BY DAN STICKRADT
WEB AND CONTENT EDITOR
Twitter: @MiSoccerNetwork and @LocalSportsFans
AUBURN HILLS– Jake Tripoli now has a little bit of the flair for the dramatic. The Auburn Hills Avondale senior scored two goals Tuesday night, including the late game-winner, as the Division 2 10th-ranked Yellowjackets knocked off visiting North Farmington, 3-2, in OAA Blue Division play.
The win vaulted Avondale (10-3-1, 3-1-1) into pole position of the OAA Blue Division race and helped set the table for the stretch run. The Yellowjackets are ranked for the first time this season since 2012 and are engaging in a tight four-school battle for OAA-Blue supremacy along with Pontiac, North Farmington and Ferndale-Ferndale University Unified.
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“It’s honestly been a journey. We’ve had countless (close) amount of games (like this),” said Tripoli. “That cross right there was beautiful. I didn’t jump too early. I just wanted to time it right. I wanted to place it – I barely skimmed it the ref told me. He came up to me after the game and told me ‘well done’. I barely skimmed that (ball) and I got lucky there.”
Knotted up in a 2-2 stalemate with chances at a premium, senior Lizandro Munoz-Hernandez’s bending cornerkick from the left side sailed into the middle of the box and over to the awaiting Tripoli, who rose up above the crowd to head home the eventual game-winner with 1:22 to play.
Tripoli now has five goals on the campaign following his brace – third highest on the team.
With Avondale head coach Nick Stavropoulos unable to attend Tuesday’s match and his assistant coach serving a red card suspension, second-year Avondale athletics director Ken O’Shaughnessy sat in as interim coach for one night only. He said the Yellowjackets simply played better offensively in the second half to prevail.
“It’s obviously 0-0 at halftime and I talked to the kids about staying positive,” said O’Shaughnessy, who had never had to step in before to make an emergency appearance as a soccer coach. “We had a lot of leadership out on that field that made sure we executed late in the game. I think we just played better (offensively) in the second half, too.”
For the game, Avondale held a 13-4 shots edge, including 5-3 with shots on frame, and also held a 3-2 edge on corner kicks – with the final restart serving as the helper on the game winner.
Avondale outshot North Farmington (6-6-1, 4-2-0) by a 4-0 count in the first half, including 2-0 with shots on goal. Neither side could generate much offense, and the Yellowjackets defense was impenetrable over the first 40 minutes of play.
Tripoli finally broke the tie with 29:31 left in the second half, as he headed home a long 50-yard free kick into the box by senior Alex Gayton.
Avondale scored again less than two minutes later on its second of three shots on frame in the second half. This time it was senior Carlos Escoto corralling a pass from junior William Taylor in the middle of the park, with Escoto beating his mark before ripping home a shot inside the right goal post from 20 yards away with 27:57 remaining.
“Ww scored some nice goals in the second half,” smiled O’Shaughnessy. “I’m not too much into the soccer terminology, but I thought those were some nice goals. We had some guys step up.”
With the 2-0 lead, the Yellowjackets let their guard down after building the two-goal cushion and the Raiders make them pay the price.
North Farmington, which finally had their first shot of the match sail over the crossbar with 26:01 left, finally broke the shutout with 20:39 remaining. Senior Yousif Coulter picked off a pass, dribbled past an array of Avondale defenders on the left side, and uncorked a low shot from just outside the corner of the box that found the way inside the right goal post. That was the Raiders’ first shot on frame in the contest.
North Farmington tied the match at 2-2 on its very next shot. Senior Logan McClure’s high bending cornerkick from the right side sailed over near the goal line and skipped off an Avondale player’s head and into the goal with 18:56 still to play.
That set the stage for Tripoli’s late-game heroics.
“I love our center back (on defense). Our center (midfielders) played really well against some tough center (midfielders) right there. Their wingers were flying through us, especially their left winger. Number 8 (Hwair) is a solid player. But we were just looking for the next opportunity (in the game to score again),” said Tripoli, who had his first multi-goal game of the season.
Avondale’s back line of Munoz-Hernandez, Tripoli, Gayton, Mason Petras and Bear Thompson stifled North Farmington’s forwards and midfielders in the final third of the field for most of the night, allowing just the four total shots -- all in the second half.
Senior Hunter Petras, also a standout kicker and punter on the football team, only registered one late save to record the win between the pipes – and that was late in the second half. North Farmington junior Nolan Edelman made two saves for the Raiders, both late in the first half to keep the game scoreless at the time.