Islanders Claim District Title - Big Dance Bound

By Frank Solle, photo by Frank Solle

At the start of last week there were 455 soccer teams competing in district tournament play in Michigan. With next week's regional tournaments now on the slate, we're down to the Final 64.

And you can count the Beaver Island Islanders among them.

The Islanders did something this past Friday that no previous team from the Emerald Isle has done before — win a district title. Regardless of sport.

And the did it with guts. They did it with gusto.

In all you could ever ask for any district final, the Islanders prevailed 3-2 in overtime against the host Big Bay de Noc Black Bears.

You often hear of teams and players ‘leaving it all on the field.' Well, the Islanders did just that, playing as hard as they could for the first 80 minutes of play, then extending themselves for another 6 and a half minutes before junior Brenden Martin bent a corner kick high above and around a bewildered Big Bay goalkeeper, finding the far upper corner of the goal for the stunning winner.

“We've actually practiced that,” coach Myers said of the improbable winning shot.

But this was beyond practice, this was a district final, and Martin's kick was a thing of precision and beauty as the Black Bears keeper, defenders, and the Islanders front line watched in their respective despair and amazement before the official blew his whistle and pointed to the Green and White side of the pitch. Goal. Game. Title. Champs.

“I'm so proud of these kids,” Myers said. “I'm so glad they got to play this game. It was too much fun.”

With a four-day struggle to finally play their semifinal game against Mackinac Island, it seemed at times unlikely any advancement would be possible.

But with the Lakers handily out of the way, the trip to ‘da Yoop' was on.

Yet once safely at the Big Bay school, the Black Bears had ideas of their own how this championship battle was going to play out.

Junior Jeremy Hardy, who scored four of Big Bay's six goals in last year's district final win over the Islanders, and who netted seven of the Bears eight goals in their semifinal win over Grand Marais, took advantage of a long scramble in front of the Islanders goal and booted the ball past goalkeeper Eric Albin at the 11:03 mark of the first half.

“We couldn't get the ball out of the box and I never even saw the shot,” Albin said of Hardy's kick that bounced in off the inside of the left post.

Big Bay kept up the offensive pressure throughout the rest of the first half, demonstrating their team quickness by being first to the ball time and again.

But the Islanders strong presence on defense kept the Bears out of any offensive flow until the final minute of the half.

Hardy took a quick pass from teammate Stephanie Minor and sent a shot into the left corner of the net past the outstretched reach of Albin with just 53 seconds left in the period.

“That shot had me worried,” Myers said. “In the past I've seen Beaver Island teams fizzle out once they fall behind.”

Apparently, coach Myers had much less to worry about than he thought.

The Islanders continued their hard play as the second half took shape. That work paid off when freshman Dereck McDonough sent a corner kick high and towards the front of the Black Bear goal where tall senior Jared Wojan leapt and put a head on the ball and the ball past Big Bay keeper Fred Rangette.

With just 6:34 gone in the half, the Big Bay lead was cut in half.

As the second half continued the Islanders were catching up to the Bears on the field. Suddenly the team that seemed so quick in the first half was not so much so.

“It was all those grinders I made them run,” Myers said of the sprints up and down the field the Islanders ran following some of their much easier victories during the season.

Then, with 16:15 remaining, a Big Bay defender lost control of the ball just outside the penalty box at their end of the field and the ball bounced right to the feet of Wojan, who gladly took the gift two steps into the box and blasted a shot past a helpless and hapless Rangette to knot the score at two apiece.

Albin saved the day two minutes later when he dove and stretched far to his left, just enough to get a hand on a shot by Hardy, deflecting the ball wide of the goal.

With time running down Big Bay switched players at the goal in order to bring the athletic Rangette up to the front line. That strategy nearly worked, as the Black Bears kept the offensive pressure on high until there were just under four minutes to play in regulation. At that point the Islanders were whistled for a hand ball inside the penalty area, setting up Hardy for a potential title-winning penalty kick.

As Hardy lined up his shot and Albin sized up Hardy, the chilly evening air was drawn in tight anticipation in hundreds of nervous chests all around the field. With the signal from the official to go, Hardy stepped and kicked. And drove the ball harmlessly above the crossbar.

That miss gave the Islanders a second life, and they played out the remaining 3:41 even, sending the game to overtime.

The Islanders charged out of the extra period on fire. A breakaway appeared to give them a solid chance at winning, but a good defensive play by the Bears and a shot from the wing hit the post.

With 8:30 to play in the 15-minute overtime, Martin lined up the ball for his corner kick. And the rest, as they say, is history. With a bit of exuberant pandaemonium thrown in as the Islander fans, including a car load of Bobcats who drove down from Munising Baptist to root the Islanders on, went wild.

Big Bay coach Todd Chambers was impressed with the Islanders effort. “Beaver Island came with a big, physical team,” he was quoted saying in the Escanaba Daily Press . “I have to give them credit. Two of their three goals were corner kicks and that's something you have to practice. Corner kicks are very difficult to defend if they're executed properly and theirs were. They're among the top teams we played this year.”

