By MIKE ECKERT
SUTTONS BAY — What a difference a half makes.
After trailing 2-0 at the break on Tuesday at Suttons Bay, Leland turned it on in the second half for a 4-3 win over North Muskegon in the Division 4 regional semifinal.
The Comets (24-3) will take on Hart on Friday for the regional title. The Pirates beat Lincoln-Alcona 4-1 in the other semifinal.
"It's the greatest feeling right now," Comets senior Dylan Jolliffe said. "We're making a run. Leland hasn't been here in a long time. We're trying to make our mark and give a good name to Leland soccer."
Leland came into the regional fresh off its first district title since 1999. But after the first half, it looked like the team's run was coming to an end with North Muskegon up 2-0. The Norsemen actually scored both goals off Leland defenders.
"I told the guys it was unlucky bounces and they were going to start going our way," Leland coach Joe Burda said. "We just had to fight through it and we needed their best 40 minutes. If we got it, we were going to push through and move on. And they did it."
Leland started the comeback with a Matt Fleis goal, which was ironically off a North Muskegon defender. He would add another goal and Ian Duvall set up Luke Nesbitt for a goal to give the Comets a 3-2 lead.
The Norsemen, though, came back and tied the game at 3-3. And Leland once again faced adversity.
"We wanted to win," Comets senior Will Gauthier said. "If you want to win, you can't go down like that. We had to keep playing through it."
In the closing minutes, Leland reclaimed the lead when Fleis completed his hat trick with a third goal.
"He wasn't going to let go of it," Burda said. "He took it deep into the corner, took the sideline and went all the way by himself. He dribbled through probably three or four defenders, but nobody was going to bring him down."
It impressed Jolliffe, who led the team in goals this year.
"I told Matt he played a hell of a game," Joliffe said. "On the bus, he was joking and said 'now I know what it's like to be you.' I just laughed. I'm glad he did it. He played a great game and that's the great thing about our team. We have other people that can step up and score when I don't have a good game. It's not all riding on my shoulders."
Gauthier, who moved from the midfield to defense for the second half, said they really had to tighten up after Fleis gave the Comets the lead.
"They (North Muskegon) were playing their hearts out," Gauthier said. "But if we wanted to win, we couldn't let them score."
Mike Farese made six saves in net for Leland while freshman Tony Mosqueda had a strong game on defense.