Late Strikes Net Skyline 2nd Finals Win

November 3, 2018

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

NOVI – On a sunny, albeit chilly, fall Saturday afternoon, lightning still managed to strike at Novi High School during the Division 1 boys soccer championship game. 

But instead of from the sky above, it came on the field from Ann Arbor Skyline. 

In a game seemingly destined for overtime and a shootout, Skyline unexpectedly struck quickly, scoring two goals in a span of 58 seconds late in the second half to earn a 2-0 win over East Kentwood.

It was the second Division 1 title since 2015 for Skyline, and the first time in six MHSAA Finals appearances since 2007 that East Kentwood didn’t take home the championship trophy. 

The game was scoreless until there was 9:42 left, when Skyline junior Jamie Balms sent in a service to the top portion of the box.

Sophomore Gabe Kellman flicked it with his foot deeper into the box to junior Chris Emerson, who with his back to the goal did a mini bicycle kick and flicked a shot with his right leg into the goal to make it 1-0 Skyline.

“I turned my back and hit it,” Emerson said. “It was crazy. I couldn’t even explain it.”

It didn’t take long for the Eagles to add an insurance goal.

Just 58 seconds later, junior Oskar Shiomi-Jensen sent a cross into the box, and junior Bryce Schaner headed it into the goal to make it 2-0 Skyline. 

“We knew it was going to be a set piece or some sort of breakdown,” Skyline head coach Chris Morgan said. “We just told them before the game started and throughout the game. We said to ‘trust, trust, trust.’ And we got it. That was all it was.”

It was a stunning offensive outburst after a game that mostly featured stout defensive play and few quality scoring chances. 

That was expected going in, since Skyline had allowed just 11 goals on the season, while East Kentwood entered with five consecutive shutouts. 

Skyline remained firm defensively despite dealing with a rash of injuries throughout the year that cost the Eagles six starters.

But ultimately, Skyline’s depth on the backline showed through.

“They did an outstanding job,” Morgan said. “We didn’t make any subs in the back throughout the whole tournament. Hats off to those boys.”

For East Kentwood, it was definitely a strange feeling taking home the runner-up trophy.

The Falcons had won all five of their championship matches since 2007, the last a shootout win over Troy Athens in the 2016 Final. 

“We fell asleep on a set piece, and obviously Skyline is very good on set pieces, so you have to give them credit,” East Kentwood head coach John Conlon said. “Soccer is a game of inches, and they won the inches when it mattered.”

Conlon also praised the Skyline defense, which he knew would be a challenge before the game – and it played out that way.

“It’s hard to generate much against their team,” Conlon said. “It was a heavyweight bout, and two guys are trying to land punches. They finally landed a punch, and we couldn’t get one off.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Skyline’s Jamie Palms leads his team across the field in celebration of their Division 1 championship win. (Middle) Skyline’s Gabe Kellman (16) and East Kentwood’s Samuel Olson work to gain possession Saturday.

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.)