Preview: Finals Featuring Frequent Favorites, All in 1 'Grand' Location

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

November 3, 2023

The eight teams playing in Saturday’s MHSAA Boys Soccer Finals have combined to win 42 championships and finish runners-up 16 times.

And yet, this should be a new experience for anyone who has followed the sport at our state’s high school level.

After being split up at two sites for the last several years, all four championship matches will be played at Grand Ledge High School, kicking off at 10 a.m. with the next title deciders at 12:30 p.m., 3 and 5:30 p.m.

Tickets cost $11 and may be purchased online only at GoFan. All four Finals also will be broadcast and available with subscription from

Below is a glance at all eight contenders, with statistics through Regionals:

Division 1

Record/rank: 19-3-2, No. 14
Michigan Power Rating: No. 23
Coach: Mark Howell, seventh season (84-30-2)
League finish: Second in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Championship history: Division 1 runner-up 1998.
Players to watch: Devlin McGinnis, jr. F (22 goals, 6 assists); Owen Buckley, jr. F (7 goals, 8 assists), Colin Robertson, sr. F (8 goals, 15 assists); Charlie Burchfield, sr. GK (0.40 goals-against average).

Outlook: After winning its first Regional title since 2005, Brighton has reached its first championship game in 25 years thanks to a 3-1 win over No. 9 Rockford in Wednesday’s Semifinal. The Bulldogs are undefeated since Sept. 16, a stretch of 14 games with only one draw among them, and they swept No. 2 Northville this fall among other highlights. Howell was a standout keeper for the Bulldogs, graduating in 2001 and then playing at Western Michigan, and his team has 13 shutouts including four over six postseason games. McGinnis earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

Record/rank: 19-3-2, No. 3
Michigan Power Rating: No. 5
Coach: Todd Heugh, 13th season (213-44-27)
League finish: Third in Oakland Activities Association Red
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Adriano Shauya, sr. M/F (18 goals, 3 assists); Marc Delikat, jr. M (10 goals, 6 assists), Daniel Kadiu, sr. M (9 goals, 6 assists), Adam Ethridge, sr. GK (0.52 goals-against average).  

Outlook: Athens has plenty of experience playing during the final week, with its Regional title this season its fourth in eight years but first since 2020. The Red Hawks opened this season 3-3-2 but have won 16 straight games and emerged from an OAA Red that also included top-ranked Berkley, No. 7 Oxford, No. 8 Clarkston and No. 10 Rochester Adams. Athens defeated Berkley 5-2 in a District Semifinal and No. 2 Northville 3-2 in overtime Wednesday to advance to this weekend. Senior defender Brody Fahnestock (8 goals/2 assists) and senior forward Miguel Ramirez Vanegas (5/6) are among other top contributors.

Division 2

Record/rank: 17-5-2, No. 7
Michigan Power Rating: No. 11
Coach: Aric Dersham, fourth season (57-20-9)
League finish: Fourth in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2021).
Players to watch: Jackson Mindling, sr. F/M (27 goals, 9 assists), John Cassiday, jr. F (13 goals, 7 assists), Peter Borst, jr. M (8 goals, 5 assists), Christian Dersham, sr. GK (0.71 goals-against average).
The Eagles are playing in their second Final in three seasons, with a 2-1 win over top-ranked (and 2022 Division 3 champion) Holland Christian sending them to the championship match. Grand Rapids Christian also defeated No. 4 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 3-1 in the District Final and No. 3 Fruitport 1-0 in the Regional championship match, and the Eagles haven’t allowed more than one goal in any of their eight straight victories. Freshman Liam Jansen is another notable contributor with seven goals and three assists through the Regional.

Record/rank: 13-2-5, No. 12
Michigan Power Rating: No. 7
Coach: Jacob Derby, sixth season (57-48-15)
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Blendi Jahiri, jr. M (17 goals, 16 assists); Lucas Nay, sr. M (11 goals, 16 assists); Collin Winters, jr. M (6 goals, 11 assists); Mendi Rexhepi, jr. F (11 goals, 4 assists).
Outlook: Mason reached the season’s final week for the first time since that last championship season, defeating No. 6 Riverview 2-1 in a Regional Semifinal along the way and Warren De La Salle Collegiate 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday to advance. The team’s only losses were to Division 3 No. 6 Grosse Ile and Division 1 Holt, and sophomore keeper Mikey Krysiak entered the week giving up only 0.53 goals per game. Nay made the all-state second team last season, and Jahiri earned an honorable mention. Derby was a three-time all-state keeper for the Bulldogs before graduating in 2011.

