The first KLAA East supremacy for men’s soccer was on the line Wednesday as Dearborn High visited Livonia Stevenson.
Dearborn High at Livonia Stevenson Boys Football Photo Gallery
Dearborn entered the game having beaten opposing teams 17-3 in all three wins so far. The Pioneers, however, have historically struggled against Stevenson since joining KLAA in 2018, going 2-4-2 in the head-to-head series over that span.
After taking the lead early in the game, the host Spartans went three unanswered goals and Dearborn eventually went down 3-1.
Stevenson’s win extends his winning streak against foes KLAA East to 19 games. The Spartans are now on a long 31-0-1 streak in the division since their last loss in 2019, which came at the hands of the Pioneers (3-1, 3-1 KLAA East).
Dearborn came out and dictated play for about the first third of the first half. They drew first blood early in the 8th minute when Kade Blake had a one-on-one battle for a stray ball. For Stevenson (2-1, 2-0 KLAA East), goalkeeper Noah Reider came out of the net to play the ball but couldn’t get it back.
Blake managed to get past Reider and his defender and hit him, giving the Pioneers the first 1-0 lead.
Stevenson finally found his footing and began to slowly regain control of the game. The Spartans scored the equalizer in the 23rd minute on an almost identical play that earned Dearborn a goal earlier in the game. This time it was Colin Heberger who beat both the Pioneer defense and goalkeeper Ali Hammoud.
“I felt like we came out of the game with a good game plan,” Dearborn coach Tony Ventura said after the game. “We stuck to that game plan for the first 10 minutes. Once we scored the goal, it felt like we were walking away from that game plan.
“It’s easy to do,” Ventura said. “You feel more confident and you feel like you can take more risks. Then the next thing you know, it’s tied 1-1.”
The hosts took their first lead of the game just before half-time with 80 seconds left. Heberger sent a cross kick from the bottom of the corner. With a lot of traffic ahead, Max Murdock was able to pass Hammoud and give Stevenson the lead.
Ventura said the Spartans’ goal late in the first half was a bit of a backbreaker for his team.
“Panic started to set in for the boys in the first half,” Ventura said. “They started to get a little nervous, being down 2-1. You start to feel good and think, ‘Okay, we finally have a lead against (Stevenson).’ Then you blink and you’re down a goal.
“It’s something we talked about all week in training,” Ventura added. “You make mistakes against any good team like (Stevenson) and they’re going to make you pay for it.”
The physical play continued in the second half for both teams. Dearborn had a few shots on goal from just wide or over the net. Stevenson finally delivered the dagger in the 54th minute, thanks to Griffin Browning.
Dearborn have now lost three straight head-to-head meetings with Stevenson and have won just two of nine meetings since 2018. Ventura spoke about what has made the Spartans successful in recent years.
“(Stevenson) has a lot of club players, just like us,” Ventura said. “When you have so many kids playing together, really grassroots, it really helps. The majority of kids growing up in Livonia end up playing together, just like in Dearborn.”
Dearborn will now enter the holiday weekend with five days off after playing its first four games over a nine-day span. The Pioneers return to the field on Tuesday, September 6 at home against Wayne Memorial at 7 p.m.
Dearborn will next visit city and league rival Dearborn Fordson on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. Ventura spoke about the importance of not looking past Wayne with the Tractors rivalry game looming shortly after.
“That’s been our motto all year so far,” Ventura said. “Last year we looked at past teams and then we ended up equalizing or losing to teams we have nothing to do with. Stevenson finished, we’ll focus on them next time. Wayne is the next and we’ll deal with Fordson when they show up.”
Stevenson will also be back in action Sept. 6 at Fordson at 7 p.m.