Balanced Falcons Bring Title Back Home

November 9, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

East Kentwood’s exit in the 2011 District Final was the team’s earliest from the MHSAA boys soccer tournament since 2003.

Although it came against a formidable opponent, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, that was ranked just a few spots lower and had beaten the Falcons earlier in the season, the loss still didn’t sit right for a team that had won three of the past four Division 1 Finals.

East Kentwood made the fixes this fall to push that championship run to four of the last six.

The Falcons get a Second Half High 5 this week after finishing another title push with a 1-0 win over Grand Blanc in Saturday’s Division 1 Final at Troy Athens. They finished this fall 22-1-4.

“Every team has a personality, and the personality of this team was unity,” Conlon said. “That’s not coach-speak. They bought into each other, bought into their roles, were very unselfish.

“Last year, we focused on the wrong things, and that bit us at the end of the season. When you play great teams like Grand Blanc and Novi, it comes down to trusting teammates. And we won a 1-nothing tight game … because we trusted someone up top, and he scored.”

East Kentwood totaled an impressive 85 goals this season, considering especially the strong schedule again this fall. That lone goal in the Final came from junior Emir Cengic, a defender who will be part of the attack in 2013 but hadn’t scored this season before tapping in the team’s final goal of 2012.

That ending was indicative of the balanced contributions from all over the field. Senior midfielder Charlie Constantino is perhaps the team’s best-known talent, and he had a solid 10 goals and 11 assists. But senior forward T.J. Ifaturoti led the team with 16 goals and senior defender Tyler Moorman also added 10. Senior midfielder Josh Hagene had a team-high 12 assists, with junior forward Erick Pizano also totaling 11.

The balance extended to the net, where senior Denis Duratovic had nine shutouts and a 1.0 goals-against average. But sophomore Peyton Gonzalez finished the run with shutouts in the Semifinal and Final, giving him four in eight games with a 0.38 GAA. Both were beneficiaries of a group that prided itself on defense although it was known more for its attack.

“There’s definitely a pressure on the guys. We have a bunch of our former players who come back and tell them how good they were, so the guys have expectations to live up to,” Conlon said. “Honestly, we don’t talk a lot about state championships. We talk about doing the right thing and focusing on the game at hand. It sounds like coach-speak, but really, that’s what we focus on

The Falcons final moments of 2012 were part another show of unity and tribute to one of many who helped establish the program’s success and expectations before them. They posed in the team photo with their trophy and medals wearing black T-shirts with the words “Seal Team Three” in honor of former player David Warsen. The Navy Seal played for East Kentwood from 2001-04 and died in August in Afghanistan. Two of his brothers also played for the Falcons; Ryan was the main keeper when the team won its previously most-recent title in 2010.

“Today was just a fun celebration,” Conlon said after the photos were taken. “That’s the way we looked at the day.”

PHOTO: East Kentwood goalkeeper Peyton Gonzalez (far right) prepares to snag a shot amid teammates and Grand Blanc players during the Falcons' 1-0 win in the MHSAA Division 1 Final. (Click to see more from

Storch Returns to Retirement After Elevating Alpena Teams From Cellar to Contenders

By Tom Spencer
Special for

December 16, 2022

It wasn’t long ago that Alpena boys and girls soccer opponents took their long bus rides to play the Wildcats expecting an easy win, and most likely by securing the victory by the eight-goal differential rule, commonly known as the “mercy rule.”

Worse yet, the Wildcats also had to take those trips across the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, as well as northern and southern journeys of two hours, dreading thoughts of experiencing yet another shortened game.

Those expectations started to change in 2011, when Tim Storch, arguably the most decorated coach in the history of Michigan high school soccer, took the reins of the Wildcats’ boys and girls programs.  

Storch made the move after retiring from Troy Athens as a teacher and coach of the Redhawks’ boys and girls soccer teams.

Slowly but surely, Alpena’s mercy losses disappeared – and wins over their Big North Conference opponents became reality. Under Storch, the Wildcats went from the cellar to challenging for titles.

But now, Storch is showing some mercy on the Big North – perhaps an early Christmas present. The conference schools won’t see him on sidelines any longer. He’s retiring – again.   

Storch is doing so after leading the Wildcats to wins over all conference opponents except Traverse City West. The Wildcats did get a tie this fall against the Titans, one of the BNC schools that regularly makes a deep postseason run, as Alpena stayed in the league title race most of the season.

