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BOYS SOCCER: Oxford trips up Clarkston for district crown in battle of top 10 rivals



Twitter: @MiSoccerNetwork

OXFORD – Sometimes the game of soccer can be a thing of beauty and sometimes it can be downright ugly.

And it was clearly a little bit of both for Oxford during its district title-clinching win Wednesday on the Wildcats’ home turf.

Oxford and Clarkston put together some highlight-reel goals and eye-catching saves while the Wildcats mucked it up defensively to slow down the Wolves’ high-power offensive engine to the tune of a 3-2 triumph in a Division 1 district finals clash at Oxford.

The Wildcats have grown up quite a bit over the better part of three seasons. Two years ago, the Wildcats were shut out 11 times and outscored 51-26. Now they have been ranked in the Division 1 top 15 all season and are in the Sweet 16 of the state tournament for the first time in nearly a decade.


“It takes a lot of patience. You know, to trust that process and to take your lumps and to lose to teams I believe (7-2) to Clarkston last year and to come back and beat them twice this season,” noted Oxford fourth-year coach Adam Bican. “It’s because the players had a vision and they realized how it works to make that come true. I’m just extremely proud of the past couple of years and how they’ve grown. When you now have a mature team going into this tournament it means everything. We have taken our lumps but we’re ready to compete.”

Oxford junior goalkeeper Nolan Mauser, who finished with six saves, was one of those freshmen on the Wildcats 2021 squad that more than took its fair share of lumps. Oxford was 9-13-2 in 2021 and 7-9-3 in 2022 where the Wildcats suffered through some tough losses to state-ranked teams and numerous growing pains only to reap the benefits this year.

“If you look at the roster from my freshman year (in 2021) there we’re a lot of freshmen and sophomores and even some juniors,” recalled Mauser of those rebuilding campaigns. “It’s all about working 24/7, on the field, during practice, in the weight room, eating good – and this is the outcome. The boys worked their butts off. I don’t care if they played 80 minutes or zero minutes (everyone) works their butts off in practice and on the field and this is the outcome we get.”

The Wildcats’ district trophy came off the heels of two late regular-season losses to Warren DeLaSalle (3-1) and Troy Athens (4-0) where Oxford was missing 3-4 starters and fell completely out of rhythm.

“Those (losses) definitely hurt. This just shows the resiliency of these boys,” added Mauser. “Talking about the Athens game – none of that matters now. None of the regular season matters now. It’s all about the seven games to win a state championship. We’re three of seven right now. That’s all that matters.”

Oxford (16-4-3) captured its first district title since 2014 and just second overall since bumping up to Division 1 in 2010. Previously, the Wildcats captured several district titles in Class B and Division 2 from 1983-2009. In that 2014 campaign Oxford was knocked by – ironically – Clarkston, 1-0, in a regional semifinals contest.

“It’s our first district in about 10 years,” added Mauser. “We’ve come a long ways.”

Clarkston – whose two of three losses this season came against Oxford – came out controlling play with a series of shots in the first 10 minutes with the Wolves taking the lead with 35:49 to play in the opening half. Corralling a pass from junior Jake Sweet, senior forward Brendan Gerard conducted a spin move before ripping a shot from 22 yards out that sailed inside the left goal post.

The Wolves outshot Oxford 10-5 in the first half but were repeatedly stymied by Mauser, who made three sterling saves in the first half to keep the game close.

“We had our fair share of chances. We should of buried them and had a nice lead but we didn’t,” offered Clarkston coach Ian Jones. “That’s soccer.”

The Wildcats knotted the game at 1-1 with 14:32 remaining in the half when senior midfielder Diego Madel laced a 30-yard free kick into the upper-90 of the net on the right side.

Oxford came out motivated in the second half and attempted the first six shots of the half – the Wildcats outshot Clarkston 11-5 in the second half with most of the shots coming in the first 15 minutes after halftime. The relentless pressure resulted in a go-ahead goal with 37:53 remaining.

Madel’s free kick from 28 yards out was turned aside by Clarkston freshman backup goalkeeper Drew Salkowski but senior midfielder Cooper Caufman was there to mop up the close-range mess a few yards in front of the goal for an Oxford 2-1 lead.

The Wildcats nearly scored again 30 seconds later when sophomore forward Ryan Clark broke free in the box but Salkowski’s last-second kick-save halted the attempt.

Clarkston gained back temporarily momentum and tied the game on a nice individual effort from senior forward Sebi Roy. An All-State First Team selection last season and a Mr. Soccer candidate this year, Roy scooped up the ball five yards back inside Wolves territory, dribble down the spine of the field while beating three defenders before uncorking a low left-footed blast that cruised into the right inside netting with 33:19 left to play.

Oxford netted the eventual game-winner with 28:08 remaining when junior Maxton Myrand’s long 40-yard serve was chased down by Clark who converted the breakaway feed to cap the scoring.

The Wolves, the preseason No. 1 team in the state which spent five weeks in the top spot with several future college players in its lineup, controlled play for the final 25 minutes but couldn’t not net the equalizer during their sixth straight district finals match.

“I think at time we need to be a little more patient,” offered Jones, whose team lost in the regional finals in both 2021 and 2022. “We still had times but we tried to rush things and we just couldn’t score again.”

Part of that lack of offensive struggles can be attributed to Oxford’s defense, which simply bottled up the likes of Roy, Gerard and Robbie Wisser for stretches of the game and the Wolves could not ignite a final comeback.

“I don’t mind if the game gets (ugly). That kind of plays into our favor,” said Bican. “Clarkston is a great team with some amazing players and we had to find a way to frustrate them,

especially in the second half. Sebi (Roy) did score that great goal, but we held them off for the last (33) minutes. We didn’t give them a ton of great chances after that goal. We didn’t play pretty soccer in the second half after going up a goal but we got the job done.”

Oxford will advance to the regional semifinal Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Grand Blanc against the district finals match featuring KLAA East Division champion Livonia Stevenson and CHSL Central Division runner-up Novi Detroit Catholic Central, which reached the Final Four last season and captured state titles in 2017 and 2020.

“We play the winner of Stevenson and (Detroit Catholic Central). Both are quality teams. We’ll go watch them tomorrow night,” said Bican. “Right now we’re healthy, we’re happy and at this time of year those things are extremely important. Like I’ve said our boys are very disciplined tactically and they take care of themselves. They do proper training sessions, they work hard to win games and it doesn’t matter what happens out there they’re ready for it.”

Oxford will face the winner of two historic programs in the regional semifinals.

“Obviously two blue bloods,” said Bican about playing either Livonia Stevenson or Detroit Catholic Central, two programs with a lot of teams that have reached the Final Four and claimed numerous championships along the way. “Stevenson, the history, Catholic Central, the history. Whoever comes out of that (district) its going to be a tough, tough game.”

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