CHEBOYGAN – When it’s the first game of the season, you never really know what to expect.
It could go well, it could go badly, or it could be a little bit of both.
For the Cheboygan boys soccer team, it experienced both the positive and negative in a 5-2 loss to a strong Gladwin side in its season opener at home on Thursday.
“We were able to put things together (at times),” said Cheboygan coach Bob Miller. “When we were ever to put things together, the end result was the first goal and some more opportunities. They put those things together by implementing the things we’ve been talking about in practice, and then there were long lulls, a lack of movement, a lack of filling the space, presenting to the ball in that space. When they did that, they were in and out, and they were able to move the ball up by moving it from the line to the outside edge of the circle. Our passing was horrendous, though. That is something that we can work on, that’s high on the list.
“When they put it together, though, they look pretty good. When they were fatigued and didn’t feel like taking a couple extra steps, we got overrun.”
The early-game jitters and struggles were apparent in the opening 20 minutes from the Chiefs (0-1), who had problems stringing passes together and couldn’t handle the pressure of the Flying G’s (1-0). Just under 10 minutes into the contest, the Flying G’s were rewarded for their strong opening play as Caleb Palmreuter’s first goal of the contest put them up 1-0. The Flying G’s continued to create great scoring chances and were only denied a couple times by Cheboygan senior goalkeeper Max Hart, as well as the crossbar three different times.
While the Flying G’s failed to convert their opportunities in the opening half, the Chiefs finally created and buried one themselves when senior striker Connor Gibbons tied the game at 1-1 with the first of his two goals with six minutes left in the first half. However, the Flying G’s responded three minutes later after Palmreuter delivered an emphatic strike from about 30 yards out to help Gladwin regain its advantage. The Flying G’s maintained the 2-1 lead going into halftime.
The Flying G’s received two goals from Treyton Siegert and a hat-trick goal from Palmreuter to take control in the second half and cruise to victory.
“I think we made it tough on ourselves,” Miller said. “(Gladwin has) some skilled players, both (Palmreuter and Siegert) were good, but that one free kick they had was well placed, there’s nothing you can do about that. They beat us, but I just don’t think we communicated well. The dispossession was not due to physical ability, it was due to a lack of communication, just not taking the initiative.
“I’ve been telling them for two years now that if they don’t take the initiative, somebody else will, and that’s the result.”
While the Chiefs were solid in spurts, the Flying G’s showed their quality throughout much of the season-opening clash of Northern Michigan Soccer League foes.
“We shook off a lot of cobwebs, that’s the best way to put it,” said Gladwin coach Dominic Lake. “I think in the first half we had 11 (shots on target), and we’ve got to capitalize off those, but I’m not mad. Good ball movement, we just have to talk more. Again, it’s the first game of the season.
“We passed really well.”
Lake also lauded the performances of Palmreuter and Siegert, who were both a nightmare for Cheboygan’s shaky defense.
“They’re studs,” Lake said. “They’re juniors. Treyton is actually our kicker for our varsity football team, and Caleb is a cross country runner that made it to states last year. They’re in shape, they play hard, and they’re talented. I’m very lucky to have them.”
Cheboygan’s moment of brilliance in the matchup came when Gibbons, heading down the right side, delivered a high shot that went over the Gladwin goalkeeper and fell into the left corner of the net.
“I told Connor at the end that I need him a little bit more active, and I know he scored two goals, what else can he do, but Connor’s a workhorse, he’s got the physical ability to work for extended periods of time, he’s fast, and he can create things,” Miller said. “We’re going to need him to try to do a little bit more to create and not just get fed the ball, but Connor’s been (scoring goals like that) since he was 12. He makes things happen. That’s why he is where he is. It’s a great start to his senior season. I know he’s wanting to get as many goals as he can, and we need to help him do that. As far as our front line is concerned, we’re trying to get a little bit more lateral movement out of our forwards and a little bit more crossing over to get the defense to move with us and open up lanes. As we get more proficient at that, I think Connor will get more opportunities to do what he does.”
Cheboygan also received a solid showing from Hart, who made several key stops in net, especially during Gladwin’s early first-half surge.
“Max has played goalie in the past in travel ball,” Miller said. “His senior year, he reluctantly knew that was a possibility, but he said he’ll do whatever the team needs him to do, and he did well today.”
The Chiefs travel to Shepherd for a 5 p.m. clash on Monday.
“In the short term, we’ve got to communicate better,” Miller said. “That’s something we don’t necessarily practice, we just need to do it, and we need to sharpen up our passing. I saw them see the lanes. I saw them, at times, fill the space, show to the ball, but not be able to receive the ball because the person passing the ball, they were off-balanced. They weren’t sound in their approach to the ball and in control of it. In the long term, it’s something we need to work on, is our passing.”
This article originally appeared on Cheboygan Daily Tribune: Chiefs grow into game, but fall 5-2 in soccer season opener