Cards claim CSAA title with win over Reed City

FOCUS: Big Rapids' Andrew Klarecki looks to make a move on a Reed City defender during the Cardinals' 6-0 win on Tuesday. (Herald Review photo/Martin Slagter)
FOCUS: Big Rapids’ Andrew Klarecki looks to make a move on a Reed City defender during the Cardinals’ 6-0 win on Tuesday. (Herald Review photo/Martin Slagter)

BIG RAPIDS — A 6-0 win is always nice, Big Rapids soccer coach Justin Fox said. That victory is just a little bit sweeter, however, when it clinches a conference title against your team’s biggest rival.

The Cardinals defeated Reed City, 6-0, on Tuesday to improve to 5-0 in the Central State Activities Association. Both Reed City and Newaygo now have two conference losses with only one game remaining in league play.

“Any time you get a chance to play for the title it’s a big, regardless of who you’re playing,” Fox said. “It’s always a little bit bigger when it’s Reed City, but that’s always a big game anyway.”

The Cardinals dominated play early, scoring three goals in the first 12 minutes of action. The first goal by Seth Stratz came on a well-placed kick from long distance that went over the head of Coyotes keeper Caleb Lohrmann with 38:36 remaining in the first half.

Big Rapids forward Sam Miller then connected on a header off of a throw-in by Joe Carney about six minutes later for the Cardinals’ second goal. Scott Vander Sloot made it 3-0 with 27:51 remaining in the first half when he beat the Reed City defense and hit a low shot out of the reach of Lohrmann.

Reed City (5-10-1) coach Dave Mix said the Cardinals’ success in the game’s first 15 minutes proved to be the difference in the game.

“We talked about the first 15 minutes being very critical to our overall success,” he said. “Obviously we didn’t do what we wanted to in the first 15. I thought we held tough after being down 3-0 at half and played a little better in the second half.”

At the half, Fox stressed the importance of playing a complete 80 minutes of soccer. Big Rapids responded with three more tallies in the second half by sharing the ball and working well together in space.

“We were comfortable in play and moved the ball a lot better in the second half,” he said. “We moved ourselves around better, and as a result we were able to move the ball better.”

The Cardinals made it 4-0 with 23:01 remaining on a shot by Zach Taylor that was initially saved by Lohrmann, but Vander Sloot was able to put away the rebound.

Three minutes later, Zach Joldersma delivered a cross that was on the money for Big Rapids forward Travis Thorne to make it 5-0.

Taylor would get his first varsity goal, however, with 9:38 remaining in the game on a pass from Pedro Granado.

Taylor said Big Rapids’ intensity in the second half was necessary against a scrappy team like Reed City.

“The idea was that they were going to come out harder in the second half, because this was an important game for them, too,” he said. “We needed to make sure we didn’t take it easy just because we were ahead.”

Taylor said clinching the conference crown against the Coyotes was extra sweet.

“It couldn’t have felt any better than beating Reed City for the championship, because from the time you grow up they’re your biggest rival,” he said.

Big Rapids is in action again on Thursday when the Cardinals host Clare, while Reed City will take on McBain Northern Michigan Christian in a road contest.