Kemp Proud to Keep Troy Athens Tradition

August 29, 2019

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

TROY – Jason Kemp has never needed the tradition of Troy Athens soccer explained to him, because he’s been able to experience the sights and sounds of the program his entire life.

Living less than a mile from the school, Kemp, now a senior goalkeeper for the RedHawks, has heard the cheers and seen the lights of the stadium from his house numerous times growing up.

“I’ve grown up watching playoff games and watching league games,” Kemp said. “I can hear the crowd and the goals from my house. My whole childhood has been Athens soccer. Now I’m a captain on the team and get to play in front of large crowds that support us. It’s kind of a dream come true for me.”

Kemp won’t be hearing cheers this year from his house, mainly because he’ll be on the field as a big reason why Athens is producing the positive crowd noise.

Kemp certainly generated a lot of cheers last year for the Athens faithful.

After splitting time as the starting keeper as a sophomore, Kemp was dominant in his first full year as the starter last fall, recording 16 shutouts and allowing just four goals in being named first team all-state by the coaches association.

Kemp is back for his senior season to anchor the net for an Athens team with understandably high expectations.

The RedHawks started the season ranked No. 15 nationally by Top Drawer Soccer and feature a senior-laden roster that has grown up playing travel ball together in the community, which Kemp said gives the team an even bigger advantage to go along with its talent.

“I’ve been playing with most of these guys my whole life,” Kemp said. “I always have thought that was cool growing up playing travel with these guys and now adding high school to it. I feel like it gives us an advantage. A lot of teams, they only have trained a couple of times in the summer before they even start with their high school teams. For us at Athens, a lot of us have been playing together since early middle school years or even elementary school years. It adds a cool twist to our team because we’ve been playing together so long.”

Big reasons for the 16 shutouts Kemp recorded last year were Athens’ stout defenders and organized system, but make no mistake about it: Kemp was also a vital component.

“He’s able to catch balls instead of punch them or tip them,” Athens head coach Todd Heugh said. “He’s got shot-stopping ability and quite honestly, he’s got the confidence of all his teammates. They think he’s good and in turn, I think that helps the way we defend and I think the way he goalkeeps a little bit too.”

Despite putting up terrific numbers as a junior, there is one area Kemp said he has worked on improving going into his senior year.

“Last year, I was very timid on set pieces, especially corner kicks,” said Kemp, who sports a 4.0 grade-point average and took five Advanced Placement classes during his junior year. “A lot of teams would curl a ball in the box, and I would rely on my defenders to clear that away. Now that I’m a little bigger, a little stronger and worked out a lot over the summer, those set pieces don’t really bother me anymore. I don’t have a problem coming out and jumping with a forward and getting hit around a little bit. I’ve grown out of that struggle.”

Athens won Class A titles in 1983, 1984 and 1989, and claimed Division 1 in 1997. Heugh was a senior on the 1989 team.

But a fifth championship has proven elusive. Athens also finished runner-up in 1986 and 2016, when it lost the Final in a shootout to East Kentwood

And the RedHawks still feel a stinging loss from last year’s tournament – they entered unbeaten and ranked No. 1, but were upset in the District Final by Utica Ford, 1-0.

While October is still a few weeks away, Kemp said there’s “a lot of fire in our bellies” among the seniors to try and bring Athens its first title in 30 years.

“This is it,” he said. “This is our last season and a lot of us have been dreaming of this moment for our whole lives. We really want to make this year count as well as we can in the postseason.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Troy Athens keeper Jason Kemp provides skillful play and leadership from the net. (Middle) Kemp dives to thwart an opponent’s shot. (Photos courtesy of the Troy Athens boys soccer program.)

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for

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 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.)