There's a definite Grand Rapids feel to this weekend's MHSAA Boys Soccer Finals.
The higher-ranked teams in all four championship games hail from that city and its near neighbors, and have combined for six MHSAA championships. Their opponents have combined for two titles, and two of the four will be playing in their first Finals on Saturday.
All four games can be watched live at MHSAA.tv. See the schedule below:
- Division 1: East Kentwood vs. Grand Blanc, 3 p.m. at Troy Athens
- Division 2: Hudsonville Unity Christian vs. Petoskey, 3 p.m. at East Kentwood Crestwood Middle School
- Division 3: Grand Rapids South Christian vs. Williamston, noon at East Kentwood Crestwood
- Division 4: Grand Rapids Covenant Christian vs. Hamtramck Frontier International, noon at Troy Athens
Read on for background on all eight teams, including their most impressive wins this fall and some of the players who could make the biggest impacts on the final day of the season. (Statistics below do not include those from Wednesday's Semifinals.)
Record/rank: 21-1-4, No. 1
Coach: John Conlon, 13th season (253-38-22)
League finish: First in O-K Red.
MHSAA championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2010).
Best wins: 3-1 and 2-1 (District Semifinal) over No. 2 Rockford, 2-1 over No. 5 Brighton (Regional Final), 4-0 over Division 2 No. 2 Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Players to watch: Charlie Constantino, sr. M (9 goals, 11 assists); Tyler Moorman, sr. D (10 G/4 A); Josh Hagene, sr. M (8 G/12 A), T.J. Ifaturoti, sr. F (16 G/7 A).
The scoop: East Kentwood has won at least 20 games for the seventh time over the last eight seasons and has been the dominant program in Division 1 of late with MHSAA championships three of the last five seasons. Constantino is considered one of the top players in Michigan high school soccer, and he’s one of 11 seniors on the team. East Kentwood’s only loss was 4-3 to No. 8 Portage Northern.
Record/rank: 16-6-2, unranked
Coach: Greg Kehler, 14th season (217-62-29)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
MHSAA championship history: Class A runner-up 1987
Best wins: 5-3 over No. 4 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek (Regional Semifinal), 4-3 over Lake Orion (District Final).
Players to watch: Chris Sullivant, sr. M (4 G/8 A); Dominic Mastromatteo, sr. F (11 G/6 A), Nick Berklich, jr. F (16 G/2 A).
The scoop: Kehler has 429 wins total between Grand Blanc’s boys and girls teams and took the latter to the 2004 Finals. This run has been a little more unexpected, especially after graduating Mr. Soccer Zach Carroll this spring. But the Bobcats are making good on lessons learned during nine games decided by a goal during the regular season, and have won three one-goal games plus another by two in overtime during the tournament. Sullivant is a four-year standout, and Mastromatteo in particular has been finding the net often during the postseason surge.
HUDSONVILLE UNITY CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 24-2, No. 3
Coach: Randy Heethuis, 19th season (353-62-29)
League finish: Tied for first in O-K Green
MHSAA championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 3-0 over No. 2 Ada Forest Hills Eastern (Regional Semifinal), 2-1 over No. 1 Spring Lake (Regional Final), 2-0 over No. 7 Holland, 2-0 over Division 3 No. 2 Grand Rapids South Christian, 4-0 over Division 4 No. 10 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian.
Players to watch: Jared Timmer, soph. M (6 G/15 A); Jake Love, sr. F (12 G/13 A); Stephan Hooker, sr. M (19 G/8 A); Joe Honderd, jr. F (13 G/6 A); Nick Woldyk, sr. GK (0.76 GAA, 9 SHO).
The scoop: The Crusaders are the reigning runners-up from Division 3 and certainly earned their way here by beating the only teams ranked ahead of them in the most loaded Regional in any division. Unity Christian has shut out four of six opponents during the tournament and 14 total this season. The losses came on opening night to Division 1 No. 8 Portage Northern and to Holland in their second game against each other this fall.
Record/rank: 17-8-2, unranked
Coach: Zach Jonker, third season (35-26-9)
League finish: Third in Big North Conference
MHSAA championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2008), two runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 1-0 (OT) over No. 4 East Lansing (Regional Final), 3-1 over No. 9 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood (Semifinal), 2-0 and 2-0 over Division 3 No. 7 Elk Rapids.
Players to watch: Louis Lamberti, sr. F (12 G/5A), A.J. Hoffman, sr. F (10 G/6 A), Evan Altman, sr. M (8 G/8 A), Drew Smith, sr. GK (0.92 GAA, 13 SHO).
