Preview: Pursuing the Ultimate Prize

November 1, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Saturday’s MHSAA Boys Soccer Finals will provide opportunities for four teams to finish their seasons with the ultimate win, and all of the contenders have had their shares of success over the years.  

But two teams are playing to call themselves champions for the first time – and a number of others for the first time in a while.  

Division 2 is guaranteed to produce a first-time title winner, with Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern and Melvindale facing off. Troy Athens and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett are recognized powers in boys soccer, but they’ll both be playing for their first Finals championships since the 1990s. And it’s been more than a decade since either Traverse City West or Grosse Ile have taken home the big trophy.

Saturday’s schedule:

Division 2: Melvindale vs. Forest Hills Northern, noon
Division 4: University Liggett vs. Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, 3 p.m.

Division 1: Troy Athens vs. Traverse City West, noon
Division 3: Grosse Ile vs Grand Rapids South Christian, 3 p.m.

All of Saturday’s Finals will be broadcast live and viewable with subscription on, with audio available on See below for glances at all eight finalists, and come back to Second Half later Saturday for coverage of all four championship games. (The Michigan Power Rating noted below is derived from a team's success and strength of schedule and was used to seed the top two teams in every District at the start of the postseason.)

Division 1

 18-4-2, unranked
Michigan Power Rating: No. 4
Coach: Matt Griesinger, fifth season (79-21-11)
League finish: First in Big North Conference 
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2006.  
Players to watch: Caleb Kinney, sr. M/F (16 goals/4 assists); Tony Gallegos, jr. F (10 goals/11 assists); Colin Blackport, soph. M/F (9 goals/10 assists); Blade Kalbfleisch, jr. GK (1.12 goals-against average).
Outlook: It’s fair to say West surprised some people by getting to the season’s final day – the Titans are unranked, after all – but don’t expect the same lack of attention next season as only three starters this weekend are seniors. West had early losses to Portage Central, Midland Dow, top-ranked Okemos and Lakewood St. Edward of Ohio, but is since riding a 13-0-1 run that’s included avenging that Okemos loss with a 1-0 win in the Regional Final and adding a 3-2 overtime win over No. 3 Novi in the Semifinal. Sophomore Josh Hirschenberger also had scored eight goals heading into this week as seven players had at least nine points on the season.

 22-2-1, No. 2
Michigan Power Rating: No. 2
Coach: Todd Heugh, ninth season (154-29-18)
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 1997), two runner-up finishes. 
Players to watch: Jason Kemp, sr. GK (0.47 goals-against average/15 shutouts); TJ Renaud, jr. F (13 goals/4 assists); Davis DiGiovanni, sr. F (18 goals/7 assists); Andri Myftari, sr. M (13 goals/10 assists).
Outlook: After suffering its only loss of 2018 in the District Final, Athens has pushed through to its first championship game since finishing Division 1 runner-up in 2016. Along the way, the Red Hawks have eliminated No. 8 Berkley and No. 9 Troy and despite entering the playoffs coming off two straight losses. Kemp made the all-state first team last season, and Renaud made the third team. Sophomore forward Ryan Gruca had added another 10 assists entering this week.

Division 2

 22-0-1, No. 2
Michigan Power Rating: No. 3
Coach: Daniel Siminski, sixth season (116-11-13) 
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2018 and 2015.  
Players to watch: Aidan O’Connor, sr. D (11 goals/4 assists); Jonathan Kliewer, sr. G (0.27 goals-against average/.900 save percentage); Will Patrick, sr. D (1 goal/12 assists), Andrew Kremer, sr. F (14 goals/6 assists).
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern is 45-1-2 over the last two seasons, that lone defeat in a shootout against Detroit Country Day in last season’s Division 2 Final. This is the program’s third 20-win season over the last five, and a number of veterans are hoping to finish their careers with one more victory. O’Connor made the all-state first team last season, while Kliewer made the second and Patrick earned honorable mention. Sophomore Seth Scharich (10 goals/3 assists) and senior Ludwig Tilly (11 goals/5 assists) joined Kremer and O’Connor with double-digit goals heading into this week, and total 10 players had double-digit points. FHN has defeated No. 4 Mattawan, No. 5 Byron Center and No. 15 Gaylord during this run.

