Parchment Team On Verge of Never Playing Putting Off End As Long As Possible

By Pam Shebest
Special for

October 17, 2023

PARCHMENT — With just five returning players and no coach, things looked bleak for the Parchment soccer team at the beginning of summer.

Southwest CorridorBoy, have things changed.

Former football offensive line coach Jesse Roder agreed to take the head soccer coach’s job and, with some intensive recruiting, the Panthers not only fielded a team this season but are headed into tonight’s Division 3 District Semifinal with an 11-6-1 record.

Those 11 wins are two more than the last three years combined and make this the first time in 14 years Parchment has had double-digit wins.

In fact, the Panthers’ record over the previous three seasons was 9-41-3 overall.

Athletic director Brennan Davis credits Roder for the turnaround.

“Our first-year coach has done an excellent job creating a positive environment for the team,” Davis said. “He is focused on building character and camaraderie within the program. Academics, participation, relationships, reliability are all important to Coach Roder.”

The players echo those accolades.

Junior goalkeeper Brady Caswell said it was an angry team the past two seasons with a lot of fighting among teammates.

“This year, everyone’s excited to play, ready to play, a little hungry to play, and I love that,” Caswell said. “Everybody works hard, and that’s the big change.

From left: Parchment coach Jesse Order, Brady Caswell and Caden Ragan.“You can see it out there. We’re faster, we’re stronger, we have more ambition this year because no one pushed each other before.”

He credits the team’s defense for his own success this year.

“That’s one thing that has changed a lot over these last couple years,” the keeper said. “I used to see 20 or 30 shots a game and we’ve cut that down to about half, which gives me a way better chance at saving shots and less chance of getting injured.”

Major choice

Roder had a big decision to make before taking the head coaching job: His son, Brady Newington, is a senior lineman on the Panthers football team.

But Roder, who played soccer in high school while growing up in Garden in the Upper Peninsula, liked the challenge of turning the soccer program around.

Roder, who also coaches powerlifting and track, recruited from those ranks.

“Most of our athletes are first-year soccer players,” he said. “I approached a bunch of my powerlifters and told them I thought it would be right up their alley, so let’s give it a shot, and they did.”

Because of their dismal record the last few years, the Panthers have been underdogs in most of their games this season, including their District Quarterfinal last week, a 2-1 shootout win over South Haven.

“Last year they beat us 8-0,” Roder said. “We knew they were going to be a little confident, but our team’s philosophy starts with, ‘We’re going to outwork everybody in everything we do.’

Micah Shank [5] steps into a kick. “We do an hour conditioning every day when we have practice. We played 100 minutes of soccer last night, and not a lick of them was tired.”

Roder also mandates lifting two days a week and has his own solution to any in-team fighting, holding players accountable.

“We have a three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule,” he said. “If you argue with a teammate once and I warn you about it, you’re sent home and you miss the next game.

“Do it again, you miss another game. You do it a third time, you’re off the team.”

The coach has given out just one warning all season.

Key players step up

Freshman Cameron Wagner, who leads the team with 26 goals, made an immediate impact.

“That kid’s vision of the field and his soccer IQ at the age of 15 is leaps and bounds beyond many coaches,” Roden said. “He’s got a real bright future in front of him.”

Wagner and teammate Caden Ragan were selected to the Southwestern Athletic Conference all-conference team Saturday.

Familiar with past Parchment teams, Wagner figured this season would be more of the same.

“I wasn’t going to take it seriously, but thought it would be good for conditioning,” the freshman said.

“Once (the season) started, it became more like a family.”

Wagner credits the coach with his success.

“The coach made me condition a lot, which helped me,” he said. “He changed dribble moves which I couldn’t even think of. At home, now I do the drills he taught me.”

Ragan was the one who fired the winning shot last week.

“I was the fourth (kicker) and I took the (shot) before the other person,” Ragan said. “Brady saved their fourth and saved us the game.”

Roder said the goalkeeper has been strong all season and is the most analytical and intelligent person he has met as far as goalkeeping goes.

The Panthers’ Cayden Brown [4] defends.“During the game, he watches people and the way they play the ball off their foot,” the coach said. “He sees which way they go with the ball more often than not.

“So when we got into the shootout situation (in Districts), he actually was telling the ref before he walked up there which way the kid was going to go, and he guessed right every single time. He didn’t get to all the balls, but he still managed to pull off a couple stops which gave us the win.”

Another captain who has been on the team all four years is central defensive midfielder Ty Mulka.

“First two years weren’t the best,” he said. “My friends kept me on the team. This year was our best year.”

If Parchment did not field a team this year, “I was afraid we’d have to merge with our rival school, Comstock,” he said.

The coach said Mulka has been a workhorse.

“He’s been here every single day for everything,” Roder said. “He’s never missed, and he has a relentless work ethic.

“For being a small guy (5-foot-10, 150 pounds) he loves to put a body on people, so he plays a really physical style of soccer. Does a great job seeing the field, and he’s got a laser of a shot.”

Senior center midfielder Wyatt Nieboer said, “I thought 100 percent there would not be a team this year. I found out during the summer.

