By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Five teams will look to make history Saturday as they play for their first MHSAA boys soccer championships. And at least two are assured of doing so.
The Lower Peninsula Division 1 and 4 championship games feature four teams looking to win for the first time, including first-year school Bloomfield Hills. Spring Lake in Division 2 also is going for its first Finals win, but against three-time champion East Lansing and one of the state’s winningest coaches in Nick Archer.
Only in Division 3 is a team assured of adding to its trophy collection. Flint Powers Catholic is hoping for its first title since 1996, but must beat reigning champion Grand Rapids South Christian to earn it.
Below is Saturday's schedule, followed by a look at each team in the hunt.
Division 1 at Troy Athens, Noon
Bloomfield Hills (16-2-5) vs. Ann Arbor Skyline (20-1-5)
Division 2 at East Kentwood Crestwood Middle School, Noon
East Lansing (24-2) vs. Spring Lake (16-6-3)
Division 3 at Troy Athens, 3 p.m.
Grand Rapids South Christian (21-1-3) vs. Flint Powers Catholic (14-8-2)
Division 4 at East Kentwood Crestwood Middle School, 3 p.m.
Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (22-1-3) vs. Lansing Christian (21-0-1)
All four Finals will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV and available on a subscription basis. A one-day pass costs $9.95 and allows access to all four games plus the Lower Peninsula Cross Country Finals. A month pass costs $14.95 and allows fans to also watch live the Volleyball Semifinals and Finals and Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals. Radio broadcasts of the Soccer Finals will be available on MHSAAnetwork.com.
Click for links to brackets and scores. All statistics below are through the Regional Finals.
ANN ARBOR SKYLINE
Record/rank: 20-1-5, No. 3
Coach: Chris Morgan, fourth season (53-17-16)
League finish: Second in Southeastern Conference Red
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Alec Lasinski, jr. F (32 goals, six assists); Nick Russo, sr. M (11 assists, three goals).
Outlook: Skyline has improved in the win column each season during its four as a varsity program and won its second straight District title two weeks ago. The Eagles beat No. 5 Caledonia and honorable mentions Okemos and Salem to win the Regional and advance to the championship game. Lasinski earned an all-state honorable mention as a sophomore and leads an offense that has outscored opponents 74-15 with 14 shutouts this fall.
Record/rank: 16-2-5, unranked
Coach: Dougie Macaulay, first season (16-2-5)
League finish: Second in Oakland Activities Association White
Championship history: First season as a school.
Players to watch: Alex Joneson, jr. F; Griffin Hamel, sr. GK (statistics not submitted).
Outlook: This is the first year of Bloomfield Hills soccer and school, which was created by a merger of Lahser and Andover. Lahser won one MHSAA title and finished runner-up twice during its history. The only teams to score more than one goal on Bloomfield Hills this season were the two that beat the Black Hawks, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek and Birmingham Groves. Bloomfield Hills has won 13 straight, including avenging that loss to Groves with a 4-1 win in the District opener.
Record/rank: 24-2, No. 4
Coach: Nick Archer, 38th season (572-152-72)
League finish: Second in Capital Area Activities Conference Blue
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2005), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: DeJuan Jones, jr. F (25 goals, eight assists); Tommy Lammers, sr. M (six goals, five assists); Ben Swanson-Ralph, sr. F (14 goals, 12 assists).
Outlook: East Lansing advanced with its first Regional title since 2007, but was poised for such a run after claiming the league and District titles in 2012 with Swanson-Ralph making the all-state first team and Lammers earning an honorable mention. The Trojans spent much of this season ranked No. 1 before a couple close losses near the end to No. 6 DeWitt and Division 1 honorable mention Okemos. East Lansing then beat DeWitt and No. 2 Linden on its way to this championship game.
Record/rank: 16-6-3, unranked
Coach: Jeremy Thelen, 13th season (200-70-11)
League finish: Second in Lakes 8 Conference
Championship history: 2011 runner-up.
Players to watch: Nic Ellingboe, sr. F (19 goals, seven assists); Kyle Zietlow, jr. M (10 goals, 12 assists); Keegan George, soph. F (13 goals, six assists).
Outlook: This is Spring Lake’s second Division 2 Final appearance in three seasons, and the Lakers are riding a seven-game winning streak including a shootout victory over Fruitport after losing to the Trojans in the league championship game. In fact, Spring Lake could make a run at three Finals berths in four seasons next fall; Ellingboe and defender Adam Ross are the only senior starters.
FLINT POWERS CATHOLIC
Record/rank: 14-8-2, No. 6
Coach: Tony Rowe, second season (28-15-2)
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley Association
Championship history: Class B champion 1996.
