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Jun. 12—COMSTOCK PARK — Injuries to a couple front-line players might worry most coaches.

But when those players demanded to go back into the game, Ed Fantozzi knew Boyne City was on to something.

Defender Ally Herrick and midfielder Jaelyn Jarema both insisted upon re-entering Friday’s Division 3 regional championship match at Comstock Park.

“They came back in and took it over again,” Fantozzi said of the two. “That was when I really got a feeling they knew what was on the line. They were like, ‘I want back in. I want back in.'”

The two steadied a team that already more than held its own against No. 9-ranked Big Rapids, then helped lead the No. 4-ranked Ramblers to a 2-1 victory and the program’s second Final Four berth in three years.

The Ramblers (20-1-2) play Tuesday for the program’s first state finals berth, facing undefeated and No. 2-ranked Hudsonville Unity Christian (18-0-3) in a 6 p.m. semifinal at Cedar Springs. Unity shut out Three Rivers 5-0 Thursday.

Boyne City outshot Big Rapids 20-2. Maggi McHugh notched the win in net for Boyne.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Fantozzi said. “They didn’t have the best night, but they gritted it out.”

Jarema came back in to her center midfield position and Herrick bolstered the defense and added lengthy throw-ins to the Rambler offense.

Jordan Noble extended her state-record single-season scoring mark with her 96th point, eclipsing McKenna Mahoney of Trenton, who put up 89 in 2018.

Her 96th point came on a first-half goal that stood as the only score in the first 40 minutes. Inanna Hauger drew an assist.

Boyne hadn’t allowed a goal in the playoffs, posting four straight clean sheets before Big Rapids scored on a long direct kick in the second half.

The Ramblers answered with an Ally Herrick goal off a sustained corner kick play which generated four shots on goal.

Boyne controlled play for long stretches and largely dominated the game, but goalkeeper Emma Balahoski kept the Cardinals (16-4) in the game. She left the game with a little over seven minutes left after a collision with Megan Harmeling, who was trying to score on a header near the goal.

The Ramblers are 5-0 in the postseason with three wins over top-10 teams, including Elk Rapids, Cheboygan and Big Rapids. Boyne dropped a 2-0 decision to eventual state champion Grand Rapids South Christian in the 2019 semifinals.

The one common opponent Hudsonville Unity and Boyne City have is Grand Rapids West Catholic, which the Ramblers shut out 2-0 in the regional semifinal and Unity beat 3-0.

Big Rapids’ second-half goal snapped Boyne’s streak of four consecutive postseason games without allowing a goal.

“Our defense has been magnificent,” Fantozzi said. “If our defense is on task, we’ll be in every game. We have the goal-scoring aspect of it.”

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