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Salem tackles 'unfinished business' in Michigan boys soccer state tournament


David Goricki   | The Detroit News

Salem reached the boys soccer Division 1 Final Four last year and Kyle Karns thinks his team has the talent and experience to once again reach the state semifinals, with a better chance of finishing business this time.

Karns has reason to feel good about Salem’s bid since he had 13 players return, including 10 seniors.

“We returned quite a few guys who realized how special that run was last year and wanted to duplicate it this season, feeling we had unfinished business,” Karns said. “Having that experience of knowing what it takes to get there helps tremendously, especially with the circumstances we’ve had with starting the season late (COVID-19), having a limited schedule.

“They all know the system and how we want to play, which is big, so we don’t have to learn, just go play and get better as the season moves on. We also play in the tough KLAA, which is a grueling schedule, and it definitely gets you ready for postseason play.”

Salem (12-2-1) will play Livonia Churchill (9-4-3) in a district semifinal Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Livonia Franklin with the winner moving on to face the winner between Canton (10-2-5) and Franklin (6-9) in Friday night’s district final.

Last year, Salem’s impressive postseason run ended with a 5-2 state semifinal loss to Troy Athens, which went on to win the championship with a 4-1 victory over Traverse City West.

Salem — which lost to rival Canton and then to Livonia Stevenson in the conference championship game — is led by senior forward Nolan Chaput, junior forward Anthony Deruvo, along with midfielder Andrew Schwartz and Dante Perri. Sophomore Dario Cela is Salem’s first-year starting goalkeeper.

“Dario reads the game well and makes the big save,” said Karns of Cela. “He saved two PKs for us in the past game (2-0 win over Plymouth in district quarterfinal).”

Chaput was happy to get the chance to play his senior season.

“Last year we made the Final Four and didn’t lose a lot of guys, so we were able to get a good momentum shift,” Chaput said. “Last year I started at left back and kind of moved my way up to a forward role as the season progressed. This year I’ve been pushed up more as a winger and have grown into the role of being a leader.

“Kyle (Karns) is a good guy and great coach and I trust his game plan, and being able to be a leader on the field has really helped me and the team develop.”

Chaput played travel soccer with the Michigan Wolves the past couple of years. He only played one game with his club team this past winter because of COVID, making training and his recruiting tougher.

“It made recruiting definitely a lot more difficult, and it also made growing as a player, not only mentally but physically, more difficult with the closing of gyms and facilities, and getting guys together was tougher as well,” Chaput said.

What did Chaput do during the shutdown?

“My brother, Vincent, is a sophomore on the team this year and he’s been a huge help, played academy ball last year with the Wolves, so basically from March through July we were in the backyard training on bikes and doing our individual stuff together.

“Obviously, there was a bit of concern coming in, if we were actually going to play. So once we found out that it was a go the boys bought in and I think that’s pretty obvious from our record.”

Josh Adam leads Brighton

Josh Adam’s future is already locked in with a scholarship at Michigan State, which is a short trip from where he is playing his senior year at Brighton.

Adam is looking forward to playing for the Spartans, but his focus now is on helping Brighton (12-2-2) make a long postseason run, which he hopes will end Nov. 7 with a state championship game appearance.

Brighton will face Detroit Catholic Central (6-0-3) in a district semifinal Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Novi’s Meadows Stadium, with Northville (9-3-2) taking on North Farmington (5-3-4) in the other semifinal.

Adam is the leading goal scorer (eight) for Brighton, which defeated a Novi team that reached the state semifinals last season before losing to Traverse City West.

“We’ve had a good season so far, beat Novi in our first district game and now we’re playing Detroit Catholic Central and I’m looking forward to getting revenge on CC since we lost to them in the first-round of districts last year.”

When asked where he has improved the most from a year ago, Adam said: “My attacking ability because I’m actually a defender. I’ve been solid defensively throughout my life, but I haven’t really got too many opportunities to go forward up until junior, senior year, and I think it’s really improved junior into senior year.”

Adam believes Brighton has a lot of talent, speaking highly of teammates like junior Michael Kramer, Seth Bedford and Nick Cassar.

“Michael Kramer is our second-leading goal scorer, and Seth Bedford and Nick Cassar are also playing well, so all of our forwards are doing very well up top and they are really helping to push the team to do better,” Adam said.

“We also have a good goalkeeper in Hagen Carriere. He’s always there to step up in difficult situations. If I’m playing in the back line, I know I have a good keeper behind me to help support me if things get by me.”

Defending state champion Troy Athens (10-2-3) will play Sterling Heights Stevenson (4-5-4) Tuesday in a 5 p.m. district semifinal at Waterford Mott.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com