East Lansing Breaks Free for 4th Title

November 2, 2013

By Tom Kendra
Special to Second Half 

KENTWOOD – Ben Swanson-Ralph was just looking to making something happen, to break the ice.

The senior forward did more than that – scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal late in the first half in East Lansing's 2-0 victory over Spring Lake on Saturday at Crestwood Middle School in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Boys Soccer championship game. 

"Out of all the goals I've ever scored in soccer, this was the best," said Swanson-Ralph, an all-stater last year as a junior, who finished his senior season with 15 goals and 12 assists.

"I've always dreamed about playing in the state championship game and scoring a goal, but to actually have it happen, is indescribable. I'll remember it my whole life." 

Swanson-Ralph picked up a loose ball about 25 yards in front of the goal, slid past a defender and then skidded a low shot into the right side of the net past Spring Lake keeper Joe Czajka. That tally broke a scoreless tie with 10:19 remaining in the first half.

The goal was critical because, up until that point, the game was progressing according to the plan of upset-minded Spring Lake. 

While East Lansing was dominating possession and shots and generally keeping the ball in the Spring Lake end, the Trojans had been unable to break through. The defensive-oriented Lakers, like a boxer that allows his opponent to wear himself out, would have loved to go into halftime with a scoreless tie at cold and windy Pat Patterson Field.

Instead, Swanson-Ralph's goal gave his team the cushion and confidence it needed to open up its high-octane offensive attack, according to 38th-year coach Nick Archer. 

East Lansing, which finished 25-2, won its fourth MHSAA boys soccer championship. The Trojans also won titles in 1987, 2002 and 2005, to go with two runner-up finishes.

"I am so proud of these kids," said Archer, whose team outscored its seven postseason opponents by a combined score of 22-1, including a 3-0 victory over No. 2 Linden in the Regional Final. "There is so much pressure these days. I just want them to enjoy this moment." 

East Lansing, which finished with an 8-3 edge in shots on goal, came out on fire in the second half - with close-range chances by junior DeJuan Jones and sophomore Ian Carroll being stymied by Czajka, the Lakers' last line of defense.

The consistent EL pressure finally broke through again with 33:55 remaining in the game, when Spring Lake was over-aggressive on a corner kick. 

The Trojans countered the Lakers' attack as Jones and Carroll broke into the open and then played a give-and-go game up the length of the artificial field in Kentwood. As they approached the goal, Carroll veered into the corner, drawing a defender, and then gave it back to Jones, who punched it into the back of the net. It was the 28th goal of the season for Jones, the Trojans' leading scorer.

"Ian and I hang out a lot and we know what the other one is thinking," said Jones. "We came out in the second half and tried to turn up the pressure and get another goal. It doesn't matter to us who scores; really, we just want to win." 

The Lakers had a couple of scoring opportunities the rest of the way, notably from senior striker Nic Ellingboe and sophomore Keegan George. The East Lansing defensive corps of Grant Brogan, Michie Nimsombun, Torey Redmond, Andy Millar and goalkeeper Blair Moore were up to the challenge on each occasion to preserve the lead. Moore had to make just one save.

Spring Lake, which finished 16-7-3, played in its second MHSAA championship game in the past three years under 13th-year head coach Jeremy Thelen. The Lakers fell to Auburn Hills Avondale, 2-1, in the 2011 Final. 

This year's Spring Lake team entered the tournament unranked with an underwhelming 10-6-3 record, but gained momentum when it stunned neighboring rival Fruitport, 2-1, in the District Semifinal. Fruitport had defeated Spring Lake twice in the regular season.

"Right now, it's hard for these kids to end with a loss," said Thelen. "But these kids will realize in time what a great season it was, especially since this tournament run was a bit unexpected."

Click for full box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) East Lansing goalkeeper Blair Moore steps in front of a shot as Spring Lake's Ryan Zietlow attempts to deflect. (Middle) East Lansing's DeJuan Jones (2) heads the ball during Saturday's game. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Roy's Homecoming Success Continues for Division 1 Contender Clarkston

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

September 28, 2023

For Sebi Roy, there’s definitely been no place like home.

Greater DetroitJust as last season started, Roy moved back to his hometown of Clarkston to play high school soccer after spending roughly 1½ years training with Major League Soccer’s Cincinnati FC as part of the MLS Next program. 

Going from training with a professional organization to high school soccer might seem like a major downgrade to the average soccer follower, but it hasn’t been the case at all for Roy.

“It’s great to go from a super high skill ceiling where every touch matters, to something a little bit more free,” he said. “I know a lot more people and it’s a great way to get confidence. I didn’t get a whole lot of training in Cincy, and back here I get so much more individual training in general. Getting the touches and getting development was crucial.”

Ever since Roy came back to Clarkston last year, opponents have certainly wished he stayed in Cincinnati. 

It’s especially been the case this year, as Roy, a center forward, has been just about unstoppable. 

The 6-foot-3 Roy entered Thursday with 15 goals and five assists over 11 games despite being the constant focal point of opposing defenses and playing in arguably the state’s toughest league, the Oakland Activities Association Red.

Against 2022 Division 1 champion Rochester Adams, Roy scored five goals in a 7-3 win. 

Clarkston head coach Ian Jones said he hadn’t even met Roy before last year, then heard rumors from others on that team he was coming back in town.

Still, Roy showed up after tryouts had ended, so Jones had Roy go through a personal two-day tryout. 

It obviously didn’t take long for Jones to realize Roy was too good to not have on the team, and that was reinforced during the first game last year when he scored a goal on his first touch of the game. Roy went on to make the Division 1 all-state first team as Clarkston finished 16-5-2 and reached the Regional Finals.

Jones, who has professional experience playing in England and has coached for more than 20 years in the United States, said Roy definitely has the tools to be a professional player.

Clarkston's Sebi Roy monitors the action against Oxford.“I’ve never seen anything like him,” he said. “He’s got unbelievable touch. He’s left-footed and right-footed. He’s got vision and strength. It’s fun to watch him, forget coaching him. You find yourself watching him in games because he’s so good.”

Roy’s father is Travis Roy, who in 1991 won the state's Mr. Soccer Award playing for Livonia Stevenson before going on to play in college at Wisconsin.

Also on the Clarkston team this year is Roy’s brother, Fagan, who is a freshman. 

Sebi Roy said his dad started him in soccer “as soon as he could walk,” and he has loved it so much that he hasn’t dabbled in any other sport.

Despite already getting a small taste of what professional soccer would be like, Roy said he prefers to play in college and is still in the process of determining the best spot. 

Asked if there’s any top professional player he likes to emulate, the answer was a hard no.

“I want to be my own person,” he said.

Thanks to Roy’s production and a core of other talented players who could be playing at the next level, Clarkston earlier this month achieved a program first – the No. 1 ranking in Division 1. 

Clarkston (9-1-1) is down to No. 4 this week after losing its first game last Thursday, a 2-1 decision at now-No. 2 Oxford.

There could soon be a rematch, as Clarkston and Oxford are in the same District in the upcoming Division 1 tournament. 

If the teams meet again, Oxford will know the main player to stop – and Clarkston will know the main player to ride as it pursues what would be a first state title in boys soccer. (The Wolves were Division 1 runners-up in 2007).

“He’s the most dangerous player we’ve seen by far,” Oxford coach Adam Bican said. “His size, his athleticism, and his IQ is off the chart. He’s so dangerous, and he has one of the better shots I’ve seen. He’s a pure finisher.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

(Photos by Keith Dunlap.)