NORTHVILLE - Tyler Henderson spun around as his second-half shot rolled out of bounds and past the goal, and he pounded the grass in frustration.
It was that kind of afternoon for the Northville Falcons as Mekeel Christian scored two early goals and survived a late Northville surge in a 2-1 Western Athletic Conference North victory Monday.
"We were missing two of our players on injury," Northville coach Steve Clapper said. "As a team, we're stepping up. In the second half, we didn't give them any dangerous chances, and I think we need to build off that, and we stepped up in the second half."
Northville’s David Onzo goes into a slide to keep the ball in play as Mekeel Christian Academy’s Tom Chuchte follows the ball out of bounds during Monday’s Western Athletic Conference boys soccer game in Northville. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
Northville’s Nick Jonas plays the ball away from Mekeel Christian Academy’s Tai Aderounmu during Monday’s Western Athletic Conference North Division boys soccer game in Northville. (The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo)
The Lions jumped ahead early when TK Majekdounmi worked his way through the Falcons' defense and put the ball past Northville goalkeeper Dylan Spencer for a 1-0 Mekeel lead. Then in the 13th minute, Tai Aderounmu doubled the Lions' lead when he dribbled the ball down toward the right goalpost and then rolled it past Spencer and into the left corner of the goal.
"In the first half, both of their goals were very nice, solid goals," Clapper said. "They're both skilled players and both finished well. It's unfortunate that we made some defensive errors against those two letdowns early."
Spencer finished six saves.
"It seemed like we were passing the ball around well and switching the field, and using the whole field and playing together as a team," Mekeel Christian coach Andrew Lehning said. "That kind of disappeared after the second goal."
After the two goals, the Falcons (8-4-2 overall, 6-4-2 WAC) started getting on the attack and challenging Lions' goalkeeper Tyler Guido, who made seven saves.
Brad VanNostrand got Northville's first good shot of the game off in the 20th minute when he made his way down the field along the right post. He got a shot off, but it sailed wide to the left, starting a trend of missed shots on the day for the Falcons.
"We battled back," Clapper said. "We started gaining momentum as the first half went on. I think in the first 20 minutes, they really took advantage of moving the ball and creating opportunities. Then, we started creating our chances by starting to move the ball and started creating opportunities for ourselves."
Despite missing two players, the Falcons still had more depth than the Lions, who showed up to play with only 12 players, allowing them only one substitute. Clapper was able to sub a little more freely and he discussed wearing them down at halftime.
As the Lions (9-1-1 overall, 9-1-1 WAC) wore down a little, Northville took control.
Henderson got his first shot of the second half off early, but it rolled wide left.
Nick Jonas also had a shot go wide left after a direct kick after the ball bounced around in front of the cage.
"In the second half especially, we had created numerous opportunities going forward, and unfortunately, they didn't fall," Clapper said. "That's how the game goes sometimes."
The Falcons finally broke through in the 67th minute when VanNostrand scored on a David Onzo assist.
"It really showed us that our efforts had paid off," Clapper said. "It gave us a little bit of hope and we really kept pushing. We had chances that we created. Unfortunately, we just couldn't put it in the back of the net today."
The Falcons had plenty of opportunities to tie the game but couldn't connect. VanNostrand had a chance, but his shot was wide and Guido deflected another shot off the foot of Henderson.
"I had my scorekeeper giving me minute-by-minute countdown because I couldn't wait to get out of here," Lehning said. "They're always tough. They play a tough game. It's never exciting to come here because you're never going to come out of here with an easy win. Never."
The Falcons will return to the field Wednesday to host the Mayfield Panthers, who lost Monday to Galway.