Performance: Country Day's Jon Dougherty

November 7, 2018

Jon Dougherty
Detroit Country Day senior - Soccer

The Yellowjackets’ senior goalkeeper set an MHSAA Finals record with 19 saves in helping Country Day to a 1-0 win over top-ranked and formerly undefeated Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern in Saturday’s Division 2 Final at Comstock Park. His work including four saves in overtime and another in the deciding shootout earned Dougherty the Michigan Army National Guard “Performance of the Week.”

Dougherty split time in goal as a sophomore and junior before taking over as the primary keeper this fall. Country Day coach Steven Bossert called his keeper the state’s best after Saturday’s game, and the numbers this fall say plenty as well: a 0.61 goals-against average, .900 save percentage and 12 shutouts with a 17-4-2 record this fall and 28-7-5 record with 23 shutouts over his three varsity seasons. But the numbers do not tell the whole story. Country Day moved from Division 3 to Division 2 this season, and also had to replace a back line that included first and second-team all-staters and two more all-District defenders who help the team to last season’s Semifinals. The Yellowjackets ended this fall 20-5-2.

Dougherty made the difference one more time Saturday against a Forest Hills Northern team that excelled at sending long free kicks into the box to a group of big-bodied attackers capable of redirecting them into the net. Country Day made the decision to have Dougherty snag as many of these lofty passes out of the air as possible, and the 6-foot-3 standout shined. Then, in the shootout, after Country Day’s first attempt was saved, Dougherty followed with a save – keeping the shootout at 0-0 and amping up the pressure. The Yellowjackets went on to prevail in the shootout 4-2. Dougherty was named Wednesday to the Division 2 all-state first team by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association and also is a pitcher on Country Day’s baseball team. He is considering opportunities to stay on the diamond after high school at either Macalester College in Minnesota or Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He carries an unweighted 3.93 grade-point average and intends to study dentistry.

Coach Steven Bossert said: “In competition, I don't think that I've ever seen him drop a ball that he meant to catch. He does not bobble balls or give up rebounds. His technique is solid, and this athleticism and reactions are truly special. When you combine these special athletic talents with an exceptional mind, you get a goalkeeper that erases many defensive mistakes and keeps you in games when you may not be the better team.  … The luxury of having Jon behind our defenders is that it gave us a chance to learn and grow together without losing many games. And, the backs really came together in the playoffs and you saw the results, especially in the last two games when we played teams that were considered among the best in the entire state regardless of division. With Jon leading our defense, he helped the growth of the back line so that we were one of the best teams in the state. But the most obvious and greatest reason that we were able to beat the Forest Hills Northern team on Saturday was Jonathan Dougherty. He was the difference. … At times, I thought he was wearing a red cape with an "S" on the front of his blue goalkeeper's kit. Several times in the first half he made aerial saves and catches 8-10 feet in the air in lots of traffic. Only the best keeper in the state catches those balls, and no one holds onto them when you come crashing through players and then the ground. Jonathan did.”

Performance Point: “I’m really just proud of the way our defense played throughout the whole game," Dougherty said. "Looking back at it, they blocked a few really important shots. Our left back James Naaman, at the end of the game, we were watching it on film, they had a shot that would’ve been a screamer, probably into the top corner, that he used his face to get in front of and block. That was one of the things that stuck out, that play in particular, and of course the penalties (shootout), just the guys stepping up and taking care of business. … On the film, everything looks a little bit quicker. In the game, everything was kinda slowed down for me. I felt like I had a lot more time than I actually did. The decisions in-game were pretty instinctual. There was really no thinking; it was just I saw the ball in the air and I thought I could go get to it, so I went after it.”

Drive for 15: "Country Day has a really long historic tradition of being competitive in the division that we’re in. At the beginning of the season this year, we knew we were going to have a really talented group. That was the goal from the start of the season – it was always to win the state title. We didn’t just want to compete; we wanted to win."

