Senior-Led Forest Hills Central Completes Historic Championship Repeat

By Drew Ellis
Special for

June 10, 2023

EAST GRAND RAPIDS – Repeating as Division 2 boys lacrosse champion has been no easy task.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central had missed doing so on four previous attempts.

But Saturday, the Rangers became just the second program in MHSAA history to repeat, defeating Detroit Country Day for the second consecutive year in the Final, 11-6. 

“It’s really special (to repeat). We’ve had a couple opportunities to do that before and unfortunately haven’t been able to piece that together,” Forest Hills Central coach Andy Shira said. “This year, our seniors really took a step forward with how they lead and what it was going to take to get there. We had such a fantastic season last year, and we put them to the test this year. They met the challenge each and every day. We had some ups and downs, but the kids really stayed true to themselves and we came out on top.” 

FHC’s Magnus Salmon (3) works a shot between Country Day’s Hugh Aaron (17) and Shafeek Halabi (11). East Grand Rapids is the only other program to win consecutive D2 championships, when it won three straight from 2007-09. This year’s Finals was held at East Grand Rapids High School for the first time since 2013, giving the Rangers a hometown feel Saturday.

But Detroit Country Day (19-3) couldn’t have asked for much of a better start. 

The Yellowjackets opened by scoring the first three goals when Mason Gal, Bonner Upshaw and Will Thompson each found the net over the first nine minutes of play.

Shira called a timeout to regroup the Rangers (18-4), and the game was never the same. 

“We just needed the kids to settle down and execute better,” Shira said. “We had a little too much going on; we were a little frantic. So, once we settled down and the kids got to work, everything started to work in our favor.”

Forest Hills Central would lock in defensively, holding DCD to just one goal over the final 15 minutes of the first half. 

While the defense was in control, the FHC offense rallied behind Magnus Salmon, who scored four times in the second period to lift the Rangers to a 6-4 halftime lead.

“Magnus Salmon was the difference in my mind,” Detroit Country Day coach Chris Garland said. “Bang, bang, bang. He gets three straight goals in the second and really carried the team on his back there. That was the big momentum shift in the game.”

Oliver Aaron (10) rushes upfield with Collin Webb (7) defending.In the second half, it was Jonah McConnell who had the hot stick. He found the net three times during the half and four times in the game to keep DCD from getting within reach.

Forest Hills Central goalie Crandall Quinn put on a dominant final three quarters of play, holding the Yellowjackets to three goals while making nine saves in net.

“It’s amazing. It’s great to be back-to-back state champs and win it in my senior year with all my buddies,” Quinn said. “We lost to (Country Day) earlier in the year, and it was great to see us bounce back.”

On the other side of the field, Country Day goalie Kellen Curby also had a strong showing, recording 13 saves for the Yellowjackets.

“Crandall Quinn is the best goalie in the state, but I think Kellen Curby is the next great goalie in Division 2,” Garland said. “He was outstanding in spots today and played an outstanding game.”

Caden Daley had two goals to lead Country Day on the night.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Forest Hills Central’s Crandall Quinn (4) advances the ball during his team’s Division 2 championship win Saturday. (Middle) FHC’s Magnus Salmon (3) works a shot between Country Day’s Hugh Aaron (17) and Shafeek Halabi (11). (Below) Oliver Aaron (10) rushes upfield with Collin Webb (7) defending. (Photos by Adam Sheehan/Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Quick 2nd-Half Strike Sparks Detroit Catholic Central to Comeback Win

By Drew Ellis
Special for

June 8, 2024

ANN ARBOR – The Detroit Catholic Central offense knew what it was capable of – but just needed to show it.

After being shut out in the first period of Saturday’s MHSAA Division 1 boys lacrosse championship game at University of Michigan, and trailing 6-3 at the break, the Shamrocks needed a spark.

That spark came in the form of a Lachlan Moffatt goal just 13 seconds into the second half, which started an 11-2 run for DCC on the way to a 14-8 victory.

“Hartland was playing really well. We just weren’t capitalizing, which is really kind of strange for us. I think when we got that first goal of the third quarter, that really changed the complexion of the whole thing,” Detroit Catholic Central coach Dave Wilson said.

Even after the Moffatt goal, the Shamrocks (21-3) still didn’t take the lead until late in the third quarter. Senior midfielder Matthew Aleva would fire off a laser that found the back of the net with 4:14 to play in the period, tying the game at 7-7.

Minutes later, Aleva would take a pass from Moffatt and find the net again to give the Shamrocks their first lead – one they wouldn’t relinquish.

A Hartland player brings the ball upfield while DCC's Brody Wojcik defends.“They were big and I knew we needed to swing the energy on to our side,” Aleva said of his two goals. “We had to rally back and come out in the second half with a Game-7 mentality. We found that energy and we made sure to play the way we know we could.”

The Shamrocks won all 14 faceoffs in the second half, which allowed them to control possession most of the final two periods and take a 32-8 shot advantage over Hartland (19-4).

“Faceoffs had a lot to do with it. At the end of the day, (Catholic Central) had a couple of strong draw guys who are really talented players,” Hartland coach Nick Levanti said. “You have to come out with other ways to win, whether it is winning possessions, winning ground balls, tying it up, clearing better. Ultimately, I felt (Catholic Central) came out hungrier to do those little things.”

It was Hartland that looked hungrier during the first half. The Eagles took a 3-0 lead after a quarter of play, thanks in large part to the play of freshman goalie Nate Anderer. He made six saves in the first period and finished with 19 for the game.

“He’s always locked in, and he’s a great player,” Levanti said of Anderer. “That’s a performance you can expect him to give. He has that type of capability in any game.”

With Catholic Central not finding the net at its accustomed frequency, it relied less on its passing to score and worked individual battles. Seven of the 11 second-half goals were unassisted. 

“Every game takes on its own personality. We weren’t moving off-ball well, so guys had to really take it on their own and stick the ball in the net, and they did,” Wilson said.

The Shamrocks' Matthew Aleva (30) makes a move as Hartland's Mark Alarcon defends. Luke Zajdel led Catholic Central in scoring with five goals, four of which came in the second half. Moffatt finished with three goals and two assists, while Francisco Williams and Aleva each had two goals.

Hartland was led by Dylan Ayotte, who had two goals. Easton Culver had one goal and two assists for the Eagles.

Saturday marked the first time the Division 1 Final didn’t feature Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice. The Warriors had appeared in every D1 Final since the sport received MHSAA sponsorship in 2005.

The only two Finals Brother Rice had lost came against Catholic Central (2018) and Hartland (2022), respectively.

Catholic Central became the first program aside from Rice to win multiple MHSAA Division 1 titles.

“It’s sheer dedication to try and get to this game every year,” Wilson said. “It requires a ton of commitment and skill and unselfishness and learning how to be coachable. These guys did it. We felt that early on, that these guys had the potential to do that.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit Catholic Central celebrates its Division 1 championship Saturday. (Middle) A Hartland player brings the ball upfield while DCC's Brody Wojcik defends. (Below) The Shamrocks' Matthew Aleva (30) makes a move as Hartland's Braden Streight defends.