The Jonesville Comets came out throwing punches on their home field Monday and they landed enough early on to hold off Albion 5-2 for the program’s first-ever district playoff victory.
Senior Adam Thorp scored three goals, including a phenomenally well-executed bicycle kick and running mate Caleb Brown scored two as the Comets brought their fans some postseason excitement.
Thorp was all smiles after helping guide his team to the second round.
“We came out with a lot of intensity because we’ve never been out of the first round of districts. So this year we knew we had a chance —we should win districts, we’ve already beat a lot of the teams we could face,” he said. “And we had already beat (Albion), they’re a great team and everybody just stepped up their game, we were making perfect passes, everybody was talking to each other, it was a great team effort.”
A pin-point pass from Thorp to Brown turned into the first goal of the contest at the 35:45 marker of the first half and seamless execution for most of the first 40 minutes gave the Comets a 3-1 halftime lead.
Jonesville head coach Pat Bernklau said his team came out focused and he thought they were at their best when they just communicated with each other and worked the ball around into favorable formations.
“I told the boys as we get into districts just keep it simple, do the simple things, don’t get fancy, just take it one game at a time,” he said. “I’ve just been preaching that to them the last week…I knew Albion was going to come in here and not lay down and we still had to play good.”
Thorp said a lot of the success the Comets had Monday just boils down to chemistry.
“We’ve played together so much — me, Ryan (Landis) and Caleb — the front forwards, we talk in practice, we make the runs, when we goof around we make the runs, so in a game situation they’re just perfect runs,” he said. “We don’t even have to look, we just have to call out and we know where to put the ball because they’ll always be there.”
For the second goal of the game Thorp simply outwitted the goalie on a play in the box off a cross from Bryan Black at 24:12. Black and Kyle Flint, usually seen in their roles as defensive stoppers, both played some midfield to make up for the first half absence of a starter who was benched for disciplinary reasons, and both performed very capably.
After Albion junior Kenny Harris sent a perfectly placed loft over Jonesville keeper Logan Schaerer’s head, from just inside the left edge of the goal box, to make it a 2-1 game with 2:14 left in the first half, Black had another assist on a goal that most people on hand will probably remember for quite some time.
In the midst of a crowd, Thorp threw his body in the air facing away from the goal and rotated around to find perfect harmony with Black’s pass which he sent backward over his head, into the net.
Although Thorp scores his share of goals, he admitted that is a tally he will never forget.
“Oh my (gosh), the bicycle….I did that against Adrian (in a scrimmage) and every time I’ve done it no one has got it on film. I love it, my (most favorite) goal I’ve ever put in,” he said. “I just do it, I don’t even think about it. It just pops in my head and I do it —usually when I think about it I can’t do it. I do practice it with some of my fellow teammates sometimes, so it was really just a team effort.”
Bernklau said that he’s seen very few high school goals that can compete with Thorp’s acrobatics and he’s glad to have a hungry senior like that, even though he has had a clash of wills with his star several times.
“He’s hungry and I think finally maybe we’re getting it into his head that this is his last year, tonight was the last night on his home field, so it’s got to be a sentimental thing too. He’s just been a terrific player,” he said. “Me and him, we head-butt quite a bit, we have a lot of differences and it’s kind of a coach-parent deal, sometimes we have a little clash — but I’ll tell you what, when it comes down to playing he plays hard for me and I think the respect is mutual when it comes down the pipe. He’s a skilled player.”
The Comets came out with visibly less enthusiasm in the second half and Albion closed within one again on a goal by John Hemenway at the 34:36 mark. But eight minutes later Thorp netted his final goal on a pass from Chad McOscar and Brown added a goal on a sliding rebound at 21:27.
Bernklau said he is extremely proud of what this team is accomplished, but he’s hoping the journey doesn’t end too soon. For that to happen he believes his team cannot have letdowns like it experienced for the opening 10 minutes of the second half.
“They get all pumped and then if the other team scores on us sometimes we get down and we get out of our rhythm. So I tell them to just do the simple things, don’t do anything extra and keep going,” he said.
Thursday the Comets will head to Onsted to play Quincy, a team they have already beaten this season.
“We’re hoping we can get through that and then get to Saturday to the finals. It would be great to win districts to top off the year for the senior class,” Bernklau said