When Clio High School’s Mustangs went into full gallop in the second half of a soccer match here Thursday, the North Branch Broncos kept kicking.
And Clio couldn’t slow to a trot with a 3-2 win until North Branch player Brent Lange’s header off a free kick by Ryan DeWitte missed the Clio net by a couple yards with 1:45 left in the match.
“Lange scored on a header for us in the tournament in Caro (Aug. 17),” said North Branch coach John Burke, whose team saw Clio seal the victory when a final North Branch shot was snatched by Clio goalkeeper Aiden Bixby in the waning seconds.
“Both of our goals in our first game were on headers – one by Lange and one by a freshman, Landen Swoish,” Burke said. “But I think Clio was just a little more aggressive than us, and our boys weren’t used to the physical stuff.”
It was a blistering shot by Clio senior Shane Renshaw, actually, that proved to be the game-winner. The blast deflected off North Branch keeper Ethan Kaltz and into the net.
“That was a good shot,” said Burke, whose Broncos are 2-2-1.
First-year Clio coach Daryll Rosell said his seniors answered the call late in the game.
“We were playing a lot of the younger guys – we have seven freshmen playing – but we went with seniors at the end, and you could see how they finished,” said Rosell, a 2000 Clio graduate whose team improved to 2-0 with the win.
Kaltz and the North Branch defense stymied Clio for much of the contest, with Kaltz diving to make a body save with 23:20 left in the first half and the match tied 1-1.
The Mustangs were on the doorstep again when North Branch senior defender Garrett VanWormer kicked away a Clio shot with 18:10 remaining before halftime.
Clio freshman Vance Weiss, who tallied the Mustangs’ first goal, barely missed a shot from 20 yards out with three seconds left in the half.
Clio went up 2-1 with 35:53 left in the match on a goal by freshman Zack Hoyt, who found himself open on a pass up the middle of the field following what Burke called a “defensive lapse” by North Branch.
“I think one (defender) thought the other one had it, and vice versa,” Burke said. “That happens. It’s still early in the season.”
North Branch senior forward Hunter Robinson staked the Broncos to a 1-0 lead merely 1:12 into the match.
“I just found a gap and put her in,” said Robinson, who assisted on the Broncos’ second goal when he centered a pass to senior Ryan DeWitte, who knotted the contest at 2-2 with 34:10 left in the match.
Kaltz, a junior, preserved the tie with 25:05 remaining when he stopped a Weiss shot from close range. North Branch eluded more trouble less than two minutes later when a header by Clio’s Conner VanderHoff, off a corner kick, went wide of the Bronco net.
Clio, however, ratcheted up the offensive pressure late in the game.
“We’re a young team that’s starting to build, and we’re just now finding our way, and we haven’t fully grasped the concept of starting hard and finishing hard,” Rosell said.
DeWitte almost scored the equalizer for the Broncos with 8:38 left in the contest with a near miss from the center of the pitch.
North Branch travels to Richmond for a Monday match, and plays Wednesday at Almont.
Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.