HOWELL — If East Grand Rapids senior Ted Campbell was the difference-maker for the Pioneers during the MHSAA Division 2 Final on Saturday, junior Jack Higgins had to be the answer.
Campbell scored three early goals to help East Grand Rapids build a 4-1 lead, and Higgins scored two key goals to help his team fend off comeback attempts by Ada Forest Hills Eastern during the Pioneers’ 12-10 victory.
“I think I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Higgins said. “The coaches had us going through our offense, and the ball came to me and the opportunity presented itself. I just finished.”
The first of his two goals came in the opening minutes of the second half. Forest Hills Eastern had trimmed the lead to 4-3 thanks to scores by seniors John Morgan and Kevin Sprague. Higgins scored unassisted to build the lead back to two.
Late in the third quarter, with the Hawks again applying pressure after cutting the lead to 8-6 on a goal by senior Nicholas Mesler, it was Higgins who once again stepped up and scored to make it a three-goal game.
“The coaches drill it into our minds that there are going to be ups and downs throughout the game and we just need to keep our composure, play our game and we’ll come out on top,” Higgins said after the game.
The Pioneers weathered a couple more Hawks rallies in the fourth quarter. This time it was Campbell who answered the call. He scored the first two goals of the final period — giving him six for the game. Forest Hills Eastern would not get within two goals after that point.
“I just try to get everyone fired up to play every day and make things as fun as possible,” said Campbell, who finished the day with six goals. “If helping the team win means scoring goals, that’s what I’m going to do.”
The state championship was the Pioneers’ third since the 2017 season, but the first for Campbell, who was on the junior varsity team the last time his school won a title in 2018.
“It feels amazing. It was an underwhelming season in 2019 — to say the least,” he said. “We thought we had a chance last year, then the season got canceled. We had no chance, so to even just be out here on this field — let alone win it — feels so great. This is the best way to bounce back.”
Morgan finished with a team-high three goals for Eastern (15-6), which also finished runner-up in 2019. Mesler and Sprague finished with two goals apiece for the Hawks, while Samuel Bowen, Kaden Dietrich and Preston Hoexum scored one. Senior George Hoexum made six saves in goal.
Mason Margherio had three goals and two assists for East Grand Rapids, which finished the season (20-2). Kase Vandermolen also scored for the Pioneers. Junior goalie Adam Hall made 10 saves to get the win for EGR, which also beat Eastern 7-6 in their early-season matchup.
“They’re a different team. We’re a different team,” EGR interim head coach Adam Brant said. “We’ve made changes since we watched that film from a month and a half ago. I’m pretty pleased with our overall effort. I think that’s what it came down to, hustle.
“This team is just so resilient. They’re just an incredible group of guys. This is a testament to the players. I’m just so happy for them. I can’t think of a group of guys who deserve it more.”
PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids players celebrate during Saturday’s Division 2 championship game. (Middle) A pair of players work to gain possession.
The addition of limited seeding at the Regional level of the Girls Lacrosse Tournament headlined actions taken by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association during its Fall Meeting on Dec. 2 in East Lansing.
Generally, the Council takes only a few actions during its Fall Meeting, with topics often introduced for additional consideration and action during its meetings in winter and spring. This Fall Meeting saw the Council take only three actions, with additional discussion centered on topics expected to receive more specific consideration at MHSAA sport committee meetings this winter and the Council’s meetings in March and May.
The Council approved a Girls Lacrosse Committee proposal to seed the top two teams in every Regional, and place those top seeds on opposite sides of the bracket beginning with the 2023 season. The two teams to be seeded will be determined by using the MHSAA’s Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) formula, which takes into account success and strength of schedule and is used currently to provide seeding information in boys lacrosse, girls and boys basketball, girls and boys soccer, and ice hockey. Only the top two teams in girls lacrosse will be seeded and separated; the other teams in each Regional will be placed on their brackets by random draw.
The Council also approved a Boys Lacrosse Committee recommendation that will allow athletes to participate in up to five quarters per day between teams at multiple levels – for example, varsity and junior varsity – also beginning with the 2023 season. For boys lacrosse multi-team tournaments, if two school teams (for example, the varsity and junior varsity) are at the same event, athletes may play in no more halves or quarters than what is being played by the school’s highest-level team that day. (Example: if the varsity team is playing three 30-minute half games for a total of six halves, a player playing both varsity and JV on the same day can play in six total halves that day.) The “fifth quarter” rule, by allowing athletes to compete on two levels on the same day, is intended to help programs that are otherwise lacking enough participants to field teams at multiple levels.
Taking into account the wintery weather conditions experienced by athletes during the MHSAA alpine ski season, the Council approved a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee recommendation to adopt the “MHSAA Competition and Practice Guidelines for Cold Weather,” which are specific to alpine skiing. The guidelines include a windchill chart and cold standards for ambient temperature. This proposal also was supported by the Ski Committee and will go into effect for the 2022-23 season.
Remaining discussions focused on results from this fall’s Update Meeting survey completed by administrators during the MHSAA’s annual presentations across the state. The Council considered survey data including on questions related to the out-of-season travel rule. The Council also discussed results of a fall survey completed by member school athletic directors and head varsity football coaches concerning ongoing conversations about scheduling and playoff format. Following the Football Committee meeting in January 2023, an ad hoc committee comprised of members of the MHSAA staff, Representative Council, Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) will be convened for further discussion on these topics, with their report to be provided to the Council during its March 2023 meeting.
The Fall Meeting saw the appointment of Westland John Glenn athletic director Jason Malloy for a first-two-year term to the 19-person Council, and the re-appointment of Bay City Western principal Judy Cox for a second two-year term. Malloy previously was appointed to finish a partial term as one of the two representatives of member junior high/middle schools.
The Council reelected Scott Grimes, superintendent for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; and Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as secretary-treasurer. Brighton High School athletic director John Thompson was elected Council vice president.
The Representative Council is the legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.