WARREN, Mich. - If it didn't hit them when they walked off their home field at Macomb Community College Monday night, it soon will.
De La Salle Collegiate's 10 seniors wrapped up their home careers against Rochester Adams, dominating a game that ended in a 0-0 tie with the Highlanders.
"It's always tough playing your last game. I haven't really thought about it yet," said senior Jack Panos, who's been on the varsity team for three years now. "It hasn't struck me because we still have playoffs. But when that (final game) day comes, it's going to be a sad day."
Panos and his teammates thoroughly outplayed Adams throughout the match, outshooting the Highlanders 21-7, including an 11-2 advantage on-goal. Head coach Thaier Mukhtar - though a little disappointed his team could not cash in on its scoring chances - said he was pleased with his team's effort.
"We had 21 shots. You've got to score on one of them," Mukhtar said. "I thought we played well from 18 to 18, just had some breakdowns inside the box. We've just got to do a better job showing composure and finishing the play off. We made some great runs, some great passes diagonally, up and down the field, got the ball wide nicely and then we put the cross in and we just couldn't put the ball in. Back to the drawing board."
CJ Fritz led the Pilots with five shots, followed closely by Thomas Turner, who had four shots, three of which were on goal.
Mukhtar liked what he saw from the entire team, but credited the play of Gabriel Lueck and Connor Jasman on defense for helping shut down the Highlanders' attack. And also to senior goalies Saimer Kiryakoza and Luke Kassin for picking up the shutout.
"I thought our defense was solid," he said. "They stopped (Adams) anytime they tried to make a move."
Along with Panos, Kiryakoza and Kassin, the rest of the senior group included Logan Manor, Scott Larson, Jett Schodowski, Thomas Turner, Joseph Nicolella, Jasman and Alexander Teftsis.
"That's a great group of guys," Mukhtar said. "I've had these guys for a couple years now, all the way from Tommy Turner to Logan Manor, to Connor Jasman to my captains Jett Schodowski - they're all great. One thing no one can argue is that I have some great individuals. I love these kids. As a coach I've done everything in my life that I need to do. But I just want them to make life-long memories out here. I just want them to walk away saying, 'Wow, I'll never forget this for the rest of my life.' "
The Pilots (9-7-4 overall) will now enter the Division 1 state playoffs, where they received a first-round bye in district play. They'll await the winner of this Thursday's district opener between Sterling Heights and Roseville. The semifinal match will be played on Oct. 15, at Cousino High School.