East Lansing Soccer Surges Into Next Era

August 31, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Nick Archer’s name adorns the field where senior Kai Francisco wore a T-shirt from the “Nick Archer Soccer Camp” and teammate Paul Carney recalled some of the old coach’s corny sayings during Monday’s East Lansing boys soccer practice.

Archer may have stepped away this spring after a championship-filled 41-year career. But the mystique he cultivated remains strong – celebrating the coach who started the Trojans’ boys and girls programs and won nearly 1,000 games combined between the two teams, while falling now to his former assistants and players to carry the tradition on.

But of course, after Archer announced his retirement in April, the questions began.

“A lot of people have been talking about his leaving, just thinking it’s a lot different around here,” said Francisco, a captain with Carney this fall. “But it’s not really any different. We just doing the same stuff we did last year, trying to get back to the state championship.”

The Trojans made that chase a lot over the last four decades, and especially at the end of Archer’s tenure. They finished Division 2 runner-up last season, won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, made a Regional Final in 2015 and a Semifinal in 2016. All told on the boys side, Archer led the team to a 660-177-75 record and five Division 2 or Class A titles from 1977-2017.

But Francisco’s answer is accurate for the post-Archer era so far – East Lansing is 4-0 after Thursday’s 2-1 win over Williamston.

A lot of the contributors are new. Last season’s team graduated 11 seniors, including eight starters. But Francisco, Carney and Olivier Richmond also started last year’s Final and senior Mohamed Babale made the all-state third team. Junior Robert Nystrom was another key sub now taking on a starting role.

The post-Archer continuity is found especially in the coaching staff. Longtime junior varsity coach Jeff Lyon was promoted to take over the varsity, and longtime Archer assistant Henry Rojas is running the JV this fall – both have been part of the program for more than 15 seasons. Lyon’s assistants JP Navarro (class of 2013) and Julian Birge (2012) both played for the Trojans, as did freshman coaches Zack Curtis (2006) and John Pizanis (2003). (All four were high school standouts, and Pizanis, Curtis and Birge went on to play collegiately.)

“I think when somebody asks, ‘What’s it like to replace a legend?’ no one here is going to place Nick Archer,” Lyon said. “And that’s not because his name’s on the stadium or because he’s won close to 1,000 games between the boys and the girls.

“It’s because of his impression on soccer. As somebody who stood next to him for half his career, you see why he did the things that he did.”

Program building

Lyon still has the card with Nick Archer’s phone number that led him to East Lansing High School 21 years ago.

A standout at Cheboygan – he was part of the program’s first winning team as a junior in 1993 – Lyon was taking longtime Michigan State University men’s coach Joe Baum’s coaching soccer class while a junior at MSU in 1997. Lyon told Baum of his interest in coaching – and Baum sent Lyon to one of his teammates from the Spartans’ 1967 and 1968 national championship teams, Nick Archer.

Lyon co-coached East Lansing’s freshman team the following fall, and later started in Archer’s girls soccer program with the freshman in 2000. He got a teaching job at East Lansing as he continued to coach, but went back to Cheboygan after he was laid off from teaching in 2003. Lyon helped out two years at his alma mater, then returned to East Lansing to teach again and coached the junior varsities in both soccer programs. He took over the Trojans’ girls varsity in 2012 (Archer had stepped down after 2009) and continues to lead that program as well.

“He has been an integral part of the East Lansing program's success over the past 20 years. Jeff has exhibited servant leadership to not only the soccer program at East Lansing, but also the school and community during his tenure,” said Petoskey coach Zach Jonker, whose boys teams have faced East Lansing in Regionals four of the last seven years. “His loyalty is also what helps to make him such a great friend, teacher, and coach. He had many opportunities to go create his own successful program over the years, but he embraced developing the younger players in the E.L. program and understood the importance of creating a positive freshmen and JV experience for the program's long-term success.

“I am sure Jeff will put his imprint on the program now that he is at the varsity level, but he is savvy enough to keep many of aspects of the program that evolved over time with Arch as the foundation of their future success.”

Jonker’s perspective is unique, with the frequency his teams have faced East Lansing in must-win games over the last decade, but also because he’s known Lyon “basically since birth.” They grew up playing together in Cheboygan until Jonker moved to Petoskey at age 14, and then they played each other as high school opponents. They also coached club soccer together for a short time, and like Lyon, Jonker followed a legendary coach in Scott Batchelor in taking over Petoskey’s programs.

Lyon indeed isn’t trying to fix something that isn’t broken. In keeping with an Archer philosophy, the Trojans will continue to not cut at the freshman and junior varsity levels. There are lots of little things that will continue on as well, like the “breakfast club” for players who don’t pass the 2-mile running test during tryouts and come in early every day after until they do (or until the season begins).