The scoop: The Northmen loaded their schedule with tough competition early, and it’s paid off at the end. Their losses are nearly as impressive as their wins: to Division 1 honorable mention Warren DeLaSalle and No. 4 Rochester Hills Stoney Creek and to Division 2 No. 8 Bloomfield Hills Lahser during a 1-5-1 start. Petoskey is 16-3-1 over its last 20. The team also finished MHSAA runner-up in 2009 before making District exits the last two seasons.
GRAND RAPIDS SOUTH CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 20-2-3, No. 2
Coach: Jason Boersma, second season (36-7-5)
League finish: First in O-K Gold
MHSAA championship history: MHSAA champion 2010, runner-up 2007.
Best wins: 2-0 over No. 3 Whitehall, 1-0 over No. 9 Grosse Ile (Semifinal).
Players to watch: Erik VerHoef, sr. GK (0.43 GAA); Kyle Doornbos, sr. D/M (6 G/12 A); Marlon Bykerk, jr M/F (14 G/13 A); Cody Kok, jr. M (13 G/6 A).
The scoop: The 17 shutouts by VerHoef and Zach Medendorp rank among the most in MHSAA history for one season, and total the team has given up only 10 goals. Seven Sailors have scored at least six goals, with senior Alex Klunder adding his ninth of the season in Wednesday’s Semifinal to push the team into the championship game. South Christian’s only losses came to Division 2 No. 2 Forest Hills Eastern and No. 3 Unity Christian.
Record/rank: 19-7-1, honorable mention
Coach: Brent Sorg, eighth season (106-69-12)
League finish: Second in Capital Area Activities Conference White
MHSAA championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 3-1 and 2-1 (SO, Semifinal) over No. 7 Elk Rapids, 2-0 and 3-2 (Regional Semifinal) over No. 8 Freeland, 2-0 over No. 10 Frankenmuth (Regional Final), 2-1 over Division 4 No. 1 Lansing Christian, 6-2 over Division 4 No. 9 Ann Arbor Greenhills.
Players to watch: Hunter Lyle, jr. M (16 G/6 A); Zach Sundin, sr. F (19 G/6 A), Ross Needler, sr. M (17 G/16 A), Phil Erickson, sr. M (10 G/3 A).
The scoop: Williamston has won nine of its last 10 after also stacking the schedule early. The Hornets fell early to ranked Division 2 teams Holland, East Lansing and Haslett, plus Division 3 No. 5 Detroit Country Day and tied Division 1 honorable mention Birmingham Brother Rice during the first half of the season. But Williamston has been building toward this type of run with five straight seasons of either increasing or equaling the previous year’s win totals. This season’s District title was its second straight and fourth under Sorg.
GRAND RAPIDS COVENANT CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 19-4-1, No. 8
Coach: Mike Noorman, ninth season (106-64-11)
League finish: First in River Valley Conference
MHSAA championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 2-1 over No. 10 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, 2-1 over No. 2 Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central (Regional Semifinal), 2-0 over honorable mention Leland (Semifinal).
Players to watch: Jordan Van Oostenbrugge, sr. M/F (16 G/11 A); Corbin Prince, jr. F (16 G/12 A); Austin Brower, jr. GK (1.23 GAA/11 shutouts).
The scoop: Combined, Van Oostenbrugge and Prince have scored more than half of their team’s goals and more than the Chargers have given up this season. The District title was Covenant Christian’s third in five seasons and the team has increased its win total in each of the last four. The Chargers have 11 seniors, but also start two talented sophomores.
HAMTRAMCK FRONTIER INTERNATIONAL
Record/rank: 17-2, unranked
Coach: Nasser Algahim, third season (51-4)
League finish: Does not play in a conference.
MHSAA championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 4-2 over No. 4 Birmingham Roeper (District Semifinal), 2-0 over No. 9 Ann Arbor Greenhills (Regional Semifinal), 1-0 over No. 1 Lansing Christian (Regional Final), 2-0 over No. 5 Genesee Christian (Semifinal).
Players to watch: Baleegh Algahim, sr. F, (23 G/10 A); Habeb Ghaleb, soph. M, (21 G/8 A), Mujeeb Nahshal, jr. M, (5 G/15 A), Mohammed Alfahad, sr. M (5 G/11 A); Ammar Abdullah, soph. GK (0.78 GAA)
The scoop: Frontier International is in just its third season as a program, but made the Division 4 Semifinals in 2010 and returned to Regionals last fall. Playing as an independent, the Knights faced a schedule loaded with bigger schools from all over the Detroit area, with losses only to Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and Berkley. Although unranked, no team aside from Unity Christian in Division 2 has knocked out as impressive a group of ranked opponents during the tournament this fall.
PHOTO: Hudsonville Unity Christian senior Logan Walters (21), here in last season's Division 3 Final against Detroit Country Day, will try to help the Crusaders to their second MHSAA title in three years.