Preview: Boys Lacrosse Eyes on Detroit

June 6, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Some things change. Others stay the same. 

For the first time in the decade of MHSAA Lacrosse Finals, all four boys teams playing for championships are from the Detroit area. 

But Birmingham Brother Rice, despite losing its first in-state game this spring since lacrosse became an MHSAA sport in 2005, is back in the Division 1 championship game. The Warriors have won all nine Division 1 boys lacrosse titles.

The Division 2 Final begins at 2 p.m. at Troy Athens, followed by the Division 1 Final at 4:30. Click for more information including all results from this season's tournament. Both finals also will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV and broadcast on

Here's a brief look at the four teams vying for titles (player statistics do not include Semifinals): 

Division 1

Record/rank: 18-4, No. 2 at end of regular-season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League Division I
Coach: Ajay Chawla, first season (18-4) 
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2013). 
Best wins: 11-6 over No. 8 Brighton (Regional Semifinal), 16-4 over No. 6 Troy (Regional Final), 12-3 over No. 9 Birmingham United, 15-9 and 12-8 over No. 4 Detroit Catholic Central, 8-7 over Division 2 No. 1 Detroit Country Day, 20-8 over Division 2 No. 5 Cranbrook-Kingswood.
Players to watch: Jason Alessi, sr. M (65 goals, 37 assists); Joe Dudley, sr. A (57 goals, 19 assists); Reid Fisher, sr. M (45 goals, 17 assists).
Outlook: On one hand, Brother Rice fell to a Michigan team, 11-9 to Detroit Country Day. On the other, Brother Rice had already beaten Country Day once and won both meetings with Catholic League rival Detroit Catholic Central, Saturday’s opponent. The Warriors had a new look this spring with a first-year coach and a number of new contributors filling in for graduated all-staters. But Alessi will finish his career as one of the leading scorers in MHSAA history, Chawla coached the junior varsity team previously, and Brother Rice always has plenty of talent to fill in the lineup. Sophomore Morgan Macko and junior John Lockwood had 29 and 28 goals, respectively, heading into this week.

Record/rank: 15-5, No. 4 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League Division I
Coach: Dave Wilson, ninth season (116-60) 
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 2010, 2007 and 2006.
Best wins: 15-14 (OT) over No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (Semifinal), 18-11 (Regional Final) and 11-9 over No. 3 Clarkston, 21-7 over No. 8 Brighton, 14-13 over Division 2 No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 14-9 over Division 2 No. 4 East Grand Rapids.  
Players to watch: Jack Van Acker, sr. A; Connor Holton, sr. D (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Despite two losses to Brother Rice this season, DCC gave the Warriors a run in the Catholic League championship game, falling just 12-8, and beat the best of the rest to advance to this weekend. In fact, the Shamrocks fell by 10 to Forest Hills Northern in the regular-season finale before avenging that loss in the Semifinal. Van Acker and Holton both earned all-state honors last season as the Shamrocks won their first Regional title since 2010.

Division 2

Record/rank: 12-8, No. 5 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League Division II 
Coach: Mat Wilson, third season (42-21) 
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2013 and 2006, runner-up 2007. 
Best wins: 13-9 and 11-10 (OT, Semifinal) over No. 2 Forest Hills Central, 14-12 over No. 4 East Grand Rapids, 17-10 over No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle, 18-7 over No. 7 Haslett/Williamston (Regional Final), 21-8 over No. 8 Rochester Adams (Regional Semifinal), 16-11 over Division 1 No. 4 Detroit Catholic Central.
Players to watch: Matthew Giampetroni, sr. M/A; Taylor Ghesquiere, sr. M/A; Johnny Wagner, jr. A; Michael Langdon, jr. D; Jack Blumberg, jr. D (Statistics not submitted.).
Outlook: Don’t be fooled by Cranbrook-Kingswood’s seemingly middling record. The Cranes went 11-4 in-state with wins over five of the top-10 Division 2 teams at the end of the regular season, and the lineup is stacked with standouts from last year’s championship run. Five starters – including attacks Giampetroni, Ghesquiere and Wagner – earned all-state honors last season.  

Record/rank: 16-6, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Michael Cappelletti, first season (16-6)
Championship history: Division 2 champions 2011 and 2005; runner-up 2012. 
Best wins: 11-8 over No. 4 East Grand Rapids (Semifinal), 16-3 over No. 9 Warren DeLaSalle (Regional Final), 22-1 over No. 10 Tecumseh (Regional Semifinal), 11-3 over No. 7 Haslett/Williamston, 21-14 over No. 5 Cranbrook-Kingswood, 8-7 over Division 1 No. 2 Birmingham Brother Rice, 18-9 over Division 1 No. 3 Clarkston, 12-5 over Division 1 No. 9 Brimingham United.
Players to watch: Nick Martin, jr. M; Jackson White, soph. G; Jack Bergmann, sr. A; David Pohl, sr. M (Statistics not submitted.).
Outlook: Country Day achieved the major accomplishment of becoming the first in-state team to defeat Brother Rice since the MHSAA began sponsoring lacrosse in 2005. And the Yellowjackets appear primed to finish with the one victory that arguably would be more significant from a statewide view. Martin, White, Bergmann and Pohl all earned all-state recognition last season, and White has been an absolute stopper in goal. Country Day has given up only 14 goals combined in four tournament games and gave up 10 or more only four times during the regular season.

