is going to boost their confidence, not because of the scoreline, but because of their performance, the way they played for each other.”
Facing one of the best teams in the league, the Chiefs (6-4-2, 6-4 NMSL) used solid defense along with stellar senior goalie Max Hart to keep the game 0-0 before half-time. While the Chiefs had some solid chances in the first half, the Comets (8-1-4, 5-1-3) controlled the game for most of the first 40 minutes.
The goal-scoring magic for the Chiefs began with 27:41 to go when Dann fired a powerful shot from around 25 yards to give Cheboygan the game-winning goal and a 1-0 lead. Needing a crucial insurance goal, the Chiefs found it around 10 minutes later when Baldwin got up for a free kick from long range and fired a nice curling shot into the top left corner of the net to make it a 2-0 Cheboygan advantage.
The Comets came back into the game seconds later when senior Barrett Bosscher took advantage of a defensive error by Cheboygan to cut the deficit in half. However, the Chiefs dug in the defense when they needed to, didn’t leave any huge Comet scoring opportunities and fought their way to the best win of their season.
For the Chiefs, it wasn’t even necessarily the win that stood out.
It was the performance – a complete performance – itself.
“I think winning won’t be the reason we’ll be confident, it’s the way we played,” said Cheboygan first-year midfielder Ethan Goulet, who played a part in the build-up. of Dann’s first goal. “Knowing that we can play this way, we will put ourselves at a higher level, which will allow us to do much better.
“(McBain NMC) beat Gladwin and we showed them how far we’ve come from the start so far – and we played well. Simply amazing, everything clicked. We were doing everything right.
Upsetting the Comets took stamina from start to finish.
The Chiefs checked that box big on Wednesday.
“I think a lot of student-athletes see cardiovascular work as a punishment, and I used that to motivate them, but that’s why they do it,” Miller said. “These guys did pushups, I mean countless pushups, they did burpees, they did lunges walking probably a few miles, but that’s why. The work they did at the start of the season and into the middle of the season allowed them to capitalize on their soccer abilities, and the result was a win.
“The result is that they put it all together and got a win against a great team.”
Miller also came back and praised Baldwin, who had an important goal and was a defensive rock for the Chiefs against a dangerous McBain NMC offense.
“He’s a workaholic and he understands what needs to be done – and he always has,” Miller said of Baldwin. “He has always fulfilled that role. He will push when he can. I wanted to throw a bit more attack in the second half, and I said, “How do you feel about stepping up (on the pitch)?” and he said, ‘I don’t think it’s going to be good against this team, they’re pushing us together too much.’ I think it’s important, as a coach, to consider their opinions, and he says: “No, I have to stay here”, I have to listen to him because he is the one who is in the trenches there -down.
“Blaine has the big picture, and he has the physical ability and the mental ability to capitalize on it.”
Cheboygan will be looking to keep his momentum going when he travels to play in the Alpena tournament on Saturday morning, with a clash at Alpena starting at 10am.
Also on Wednesday night, several local veterans were in attendance for the Veterans Honor Night hosted by the Cheboygan program. Players from Cheboygan and McBain NMC dropped by and paid tribute to the veterans before the contest began.