Boys Soccer

Preview: Finals Provide 1st & 2nd Chances

November 6, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This Michigan high school boys soccer season started with unpredictability because of COVID-19. It will end Saturday with opportunities – some enjoyed for the first time, others as second chances.

The Division 4 Final is guaranteed to produce a first-time champion, as Adrian Lenawee Christian and Grandville Calvin Christian are both first-time finalists. Division 2 is similar – DeWitt is seeking its first title, and Richland Gull Lake is seeking its first outright after earning a pair of shared championships more than two decades ago.

And then there are the second chances. In Division 3, Grosse Ile and Grand Rapids South Christian will meet on the season’s final day for the second-straight year; Grosse Ile claimed a 2-1 shootout win in 2019. In Division 1, Detroit Catholic Central and Traverse City West both are seeking the second championships in their programs’ histories – West after finishing second in Division 1 in 2019.

Here’s Saturday’s schedule:

NOVI
Division 3: Grosse Ile vs. Grand Rapids South Christian, noon
Division 4: Adrian Lenawee Christian vs. Grandville Calvin Christian, 3 p.m.

COMSTOCK PARK
Division 1: Traverse City West vs. Detroit Catholic Central, noon
Division 2: DeWitt vs. Richland Gull Lake, 3 p.m.

All of Saturday’s Finals will be broadcast live and viewable with subscription on MHSAA.tv, with audio available on MHSAANetwork.com. See below for glances at all eight finalists, and come back to Second Half later Saturday for coverage of all four championship games. (The Michigan Power Rating noted below is derived from a team's success and strength of schedule and was used to seed Districts at the start of the postseason. The MPRs listed were where teams ranked at the start of District play.)


Division 1

DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record: 12-0-3 
Michigan Power Rating: No. 1
Coach: Gene Pulice, ninth season (121-27-23)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2017.
Players to watch: Clay Moscovic, sr. F (7 goals, 2 assists); Jack Leuker, sr. M (5 goals, 6 assists); Ali Jaffer, soph. F (8 goals, 5 assists); John Browning, sr. GK (0.47 goals-against average, 6 shutouts).
Outlook: The Shamrocks are back at the Finals for the second time in four seasons to cap a run that’s included wins over No. 3 Mattawan and No. 6 Warren De La Salle Collegiate, one of three opponents that dealt them a draw during the regular season. (The others were No. 15 Fenton and No. 5 Troy Athens.) Moscovic made the all-state third team and junior midfielder Vincent Stockton (five goals, one assist this fall) earned an honorable mention in 2019.

TRAVERSE CITY WEST
Record: 22-1-2
Michigan Power Rating: No. 2
Coach: Matt Griesinger, sixth season (191-23-13)
League finish: First in Big North Conference
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2006, runner-up 2019.  
Players to watch: Blade Kalbfleisch, sr. GK (1.08 goals-against average, 7 shutouts); Gavin Michael, sr. F (24 goals, 10 assists); Colin Blackport, jr. M (19 goals, 29 assists); Tony Gallegos, sr. F (18 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: West is seeking to take the final step after falling to Troy Athens in last season’s Division 1 Final, and the Titans defeated Athens in Wednesday’s Semifinal to get that chance. West hasn’t lost since falling to De La Salle in its opener, and outscored its five postseason opponents by a combined 20-2. Gallegos made the all-state second team last season and Kalbfleisch earned an honorable mention. Senior Kaden Ales (8 goals/11 assists) and juniors John Hirschenberger (11/9) and Cooper Davis (8/7) fill out a high-scoring midfield.

Division 2

DEWITT
Record: 13-4-2 
Michigan Power Rating: No. 6
Coach: Joe Ishraidi, sixth season (70-45-14)
League finish: Third in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Patrick Woodbury, sr. GK (1.18 goals-against average, 6 shutouts); Landon Hungerford, sr. M (24 goals, 9 assists); Zach Stephan, sr. F (9 goals, 15 assists); Victor Toune, sr. M (8 goals, 14 assists).
Outlook: Ishraidi, a former DeWitt standout during the first decade of the 2000s, has the annually-competitive Panthers heading into their first championship game. DeWitt dipped to 11-12-2 just two seasons ago but is 27-8-6 since, with wins this playoff run over No. 14 Dearborn Divine Child and No. 5 Riverview. Hungerford made the all-state first team, Toune the second and Woodbury earned honorable mention in 2019.

