Bowie, 'Clamp Nation' Lock Down D1 Win

November 7, 2015

By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half

BRIGHTON – Moments after the end of the MHSAA Division 1 boys soccer championship game at Brighton High School late Saturday afternoon, students and fans from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central were chanting in unison, “MIS-TER SOC-CER.”

The object of the chant was senior Anthony Bowie, who scored the first goal of the game as Forest Hills Central captured its first MHSAA championship since winning the Division 2 title in 2004 with a 2-0 victory over defending Division 1 champion Canton.

Bowie did not seem too concerned about the chant or the upcoming announcement of the award.

“I tried not to pay attention to that,” he said. “I was just focused on the team.”

Bowie tied the school record for goals in a season with number 42 in the seventh minute of the game on an assist from Max Postlewait. Bowie was right in front of the goal when he booted it past the goalkeeper.

“Max put a ball over the top, and it was falling down and I was all by myself, and I was just looking to frame it one time, and I put it on frame,” he said.

It was a key goal. The previous four Division 1 championship games ended 1-0, so goals are sometimes at a premium.

“It was huge,” Forest Hills Central coach Blair Lincoln said. “We talked about not chasing the match and getting out in front and having them react and chase us.

“Anytime you can get a goal and go up 1-0, that just puts them on their heels and they start reacting to our game plan a little bit. To get a goal and go up 1-0 into the wind in the first half was a positive for us. We talked about being defensive in the second half, and good things happened.”

Canton coach Mark Zemanski had to look only one game back for hope facing a 1-0 deficit.

“We were down 1-0 in the semis, so I knew we could come back, or I hoped we could come back,” he said. “It didn’t happen.

“They were a very good team. Bowie was the best forward we’ve faced all year by far. He was good.”

Bowie, who is headed to Western Michigan University, also assisted on Forest Hills Central’s second goal of the game, and Lincoln said that part of his game is often overlooked.

“Anthony is a special player,” Lincoln said. “He had 42 goals this year, but what is even more impressive is his ability to generate almost 25 assists. He was a part of almost 70 goals this year.

“I really like his opportunity to be Mr. Soccer. He’s just a special player. He’s physical, he’s big, he’s explosive and he can change a match. If you focus on him, it will go to someone else. If you focus on someone else, it’s coming in to him.

“He’s very dynamic and one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”

With the 1-0 lead, the Rangers became a little more defensive-orientated and relied on sophomore goalkeeper Jared Ireland and the unit that has become known as “Clamp Nation.”

“It’s fantastic,” Ireland said. “I have to give a good round of applause to my defense. They stayed tight throughout the game. There were a couple of good chances, but we pulled through at the end and clamped it down for Clamp Nation.”

Ireland faced his greatest challenge with four minutes left in the second half. He had to dive to his right to stop the ball from hitting the back of the net and tying the game.

“It was a very high-reaction save and very difficult,” Ireland said. “I was very nervous in the last 10 minutes of the game. Those last 10 minutes seemed like they lasted as long as the whole season.”

A few minutes later, junior Mohamed Haji scored with an assist from Bowie, and the Rangers had a 2-0 lead with just a few minutes to play.

“Our goal was not to be content getting here,” Lincoln said. “You’re playing the defending state champs and a very good squad, and they fought hard all the way to the end.”

Three years ago, this probably did not seem possible for the Rangers, who won just five games in 2012, the first season under Lincoln.

“Our first year, we had a young team, and we all grew together,” Bowie said. “We had a core group of guys throughout the whole time, and we just grew up together. We just stayed together.

“There were three of us as freshman, then seven as sophomores and then 12 as juniors. It feels awesome, and hopefully these guys carry it on for the next few years and learn from the seniors.”

Zemanski was obviously disappointed that Canton did not become the first team to repeat as Division 1 champion since East Kentwood in 2007-08 but pointed out that his team lost to another good team.

“The boys knew they had their backs to the wall,” he said. “They knew this team wasn’t going to give up, and they had to work together to generate some opportunities, and we generated some but couldn’t find the back of the net. Hats off to them. That’s a very good team.”

The Rangers, who started the season with dreams of an undefeated season and an MHSAA championship, had three ties, and Bowie pointed out that one of them might have served as a springboard into the playoffs.

“The last game of the regular season (against East Grand Rapids), we were up 3-0, and in 10 minutes they scored to make it 3-3,” Bowie said. “It was a reality check, like they can beat us, and that’s when we really came together and said we have to stay focused, and we were able to do that throughout the playoffs.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, including Marshall Brummel (20), celebrate Saturday. (Middle) Rangers surround Canton’s Ryen O’Meara, including Noah Saleh (3) and Jake Ireland (9).

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.)