By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
There’s little question which teams have been the best in Michigan boys lacrosse the last few seasons.
For the third straight, the MHSAA Finals will feature rematches of Detroit Catholic League rivals Detroit Catholic Central and Birmingham Brother Rice in Division 1 and Ottawa-Kent Conference opponents East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in Division 2.
The Division 2 game leads off this year’s series at 2 p.m. Saturday, followed by the Division 1 game at 4:30. Both Finals at Howell’s Parker Middle School will be broadcast on MHSAA.tv, available with subscription, with audio available on MHSAANetwork.com. Click for more information, including all tournament results.
Below is a look at all four contenders, with player statistics through Regional Finals.
BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE
Record/rank: 13-7, No. 4 at end of regular-season
League finish: Second in Detroit Catholic High School League A
Coach: Ajay Chawla, fifth season (86-20)
Championship history: 13 MHSAA championships (most recent 2017).
Best wins: 10-4 over No. 7 Bloomfield Hills in Semifinal, 7-6 and 9-5 over Division 2 No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 14-5 over Division 2 No. 10 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Players to watch: Justin Glod, jr. A (22 goals, 5 assists); Jordan Hyde, soph. M (17 goals, 11 assists); Patrick O’Hara, soph. M/A (26 goals, 15 assists); Jack Michael, sr. G (7.9 goals-against average).
Outlook: By Brother Rice standards, this season is a little down – the Warriors have lost games to two in-state opponents when they rarely lose to any Michigan teams. And that said, they’re still headed to the championship game looking to remain the only Division 1 title winner in MHSAA boys lacrosse history. Rice has given up double-digit goals in only five games and a combined 20 goals over five playoff games. Juniors James Donaldson and Jack Crosby and senior Connor Marsh all earned all-state recognition on “special teams” last season. Junior Charlie Comer is another scoring threat, with 17 goals entering this week.
DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL
Record/rank: 18-2, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic High School League A
Coach: Dave Wilson, 13th season (182-79)
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up seven times (most recent 2017).
Best wins: 10-9 and 11-8 over No. 4 Birmingham Brother Rice, 13-12 over No. 2 Hartland in Semifinal, 20-9 over No. 9 Rockford, 17-8 over No. 6 South Lyon Unified in Regional Final, 19-18 over Division 2 No. 1 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, 10-4 over Division 2 No. 2 East Grand Rapids.
Players to watch: Peter Thompson, sr. A; Joey Kamish, jr. A; Patrick Brandemihl, sr. M; Ethan Pattinson, sr. M. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: DCC broke through against rival Brother Rice during the regular season and now will look to claim its first Division 1 championship in its fifth straight title game try against the Warriors. The Shamrocks have beaten most of the best in Michigan, with both losses to out-of-state opponents. Thompson was a repeat all-state first-teamer last season and Kamish made the second team. Like Brother Rice, only five opponents have scored double-digit goals on DCC this spring.
EAST GRAND RAPIDS
Record/rank: 17-4, No. 2 at end of regular season
League finish: Second in O-K Conference Tier 1
Coach: Rick DeBlasio, sixth season (91-30)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2017), four runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 16-3 over No. 9 Grosse Pointe North in Semifinal, 16-2 (Regional Final) and 14-11 over No. 7 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 15-3 over No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 14-5 over Division 2 No. 10 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 17-6 over No. 3 Vicksburg, 16-8 over Division 1 No. 5 Brighton, 10-3 over Division 1 No. 9 Rockford, 12-2 over Division 1 No. 8 Lake Orion.
Players to watch: Nick Milanowski, sr G (5.10 goals-against average), Eric Solberg, sr. A (63 goals, 11 assists); Chris Owens, sr. A (66 goals, 27 assists), Jay Stecco, jr. A (23 goals, 62 assists).
Outlook: After falling to Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central in the 2016 Final, East Grand Rapids won last year’s championship rematch 11-9 to claim its first title since 2009. The Pioneers fell to FHC in their meeting earlier this season and will be playing from a bit of an underdog role again – but with a two-time all-state first team goalie in Milanowski and plenty of scoring prowess. Seniors Jack DelVecchio (31 goals) and Connor Davis (22 goals) also are among nine players who had tallied double-digit goals this season heading into this week. Senior Drew Thomas was a first-team all-state defender last season.
GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS CENTRAL
Record/rank: 18-1, No. 1 at end of regular season
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Tier 1
Coach: Andy Shira, first season (18-1)
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2016), three runner-up finishes.
Best wins: 19-3 over No. 10 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in Semifinal, 25-12 over No. 3 Vicksburg in Regional Final, 15-11 over No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, 20-8 over No. 7 Ada Forest Hills Eastern, 14-7 over No. 2 East Grand Rapids, 16-4 and 19-7 over Division 1 No. 9 Rockford, 12-5 over Division 1 No. 4 Birmingham Brother Rice.
Players to watch: Bryce Clay, sr. A (83 goals, 52 assists); Tate Hallock, jr. A (57 goals, 34 assists); Tobey Hendricks, sr. A (51 goals, 21 assists); Jack Nolan, jr. G (8.00 goals-against average).
Outlook: Shira was the team’s second new coach in two seasons but has Forest Hills Central back in the championship game for the third straight. Clay is one of the state’s top players, a multiple-time all-state first-teamer, and will look to end his career with another high note. Senior defender Andrew Trapp and senior midfielder Patrick English made the all-state first and second teams, respectively, last season, although English (16 goals, 14 assists) had played in only 13 games entering the week and isn’t listed in the starting lineup. Junior Luke Majick added another 45 goals and 25 assists entering this week, and junior Logan Wedder is a top face-off specialist.
PHOTO: Forest Hills Central’s Patrick English (32) launches a shot during last season’s Division 1 Final.
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.