By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Familiarity is the name of the games to be played Saturday at Howell’s Parker Middle School.
For the second straight season, both MHSAA Boys Lacrosse Finals will feature rematches of league rivals.
Detroit Catholic League rivals Birmingham Brother Rice and Detroit Catholic Central will face off at 2 p.m. in the Division 1 championship game for the third straight season. Ottawa-Kent Conference foes East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central will play at 4:30 p.m. for the Division 2 title for the second straight year and after facing off twice already this spring.
Both Finals will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv, available with subscription, with audio available on MHSAANetwork.com. Click for more information, including all tournament results.
Below is a look at all four contenders, with player statistics through Regional Finals.
BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE
Record/rank: 19-4, No. 1 at end of regular-season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League A
Coach: Ajay Chawla, fourth season (74-14)
Championship history: 12 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016).
Best wins: 8-6 over No. 4 Rockford in a Semifinal, 15-14 and 15-10 over No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central, 17-1 and 25-6 over Division 2 No. 6 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 17-1 over Division 2 No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 14-7 over Division 2 No. 5 Warren DeLaSalle, 15-5 over Division 2 No. 4 Detroit Country Day, 14-9 over Division 2 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 10-9 over Victor, N.Y.
Players to watch: Erik Schmidt, sr. A (27 goals, 12 assists); Daniel Reaume, sr. M (38 goals, 22 assists); Jack Kelly, sr. M (70 goals, 25 assists); Nick Dudley, sr. A (44 goals, 11 assists).
Outlook: Brother Rice continues to be the only Division 1 champion in the history of boys lacrosse as an MHSAA-sponsored sport. But it’s had to survive a few close calls this spring and will need to be at its best in this next rematch with DCC. All four losses were to out-of-state teams, but the win over Victor was especially significant – it broke Victor’s 50-game winning streak, which reportedly was the longest active streak nationally. Schmidt, Reaume, Kelly and senior defenseman Carson Cochran all were all-staters last season.
DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 14-5, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League A
Coach: Dave Wilson, 12th season (164-76)
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up six times (most recent 2016).
Best wins: 12-11 (OT) over No. 3 Hartland in a Semifinal, 14-5 over No. 6 Troy Athens in a Regional Final, 13-10 over No. 5 Northville in a Regional Semifinal, 14-8 over Division 2 No. 6 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 16-5 over Division 2 No. 4 Detroit Country Day, 15-9 over Division 2 No. 5 Warren DeLaSalle, 15-10 and 14-11 over Division 2 No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.
Players to watch: Peter Thompson, jr. A; Brennan Kamish, sr. M; Hunter Braun, sr. G. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: DCC will play in its fourth straight Final, again trying to break Brother Rice’s grip on Division 1, but got within one and five goals in their two earlier meetings this season. Braun made the all-state second team last season – Thompson and Kamish made the first team – and DCC has held opponents to single-digit goals in 11 games this spring. Its in-state losses were twice to the Warriors and once to Division 2 top-ranked East Grand Rapids, by two goals early this season.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 17-1, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in O-K Conference Tier 1
Coach: Rick DeBlasio, fifth season (69-26)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 17-7 (Semifinal) and 21-4 over No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 16-6 over No. 7 Vicksburg in a Regional Semifinal, 15-13 and 16-9 over No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 13-8 and 16-4 over No. 9 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 14-8 over No. 5 Detroit Country Day, 17-15 over Division 1 No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central, 16-7 over Division 1 No. 7 Brighton.
Players to watch: Hub Hejna, sr. A (82 goals, 56 assists); Ben Keller, sr. A (48 goals, 22 assists); Luke Elder, sr. A (54 goals, 11 assists); Nick Milanowski, jr G (8.65 goals-against average).
Outlook: The Pioneers are hoping to avenge last season’s 10-6 championship game loss to Forest Hills Central after sweeping their rival during the regular season. A one-goal loss to Division 1 No. 4 Rockford is all that’s kept East Grand Rapids from a perfect run this spring. Hejna, Keller and Milanowski all made the all-state first team last season, and senior mid Joe Bolea (17 goals, 12 assists) made the second team.
GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS CENTRAL
Record/rank: 15-6, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Patrick Clay, first season (15-6)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 11-10 OT (Semifinal) and 16-6 over No. 5 Detroit Country Day, 18-7 over No. 9 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 21-8 over No. 3 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 17-10 and 13-10 over Division 1 No. 4 Rockford, 19-12 over Division 1 No. 5 Northville.
Players to watch: Bryce Clay, jr. A (93 goals, 61 assists); Tanner Hallock, sr. A (41 goals, 44 assists); Drew Bailey, sr. A (45 goals, 25 assists); Nick Carter, sr. D.
Outlook: Patrick Clay took over the program this season and inherited eight returning first-team all-staters: Bryce Clay, Bailey, Clark, senior Tate Bond, junior Patrick English, sophomore Logan Wedder, senior Jake Prinz and senior Jack Uecker. Hallock also was a top scorer on last season’s team – and with all of that talent and experience, the Rangers can’t be overlooked in this Final despite two and seven-goal losses to East Grand Rapids during the regular season.
PHOTO: East Grand Rapids’ Hub Hejna works to elude a Forest Hills Central defender during last season’s Division 2 Final.