Canton Caps Fall as Undefeated Champion

November 1, 2014

By Chip Mundy
Special for Second Half 

BRIGHTON – Three years ago, Jason Ren watched his older brother Brian help Canton High School win the MHSAA Division 1 boys soccer championship.

Ren wanted the same feeling that his brother experienced. Saturday afternoon at Brighton High School, Ren got the same feeling and more. 

He scored the only goal of the game as Canton defeated Rochester Adams 1-0 for the Division I title.

Canton finished the season 24-0-3 and was the only undefeated high school boys soccer team in Michigan this fall. 

“I wanted this so bad,” Ren said. “It felt really good to win it again.” 

Ren’s big moment came in the 14th minute of the first half. He took a pass from senior midfielder Jack Zemanski and found the back corner of the net from about 22 yards out. It was the third goal of the season for Ren, a junior midfielder.

“Jack had the ball, I overlapped him, and he laid it off to me,” Ren said. “I just hit it as fast as I could in the far corner.” 

Although he did so early in the game, the Canton defense made the goal stand up as the Chiefs registered their 16th shutout of the season.

“The first goal is always one of the most important goals, so to get that was good,” Zemanski said. “Kyle Mettlach won the ball on a header, and the throw-in came to me. I just saw Jason called for it, and I laid it out for him, and he hit a perfect shot. There’s nothing a goalie can do to save that. 

“We just had to defend the rest of the game, and it worked out well for us.”

Canton, the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Kensington Conference champion, had faced Rochester Adams in the second-to-last game of the regular season. The 1-1 outcome was one of three ties the Chiefs had this season. 

“We were confident that we could beat them this time because we felt we deserved to win that game,” Canton senior Carter Schenk said, “but tying them I think humbled us a little bit. It made us think they could play with us and made us work a little harder.”

Rochester Adams, which ended its season 13-5-7, was runner-up in the Oakland Activities Association Red. It was the second MHSAA runner-up finish for Adams, which won the Division 1 title in 1999 and also fell in the 2001 Final. 

Both teams had six shots, but Rochester Adams had only one shot on goal, while the Chiefs had two. Canton goalkeeper Andrew Loehnis made only one save in the shutout.

“Our defense all year has been stifling,” second-year Canton coach Mark Zemanski said. “We had a shutout here in the Final and a shutout in the semis.” 

It was a cold day, and a brisk wind was blowing directly from one goal to the other. It gave each team an edge when it had the wind at its back. Canton scored with the wind in the first half and then held off Rochester Adams in the second half.

“The wind definitely made it difficult for both teams,” Mark Zemanski said. “We talked to the boys about keeping the ball on the ground and trying to possess. For the most part, we did a pretty good job of that. 

“We knew that whoever had the wind was going to have the favor. I think even in the second half my boys did a nice job of moving the ball around and at least keeping it away from them as much as they could.”

It was the second year in a row that Canton entered the postseason undefeated, but this trip had a much different outcome. Last year, Canton lost to Salem in the district, and the two teams had a rematch two weeks ago. Canton won that one 2-1 in overtime, and it proved to be a springboard to the MHSAA title. 

“I felt like that was a big thing,” Canton senior defender Sam Belcher said. “Knowing that our season ended last year and we were that good of a team, it was like, ‘We’re not going to let that happen again.’

“I wasn’t going to let my senior year stop after one or two games. We were going all the way. I knew that for a fact.”

Belcher, like the 11 other seniors on the team, only had to look back to three years ago and Canton’s 1-0 victory over Grand Haven for inspiration.

“The whole time leading up to this game, I was thinking back to being at that state championship game and watching them win; the joy on their faces and how they felt, that is what was driving me to win this one,” Belcher said. “I wanted to be just like that. It looked so fun, I wanted to be part of it, too. 

“This surpasses what I thought it would feel like, for sure. It’s like the greatest feeling in the world.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Rochester Adams’ Devin Beyer (1) leaps over a challenge by Canton’s Kyle Mettlach. (Below) Canton defender Beaumont Hoffman controls the ball during his team’s shutout in the Division 1 Final. (Click for all team and action photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)