 16-3-2, unranked
Michigan Power Rating: No. 28
Coach: Tomas Belba, first season (16-3-2)
League finish: Second in Western Wayne Athletic Conference
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final. 
Players to watch: Alhusain Yahya, sr. M (23 goals); Fouad Noman, jr. F/M (23 goals); Alhasan Yahya sr. D/M (3 goals/27 assists); Carlos Huerta sr. M (9 goals/13 assists).
Outlook: Melvindale has advanced from its first Semifinal appearance into its first MHSAA championship game in this sport, with a Regional Final win over No. 12 Parma Western among highlights from the tournament run. The Cardinals have outscored their six postseason opponents by a combined 21-5 and not given up more than one goal in any playoff game. Senior Julian Castillo has played 95 percent of the minutes in net this fall and is giving up just one goal per game with a .942 save percentage. Belba previously served as the junior varsity coach before taking over the program this fall.

Division 3

 21-4-2, No. 4
Michigan Power Rating: No. 7
Coach: Jason Boersma, ninth season (149-42-22)
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2015), two runner-up finishes.  
Players to watch: Jeff Herrema, jr. F (22 goals/12 assists); Reese Bos, sr. M (1 goal/9 assists); Nik Schepers, jr. GK (0.80 goals-against average/11 shutouts); Thom DeVries, jr. M/F (13 goals/4 assists). 
Outlook: South Christian will play for its fourth title this decade led by a number of players who should be around to start the next one – after the juniors mentioned above, junior Boston Knapp was the next leading scorer with seven goals and five assists entering this week. The Sailors’ best win surely came in the Regional Final over top-ranked Holland Christian, which had beaten South 4-0 in August. Herrema made the all-state second team last season, when South was eliminated from the tournament by the eventual Division 3 champion (Hudsonville Unity Christian) for the fourth time this decade.

 23-2-1, No. 3
Michigan Power Rating: No. 3
Coach: Jon Evans, fourth season (92-6-5)
League finish: First in Huron League
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2002, runner-up 2018.
Players to watch: Max Aston, sr. M; Joe Duke, sr. M; Tony Bogataj, sr. D, Alex DeSana, sr. D. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Grosse Ile has reached the Semifinals four of the last six seasons and will attempt to take the final step after falling 3-1 in overtime to Unity Christian in last year’s Division 3 championship game. The Red Devils downed No. 7 Ann Father Gabriel Richard and No. 8 Macomb Lutheran North on their way back to the Finals, and the only defeats this season were tournament shootout losses to Detroit Country Day and Leland. Aston earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

Division 4

 18-2-1, No. 2
Michigan Power Rating: No. 2
Coach: David Dwaihy, fifth season (64-21-7)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Intersectional 1
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 1999), three runner-up finishes. 
Players to watch: Stewart Smith, jr. F (20 goals/7 assists); Nolan Ondersma, sr. M (8 goals/18 assists); Sheikh Manneh, jr. F (21 goals/12 assists); Matthew Summers, sr. M (12 goals/14 assists).
Outlook: Liggett was one of the state’s first small-school soccer powers during the 1980s, and the Knights are back seeking their first title in two decades after Wednesday’s Semifinal was the team’s first since 2009. They’ve been building toward this run, with this fall’s league and District titles both their third at those levels under Dwaihy. Liggett eliminated No. 8 Adrian Lenawee Christian, No. 10 Royal Oak Shrine Catholic and No. 11 Bloomfield Hills Roeper during this playoffs. Smith made the all-state first team, and Ondersma earned an honorable mention last season.

 18-2-3, No. 4
Michigan Power Rating: No. 6
Coach: David Hulings, 15th season (251-72-18)
League finish: First in Lakes 8 Conference
Championship history: Six MHSAA titles (most recent 2010), six runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Brandon Fles, sr. D (16 goals/6 assists); Charlie Alfree, sr. F (17 goals/3 assists); Jameson Goorman, sr. GK (0.59 goals-against average/13 shutouts); Isaac VanHoeven, sr. F/M (9 goals/6 assists).  
Outlook: Western Michigan Christian also was a force during the 1980s and again during the first decade of the 2000s, and the Warriors will play for their seventh title after emerging from arguably the toughest tournament path these last three weeks. Their last three wins came against No. 3 North Muskegon, top-ranked Grandville Calvin Christian and then No. 5 Dansville, respectively. WMC has given up just one goal over six tournament games and also shut out No. 6 Leland during the week leading up to the playoffs. Fles made the all-state first team last season, Alfree the second team and Goorman the third.

PHOTO: Grosse Ile’s Tony Bogataj (15) works to get a foot on the ball during Wednesday’s Division 3 Semifinal win over Macomb Lutheran North. (Photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers.)

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.