RICHLAND GULL LAKE
Record: 15-2-1
Michigan Power Rating: No. 3
Coach: Matt Streitel, fifth season (68-27-7)
League finish: Tied for first in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Championship history: Class B co-champion in 1993 and 1988, runner-up in 1983. 
Players to watch: AJ Boucher, jr. M (3 goals, 19 assists); Eron Sylejmani, sr. M (21 goals, 15 assists); Tyler Corstange, jr. F (15 goals, 6 assists); Braden Minehart, fr. GK (0.22 goals-against average, 8 shutouts).
Outlook: Streitel has had the program building to this point, following up last season’s 17-1-1 finish with second-straight league and third-consecutive Regional championships – and a 2-0 win over DeWitt on Sept. 26. The Blue Devils defeated top-ranked Holland and avenged a loss to No. 12 St. Joseph during this playoff run. Sylejmani made the all-state second team last season, and Boucher made the third team.

Division 3

GRAND RAPIDS SOUTH CHRISTIAN
Record:
 18-0-1
Michigan Power Rating: No. 4
Coach: Jason Boersma, 10th season (166-42-24)
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), three runner-up finishes.  
Players to watch: Jeff Herrema, sr. F (11 goals/14 assists); Nik Schepers, sr. GK (0.57 goals-against average); Thom DeVries, sr. M (12 goals/6 assists); Boston Knapp, sr. F (15 goals, 5 assists).
Outlook: The majority of last season’s top players are this season’s standouts again, with Herrema a returning all-state first teamer and Schepers having earned an honorable mention in 2019. Herrema isn’t expected to start; he reportedly suffered a shoulder injury two weeks ago. The Sailors haven’t lost again since falling in last year’s Final, with that lone draw this season with Division 1 Caledonia. South Christian downed No. 5 Wyoming Lee and No. 7 Hudsonville Unity Christian early this postseason and advanced to Saturday with a shootout win over No. 1 Elk Rapids. Junior Levi DeRuiter (3 goals/13 assists) is another cog helping to make the offense go.

GROSSE ILE
Record:
 19-1-1
Michigan Power Rating: No. 2
Coach: Jon Evans, fifth season (114-6-9)
League finish: Second in Huron League
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2019 and 2002, runner-up 2018.
Players to watch: Clayton Lafayette, jr. M (4 goals, 16 assists); Bosh Tanyi, sr. M (45 goals, 8 assists); Drew Cardinal, soph. F (7 goals, 11 assists); Hayden Watson, soph. GK (0.30 goals-against average, 15 shutouts).
Outlook: Despite graduating eight players who earned all-state recognition last season, Grosse Ile is right back where it ended 2019. Tanyi is the offensive force after earning an all-state honorable mention in 2019, with four teammates putting up double-digit assists including as well freshman midfielder Ali Khaled (2 goals/14 assists) and junior midfielder Jon Duke (2/12). The Red Devils’ lone loss was to Division 2 No. 5 Riverview – the teams split this fall – and they tied Elk Rapids early. Grosse Ile has outscored its five playoff opponents by a combined 26-1.

Division 4

ADRIAN LENAWEE CHRISTIAN
Record: 15-2-1 
Michigan Power Rating: No. 6
Coach: Nate Sharpe, fifth season (91-34-3)
League finish: First in Independent Soccer League
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Francisco Cabrera, sr. M (9 goals, 9 assists); Gabe Henley, sr. F (14 goals, 8 assists); Evan Hendershot, sr. GK (0.88 goals-against average, 7 shutouts); Brennan Griffith, sr. M (24 goals, 14 assists). 
Outlook: Lenawee Christian went over 20 wins for the second time in three seasons and has advanced to the Finals for the first time, with notable postseason wins over No. 12 Hillsdale Academy and top-ranked Plymouth Christian Academy. Sharpe does have experience at this level of the tournament; he led Hudsonville Freedom Baptist to the Division 4 title in 2009 and has more than 200 career coaching wins. Hendershot made the all-state second team last season, junior midfielder Jacob McKelvey (4 goals, 3 assists) made the third and Cabrera earned an honorable mention.

GRANDVILLE CALVIN CHRISTIAN
Record: 19-0-2 
Michigan Power Rating: No. 9 
Coach: Karel de Waal Malefyt, 11th season (146-60-24)
League finish: First in O-K Silver
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Ethan DeJager, sr. GK (0.10 goals-against average, 18 shutouts); Lukas Lindhout, sr. F (20 goals, 11 assists); Jake DeYoung, sr. F (13 goals, 7 assists); Jack Hollebeek, jr. F (13 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: Calvin Christian is in the midst of a two-year surge that has seen it go a combined 39-2-3 with a pair of league and District titles. The Squires defeated No. 10 Wyoming Potter’s House Christian and No. 14 Leland during this first-time Finals run, and downed its five playoff opponents by a combined 24-1. The regular-season draws came to Division 3 No. 5 Wyoming Lee and Division 1 Hudsonville. DeYoung earned an all-state honorable mention last season. Junior midfielder Nolan Karel (7 goals, 14 assists) and senior midfielder Luke Yonker (2 goals, 17 assists) have been leading distributors.

PHOTO: Traverse City West's Tony Gallegos (13) works to get past a Troy Athens defender during the 2019 Division 1 Final.