South Lyon sophomore – Soccer
Mason scored his first and second goals of the season to help South Lyon to a 2-2 draw with Walled Lake Western on Sept. 19 that clinched the Lakes Valley Conference regular-season title for the Lions – their first league championship since 2007 – and earned Mason the MHSAA “Performance of the Week.”
South Lyon graduated a number of contributors from the team that finished 9-7-3 and fifth in the league last season, but Mason – a rare sophomore team captain – has been a major part of the rebound and continued ascension. The Lions are 9-1-5, their only loss to Birmingham Seaholm when Mason wasn’t able to play. South Lyon gave up four goals that game; otherwise they’ve allowed just eight over 14 games with Mason manning the center back position.
Mason also is a standout swimmer; he was part of league champions in the 200-yard medley and 400 freestyle relays last season. He also carries a 3.97 grade-point average and has interests in math and science, although obviously he has a lot of time to consider what he might study after high school – and a lot to still accomplish for the Lions over the next three years.
Coach Brian Elliott said: “His two goals came at the most perfect time when we were playing Walled Lake Western for the conference championship. He's a great soccer player, but obviously a great leader as well. In 14 years of coaching boys and girls soccer teams, I've only selected sophomores as captains twice. … Josh is the perfect blend of composure and aggression. He's tenacious when defending, but extremely composed when on the ball offensively. The only game we've lost was the one Josh wasn't present for. I'm very excited for what the rest of high school holds for Josh and can't wait to see where he plays after high school as well.”
Performance Point: “After the second goal, being able to celebrate with all of my teammates, it was super cool to experience it,” Mason said. “I was feeling really good before the game, I wasn’t going to lose, so (my scoring surge) just kinda happened. The one (goal) was a chain and the other was a corner – I just went up for it, I saw it coming, and I wasn’t going to miss this one. I felt like I hadn’t been doing my job on the corners all year. I felt like I needed to score this one. … We have a bunch of really good seniors – they’re super good guys – and it’s cool to win the league for them their senior year.”
Captain’s log: “You see all the JV kids and all the freshman kids looking up to you. That’s a really cool spot to be in. I have really cool senior captains to learn from who I want to model my next two years of being a captain after because it’s really going to help the team to be able to do that three years in a row. … Our team has jelled pretty good, and everyone listens to everyone. Everyone gets to speak, and everyone’s ideas matter."
D-E-F-E-N-S-E: “Communication – I step to the line and do a lot of work back there, but I think the other guys really respond when we talk to them and they step up. That game (I missed), we were just missing the communication piece and they couldn’t work together on the back line. I felt really bad missing that game.”
Pool pays off: “I overextended my knee my seventh grade season. I needed to stay in shape, but I couldn’t do running or anything (similar) because of the pounding, so I tried swimming. I kinda went out there and just tried it and ended up really good at it. I just kept going and ended up on the high school team. I don’t really love it during the season, but at the end of the season getting back on the soccer field, I’m in crazy good shape. I feel so good and I never get tired, so I love it then. But at 4 in the morning, I’m like, ‘Why am I putting myself through this?’”
Underdogs rising: “I like Man U. I like Everton too. I kinda like an underdog team. I feel like they are normally underdogs. They try to compete with the big teams every year. I respect them for that. … I think that is us. This is the third year in a row that we’ve drawn Brighton and (Detroit) CC in our District, and we are that little team trying to compete with the big teams that are consistently good. I think we are getting close to that. I think we’re getting a lot better – just from last year, I see a lot of improvement on the team.”
– Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
PHOTOS: (Top) South Lyon's Josh Mason moves the ball upfield during his team's win this week over White Lake Lakeland. (Middle) Mason (26) and his teammates wall off the goal. (Photos courtesy of the South Lyon Herald.)
SCHOOLCRAFT — If it is a home game for the Schoolcraft football team, head over to Vicksburg.
If 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.
“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.
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.
“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 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.)