But there are positive differences as well. For one, Lyon has taught or coached all but one of the varsity players on his team previously – most had him in class for either history or government – while Archer had retired from teaching in 2011. And he’s created more avenues for players to have input. Before the season started, he and the seniors met to discuss expectations and allow the players an opportunity to contribute ideas. He also met with each player individually. “He’s trying to see (through) our eyes on the field, and see our perspectives,” Nystrom said.

“If anything, I think it puts us all on the same page,” Lyon said. “To the teaching piece, you have to ask questions to understand where the process is.”

Right direction

It’s in a great place as August turns to September.

Francisco has two goals and three assists over the four games, while freshman Ameer Shetiah and junior Cade Moreno both have scored twice. The Trojans, with Carney and sophomore Will Knapp among returnees in the back, have yet to give up more than one goal in a game.  

Lyon noted that although many of his players lack varsity experience, the roster as a whole has played a lot of soccer at various levels growing up – and from a skill standpoint, this group might have more than the team a year ago.

And then there’s Lyon and his staff and the value of familiarity. “He's familiar to the program. He knows how Archer coached,” Carney said. “The transition isn't super hard because we all know each other.”

“Hamburger” – that’s what Archer called a player during tryouts two years ago, after said player fired a shot clear over the goal. Carney laughed about that one this week.

There surely will be times this fall too when he and his teammates will draw one some of the Archer effect that helped a team that finished only fourth in its league a year ago come within one more win of a third MHSAA championship in five seasons.

“I think the expectation is to go all the way every year. Because of last year, what we did, and what Archer has done in this decade,” Francisco said. “Last year and this year people doubted us still. People really don't think we're going to finish that high in the conference or anything like that.

“But we know what we're going to do.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA as its Media & Content Coordinator in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He has served as Editor of Second Half since its creation in Jan. 2012. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Lansing players scrimmage during Tuesday’s practice at Archer Stadium. (Middle) Coach Jeff Lyon instructs the Trojans on the practice plan, and below, Nick Archer raises the team’s 2014 championship trophy. (Below) The entrance to the East Lansing Soccer Complex bears Archer’s name and the program’s accomplishments under his leadership.

Record-Setting Saving, Historic Scoring Send Grosse Ile to 2018 Boys Soccer Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 17, 2024

Grosse Ile’s Division 3 runner-up season in 2018 included multiple MHSAA team records for defensive and offensive success.

The Red Devils set a record with 21 straight shutouts and 24 total over 29 games, and also finished third all-time scoring 158 goals.

Their 23-game winning streak that season remains tied for seventh-longest as Grosse Ile finished 27-2.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA boys soccer record book, and click the heading to see the record book in full.

Boys Soccer

Keeper Ethan DeJager and Grandville Calvin Christian were nearly unbeatable in 2020, finishing 19-1-2 and runner-up in Division 4. They set a record allowing only four goals for the season, while DeJager is fourth on the season shutouts list with 19 over those 22 games and tied for the second-longest shutout streak at 13. DeJager was a senior that season.

Seth Davidson capped his four-year varsity career this past fall on three records lists for shutouts – 15 over 22 games this past season, 26 for his career and nine straight as a senior. Berkley as a team also made the fewest goals allowed list, giving up only 11 in finishing 18-2-2.

Caden Saxton capped a memorable four-year Flint Kearsley varsity career in the fall with four entries in the record book. He made the assists list with 27 over 21 games as a senior and also the single-season points list with 65, and made career lists in those categories with 63 assists and 149 points, respectively, over 71 games.

Jonesville advanced in its District this past season with an 8-5 overtime win over Blissfield on Oct. 12, and Warrick Elder played a big part scoring six goals. He’s a senior.

Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals saw contributions from several players, and junior James Whiting was among those leading the way. He made the assists list with 30 over 22 games, and also the total points list with 49. He also sits on the career assists list after three seasons with 66 and one more season to play.

Holland Christian made the team list for 12 straight shutouts from Sept. 8-Oct. 19, and 15 shutouts total over 20 games this past season. Junior Adam Bergman was in goal for all 15 including the 12 consecutive.

Muskegon Oakridge senior Arturo Romero-Serrano capped his career in the fall with his second season reaching 40 goals, netting 42 total to finish his four-year career with 105 and also on the MHSAA career points list with 125. He also added a second six-goal game, against Muskegon Catholic Central on Aug. 25.

Monroe Jefferson’s season came to an end Oct. 11 in a District game against Riverview, but senior Gabe Gelso finished with a state record. He made 49 saves in the 9-0 defeat as the Bears had only eight players total.

Ian Klenk added eight more shutouts in goal this past fall to finish his three-season varsity career with 25 in 60 games and make the career list in that category. He’ll continue his career at Kuyper College.

PHOTO Grosse Ile's keeper Brendan Ebler (1) gathers the ball and charts his next move during the 2018 Division 3 Final.