By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half
COMSTOCK PARK – Jon Dougherty stood tall for 100 minutes of soccer.
And then some.
Under constant pressure Saturday at Comstock Park from undefeated and top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, Dougherty, the senior goalkeeper for Detroit Country Day, made save after save throughout regulation and then overtime to keep his team in a scoreless Division 2 title game.
Then in the penalty kick shootout, Dougherty made one more big save and the Huskies missed the net on another shot, giving the Yellowjackets a 4-2 advantage in penalty kicks for a 1-0 victory and the program’s state-record 15th MHSAA Finals championship.
The title Saturday was the program’s first in Division 2. The Yellowjackets moved from Division 3 this fall.
"Credit to Forest Hills Northern, they were a great opponent," Dougherty said. "They were big, fast and physical and really wore us down the whole game. I just did what I had to do to keep the ball out of the net. I just kept telling my defenders where to be in position, and they did a (heck) of a job, too."
During regulation, Dougherty stopped 12 Forest Hills Northern shots. He stopped four more in the two 10-minute overtime periods. Then the one in the penalty kick session to give him a full day’s work and make his coach very proud.
"They (FHN) are a wonderful team," said Detroit Country Day coach Steve Bossert, whose team ended the year with a 20-5-2 record. "And we had a good gameplan, the kids executed it and I think we have the best goalie in the state. He made the difference."
"Some of those flighted balls early, he had to reach over and make great saves in a lot of traffic," Bossert said. "And they have a lot of big bodies. He was the best."
The higher-regarded team coming into Saturday's title game was the Huskies, who had not lost in 24 games this fall.
And Forest Hills Northern played like that all game, controlling tempo and pushing the ball into the Yellowjackets' defensive end time and time again. But the Huskies could not penetrate Detroit Country Day's defense and Dougherty.
"It doesn't really matter if you don't score," said FHN coach Daniel Siminski, whose team ended its year 23-1-1. "This is my fifth state finals, and I have lost three on PKs. And when you are or are not the best team, today they were the best team because they won, shots or no shots."
The Huskies also fell in a shootout in their first championship match appearance, to Mason in 2015.
"Country Day played a great defensive game," Siminski added. "They made it difficult for us to create. And when we had chances, we didn't score. That is how it goes sometimes. This is a tough pill to swallow after the season we had."
Senior midfielder Kevin Tang netted Country Day’s final penalty kick that put the game away.
The championship was Country Day’s first since 2011.
"This was a great high school soccer game," Bossert said. "I think it is a shame that somebody has to lose like that. Obviously, I am very excited that we won. I am not a very big fan of the tiebreak, but it is what it is and we ended up on the better end of it."
PHOTOS: (Top) Country Day keeper Jon Dougherty gathers a shot just over the head of a Forest Hills Northern player Saturday at Comstock Park. (Middle) Yellowjackets senior Kevin Tang celebrates during his team’s Division 2 Final victory.
For Sebi Roy, there’s definitely been no place like home.
Just 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.
“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 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.)