Division 3

Record/rank: 19-2-2, No. 1
Michigan Power Rating: No. 2
Coach: Steve Bossert, ninth season (131-47-20)
League finish: Does not play in a conference.
Championship history: 15 MHSAA titles (most recent 2018), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Finn Hounsell, jr. GK (0.65 goals-against average); Zach Rodger, sr. M (15 goals, 7 assists); Stephen Brentano, sr. M (7 goals, 9 assists); Andrew Brentano, sr. M (2 goals, 6 assists).
Outlook: After ending last season with a Semifinal loss to Grosse Ile, Country Day took the next step again to reach the season’s last day. This tournament run has included a 2-1 win over the Red Devils in a Regional Semifinal, a 2-0 shutout of No. 5 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the District Final and a 3-0 shutout of No. 4 Flint Powers Catholic on Wednesday. Hounsell and Rodger made the all-state second team last season, while both Bretanos made the third team and junior defender Alex Eby (2 goals/6 assists) earned an honorable mention. Senior forward Andrew Vartanian also was tied for second on the team entering this week with nine goals.

Record/rank: 20-2-1, No. 2
Michigan Power Rating: No. 1
 Ian Billin, second season (33-6-4)
League finish: Third in O-K Blue
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2018), four runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Colin Nieuwenhuis, sr. M/F (31 goals, 6 assists); Jack Kamminga, soph. M/F (9 goals, 7 assists), Eli Groggel, sr. F (6 goals, 2 assists); Alen Deppe, fr. GK (1.02 goals-against average).
Outlook: This will be Unity’s first trip to the Finals under former standout Billin, who returned after college soccer to coach the junior varsity and took over the varsity from longtime leader Randy Heethuis a year ago. Unity ended last season in the District Semifinal against Grand Rapids South Christian, but avenged that loss with a 3-2 shutout win over the No. 7 Sailors in last week’s Regional Final and also defeated No. 14 Wyoming Godwin Heights 7-1, No. 3 Hartford 2-0 and No. 8 Alma 3-0 on the way to Grand Ledge. Nieuwenhuis made the all-state second team last season.

Division 4

Record/rank: 18-3-1, No. 7
Michigan Power Rating: No. 12
Coach: Nino Maniaci, sixth season (68-40-11)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 2
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 1997), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Ben Barrett, sr. F (12 goals, 6 assists); Jake Nihranz, sr. F (15 goals, 7 assists); Connor Fitzpatrick, sr. M (3 goals, 14 assists); Dylan Barbieri, sr. D (7 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: Bishop Foley won its first Regional title since that last championship season, and Maniaci has been building the Ventures back up to this moment leading them to a third-straight District title this fall along the way. Two of the team’s defeats were to No. 2 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, and Bishop Foley avenged both defeating Shrine 2-0 in the District Final and Liggett 1-0 in a shootout in the Regional Final before then defeating No. 4 Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep 2-1 in overtime Wednesday to advance. Barrett earned an all-state honorable mention last season. Senior midfielders Aidan Letzring (7 goals/8 assists) and Matthew Totty (6/8) are among other contributors, and senior Greg Altman (1.19 GAA) mans the net.

Record/rank: 20-2-3, No. 1
Michigan Power Rating: No. 6
Coach: Ben Buursma, fourth season (58-26-7)
League finish: Second in Alliance League
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2022), seven runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Cole DeJonge, jr. M (8 goals, 21 assists); Charlie Buursma, sr. M/F (16 goals, 13 assists); Tekalegn Vlasma, jr. F/M (21 goals, 7 assists); Ben Pollock, sr. F/M (15 goals, 13 assists).
Outlook: Western Michigan Christian is seeking its second-straight championship and third in five seasons, and they’ve reached this weekend with five shutouts in six postseason games including a 3-0 win over No. 8 Leland in the Semifinal after another 3-0 shutout of No. 12 Grandville Calvin Christian in the Regional Final. Led by junior keeper Daniel Minasian, WMC has allowed only 13 goals all season while scoring 96. Senior Lucas Dick has been another scoring leader with nine goals and nine assists at the start of this week. Charlie Buursma and DeJonge both made the all-state third team last season.

PHOTO Hudsonville Unity Christian’s Cody Walters (20) works to gain possession during Wednesday’s Division 3 Semifinal win over Alma. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

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.