By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Brad Thomas and his coaching staff did their best last May to make practices fun. But that wasn’t always easy with his Lake Orion boys lacrosse team heading toward the end of a second straight sub-.500 season.
The Dragons are 14-1 and have clinched the Oakland Activities Association Red championship – and are the Applebee’s Team of the Month for April after starting the season with 10 straight wins through April 30.
Lake Orion was 7-12 in 2014 and 5-14 last spring after starting 2-8 both of those seasons. But the Dragons showed signs of emerging near the end of 2015, winning three of their final six games. And five of their losses last season were by four goals or fewer.
“We have a lot of upperclassmen who have been up (on varsity) the last couple of years and experienced a lot of close losses,” said Thomas, who is in his sixth season leading the program. “It would be a one or two-goal game, and we wouldn’t make a play at the end.
“This year, we’ve had a lot of close games. But we’ve found ways to make plays, and that’s been driven by the seniors. … Whether it’s been locking in defensively, or scoring more goals on offense or finding a way to get a ground ball. And the younger guys have bought in and see how special we can be.”
The turnaround has included first wins in program history over Birmingham, Clarkston, Troy Athens and Rochester Adams. Lake Orion is ranked No. 8 in Division 1, with its only loss by a goal to Division 2 No. 8 Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on May 3.
That Birmingham win – 9-8 in overtime on April 15 – gave Thomas an idea that the just-miss experiences of the last two seasons might pay off. The Dragons have seven wins by four or fewer goals and two one-goal wins over their last four games, including a double-overtime edging of Bloomfield Hills.
Lake Orion has eight seniors, including four who have been on the varsity three seasons – goalie Zach Daining, defender Jack McClear, midfielder Cole Schaefer and attack Jake Chapie.
This senior class also is the first to play in the middle school program, and the community’s 5-year-old youth program now starts at 9-and-under.
The team has worked to become part of its greater community as well, last season playing a “Lacrosse for a Cause” game that raised money for ALS of Michigan after the mother of a player died after suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Two weeks ago, the team through fundraising and the dedication of its game against Oxford raised more than $6,000 for the Fallen and Wounded Solider Fund, a Bloomfield Hills-based effort that provides financial assistance to veterans and their families.
“They’re just good people,” Thomas said of his players, “just a great group of guys who work hard and are dedicated to being good to each other – a great example of what we want the program to be here.”
Past Teams of the Month, 2015-16:
March: Hancock ice hockey – Report
February: Petoskey boys skiing – Report
January: Spring Lake boys swimming & diving – Report
December: Saginaw Heritage girls basketball – Report
November: Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard volleyball – Report
October: Benton Harbor football – Report
September: Mason and Okemos boys soccer – Report
PHOTOS: (Top) Lake Orion boys lacrosse players line up before a game this season. (Middle) Dragons attack Jake Chapie (13) looks for an opening. (Photos courtesy of Lake Orion boys lacrosse program.)
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.