Time to lead: “The whole first half of the season was really just a growing and learning experience for me, getting used to the guys in front of me, us getting used to each other. Just playing with each other, gaining experience in games. I had to take on more of a leadership role because last year I split time, I only got half the games. But this year I was a captain as well as the primary keeper. The first half of the year, it was kinda hit-and-miss, I’d say. As we started to put things together and figure out who our four main starters were going to be in the back line, we really started to click and mesh well. That’s when we started playing our best soccer. … I just tried to keep our guys motivated, positive, in the game at all times. In our state semi game, we gave up a goal really early to Cranbrook in the first two minutes, and I just kept telling the guys, ‘There’s a lot of soccer to be played. Keep your heads in the game. Do not lose it.’ You saw the result (a 2-1 overtime win): They clearly were staying in the game and just playing through whatever got thrown at us. … At the beginning of the year I thought it was going to be a huge responsibility, working with the young back line. But the guys really stepped up, and they made my job easy.”

Crossover: “The positions I play in both sports are really similar. I’m a pitcher in baseball. You have to have the same mentality, because one mistake on your part could cause your team the game in either sport. It’s definitely a mental toughness … a level-headedness almost because you can’t ever get too happy about things and you can’t get too upset about things. Because there’s a game in front of you, you have to be able to bounce back and be mentally tough.”

Setting up for the shootout: “Over my soccer career I’ve been in three. We had one my sophomore year, against Farmington (Hills) Harrison in the District semis (a 1-0 win). We weren’t really that competitive that year. I was the shootout keeper, and it was a good experience to get familiar with the shootout process and to gain confidence. Our junior year we lost a heartbreaker in PKs to Flint Powers in the state semis. I think that was just invaluable for us as a team and for me. To experience that kind of loss and know what it felt like and be able to come back and do it again this year with the same confidence, it was big for us – and that kind of experience was big for me too.”

- Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2018-19 school year, Second Half and the Michigan Army National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom or protect lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Past 2018-19 honorees

November 1: Jordan Stump, Camden-Frontier volleyball - Read
October 25:
Danielle Staskowski, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep golf - Read
October 18:
Adam Bruce, Gladstone cross country - Read
October 11: Ericka VanderLende, Rockford cross country - Read
October 4:
Kobe Clark, Schoolcraft football - Read
September 27: Jonathan Kliewer, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern soccer - Read
September 20: Kiera Lasky, Bronson volleyball - Read
September 13: Judy Rector, Hanover-Horton cross country - Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day keeper Jon Dougherty dives to his right to stop a shot during Saturday's Division 2 Final against Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern. (Middle) Dougherty unloads a kick downfield during his team's win. 

Working Together, with Neighbor's Help, Schoolcraft Teams Making Selves at 'Home'

By Pam Shebest
Special for

September 19, 2023

SCHOOLCRAFT — If it is a home game for the Schoolcraft football team, head over to Vicksburg.

Southwest CorridorIf it is soccer, go to Schoolcraft’s baseball field.

Things are a bit jumbled in the sports world for the Eagles this season.

With a new football field under construction and a new elementary school built on the site of the former practice fields, the two teams have been a bit displaced.

“Along with our football field, we had three practice fields that were utilized by a lot of our youth programs, Rocket football, youth soccer and our soccer and football programs,” Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin said. “It’s taken a lot of understanding and flexibility from our coaches, players and our community to make it work out, and it has.”

Meanwhile, all four Eagles home football games will be played at Vicksburg High School.

If Vicksburg is home on a Friday, then the Eagles will play Saturday, including their Homecoming game this Saturday against Galesburg-Augusta.

The Eagles won their only “home” game so far, 33-14 against Kalamazoo United, and take a 3-1 record into Saturday’s contest.

The soccer team gave up its field to the football team for practices and has been practicing and playing their matches in the outfield of the baseball stadium.

For the soccer team, “It’s kind of an upgrade,” Applin said. “The soccer field they traditionally play on, they don’t have a scoreboard, they don’t have a bathroom facility, so we’ve been able to use the (baseball) scoreboard, the PA system, open up the bathroom building.

Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. “The goal at some point is to give soccer a home, and we’re very, very excited about that.”

This year definitely has been challenging for the first-year AD, who credits Vicksburg athletic director Mike Roy with being a tremendous help.

“Mike Roy has been nothing but accommodating to us,” Applin said. “He’s been super helpful to me stepping in and assuming this scenario.

“The communities are so close, it almost feels like home for us.”

Roy said Jeff Clark, former Schoolcraft AD, reached out once the bond was passed for the new stadium last year.

“We had to make small accommodations as did Schoolcraft to make the schedules work,” Roy said. “By moving (Schoolcraft’s) games to Saturday, Vicksburg had to work with our Rocket football organization to make sure games were completed” before the Eagles varsity games.

Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency said his team has been “rolling with the punches.

“These guys don’t care where it’s at; they just want to play football. We’re all taking care of each other. What a great place to be when everybody works together.”

When Jake Bailey heard the team would be playing at Vicksburg, “That got me excited,” the junior offensive tackle said. “They’ve got a really nice facility. I know the school will come out to support us no matter where we are, but it’s definitely different.

“Good thing we don’t play Vicksburg, although it would be fun because it would be both our home fields. The new facilities and being back at our home field at Roy Davis (Field next year) will be really fun.”

Vicksburg is Division 4, while Schoolcraft is Division 7.

Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey.The soccer team was “just being a team player” in giving up its own field for football practice, second-year head coach Jeremy Mutchler said.

“For the soccer team to be a team player and get behind the football team will help the community get behind the soccer team as well,” he added.

The biggest drawback is that part of the current field includes a piece of the baseball infield.

“The only odd thing is it is a smaller field, still regulation size, but smaller,” Mutchler said. “Part of the field is in the diamond, so we have to play in the dirt and it gets tricky, especially when you’re trying to throw it in or just play down the line.”

The move has cost the team a few home games.

“At the beginning of the year, we allowed schools, if they didn’t want to play here, we would go to their house,” Mutchler said. “We had to go to a few schools we would have played at home.”

Maintenance supervisor Eric McGehee was instrumental in preparing the field.

“He laid out exactly the parameters, so I was able to send that to all the ADs that were going to visit to give them an opportunity to decide whether that’s something they wanted to help us out for our home games,” Applin said. “A lot of schools were more than willing to come and play us to give our boys some home games. A couple wanted to be cautious and play on a more traditional surface, and we were able to make those arrangements as well.”

In only its second year as a varsity sport, the boys soccer team is still finding its identity, posting a 2-5 record so far.

Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job.“We’re a very young team,” Mutchler said. “All juniors and freshmen. This is the juniors' second regular season. It’s all been a learning phase with maturity and sportsmanship.”

Junior captain Jack Curtis said he was a bit “bummed out” when he heard the team would move to the baseball field.

“The first practice, I drove over to our practice field,” he said. “No one was there.

“I drove over to the high school and saw everyone practicing (at the baseball field). I didn’t think a soccer field could fit on a baseball field.”

Curtis said in spite of the temporary move, “I’m just glad we can have some home games this year on Schoolcraft soil.”

As for Applin, he spent much of his career coaching basketball at both the high school and college levels and most recently worked as a salesman for Zeigler. His wife, Meredith, is an assistant coach for Western Michigan University’s women’s basketball team.

Ferency is appreciative of the work Clark and Applin have done to make this season’s changes relatively seamless.

“I’d like to highlight how great our athletic department is,” he said. “It takes a lot of moving pieces and parts to move people around and have a space for everybody.

“I’m really proud of our athletic department and all our coaches and kids for just rolling with the punches.”

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) Schoolcraft’s varsity boys soccer team, including Nyan Wonders (15), faces Comstock this season on its field in the outfield of the baseball stadium. (2) Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. (3) Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey. (4) Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job. (Action photos by Stephanie Blentlinger/Lingering Memories Photography. Headshots and Applin photo by Pam Shebest.)