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Four is fine for Dowagiac

NILES — It took nearly 90 minutes to decide the Division 3 District soccer champion at Brandywine High School Thursday night.

The three-time defending champion Dowagiac Chieftains and former Wolverine Conference foe South Haven were deadlocked in a scoreless tie.

With 8:46 remaining in the second overtime, senior Gustavo Cruz became the first Dowagiac player to win four straight district championships as he beat South Haven’s keeper to give the Chieftains the 1-0 victory.

The win advances Dowagiac to the Division 3 Regional semifinals, which are being hosted by Grand Rapids South Christian, on Tuesday.

The Chieftains will face Hillsdale, a 3-0 winner over Olivet in the Comstock District. The match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

Dowagiac was far from sharp throughout much of the match, but it was able to keep the pressure on the Rams.

“We were playing nervous, playing scared, and not playing our game at all,” said veteran Dowagiac coach Mike Williams. “Like I said before, all we needed to do was to keep doing what we had been doing. Nope. Everything we could have done wrong at the beginning, we did it.”

Part of the problem, according to Williams, was that his team did not swing the ball like had been doing all season.

“Our swinging line did not exist most of the game,” he said. “We were hitting the ball from one side to the other instead of swing, swing, swing and feeding that gap to give us some time to get more pressure up. We just weren’t doing it.”

Williams gave credit to South Haven for playing hard the entire match.

When asked if he felt like his team could hold onto the lead once Cruz scored, the answer was simple.

“No,” he said. “I know how we play when we get up and start to panic. You could hear me screaming for them to get in the right spots to drop and center and mark the right people. Everybody just starts to get frazzled.”

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