“I was just happy to play. I knew there was a new coach, and I heard he was really good, which he is, but I didn’t think there was going to be a massive change like there is.”

Roder said Nieboer is a “high energy, a bigger-bodied kid (5-8, 190). His work ethic will not let people beat him. He’s a honey badger.”

Not ready to end

Having tasted success this season, Ragan said the team is not ready to end it.

“The people want to play more,” the junior said. “We’ve had more practices that are actually helping us as a team.

“Things like the weight room are helping build the team and make us stronger, which helps us win games.”

Roder said Ragan, who is one of the captains, has good leadership qualities.

From left: Wyatt Nieboer, Ty Mulka and Cameron Wagner. “He has a natural good touch on the ball,” he said. “He’s very aggressive, very physically dominating. Does a great job going up to get balls, contesting people.”

The Panthers will have a tough test tonight when they host Grand Rapids South Christian (12-4-2), ranked seventh in the state in Division 3 and coming off a bye.

“They’re really good,” Roder said. “They move the ball really, really well. It’s going to be a tough test.

“The kids are excited about soccer around here, and that’s something we want to bring back. We’ve got eight seniors on the squad, probably the last time they’re going to play, so we’re trying to eke out as much time as we can.”

Caswell said all the credit goes to the coach.

“Thank Coach Roder for helping change everything here,” the goalkeeper said. “He’s been one of the biggest parts in changing the culture, changing the team, changing how we play soccer.”

Other seniors on the team are Devin Wilson, Myles Brooks, Kriss Patel, Tyler Lingbeek, Darius Baker and Akhil Veecumsee. Juniors are Keagan Cole, Trey Sukola, Conner Moynihan, Elijah Damron-Webster and Luka Lagina, while sophomores are Tyrone Edwards, Micah Shank, Cayden Brown and Hayden Hose.

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Parchment’s Darius Baker, left, controls possession during a game against Allegan. (2) From left: Parchment coach Jesse Roder, Brady Caswell and Caden Ragan. (3) Micah Shank [5] steps into a kick. (4) The Panthers’ Cayden Brown [11] defends. (5) From left: Wyatt Nieboer, Ty Mulka and Cameron Wagner. (Action photos by Shawnia Preston/Oh Shoot Photography, head shots by Pam Shebest.)

Record-Setting Saving, Historic Scoring Send Grosse Ile to 2018 Boys Soccer Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 17, 2024

Grosse Ile’s Division 3 runner-up season in 2018 included multiple MHSAA team records for defensive and offensive success.

The Red Devils set a record with 21 straight shutouts and 24 total over 29 games, and also finished third all-time scoring 158 goals.

Their 23-game winning streak that season remains tied for seventh-longest as Grosse Ile finished 27-2.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA boys soccer record book, and click the heading to see the record book in full.

Boys Soccer

Keeper Ethan DeJager and Grandville Calvin Christian were nearly unbeatable in 2020, finishing 19-1-2 and runner-up in Division 4. They set a record allowing only four goals for the season, while DeJager is fourth on the season shutouts list with 19 over those 22 games and tied for the second-longest shutout streak at 13. DeJager was a senior that season.

Seth Davidson capped his four-year varsity career this past fall on three records lists for shutouts – 15 over 22 games this past season, 26 for his career and nine straight as a senior. Berkley as a team also made the fewest goals allowed list, giving up only 11 in finishing 18-2-2.

Caden Saxton capped a memorable four-year Flint Kearsley varsity career in the fall with four entries in the record book. He made the assists list with 27 over 21 games as a senior and also the single-season points list with 65, and made career lists in those categories with 63 assists and 149 points, respectively, over 71 games.

Jonesville advanced in its District this past season with an 8-5 overtime win over Blissfield on Oct. 12, and Warrick Elder played a big part scoring six goals. He’s a senior.

Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals saw contributions from several players, and junior James Whiting was among those leading the way. He made the assists list with 30 over 22 games, and also the total points list with 49. He also sits on the career assists list after three seasons with 66 and one more season to play.

Holland Christian made the team list for 12 straight shutouts from Sept. 8-Oct. 19, and 15 shutouts total over 20 games this past season. Junior Adam Bergman was in goal for all 15 including the 12 consecutive.

Muskegon Oakridge senior Arturo Romero-Serrano capped his career in the fall with his second season reaching 40 goals, netting 42 total to finish his four-year career with 105 and also on the MHSAA career points list with 125. He also added a second six-goal game, against Muskegon Catholic Central on Aug. 25.

Monroe Jefferson’s season came to an end Oct. 11 in a District game against Riverview, but senior Gabe Gelso finished with a state record. He made 49 saves in the 9-0 defeat as the Bears had only eight players total.

Ian Klenk added eight more shutouts in goal this past fall to finish his three-season varsity career with 25 in 60 games and make the career list in that category. He’ll continue his career at Kuyper College.

PHOTO Grosse Ile's keeper Brendan Ebler (1) gathers the ball and charts his next move during the 2018 Division 3 Final.