“When I came to Alpena it was about trying to make the program relevant in the school, the community, the area, the BNC and northern Michigan,” Storch recalled. “We got to that point after some growing pains. 

“Early on we took our lumps, and we were mercied by everybody,” he continued. “By the end we were competitive with everybody.”

Storch, who started the Athens soccer programs from scratch in 1981, won eight Class A or Division 1 Finals titles with the Redhawks. He’s near the top of the lists of the winningest boys and girls soccer coaches in the state. The last of his 1,109 wins was a 3-1 victory over Bay City Western during this fall’s postseason.  

The Wildcats also beat conference opponent Cadillac in their District opener. They finished 14-6-3 on the season.   

Storch will be dearly missed in Northern Michigan, veteran Petoskey boys and girls coach Zach Jonker pointed out. Jonker’s Northmen picked up a victory over Alpena in the Division 2 District Final – also Storch’s last game. 

"Tim has had a legendary career as one of the most influential figures in Michigan high school soccer over the past 40 years while having an enormous impact on thousands of student-athletes,” Jonker said. “Over the past decade, Tim helped to dramatically raise the overall level of play in the Big North. 

Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. “He is one of fiercest competitors I have ever coached against, but he is also one of the most genuine and empathetic coaches I have ever encountered,” Jonker continued. “I feel fortunate to have been able to build a competitive relationship with him and call him a friend."

Storch’s last game with the Alpena girls also was a District Final, a 3-0 loss May 31 to West.

Storch is proud of what the Wildcats accomplished, noting logistics — unlike in southeastern Michigan — were a big challenge.

“We were an island,” Storch said. “We were big school in the middle of nowhere. 

“We couldn’t get together and have any kind of summer program with other communities because they didn’t have soccer, and if they had soccer they were at a Class D or C level that was way beneath what we were playing in the Big North.”

Storch’s tenure, which included six years serving as the Wildcats’ athletic director while coaching, drew accolades from his coaches and athletic directors. In addition to Jonker, Gaylord AD Christian Wilson, and West boys head coach and girls assistant coach Matt Griesinger gave high praise.

They are among those who will miss the successful coach.

“Tim leaves Alpena in better shape than when he arrived, and that is the true mark of a great coach and administrator,” Wilson said. “He has been an outstanding representative of Alpena High School, both as a soccer coach and as an athletic director. 

“Tim brought a level of stability and expertise and was well-thought of by players, coaches, and community members.”

Griesinger, who has led the Titans to considerable postseason success and upheld BNC dominance since taking over the West program eight seasons ago, was particularly impressed with Storch’s energy and passion for his players evident in every match.

“Tim is one of the most respected coaches in the state, and what he has done for the soccer communities in both Troy and Alpena is not just commendable, but also something that every high school coach should hope to emulate,” Griesinger stated. “Storch is a stand-up guy, and all of us other coaches in the BNC should consider ourselves lucky that our journeys in the sport overlapped.”

Storch is leaving Michigan high school sports as they face a shortage of referees and qualified coaches. He’s not certain of the exact reasons for it, but he points to time constraints and pressures faced on and off the field.

And, he knows the days of a teacher starting a career, coaching sports and sticking with it are long gone.

“My wife has always said I was a dinosaur,” Storch said with a chuckle. “Back in my day, even if you had family and kids, you still made time for coaching. 

“Coaching was part of my fiber — it kind of defined me.”

Storch is quick to point out “soccer coach” was just one of three hats he wore, along with history teacher and friend.

“I’m Mr. Storch to my students,” he recalls telling his student-athletes at Athens. “I’m Coach to my kids, and I am Tim to my friends.

“They are three different hats; I learned how to wear them and how to balance them.”

Storch looks back to all the friendships he’s made around the game of soccer – with former players, fellow coaches, and referees – with excitement for the future.  

He is also keeping in mind former players, referees and coaches who have passed on.

“It is kind of humbling when I think back all the years (to) coaches, referees and players I have interacted with,” he said. “We’re all here for a finite time. 

“We need to make the most of it and hopefully leave the place a better place when we leave.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Recently-retired Alpena soccer coach Tim Storch, left, talks things over with one of his players. (Middle) Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. (Photos courtesy of Therese Shaw.)