Powers Writes End to Championship Story

November 2, 2013

By Greg Chrapek
Special to Second Half 

TROY – When it comes to storybook endings, Flint Powers Catholic coach Tony Rowe has overseen one that is hard to beat. 

With a 4-8 record at one point this season, Rowe and his Chargers were just hoping to climb to the .500 mark, let alone end up in the Lower Peninsula Division 3 championship game.

Not only did the Chargers right the ship, but they advanced to the Final in Troy where they defeated reigning champion Grand Rapids South Christian 1-0 after surviving overtime and prevailing 8-7 in a sudden-death penalty-kick shootout. 

“It’s just unbelievable,” Rowe said. “It is a story book. We were 4-8 at one point this season. I told one of my friends that it was like a (ESPN) 30 for 30 feature. We just got on a roll at the right time and kept on rolling.”

Powers also played some air-tight defense in the title match. It survived heavy pressure from South Christian in the second half and overtime periods to get the game into a shootout, where anything can happen and did. 

After 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime sessions, the game went to a penalty kick best of five round. After both teams missed their first attempts, South Christian took a 1-0 lead on a made shot from Nick VanderHorst.

Powers then missed its second attempt and after two rounds trailed 1-0. Both teams scored in the next two rounds with Taylor Buist and Austin Clark scoring for South Christian and Alex Clark and Brad Tuttle scoring for Powers.

Heading into the fifth round, South Christian was up 3-2 and needed just one more made shot to end the match. 

The Sailors, however, came up short on their fifth shot, and on its last attempt Christian Mansour scored for Powers to tie the goals at 3-3 and force the match into penalty kick sudden death. Both teams scored in the next four rounds and the shootout was tied 7-7 heading into the fifth sudden death round.

That’s when Powers goalkeeper Stephen Wilbur came up with a diving save. 

“I just tried to stay composed when everything is going crazy,” Wilbur said. “I go into a corner and keep quiet and try to keep focused.”

Wilbur’s save set the table for Powers sophomore Erich Ruth to win the game. Ruth stepped up to the ball and delivered as he sent a shot into the net. 

“When I stepped up to the ball, I kept my eyes on one post the whole time,” Ruth said. “Then I shot it the other way. I just tried to keep my composure.”

After Ruth’s shot went in the Chargers erupted on to the field, their storybook finish complete. 

“It’s just crazy,” Wilbur said. “It’s a dream come true.”

A dream the Chargers had to feel was far off when they were 4-8. 

“We just kept working all season,” said Powers senior captain Charlie Emmert. “We went to practice every day and kept working. I told the guys the state finals are November 2 so keep your parking passes until November first.”

The Chargers also put in plenty of work on penalty kicks during their practices. 

“We practice penalty kicks every day,” Emmert said. “Everyone practices them at the end of practice. That walk feels like a mile with everyone watching you take the kick.”

Powers had a couple of scoring opportunities during the first half. On its first opportunity, South Christian goalie Zac Medendorp used all of his 6-foot-7 frame when he made a diving stop and knocked a shot away. 

South Christian (21-2-3) gained the momentum in the second half and applied heavy pressure on the offensive end. With seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Sailors came within inches of a go-ahead goal when VanderHorst whistled a shot that hit the crossbar dead on but bounced away.

The Sailors also carried the play in the two overtime sessions. Powers found it difficult to get the ball past midfield while coming under constant pressure from the South Christian offense. 

“That’s the way it is; soccer can be a pretty cruel game at times,” South Christian coach Jason Boersma said. “These guys did everything they could. I thought the first half was evenly matched, but I thought we carried the play in the second half. They (Powers) didn’t get the ball over midfield much at all. We pressured them, and pressured them and pressured them but we could just not get one in the back of the net.

“Our guys feel like they won the game but lost the shootout. Give credit to Powers, they have a fantastic team and a fantastic program.” 

The Chargers also had a defense that would bend but not break and a spirit that was the same.

“We played with all heart,” Mansour said. “We just never quit.” 

Powers ended the season 14-8-2. The title was its first since winning in 1996.

“We didn’t think it was impossible to get to state,” Rowe said. “Anytime you play, you want to get to the state finals. These guys were just awesome.” 

Click for the full box score. 

PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers' Erich Ruth (8) unloads what will become the winning shot in the Chargers' 1-0 sudden-death shootout win. (Middle) Powers' Reed Macksood (22) works past a pair of South Christian defenders including David Hubbard (21). (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Storch Returns to Retirement After Elevating Alpena Teams From Cellar to Contenders

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

December 16, 2022

It wasn’t long ago that Alpena boys and girls soccer opponents took their long bus rides to play the Wildcats expecting an easy win, and most likely by securing the victory by the eight-goal differential rule, commonly known as the “mercy rule.”

Worse yet, the Wildcats also had to take those trips across the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, as well as northern and southern journeys of two hours, dreading thoughts of experiencing yet another shortened game.

Those expectations started to change in 2011, when Tim Storch, arguably the most decorated coach in the history of Michigan high school soccer, took the reins of the Wildcats’ boys and girls programs.  

