Brotherly Bond Sparks John Glenn Goals

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

September 15, 2020

It didn’t take even a half for the Beson-Montoya brothers to show off the potential of their connection this season.

Freshman forward Lawsen Beson-Montoya scored two goals during the first 40 minutes of his debut for the Bay City John Glenn boys soccer team on Sept. 8, and each of those goals was assisted by his brother Lance, a senior.

It was as though they had been playing together for years – except it was the first time they’d been on the field together for a game.

“Honestly, I feel like it wasn’t surprising to them,” John Glenn coach Justin Page said. “I think they almost expected to have some sort of chemistry. The more you play together, the more chemistry you’re going to have with each other. They haven’t been playing with each other, but both of them have watched the other play enough that they know what type of player they are.”

Lance and Lawsen have been playing soccer since they can remember, but with a three-year age gap, they had never suited up for the same team. They’ve even been part of different non-school programs for the past two years, with Lance playing in the Bay Area Soccer Association and Lawsen with the Midland Fusion.

Their mother, Lance said, was most excited about the chance to have both brothers on the same field. But it’s an opportunity that they also are relishing.

“Especially for high school sports, I think the best part about it is playing with your friends and the social aspect,” Lawsen said. “So, it’s great to get to play with him, my buddies and his buddies, too.”

Playing varsity as a freshman was a goal for Lawsen, and something Lance had expected his brother to achieve. While they weren’t playing together, they would often work on their games together, sometimes joined by their youngest brother Landen, who is in sixth grade. During these training sessions, big brother isn’t giving any freebies.

“He doesn’t really cut me any slack when we’re playing around,” Lawsen said. “He’s the older brother; he kind of roughs me up. He doesn’t really go easy on me, because he wants me to be at the level he’s at.”

For Page, though, the freshman being a viable varsity contributor was mostly just hearsay until he was able to see the speedster in action.

“Last year, I heard about him,” Page said. “’Oh, Lance’s brother is coming next year and he’s pretty good.’ You don’t know how good he’s going to be until the first kickoff of the first game. You could do all of these soccer drills extremely well, but when games start, it’s completely different.”

The early production only heightened the excitement and showed what the brothers are capable of in the John Glenn attack with Lance playing center midfield and Lawsen playing forward.

“It was awesome,” Lance said. “I kind of knew what my main goal was, and that was send the ball up to him because he’s got great speed. The first one, I just booted it up the field, and he was there. The second was a cross from a corner kick and he headed it in.”

While their natural chemistry is helping them connect on the field, their differing styles of play are too, as both brothers said they complement each other.

“Me and my brother are completely different players on the field – the physical aspect of it,” Lawsen said. “I was the one that was always the little dude on the field; he was more like a brick house. He might not have the speed I do, but he has foot skills like nobody compared to him. I was watching him thinking, ‘I have to get better on my foot skills.’ We’re like Batman and Robin, in a way.”

John Glenn is off to a 1-3 start, but the Bobcats are optimistic about the way they’ve played to this point against what Page said is tough competition. 

“I think we’re going to pick it up here coming up in this next stretch,” he said. “I think the starting point we’ve had this year is fairly good, even if the record doesn’t show it. We’re going to start putting together a win streak coming up here, hopefully, and ideally we can put ourselves in a position to win the first-ever boys soccer District championship at John Glenn.”

A strong core of players who return from last year’s Bay County Tournament champions – including Lance – lead the way, and the contributions of youngsters like Lawsen can help make it possible.

Either way, it’s going to be a memorable year for the Beson-Montoya family.

“I knew this year was going to be fun because I knew what my brother could do,” Lance said. “I knew I could trust him and what his strong suits were.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lance, left, and Lawsen Beson-Montoya are providing an exciting connection for the Bay City John Glenn boys soccer team this fall. (Middle) Lawsen (22) and Lance (23) listen in during a break. (Photos courtesy of the Bay City John Glenn boys soccer program.)

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 [email protected] 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.)