Players to watch: Jared Pechette, sr. M (10 assists, eight goals); Christian Mansour, sr. M (15 assists, five goals); Charlie Emmert, sr. F (13 goals, three assists).
Outlook: Powers has piled up successes with two league titles under Rowe, a 2003 graduate in his first varsity coaching position. The Chargers are riding a 12-game unbeaten streak after beginning the season 3-6. Although Powers has only six seniors, three start in the midfield with Brad Tuttle joining Pechette and Mansour.
GRAND RAPIDS SOUTH CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 21-1-3, No. 1
Coach: Jason Boersma, third season (58-8-8)
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Championship history: Two titles (most recent 2012), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Marlon Bykerk, sr. M (11 goals, 17 assists); Cody Kok, sr. M (11 assists, nine goals); Nick VanderHorst, sr. M (13 goals, three assists), Zac Medendorp, sr. GK (0.45 goals-against average, 15 shutouts).
Outlook: South Christian is playing for its third title in four seasons led by a talented midfield including 2012 all-stater Bykerk and honorable mention Kok and a keeper whose shutout total makes the MHSAA record book (Medendorp earned his 16th in the Semifinal against No. 5 Whitehall). The Sailors’ lone loss this season was in their opener, 1-0 to Division 2 honorable mention Grand Rapids Christian – and South Christian won the rematch 2-1.
GRAND RAPIDS COVENANT CHRISTIAN
Record/rank: 22-1-3, No. 1
Coach: Mike Noorman, 10th season (127-66-14)
League finish: First in River Valley Conference
Championship history: 2012 runner-up.
Players to watch: Corbin Prince, sr. M (27 goals, 15 assists), Travis Bouwkamp, jr. F (23 goals 16 assists), Cole Bleyenberg, sr. F (12 goals, nine assists), Austin Brower, sr. GK (0.28 GAA, 13 shutouts).
Outlook: After falling short to Hamtramck Frontier International in last season’s Division 4 Final, Covenant Christian has dominated in its quest to finish the run this fall. Brower was an all-stater as a junior and Prince made the second team. They are two of 11 seniors on a team that started with seven straight shutouts and has given up only three goals during the postseason despite dispatching of No. 2 Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central and No. 10 Bellaire during the run.
Record/rank: 21-0-1, honorable mention
Coach: Joel Vande Kopple, sixth season (114-15-5)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Jordan Terry, sr. F (26 goals, 11 assists), Martin Lang, Jr., jr. F (18 goals, eight assists), Brayan Guzman-Ortiz, jr. F (11 goals, six assists), Alex McDowell, soph. M (11 goals, five assists).
Outlook: The Pilgrims didn’t enter the tournament among the top 10. But Lansing Christian proved its skill early with wins over Division 2 Haslett and Division 3 Williamston, and then beat Division 4 honorable mention Genesee Christian and No. 7 Bloomfield Hills Roeper on the way to this first Final. Terry is a returning all-stater and a dangerous scorer, but the defense is talented as well – the Pilgrims didn’t give up a goal in the playoffs until Roeper scored one in the Semifinal.
PHOTO: Grand Rapids South Christian’s Marlon Bykerk (4) advances the ball during last season’s Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final win over Williamston. He and his team return to the championship game Saturday. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)
There are lots of ways to increase awareness for cystic fibrosis (CF) involving the color purple – or violet, as many perceive it to be – which is the color designated to represent the rare genetic disease.
Purple ribbons, necklaces, stickers, window sticker cling, key chains, wrist bans, magnets, bracelets, safety lights are among them.
To the Petoskey High School soccer program, purple has been primarily the color used to represent May as cystic fibrosis awareness month, as well as the shade of a team warm-up jersey and even an extra soccer uniform to wear during soccer tournaments.
That will change Saturday, Oct. 6, when Elks Rapids and Petoskey meet on the turf at Northmen Stadium.
When they come to Petoskey next weekend, the Elks will be in their visiting white — the same jerseys worn by the Northmen in that early-season match up. But the Northmen will not be wearing their traditional blue home jerseys. They will be wearing purple, ready to play in what has been dubbed the “Purple Game” in a drive to increase awareness for cystic fibrosis and help the approximately 30,000 Americans living with it.
The game is focused on awareness, not on any one individual living with it. The disease has robbed many people of tomorrows – progressively limiting their ability to breathe and tragically shortening life.
However, Kurtis Mainland, one of Petoskey’s leading scorers this year, is one of those living with CF. He was diagnosed at DeVos Children's Hospital with the life-threatening disease at 8 months of age.
It will be just another game for Mainland. His parents Megan and Ken will be there as well as his older brother Corbin, as he always is. Sister Mackenzie is likely to be there too. Kurtis is looking ahead to the Big North Conference title chase and another postseason run.