PHOTO: Birmingham Brother Rice’s Jason Alessi will finish his career Saturday as one of the top scorers in MHSAA boys lacrosse history.

Future Has Arrived as Port Huron United Continues Impressive Climb

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 8, 2024

Brad McDougal knew when he returned to the Port Huron United lacrosse program in 2019 that in order to grow it to what he thought it could be, he’d have to build for the future.

Bay & ThumbHis plan was simple and time-tested: Start a youth program that would get players within the school system playing together more frequently and against better competition, preparing them to one day be varsity players.

It didn’t take long to see that it could work, and perhaps better and faster than he had hoped.

“We’ve known for a while (this was the year),” McDougal said. “Basically, when I started with that youth team, my ambition was if I can get four or five kids that have been coached, then build around them for the varsity program, that would be great. It turned out to be 15 of them.”

Behind 15 seniors, the majority of whom were part of McDougal’s original youth team, Port Huron United is competing at a level it never has before. United is ranked No. 9 in the Division 1 MPR following a 10-3 start, and won the Macomb Area Conference Red title for the first time in program history.

It’s a history that McDougal is plenty familiar with, having been a high school junior when the program began in 2006. McDougals have been part of the program ever since, whether it was him as a coach fresh out of high school and now, his brother Ben as a player, or his father Brian as a coach at various levels throughout all of it.

“Being around it as long as I have, that has sunk in,” he said. “The amount of teams that are reaching out to us now that never would have before – teams reaching out for film, ‘How were you able to defend this?’ Teams reaching out for scheduling that I think would have just ignored the email a couple years back. It’s definitely not lost on me.”

It’s also not lost on the players, who have heard McDougal talk about the program’s beginnings and have also seen first-hand a quick ascent.

As freshmen, this current group of seniors were a major part of a varsity team that played in the MAC Blue – the MAC’s divisions are based on performance, with Red being the highest – dominating it and earning promotion to the MAC White the following season. Another unbeaten league season put United into the MAC Red in 2023, and while there were some growing pains in going 2-3 against higher-level competition, there were signs of better things to come.

Matt Graham (12) maintains possession against the Cougars. “The second my class joined, we just dominated our leagues,” senior goalie Danny Moore said. “We went from Blue to White to Red in three years. Last year in the Red, we went 2-3, but it wasn’t without close games. I think (the rise) definitely stunned us a little bit. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about the giant leap we took. It’s like a world record long jump.”

Moore said the team started this season “like a cannonball out of the cannon with too much gun powder” as this group of seniors knew it was their last opportunity to play with one another.

United was dominant in its MAC Red season, going 5-0 and out-scoring opponents 61-12, not allowing more than three goals in any single game.

On the season, it has outscored opponents 136-50, led by senior goal-scoring threats Silas Klink, Jacob O’Hare, Nate DeLand, Matt Graham and Tim Monaghan. Moore is stopping more than 80 percent of the shots he’s faced, behind the defense of seniors Jack Bennett and Max Williams, and junior Parker Quinn, among others.

That’s despite a beefed-up nonconference schedule, which McDougal put together to better prepare his team for the upcoming postseason.

“We have a way harder schedule this year,” Klink said. “We haven’t ever made it to the Regional Final in all the program’s history, so that’s a big goal. I think scheduling all these teams, Coach McDougal knew what he was doing to get us battle-tested.”

Boys Lacrosse Regionals open May 16, and Lake Orion – which defeated Port Huron 11-4 in the season opener – is the host of United’s bracket.

Winning a Regional is the next goal for Port Huron, and McDougal repeatedly tells his team he wants a Michigan trophy. They’re ready to do all they can to make that happen, but also aren’t shying away from the possibility of blowing away his expectations once again.

“State champs,” said Bennett, who has committed to play lacrosse at Albion College along with Moore. “We want to go all the way. It would just be like – I don’t even know how to describe it. For the program, it would further push lacrosse at my high school and Port Huron. Twenty years ago, we didn’t even have a lacrosse team, so I think it would really push lacrosse in Port Huron.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Port Huron United’s Silas Klink (1) makes a run at the goal against Macomb Dakota. (Middle) Matt Graham (12) maintains possession against the Cougars. (Photos by Margaret Quinn.)