Next up for the district champion Islanders is a regional game on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at Sutton's Bay. Kickoff is set for 5 pm, with the second regional semifinal to follow at 7 pm. The other regional participants are not yet known. The regional final is scheduled for 7 pm Oct. 26.

One if by land, 10 if by sea

By Frank Solle

They were scheduled to play at Cooks in the Upper Peninsula on Monday, but a low flying ceiling turned the planes around.

They tried on Wednesday to fly directly to Mackinac Island to face the Lakers in district soccer semifinal action, but once again flying conditions were too poor to make the trip.

Finally, on Thursday the Beaver Island Islanders soccer team said, Hey, we're on an island, let's take a boat.

So that morning the team loaded on to the Beaver Islander and steamed to Petoskey where they met and bested the Lakers on a neutral field in a game called due to the eight-goal mercy rule, 10-2.

“We really took it to them,” said Islanders senior Saygan Croswhite, who notched a pair of goals in the victory.

Mackinac Island , which had tasted defeat at the feet of the Islanders in a pair of games to open the season, was understandably frustrated by the problems the Islanders were having getting to the game. At one point during negotiations to find a time and place, the Lakers even offered the Islanders the option of forfeiting the contest.

“We had motivation to mercy them,” Croswhite said. “And we did it.”

The team also was motivated by the absence of senior teammate David Bousquet, who had been flown off the Island the night before for medical reasons.

“Coach Myers dedicated the game to David in the huddle before the game,” said senior Jared Wojan. “Then we went out and turned it on.”

The Islanders opened the game on a pair of goals by junior Brenden Martin and were ahead 3-0 before the Lakers managed to score.

In the second half the Islanders quickly increased their 3-1 lead, pushing the margin to 6-1 when Wojan blasted in a penalty kick.

Although the Lakers cracked the goal one more time, the Islanders pushed across the final goal for the mercy win with just over 10 minutes left in the second half.

Wojan finished with a team-best four goals, while Martin tallied three on the day. Senior Tony Bousquet accounted for the other Islanders score.

After the game the team bussed to Charlevoix where they were able to fly home. It's all in the joy of living in the middle of a Great Lake .

The win puts the Islanders (11-0) in the district final for the second straight year. But that means a must-make trip to Cooks on Friday where the Big Bay de Noc Black Bears will be looking to repeat as champs while the Islanders battle for the school's first-ever district title in any sport.

Island Now Has Second Paramedic

For the past several years Joe Moore has been the only year 'round Island paramedic. As of October 17, 2006, Beaver Island can now boast two paramedics as Ken Bruland aka Kayak Ken became a licensed paramedic. Becoming a paramedic takes about 1200 hours of volunteering time for EMS education. Congratulations, Ken!

E. Annette Vertican

E. Annette Vertican of Gaylord, and long time summer resident, died Monday, Oct. 16, 2006. Funeral arrangements are incomplete. Nelson Funeral Home of Gaylord is aiding the family. A complete obituary will follow at a later date.

Beaver Island hosts Harlem Ambassadors

By Frank Solle; photos by Frank Solle, Melissa Peters and Phyllis Moore

The gymnasium at Beaver Island Community School was packed. Nearly to the rafters. Perhaps beyond. 

The bleachers were crammed full. The space between the bleachers was six deep plus two rows of steps to enable those along the wall enough height to see over everyone else.

A row of chairs was set across the far wall, and none of those remained empty.

The entryway was shoulder-to-shoulder, with a few extras creeping along the baseline.

The attraction last Tuesday night was, as the promotion said, “ not your grandfather's basketball.” In fact, as it turned out, basketball was hardly the attraction.

We're talking dancing. Musical chairs. Big Time wrestling. Even a wedding. Well, at least a short reception as the groom proved less-than-willing for the ceremony to proceed. There was nearly a football game. And, thanks to the helping hands of BICS Superintendent/Principal Kitty McNamara, there was even a little strip tease tease involving her and a tall dark stranger wearing Sponge Bob Square Pants underwear.

Oh yeah, grandpa never played ball like this.

And he didn't dunk either.

But the Harlem Ambassadors did. And do. Repeatedly. And they run the weave. They run the court. They shoot the three. But above and beyond all else they entertain.

Lade Majic Prophete and her traveling showteam lit up a dark fall night on Beaver Island like a comet of fun — much to the delight of the crowd and the not-so-serious despair of coach Greg Cary's Beaver Island Diplomats who had gathered, practiced, and prepared to give a good showing against a slightly taller, more talented, and more experienced team.

Ah, the fate of best-laid plans.

“ It ' s all straight up man-to-man, ” Cary said of his pregame strategy, given his much larger roster. “ We ' re going to run them to death because of the numbers. ”


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