Unranked Knights Finish No. 1 in D4
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
TROY – It’s fair to say Hamtramck Frontier International was underestimated entering this fall’s MHSAA boys soccer tournament.
But Division 4 opponents will be wise to pay attention to the third-year program from this point forward.
The Knights entered the District tournament three weeks ago unranked, but beat five top-10 opponents and finished their first MHSAA title run by beating No. 8 Grand Rapids Covenant Christian 3-2 on Saturday at Troy Athens.
Frontier (18-2) also eliminated No. 1 Lansing Christian, No. 4 Birmingham Roeper, No. 5 Genesee Christian and No. 9 Ann Arbor Greenhills along the way.
“Some teams underestimated us, but we came through hard. We knew we could’ve (won) it, and we got this,” Frontier junior midfielder Mujeeb Nahshal said. “The first three years, we came (a long way). We don’t have much support, but thanks to our principals and thanks to our coaches.”
The Knights had advanced to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2010 and made it back to the Regional last fall. Their regular season schedule was loaded with larger schools, and they entered the tournament after losing two of their final three games.
But Frontier outscored its seven postseason opponents by a combined 22-5 and got on the board quickly Saturday when Nahshal scored from about 20 yards out just 1 minute, 54 seconds in off a pass from senior forward Baleegh Algahim.
Although Covenant Christian did well to control the ball, the scoring opportunities during the rest of the first half belonged to Frontier. And midway through the second half, Algahim scored twice within two minutes to put the Knights up 3-0 with 20:25 to play.
“We used to practice day and night,” Algahim said. “We worked hard, so that's what we get.”
The Chargers, also playing in their first MHSAA Final, didn’t give up. Frontier loaded the box and turned away most of Covenant Christian’s increased attack. But Chargers senior Jordan Van Oostenbrugge finally broke through with 4:59 to play.
Van Oostenbrugge scored again with 55 seconds left, before Frontier held tight until the buzzer.
“I wanted to make the game interesting, I guess. Just put the ball in the back of the net, and I got it,” Van Oostenbrugge said. “It’s always difficult to come back from 3-nothing, but I think we got a couple goals there at the end and had a chance. The first half we played a little timid, but we came back in second half and took it to them.”
Nahsal also had an assist on Algahim’s first goal, and sophomore midfielder Habeb Ghaleb had the assist on Algahim’s second. Sophomore Ammar Abdullah had 12 saves. Covenant Christian junior Austin Brower had 10 saves.
The Chargers finished 19-5-1.
“We showed we could play with them. … we just ran out of time,” Covenant Christian coach Mike Noorman said. “I’m very proud of how hard they worked. We had great opportunities. But they finished.”
Click for box score.
PHOTOS: (Top) Sophomore Ammar Abdullah makes one of his 12 saves during the Division 4 Final. (Middle) Mujeeb Nahshal (10) and his teammates celebrate after Nahshal scored the game's first goal.