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Canton caps special night with extraordinary game-winning goal

 Canton caps special night with extraordinary game-winning goal

Canton players celebrate after Scarlett Nuechterlein (25) scored on a 45-yard free kick Thursday night. PHOTO COURTESY OF VASILNEK IMAGES

The split-second Canton forward Scarlett Nuechterlein’s right foot launched a free kick into the sky like a SpaceX rocket 45 minutes into Thursday night’s scoreless duel against Salem, those who are familiar with the junior’s skill level knew the ball had a chance to find the net — even though it was 45 yards away.

“Typically, at this point, teams around here know what Scarlett is capable of with free kicks from distance,” said Canton Head Coach George Easter. “People know she’s capable of hitting it into the upper-90, even from 40-plus yards out.”

At the end of the ball’s flight, it did just that — find a slice of air inches above the outstretched fingertips of Salem keeper Morganne Jones and inches below the crossbar to account for the only goal in the Chiefs’ thrilling 1-0 triumph.

“When I saw the ball dropping, I knew it at least had a chance of making it to the net,” Nuechterlein said, moments after her team’s vital victory. “When I saw it go in, I was so excited for our team because we work so hard on plays like that.

“If I didn’t score, I know someone else would have been there to put it in.”

To check out video highlights from Thursday game, click here.

Pivotal result

Salem keeper Morganne Jones stretched high in an attempt to divert the Scarlett Nuechterlein free kick from reaching the back of the net.
Salem keeper Morganne Jones stretched high in an attempt to divert the Scarlett Nuechterlein free kick from reaching the back of the net PHOTO COURTESY OF VASILNEK IMAGES

The win not only kept alive Canton’s hopes of a KLAA West Division crown — now 4-1-2, the Chiefs and Rocks are tied for second with 14 points, four points behind first-place Hartland — it put a feel-good exclamation point on a charity night event that raised funds for Nathan’s Ninjas, an organization named after Canton freshman Nathan Miller, who was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy in 2015.

Amazing cause

Scarlett Nuechterlein connects on the game winning free kick
Scarlett Nuechterlein connects on the game winning free kick PHOTO COURTESY OF VASILNEK IMAGES

Money was raised for the uplifting organization via the sale of baked goods and bracelets; a 50/50 raffle and a halftime shootout that featured Canton High School Principal David Reed-Nordwall and popular P-CEP educator Dave Gerlach.

Canton players wore green Nathan’s Ninjas warm-up T-shirts prior to the game — and decorated their arms and legs with temporary Ninja tattoos.

During pre-game introductions, players from both teams shook hands with Nathan Miller, who was accompanied by his parents, Ryan and Andrea, near mid-field.

‘Perfect night’

Canton players were accompanied onto the field during the introductions by youth soccer players from the Plymouth Reign organization.

“It feels awesome to be able to win on a such a special night,” said Easter. “We like to schedule this charity night against Salem because we know whenever we play them, the game is exciting. It turned out to be a perfect ending to a perfect night.”

Considering both Salem and Canton are routinely ranked among the top 10 teams in the state, the entire 80 minutes was packed with upper-echelon play from both sides.

Salem senior Claire Hammill settles the ball as a Canton player closes in
Salem senior Claire Hammill settles the ball as Cantons Nora Schley closes in

Jones maintained the zeroes on the scoreboard with 17 minutes and 50 seconds remaining in the first half when she deflected a well-struck shot from in front of the goal box.

The Chiefs appeared to seize a 1-0 lead with 2:29 left in the first half when Alexis Pickerel pumped the ball into the back of the net on a hard-struck header; however, the hosts’ celebration was short-lived after a referee ruled Canton was offsides on the play.

“It was disappointing because it appeared everything was legal, but to the girls credit they put it behind them and kept battling,” Easter said.

80 minutes of intensity, lifelong friendships

Players fight for a loose ball in front of the Canton net
Players fight for a loose ball in front of the Canton net

Senior goal-keeper Julia Tasker registered the shutout for Canton.

Although Easter emphasized the victory was a team effort, he praised Pickerel’s outstanding play in the mid-field, Kayla Rankin’s first-half press efforts up top and Taylor Steinagel’s defensive exploits that limited Salem’s potent wide attack.

“Julia was really good in goal, too,” he added.

“Canton and Salem players are all friends, but when we step on the pitch against one another, it’s a battle,” Nuechterlein concluded, before joining her teammates for post-game photos with the No. 1 Ninja, Nathan Miller.

Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or edwright@socialhousenews.com.

Julia Tasker booms a goal kick
Julia Tasker booms a goal kick
Salem freshman Alik Yeremian advances the ball as Alexis Pickerel approaches
Salem freshman Alik Yeremian advances the ball as Alexis Pickerel approaches
Youth soccer players accompanied Canton players during pregame introductions
Youth soccer players accompanied Canton players during pregame introductions
Nathan Miller and his parents greeted players from both teams before the game
Nathan Miller and his parents greeted players from both teams before the game
PCEP educator Dave Gerlach participated in a halftime shootout that raised money for Nathans Ninjas
PCEP educator Dave Gerlach participated in a halftime shootout that raised money for Nathans Ninjas PHOTO COURTESY VASILNEK IMAGES

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Ed Wright

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