Grand Rapids Christian Completes Late-Season Surge with 3rd Finals Title

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

November 6, 2021

COMSTOCK PARK – Grand Rapids Christian’s boys soccer team didn’t really start clicking until the MHSAA Tournament began with Districts 3½ weeks ago.

Once the Eagles got rolling, however, they could not be stopped.

Grand Rapids Christian struck twice early in the Division 2 Final against Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice on Saturday at Comstock Park High School and made those goals stand in a 2-1 victory.

It was the first MHSAA soccer championship in 20 years for the Eagles (17-7-2), who reeled off seven-straight wins in tourney play after losing four of their last six regular-season games and tying another.

“Really, (the Eagles began to believe) once we started the tournament. We started getting on a roll, things started clicking and then after that it just started rolling for us,” said Grand Rapids Christian senior Benjamin Kuiper, whose goal with 17:22 left in the first half gave his team a 2-0 lead and proved the winner.

“I felt like after the win against Gull Lake, that was really when we were at our highest and our peak. After tonight, it’s just amazing – it’s great.”

Grand Rapids Christian, which was No. 13 in the last Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association Division 2 rankings, knocked out No. 1 Gull Lake in Wednesday’s Semifinal, 2-1.

The Eagles also took out No. 8 Petoskey and No. 9 Spring Lake in last week’s Regional.

Brother Rice (10-7-4), which was making its first Finals appearance in a dozen years, had lost three of its last four regular-season games and tied in the other entering the District tourney. The Warriors, who were nowhere to be found in the state rankings, punched their ticket to the Finals with a shootout win over DeWitt in Wednesday’s other Semifinal.

“Putting the school back on the map in the soccer sense,” Brother Rice coach Danny Price said of this season’s success. “Not a lot of people, including the press, were thinking about Brother Rice, and rightly so after the last seven or eight years.

“Just so much to be proud of: District title, Regional title. Everything we’ve done this season has been perfect. (The Eagles are) a good team – take nothing away from them.”

Grand Rapids Christian got on the board with 27:32 left in the first half when senior Hans Pruis beat the Brother Rice keeper to a loose ball and knocked it into the net.

Immediately following Pruis’ tally, as well as Kuiper’s 10 minutes later, the Eagles goal-scorers and their teammates sprinted over to the stands on the south side of the field and celebrated in front of a large student section. 

Grand Rapids Christian/Brother Rice soccerTrailing 2-0 at halftime, Brother Rice came out in the second half with much more urgency. The Warriors pulled within 2-1 with 13:54 remaining, when senior Romas Mitrius scored on a header off junior Enzo Bordogna’s free kick.

That proved the only blemish on the day for Grand Rapids Christian junior keeper Alexander Scofield, who finished with nine saves. Junior Henry Allen made six saves for Brother Rice, which was outshot 13-10.

Eagles coach Aric Dershem acknowledged his team went to more of a defensive approach in the second half, knowing that the Warriors were going to turn up the intensity.

“Oh, man, (Scofield) came up so huge today, yes. Coming into this season, he was fighting for the starting spot and he just came up huge every opportunity that he had – even in the Semifinal against Gull Lake, he kept us in the game,” Dershem said. 

“A keeper can’t win the game, but they can lose you the game, and he kept us in the game today long enough that we could just hold on and get the win.”

Grand Rapids Christian surrendered only four goals during the postseason.

Scofield admitted he was a little nervous in the second half, but he and the defense in front of him got the job done.

“My coaches like to say, 2-0 up at halftime is the worst lead to have because they score once, they’ve got most of the momentum; they score again, they’ve got all of the momentum and they’re more likely to score again. So we were a little nervous, especially after they scored that first goal,” Scofield said. “But our defense managed to pull through.”

Grand Rapids Christian’s seniors lingered around the Comstock Park stadium to take photos with the championship trophy, which will go alongside the Eagles’ titles from 2001 and 1998.

Kuiper was one of the players savoring the moment, which some may have not thought possible as recently as a month ago.

“Oh, it’s amazing,” Kuiper said. “The past few years, we haven’t been doing the best in the tournament, so it feels amazing to go all the way.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Grand Rapids Christian’s Eli Leegwater (22) and teammates celebrate during Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) The Eagles’ Evan Thornton (8) and Rice keeper Henry Allen work to gain possession. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Roy's Homecoming Success Continues for Division 1 Contender Clarkston

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

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.)