Storch made the move after retiring from Troy Athens as a teacher and coach of the Redhawks’ boys and girls soccer teams.

Slowly but surely, Alpena’s mercy losses disappeared – and wins over their Big North Conference opponents became reality. Under Storch, the Wildcats went from the cellar to challenging for titles.

But now, Storch is showing some mercy on the Big North – perhaps an early Christmas present. The conference schools won’t see him on sidelines any longer. He’s retiring – again.   

Storch is doing so after leading the Wildcats to wins over all conference opponents except Traverse City West. The Wildcats did get a tie this fall against the Titans, one of the BNC schools that regularly makes a deep postseason run, as Alpena stayed in the league title race most of the season.

“When I came to Alpena it was about trying to make the program relevant in the school, the community, the area, the BNC and northern Michigan,” Storch recalled. “We got to that point after some growing pains. 

“Early on we took our lumps, and we were mercied by everybody,” he continued. “By the end we were competitive with everybody.”

Storch, who started the Athens soccer programs from scratch in 1981, won eight Class A or Division 1 Finals titles with the Redhawks. He’s near the top of the lists of the winningest boys and girls soccer coaches in the state. The last of his 1,109 wins was a 3-1 victory over Bay City Western during this fall’s postseason.  

The Wildcats also beat conference opponent Cadillac in their District opener. They finished 14-6-3 on the season.   

Storch will be dearly missed in Northern Michigan, veteran Petoskey boys and girls coach Zach Jonker pointed out. Jonker’s Northmen picked up a victory over Alpena in the Division 2 District Final – also Storch’s last game. 

"Tim has had a legendary career as one of the most influential figures in Michigan high school soccer over the past 40 years while having an enormous impact on thousands of student-athletes,” Jonker said. “Over the past decade, Tim helped to dramatically raise the overall level of play in the Big North. 

Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. “He is one of fiercest competitors I have ever coached against, but he is also one of the most genuine and empathetic coaches I have ever encountered,” Jonker continued. “I feel fortunate to have been able to build a competitive relationship with him and call him a friend."

Storch’s last game with the Alpena girls also was a District Final, a 3-0 loss May 31 to West.

Storch is proud of what the Wildcats accomplished, noting logistics — unlike in southeastern Michigan — were a big challenge.

“We were an island,” Storch said. “We were big school in the middle of nowhere. 

“We couldn’t get together and have any kind of summer program with other communities because they didn’t have soccer, and if they had soccer they were at a Class D or C level that was way beneath what we were playing in the Big North.”

Storch’s tenure, which included six years serving as the Wildcats’ athletic director while coaching, drew accolades from his coaches and athletic directors. In addition to Jonker, Gaylord AD Christian Wilson, and West boys head coach and girls assistant coach Matt Griesinger gave high praise.

They are among those who will miss the successful coach.

“Tim leaves Alpena in better shape than when he arrived, and that is the true mark of a great coach and administrator,” Wilson said. “He has been an outstanding representative of Alpena High School, both as a soccer coach and as an athletic director. 

“Tim brought a level of stability and expertise and was well-thought of by players, coaches, and community members.”

Griesinger, who has led the Titans to considerable postseason success and upheld BNC dominance since taking over the West program eight seasons ago, was particularly impressed with Storch’s energy and passion for his players evident in every match.

“Tim is one of the most respected coaches in the state, and what he has done for the soccer communities in both Troy and Alpena is not just commendable, but also something that every high school coach should hope to emulate,” Griesinger stated. “Storch is a stand-up guy, and all of us other coaches in the BNC should consider ourselves lucky that our journeys in the sport overlapped.”

Storch is leaving Michigan high school sports as they face a shortage of referees and qualified coaches. He’s not certain of the exact reasons for it, but he points to time constraints and pressures faced on and off the field.

And, he knows the days of a teacher starting a career, coaching sports and sticking with it are long gone.

“My wife has always said I was a dinosaur,” Storch said with a chuckle. “Back in my day, even if you had family and kids, you still made time for coaching. 

“Coaching was part of my fiber — it kind of defined me.”

Storch is quick to point out “soccer coach” was just one of three hats he wore, along with history teacher and friend.

“I’m Mr. Storch to my students,” he recalls telling his student-athletes at Athens. “I’m Coach to my kids, and I am Tim to my friends.

“They are three different hats; I learned how to wear them and how to balance them.”

Storch looks back to all the friendships he’s made around the game of soccer – with former players, fellow coaches, and referees – with excitement for the future.  

He is also keeping in mind former players, referees and coaches who have passed on.

“It is kind of humbling when I think back all the years (to) coaches, referees and players I have interacted with,” he said. “We’re all here for a finite time. 

“We need to make the most of it and hopefully leave the place a better place when we leave.”

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 tomspencer@chartermi.net 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.

PHOTOS (Top) Recently-retired Alpena soccer coach Tim Storch, left, talks things over with one of his players. (Middle) Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. (Photos courtesy of Therese Shaw.)