He's Got the Goal-den Touch

September 28, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Their games were fueled by typical sibling rivalry. To Lee Chatfield, the endings were humorous. To his two little brothers, more like cruel.

Sixth-grader Paul and fifth-grader Aaron regularly would take on their senior brother on a makeshift soccer field in the family’s back yard. They’d play games to 10, the two youngest brothers against a standout on the Burt Lake Northern Michigan Christian varsity.

Lee would let them score nine goals before dribbling circles around his siblings. Paul and Aaron would yell at each other to somehow block Lee’s path, but to no avail. Inevitably tears would fall.

“Maybe I was being a baby,” Aaron said. “He would let us get up and then come back and beat us, and he’s laughing while we would just cry.”

But on that backyard soccer field, Aaron Chatfield also learned how to compete. And there’s no question it paid off during one of the most accomplished careers in MHSAA soccer history.

Chatfield scored his 173rd career goal on Sept. 21 against Elk Rapids. He’s pushed that total to 178 heading into this weekend’s games against Fife Lake Forest Area and North Muskegon. A Second Half High 5 recipient this week, Chatfield has 45 goals this season after scoring a career-high 56 in 2011.

“Up until seventh grade, he couldn’t lose a game and not cry,” said Lee, also Northern Michigan Christian’s coach the last three seasons. “It built a little chip on his shoulder.

“But it’s always been God-given (talent). And Aaron has worked tremendously hard to hone the gifts God has given him.”

All in the family

To set the record, Chatfield passed 2009 Dearborn graduate Soony Saad, who went on to lead the NCAA with 19 goals as a freshman at the University of Michigan in 2010 and now plays for Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer.

Chatfield learned about Saad as he was pursuing the record, but admitted he isn’t familiar with most of the others on the MHSAA all-time goals list.

However, there are a few he knows better than anyone – there are five Chatfield brothers total, and three more also are among the most prolific scorers in MHSAA history.

Entering this season, Nathan Chatfield was second on the career goals list with 170, scored from 2001-04. Spencer was tied for 12th with 121 goals from 1998-01. Paul is tied for 19th with 109 goals during a career that ended last fall. Lee was a sweeper, so his game was stopping goals instead of scoring them – but he did a fine job at that as well.

Aaron, being the youngest, tried to pick up certain qualities from each. Nathan, the second-oldest, was “a natural goal-scorer, probably the fastest. He would just outrun people,” and holds the MHSAA record with 272 career points, although Aaron needs only five more to match him.

Oldest brother Spencer “could dribble like no other.” Paul was “built differently than all of us … but he could double scissor you up. He’s very physical.” Lee was “more like me; he was the best defender,” and Aaron played in the back from third through eighth grades.

“I would like to think I’m more of a mix of everybody,” Aaron concluded.

“Almost everything I do, I’ve learned from them. The way that they play, people say all the time that I remind them of my brothers.”

He can play with anyone

The best compliment – and a strong representation of how Chatfield matches up statewide – comes from Petoskey coach Zach Jonker.

The Northmen have made two recent trips to the MHSAA Finals and regularly load up their schedule with top-ranked teams from Divisions 1 and 2 including East Kentwood, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, Warren DeLaSalle and Bloomfield Hills Lahser. Petoskey also regularly scrimmages Northern Michigan Christian.

“He’s the most dangerous individual we’ve faced all season. When he received the ball against us, we kinda held our breaths,” said Jonker, who also knows the Chatfields well through the club program. “He has a great combination of speed with the ball and power. He has great balance and he’s tough to knock off the ball. And he’s got another gear; he can explode by (defenders).

“We double teamed the guy, and we haven’t had to give any individual we’ve played all season that kind of attention.”

Chatfield joined an Eagles varsity in 2009 that had only three seniors. Not only did he start immediately, but he also was named a co-captain.

Last season’s team became an incredible story, advancing to the Regional Final on a 24-game winning streak before losing for the first and only time of the fall, 2-0 to eventual MHSAA runner-up Muskegon Western Michigan Christian. Chatfield scored in every game but that last one.

He also has cut his teeth playing for his club team, the Petoskey Lakers, and his teams are a combined 24-2-2 during their last three seasons playing in the Michigan State Premier Soccer Program. Chatfield scored 1.9 goals per game last club season, down from 2.5 the season before. There is interest from a number of colleges, and he is looking at options of all sizes, from Division I to NAIA.

Chatfield has logged plenty of miles to see strong competition, and one game as a sixth grader left Lee with the impression that big things were on the way.

“There was one moment when I was standing on the sideline, and he did a spin move and split two defenders with a scissor. At that moment, I thought this kid has got it,” Lee said.

“He’s always been tenacious. He’s a natural-born competitor. He’s anything but a prima donna. He just wants to win.”

PHOTO: Burt Lake Northern Michigan Christian's Aaron Chatfield dribbles through defenders during a game earlier this season (Photo courtesy of the Petoskey High School soccer program.)

Storch Returns to Retirement After Elevating Alpena Teams From Cellar to Contenders

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)