Long-Pursued Goals Becoming Expectations for Much-Improved Kearsley

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

August 30, 2023

Lucas Groulx could see this coming.

Bay & ThumbDuring his freshman year, when the goal some nights for Flint Kearsley boys soccer was “don’t get mercied,” Groulx knew there were better times ahead.

Much better.

With a 4-1 start to this season, those wins already eclipsing the total from the entire fall of 2021, it looks like he’s being proved correct.

“It doesn’t really surprise me at all,” the junior center back said. “I knew from the get-go that the guys I was playing with are really good. I could definitely see that (success coming) later on down the road.”

It’s still very early, and nobody at Kearsley is hanging a banner. The goals of winning a District championship and finishing among the top three in the Flint Metro League still require plenty of work.

But the feeling is different now. There’s no longer just hope that all of that is possible. It’s becoming an expectation.

“We don’t want to just be in games; we need to win those games,” Kearsley coach Art Moody said. “All those next steps that we talked about, we set those goals and we set them up three years ago. Midway through last season, that’s when the corner was turned. That’s when it was like, ‘OK, we can compete.’ Getting double-digit wins, that was a big deal for the program. Now, it’s like, that’s not even a question anymore. We’re doing way better than that now.”

The team celebrates its Hornet Invitational championship Saturday after defeating Birch Run and Saginaw Nouvel.Moody, who has won three MHSAA Finals championships coaching the Flint Powers Catholic girls program, is entering his third season at Kearsley.

In his first year, the team won just one regular-season game, but made a run to the District Final.

Year 2 saw the Hornets go 10-11, another major step forward.

The majority of that team was coming back this fall, including top scorers Caden Saxton and Tony Romero. Saxton, a senior, holds the school record for goals in a season (24) and career (52).

The back four, led by Groulx and classmate Saul Granados, returned intact, along with holding midfielder Danny Sanson and goalkeeper Aiden Tipton. All six received some form of all-league honors in the Metro.

And for many of the returning players, their experience playing together goes well beyond high school. Saxton’s father Keith, who is the school’s athletic director and Moody’s assistant, coached many of the current Hornets as kids on the MESA Sharks, a local travel team.

“We were all bonded,” Sanson, a senior, said. “We were pretty much family to each other since we were growing up playing with one another.”

That’s all led to the thought within the program that this is the year to truly make a mark and put Kearsley boys soccer on the map.

This season opened with four lopsided victories, and then a surprise from the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association: The Hornets were listed in the Division 2 rankings, coming in at No. 12.

Caden Saxton (6) makes his move during last season's game against Armada.“It felt incredible,” Sanson said. “I didn’t even expect that, to be honest. It was an incredible feeling for all of us. We were all so proud.”

Even Groulx, who had faith all along, had to get some extra confirmation on this development.

“When I first saw it, I honestly didn’t know if it was true or not,” he said. “Then it really kind of dawned on us that we need to set a new standard here at Kearsley. It’s definitely going to push us to try and excel and just play better overall.”

Rankings are often downplayed by coaches and players, even if they’re typically well aware of them.

But Moody, who consistently sees his Powers girls near the top of the list in their division, was OK with letting his players soak this one in a bit.

“I made that comment that we got recognized at the state level, and that’s something that’s never happened to Kearsley,” he said. “I told them it’s not because of your record. You get recognized if coaches say your name. You get recognized if coaches are saying, ‘That’s someone to watch out for.’”

Of course, celebrating the ranking has a limit, and while the Hornets dropped their first match after its release – a 3-2 loss against Lake Fenton – they’ve decided to use that recognition to further fuel them to achieve their true goals.

“I feel like it motivates us to be better, but it also puts a little bit of pressure on us,” Sanson said. “We have to keep our standards high and just be doing the best we can every time we go out on the field. We’ve gotta bring it. Bring it, bring it, bring it.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Kearsley’s Carlos Granados (7) steps into a kick during a game against Durand on Aug 21. (Middle) The team celebrates its Hornet Invitational championship Saturday after defeating Birch Run and Saginaw Nouvel. (Below) Caden Saxton (6) makes his move during last season's game against Armada. (Photos courtesy of the Flint Kearsley athletic department.)

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