Preview: Rematches Bring Ultimate Opportunity This Time

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 11, 2021

Saturday’s MHSAA Boys Lacrosse Finals will feature a pair of rematches from this regular season – with the teams looking to avenge also seeking their first championships.

In Division 1, Hartland takes on Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice after losing to the Warriors 17-8 earlier this spring. In Division 2, Ada Forest Hills Eastern will attempt to avenge a 7-6 overtime loss to East Grand Rapids.

Below is a glance at all four teams playing at Howell’s Parker Middle School. Statistics are through Regional Finals unless noted. The Division 1 Final is set for 2 p.m., with Division 2 following at 5. Tickets cost $9.40 and are good for both games, and may be purchased online only at GoFan.

Both games will be broadcast and available with subscription from, with free audio broadcasts on the MHSAA Network.

Division 1

Record/rank: 17-2, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Ajay Chawla, eighth season (124-22)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2005-17, 2019.
Best wins: 9-1 over No. 5 Lake Orion in Semifinal, 17-8 over No. 2 Hartland, 8-1 over No. 6 Detroit Catholic Central, 11-5 and 16-4 over Division 2 No. 5 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 10-6 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 13-8 over Division 2 No. 3 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Connor Borkowicz, jr. M (29 goals, 10 assists); Luke Dudley, sr. A (41 goals, 10 assists); Paulie Fortino, jr. M (21 goals, 9 assists); Christian McNulty, soph. A (37 goals, 7 assists).
Outlook: The Warriors have won all but one Division 1 championship in MHSAA history and are undefeated once again against in-state competition – their lone losses are to Cleveland St. Ignatius and Columbus Upper Arlington from Ohio, and those defeats came by only a combined six goals. No in-state opponent has scored more than eight goals against Rice, which is giving up just 4.2 goals per game overall. Sophomore Joe Schlackman is another key offensive catalyst coming off the bench with 25 goals and six assists this spring. Total, 12 players have scored at least 10 goals.

Record/rank: 22-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West & overall
Coach: Nick Levanti, first season (22-1) 
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Best wins: 18-7 over No. 6 Detroit Catholic Central in Semifinal, 19-5 over No. 7 Saline in Regional Final, 14-10 (Regional Semifinal) and 16-10 over No. 3 Brighton, 14-9 over Division 2 No. 2 East Grand Rapids, 16-9 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 18-9 over Division 2 No. 3 Detroit Country Day.
Players to watch: Bo Lockwood, jr. A (94 goals, 136 assists); Charlie Anderson, sr. A (63 goals, 20 assists); Noah Luck, sr. A (96 goals, 33 assists); Ryan Krause, jr. M (33 goals, 17 assists). (Stats through Semifinal.)
Outlook: Hartland is making its first championship game appearance, and its only defeat this season was April 10 to Brother Rice 18-7. Lockwood made the all-state first team as a freshman in 2019, and his goal and points totals this season rank among the highest in MHSAA history. Freshman mid Drew Lockwood (32 goals, 17 assists) and sophomore mid Joey Mattord (28/18) also are significant offensive contributors. The team has two more returning all-staters from 2019: Senior midfielder Brandon Plemmons made the first team and has 10 goals and three assists this spring but played in only three games. Senior goalie Bryce Avenall earned an honorable mention two years ago and has split time in net, with sophomore Evan Phillips leading the goalie group in saves and ground balls.

Division 2

Record/rank: 15-5, No. 4
League finish: Third in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Zach Gusell, second season (31-12)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2019.
Best wins: 11-9 over No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in Semifinal, 18-5 over No. 5 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Regional Final, 14-6 over Division 1 No. 4 Rockford, 20-2 over Division 1 No. 10 Traverse City Central.
Players to watch: John Morgan, sr. A (49 goals, 19 assists); Sam Bowen, sr. A (54 goals, 39 assists); Ethan Johns, sr. M (42 goals, 17 assists); Kevin Sprague, sr. M (49 goals, 24 assists).
Outlook: Things have fallen into place nicely for Forest Hills Eastern as it is riding an eight-game winning streak and avenged an early 17-6 loss to Forest Hills Central to return to the championship game. Although the players to watch above are all offensive standouts, the defense includes returning all-state seniors Nate Sypien and Ethan Coleman. The Hawks are giving up only five goals per game during the postseason. Coleman made the all-state first team as a sophomore in 2019, while Morgan, Johns and Sypien made the second team. Nick Mesler had added 29 goals and nine assists coming into this week; he, Sprague and Johns are all expected to provide a boost off the bench this weekend.  

Record/rank: 19-2, No. 2
League finish: Second in O-K Tier 1
Coach: Adam Brant, first season (4-0)
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2007-09, 2017-18; runner-up 2005-06, 2011 and 2016.
Best wins: 9-8 (OT) over No. 3 Detroit Country Day in Semifinal, 15-7 over No. 9 Grand Rapids Catholic Central in Regional Semifinal, 6-3 over No. 5 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 7-6 (OT) over No. 4 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 8-5 over No. 6 Okemos, 14-7 over No. 7 Caledonia, 11-3 over Division 1 No. 4 Rockford, 17-1 over Division 1 No. 10 Traverse City Central, 7-6 (OT) over Division 1 No. 6 Detroit Catholic Central, 9-8 over Division 1 No. 3 Brighton.
Players to watch: Sam Tholl, jr. A (37 goals, 25 assists); Ted Campbell, sr. A (56 goals, 11 assists); Drew Zykowski, soph. A (40 goals, 43 assists); Jack Higgins, soph. M (41 goals, 16 assists).
Outlook: East Grand Rapids played all but two of the top 10 in Division 2 MPR heading into the postseason, and its only losses were to top-ranked Forest Hills Central (in overtime by a goal) and Division 1 finalist Hartland. Brant has coached in the program since 2011 and on varsity since 2016 before taking over as interim head coach during this season. Sophomore mid Kase VanderMolen had added 24 goals and eight assists off the bench heading into this week, and junior goalie Adam Hall was giving up only 4.1 goals per game with five shutouts.

PHOTO: Forest Hills Eastern’s Nate Sypien moves the ball ahead during the 2019 Division 2 Final; he’s among returning standouts hoping to lead his team to its first championship this weekend.

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.)