And unless you know Mainland or know he wears number one, you likely have no idea he lives and plays with CF.
He’s happy to help raise awareness for the disease with his purple jersey. He doesn’t let the disease control him and playing soccer is normal for him, as is watching for his parents and coach Zach Jonker. Mainland has been coached by the Jonker since he started participating in Petoskey Youth Soccer some 10 years ago, a fact bringing comfort every practice and every game to Mainland’s parents.
Jonker and Kurtis’ parents know that while the player wearing the purple jersey sporting “1” may not score against the Elks, he will do the work in the midfield that may to lead the Northmen to another victory
Mainland will be focusing on nothing more than getting the win. He’s much more concerned with the team’s battles than his own, and has no interest in drawing attention or standing out.
“The only time I really notice I have CF is in the mornings when I do my treatment, and at night when I take my medicine,” he said. “We just have to do what we did at Elk Rapids last time, and we will win it.”
Mainland has five goals and five assists as the Northmen are off to a 10-5 overall and 4-1 Big North start. They have a chance to move into first place in the conference with a rematch against Traverse City West on Monday — also at home. West is 4-0-1 and beat Petoskey 2-1 in the first meeting. A trip to Alpena, which tied West on Thursday, also will occur before the Purple Game.
He’s having a stellar senior year despite CF and having to recover from a nose surgery this summer stemming from an accident on a trampoline the year before.
For Mainland and his parents, the prescription drug Kalydeco has become a miracle of sorts. It’s helped him live a normal life, which is all he really asks. He’s well aware other teams, players and referees don’t notice he lives — and plays the game — with the life-threatening disease.
“It has allowed him to play soccer and be as active as he can be, and is without the reduced lung capacity,” his father said of the medication. “There are people that look at him on the soccer field and have no idea he has cystic fibroses.
“He has the mindset nothing will slow him down,” Dad continued. “He doesn’t want anything to slow him down including cystic fibroses.”
Mom offers another perspective shared by the Mainlands, who prefer to look at their son as having a title, rather than a disease.
“We say he has cystic fibrosis, but cystic fibrosis doesn’t have him,” she said. “It doesn’t define who he is and what he can and cannot do.”
Senior day for the Northmen is yet to come. Purple Game organizers are looking to create a greater awareness of CF, not necessarily to put the spotlight on the midfielder battling it.
“I am not one to go out and advocate for it and be very public about,” Mainland said. “I just go out like a normal kid.
“I just play the game I love, and I’ve always played like that,” he continued. “I don’t really notice it.”
Jonker, who also teaches as Petoskey High School, agrees.
“It has never hindered his ability to play and contribute,” Jonker said. “He is a fantastic young man coming from a family dedicated to serving the community.
“This is the end of his four years, so we thought we’d raise a little awareness about CF and not specifically about Kurtis’ situation.”
Ken Mainland will be doing the announcing at the Purple Game, just as he’s been doing for years. Megan will coordinate concessions.
Kurtis Mainland is an Eagle Scout as well and his badge-earning projects were improvements to the Petoskey Youth Soccer Association’s Click Road Complex, a site of some of the Northmen home games. It is also a place where Kurtis referees youth soccer matches.
He also serves in a leadership position for the Blue Crew, the student section supporters of Northmen athletic teams. He was on the ski team in middle school, and he’s a golfer during the offseason.
The Mainlands, who sees themselves as no different than any other soccer parents, will have their eyes on everything Saturday.
Onlookers say there is no way anyone with prior knowledge would know Ken is Kurtis’s father as he does his PA work. As for Megan, perhaps maybe not the case.
“We love the sport,” Megan said. “It has made him grow in so many ways.
“Once he was diagnosed — yeah it was a hit — but it was almost we were relieved because we had answers on how to help our son now,” she continued. “And, we kind of went forward and we didn’t change much.”
The Petoskey/Elk Rapids matchup will be the second meeting this season of the two soccer teams noted historically for long postseason runs. They often meet twice a year, but not in the postseason though as they are in different divisions. Petoskey won the first game this fall 1-0 in Elk Rapids, which has rebounded from a 1-5-1 start to a 9-7-1 overall record today.
Kickoff for the Purple Game is 11:30 a.m. The announcer will let the game attendees know why Petoskey is wearing the special purple jerseys.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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) Petoskey’s Kurtis Mainland winds up for a shot against Gaylord this week. (Middle) Mainland, second from left, shows Petoskey’s purple jersey, with his family (from left) Ken, Megan and Corbin Mainland. (Below) Kurtis Mainland works for possession while shielding off an opponent. (Top photo courtesy of Dylan Jespersen/Gaylord Herald Times, middle courtesy of Zach Jonker and below courtesy of Drew Kochanny/Petoskey News-Review.)