The Greenhills School Gryphons claimed their first state championship in their fourth try Saturday at Stoney Creek High School, defeating the Hackett Catholic Irish 1-0 in the Division 4 final. For the second time in three seasons, Hackett was denied in the final, putting the program all-time at 4-2 in championship games
The first half was scoreless and pretty even overall between both squads. Just before the start of the second half, faint thunder prompted a delay and soon after, a full thunderstorm was over Rochester Hills. After about 90 minutes, the lightning ceased and the players returned to the field with a large rainbow sitting behind the net defended by Hackett in the second half.
Greenhills came out firing in the second half and dominated the possession and controlled the opportunities. With 23:58 remaining, the Gryphons got the game’s lone goal as a Matthew Pumphrey corner kick found the lower body of Jerry Tucker and bounced into the net. The Irish finally had a few chances in the final ten minutes, but none could get by goalkeeper Leo Fried, officially credited with four saves on eight shots. Hackett’s Joe Carr also was credited with four saves.
Greenhills finishes the season at 20-6-1 with Hackett at 19-2-2. It was the first state title for Gryphons coach Lucian Popescu, who took the team to the final in his 2010 debut season. The future is bright for the Irish, as they’ll return nearly all of their scoring from a team which averaged five goals per game. Graduating are Carr, along with midfielders Jake Wurtz and Jackson Bradshaw, and defenders Matthew Sherwood and John Benjamin.
Listen back to the broadcast of the game below:
FIRST HALF & HALFTIME
Listen live online Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on the Slocum Sports Network to the MHSAA Division 4 boys soccer state championship game between the Hackett Catholic Irish and Greenhills School Gryphons. The match will be played at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills, about a two-and-a-half hour drive for Kalamazoo-based Hackett and about a hour trip for Ann Arbor-based Greenhills.
The contest will actually be their second state championship meeting with Hackett winning over Greenhills 2-0 in the 1992 Class C-D final. It’s the second finals trip in three years for Hackett, who fell in the 2015 final 3-2 (OT) against Genesee Christian. Last season, they were stopped in the semifinal. The Irish made it to the championship on four other occasions, earning titles in 1991, 92, 94, and 95.
Like Hackett, Greenhills was stopped last year in the semifinal round. This will be their fourth championship appearance with the Gryphons hoping for that elusive title, they were runner-up in 2010, 09, and 92.
According to the MHSAA’s press notes, the Irish officially enter the match with a record of 19-1-2, although their team page shows 20-1-3. Ranked fourth in the final Division 4 Coaches Association poll, Hackett defeated #8 Buckley 3-1 in Wednesday’s semifinal off a hat-trick from Max Keenan. The Irish were tested last week in a 1-0 overtime win in the Regional final against Hartford. Against their first four playoff foes, Hackett outscored them 30-2.
Keenan leads the team with 44 goals, followed closely by fellow junior forward Brennan Creek at 40. As a team, the Irish are averaging more than five goals per game and allowing exactly one per contest. It’ll be the second crack at a title for coach Ian Troutman, whose first season at the helm was 2015.
Greenhills sits at 19-6-1 and was ranked fifth in the final Coaches Association poll. The Gryphons avenged their 2016 semifinal loss Wednesday by defeating 2015 and 2016 champion Genesee Christian 3-1. In the Regional tournament, Greenhills grabbed 1-0 wins over #6 Hillsdale Academy and #13 Monroe St. Mary’s. The Gryphons were tested from the very start, opening the district tournament on a 3-1 win over #12 Manchester.
On the season, Greenhills is averaging 3.24 goals per game and allowing just over one per contest. Junior Zachary Zimmerman has led the offense with 31 goals and 24 assists. Senior midfielders Evan Marx (17) and Matthew Pumphrey (13) are next in line. It’s also the second chance at a championship for Greenhills coach Lucian Popescu, who took the Gryphons to the 2010 final in his debut with the team.