No Mercy Needed as Ogemaw Surges

By Tom Spencer
Special for

October 23, 2020

Soccer games in Michigan have long consisted of two 40-minute halves.

Not so until recently for games involving Ogemaw Heights. Historically the contest was often over at halftime due the MHSAA 8-goal differential rule. Sadly, the Falcons had become quite accustomed to getting back on the bus after the first 40 minutes.

Jack Vliet, the Falcons’ first-year athletic director, and Tom Zaske, the fourth-year boys soccer coach, are way too familiar with the rule widely known as a “mercy.”  They were well aware of the program’s suffering before they got officially involved.  

Zaske’s first experiences came as a father of a freshman soccer player, and then as the JV coach. Vliet’s a first  awareness was from being a member of the community.

“It’s been a tough road for the soccer program,” Vliet said.  “The adversity these kids have faced ... and now they’re coming out on top.

“They’re adjusting on the fly,” he continued.  “What a great job the coaches have done, and now we’re experiencing community buy-in.”

Now, the Falcons have the potential to win their third District title in the last four years on Saturday. They are facing Clare, a team they have defeated 8-0 and 7-0 this year. The game is at Clare, and the winner advances to play Elk Rapids in a Regional Semifinal on Oct. 28.

Elk Rapids, which is headed for its third-straight Regional appearance, has a storied past with multiple MHSAA Finals runs and two Division 4 championships. The Elks possess the number one Michigan Power Rating (MPR) in D3 this year. They are 17-2-4 and won the Lake Michigan conference title again this year. They also have taken on strong D1 and D2 teams, including this year’s Big North Conference champion Traverse City West and runner-up Petoskey.  The Elks picked up a 4-0 win over Petoskey after a 0-0 tie with the Northmen the first time they met.

Ogemaw’s history of mercy losses was the greatest when the Falcons were in the Big North. Now the Falcons play in the Northern Michigan Soccer League. No mercy losses this year. In fact, they suffered only one defeat, 2-1, at the hands of McBain Northern Michigan Christian. The Falcons erased the memory of the league loss with a 4-0 win over NMC earlier this month, and they have eight mercy wins this season.

Despite having the most wins in school history and a record of 16-1-2, Ogemaw hasn’t cracked the rankings yet. They are 13th in the MPR index used to determine seeding of the top two teams at the District level.  The index is based on a team's success and strength of schedule, according to results posted to the MHSAA Website and including games against other MHSAA Tournament teams.

Zaske has his players fearing not what may be ahead. He’ll be thrilled if Ogemaw gets an opportunity to take on Elk Rapids next week. Elk Rapids’ past is what Vliet wants in Ogemaw’s future. 

“We believe it doesn’t matter who you play,” Zaske stressed. “We tell the kids ‘if you can play your game, you can compete with anybody.’

“We’re going to prepare that way,” he continued. “We’ll try to play our game better than they (Elks) can defend it.”

Zaske’s four-years stint with the Falcons’ varsity was preceded by a couple of years with the JV team. He’s also been involved as a coach of his players during youth league seasons.

He immediately began to create a winning culture with the goal of someday winning an MHSAA Finals championship.

“We set out to get rid of the stigma of getting on the bus and only playing 40 minutes,” Zaske said. “Those kids were so used to it. It was a culture change.

“I keep kids focused on playing our game and playing our game well,” he continued.  

Senior leadership has been a key to the Falcons’ success this year. Senior goalie and captain Jake Bonus has nine shutouts, bolstered by the midfield and a strong defense led by Joe Mulky.

Jack Juarez, a senior and three-year starter, led the team in assists the past three seasons. He has scored 13 goals and recorded 19 assists this fall.  Senior Lucas Courtemanche is the leading goal scorer, with 21. Wyatt Veltman, another senior, is next with 20 goals, followed by junior Isaac Divine with 17.

If Ogemaw doesn’t get to the Finals this year, the Falcons will strive for them again next fall. The program’s development may be ahead of schedule.

“The kids really worked hard all summer, and we had things to look forward to,” Zaske noted. “I think we’re in a better place than I thought we’d be in four years.  

“The kids see what hard work, teamwork does,” he continued. “It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. They know they need to put in the time and put in the effort. There’s a goal in mind.”

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.

PHOTO: (Top) Ogemaw Heights’ Trevor Brown (27) maintains control of the ball against Tawas this season. (Photo by Mike Juarez.)

Be the Referee: Soccer Offside

By Paige Winne
MHSAA Marketing & Social Media Coordinator

June 4, 2024

Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Below is this week's segment – Soccer Offside - Listen

We have an offside situation in soccer to talk about today. The offense sends a long pass from their own half of the field to a teammate way down at the defensive team’s 18-yard line … but she’s offside.

The assistant referee raises her flag and the referee blows her whistle for offside, and an indirect free kick is given to the defense. Where do they take the kick from?

  • Is it the spot where the offside player was when the assistant referee raised her flag?
  • The spot where the ball was when play was stopped?
  • The point of the infraction?
  • Or the spot from where the ball was originally passed?

If you said “at the point of the infraction” you are correct. In this case, the defense gets an indirect free kick where the offside occurred.

Previous Editions

May 28: Appeal Play - Listen
May 21: Lacrosse Foul in Critical Scoring Area - Listen
May 14: Avoiding the Tag - Listen
May 7: Baseball Pitch Count - Listen
April 30: Boys Lacrosse Helmets - Listen
April 23: Softball Interference - Listen
April 16: Soccer Red Card - Listen
April 9: Batted Baseball Hits Runner - Listen
March 12: Basketball Replay - Listen
March 5: Hockey Officials - Listen
Feb. 27: Less Than 5 - Listen
Feb. 20: Air Ball - Listen
Feb. 13: Hockey Penalties - Listen
Jan. 30: Wrestling Tiebreakers - Listen
Jan. 23: Wrestling Technology - Listen
Jan. 9: 3 Seconds - Listen
Dec. 19: Unsuspecting Hockey Hits - Listen
Dec. 12: No More One-And-Ones - Listen
Nov. 21: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 14: Volleyball Unplayable Areas - Listen
Nov. 7: Pass/Kick Off Crossbar - Listen
Oct. 31: Cross Country Interference - Listen
Oct. 24: Soccer Overtime - Listen
Oct. 17: Tennis Spin - Listen
Oct. 10: Blocked Kick - Listen
Oct. 3: Volleyball Double & Lift - Listen
Sept. 26: Registration Process - Listen
Sept. 20: Animal Interference - Listen
Sept. 13: Feet Rule on Soccer Throw-In - Listen
Sept. 6: Volleyball Jewelry - Listen
Aug. 30: Football Rules Similarities - Listen
Aug. 23: Football Rules Differences - Listen

(Photo by Gary Shook.)