Ian Graham scored both goals for the Clarkdale boys soccer team, and Cole Garnder had both assists as the Bulldogs downed St. Patrick 2-0 on the road in the MHSAA Class 1/2/3A quarterfinals Friday night.
The Bulldogs are into their first South State final since 2003 and will play the winner of Saturday’s meeting between Forest and Sacred Heart.
“Our guys rose up to the occasion. They know anytime we have to go to St. Patrick, or Sacred Heart, or any of those places down here, it’s going to be a pretty tough game,” Clarkdale head coach Luke Smith said. “They knew that coming in, and I told them I thought we were the better team, I thought we could beat them, and so we stepped up, and they played really the best game they could play.”
Graham notched the contest’s first goal before the midway point of the first half to put Clarkdale (15-8-2) on the board.
The Bulldogs took their 1-0 lead into halftime, and after trading shots for the first 20 minutes of the second half, Smith moved his team back and anchored his defense in effort to retain its one-goal advantage for the remainder of the game.
With 11 minutes to play, Garnder won possession of the ball at midfield and fed a long pass to Graham, who ran it down and finished at the net for his second goal to give Clarkdale a slightly cushioned lead.
Kodee Conner made four saves in net to preserve the shutout for the Bulldogs, who grabbed their sixth-straight victory and third consecutive clean sheet.
“Once we got that second goal, it took a lot of pressure off of us, but (St. Patrick) was still attacking, attacking, attacking,” Smith said. “But today we got the job done.”