Preview: Surprise-Filled Tournament Set to Culminate with Memorable Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

November 4, 2022

Every MHSAA Tournament in every sport surprises us with some of the unexpected. Soccer this fall certainly has provided a few unanticipated moments to remember.

Saturday’s four Finals feature a team making its first championship game appearance, a second also seeking its first title and a third seeking its first this century, plus a Division 4 championship match pitting unranked contenders.

Division 1 - Comstock Park - Noon
Rochester Adams vs Rockford

Division 2 - Novi - Noon
Richland Gull Lake vs Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood

Division 3 - Comstock Park - 3 p.m.
Holland Christian vs Grosse Ile

Division 4 - Novi - 3 pm
Muskegon Western Michigan Christian vs Ann Arbor Greenhills

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

Below is a glance at all eight teams taking the field, with statistics through Regionals:

Division 1

Record/rank: 16-1-6, No. 8
Michigan Power Rating: No. 8
Coach: Josh Hickey, 14th season (157-87-55)
League finish: Fourth in Oakland Activities Association Red

Championship history: Division 1 champion 1999, two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Jackson Craft, jr. F (21 goals, 10 assists), Luke Rosin, sr. D (14 goals, 16 assists), Nick Hopkins, jr. D (2 goals, 2 assists), John Coon, jr. GK (0.64 goals-against average, 12 shutouts).  

Outlook: Adams is returning to the Finals for the first time since finishing Division 1 runner-up in 2014, and defeated top-ranked Troy and No. 10 Salem along the way. The Troy win avenged Adams’ only loss, and the Highlanders also had draws against No. 5 Troy Athens, No. 6 Clarkston and No. 7 Berkley in league play. Striker Connor Patritto is one of six senior starters and had added eight goals and three assists entering the week, while junior midfielder Colton Janes added six goals and 11 assists.

Record/rank: 22-0-1, No. 3
Michigan Power Rating: No. 3
Coach: Tim Boelman, second season (33-6-4)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red

Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Tegan Gumbs, soph. GK (0.53 goals-against average); Benjamin Battreal, sr. F (9 goals, 11 assists); Aidan Flanders, fr. F (6 goals, 8 assists); Andrew Bultman, sr. F (16 goals, 11 assists).
Outlook: The Rams are an early-September draw against No. 12 Grand Haven from a perfect record, and their run to their first Final has included wins over the Buccaneers and No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central. They’ve allowed only one goal over six postseason games, to Portage Central in the Regional Final. Senior midfielder Zenon Fedorowych had added six goals and six assists entering the week. Boelman has coached at every level of the program since first joining the staff in 2008.

Division 2

Record/rank: 15-1-3, No. 3
Michigan Power Rating: No. 12
Coach: Chad O’Kulich, 27th season (320-71-37)
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League AA

Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2014.
Players to watch: Nathan Hooker, sr. M (10 goals, 8 assists); Bora Akgun, sr. GK (0.72 goals-against average). Evan Evans, sr. M (13 goals, 10 assists); Cameron Hannah, jr. M (13 goals, 5 assists).
Outlook: Cranbrook has returned to the Semifinals four times since its last championship, most recently in 2020 before taking the next step this season and returning to the Final. Hooker made the all-state third team last season and Akgun earned an honorable mention, and they with Evans and defenders Ian Chang and John Lee are senior starters. The Cranes have shut out four postseason opponents, including No. 10 Riverview in the Semifinal, and their only loss of the fall came in overtime to Division 1 No. 2 Detroit Catholic Central.

Record/rank: 21-3, No. 1
Michigan Power Rating: No. 1
Coach: Jeff Corstange, first season (21-3)
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference

Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), one runner-up finish.
Players to watch: Jasek Zielaskowski, sr. M/F (22 goals, 7 assists), Ryker Corstange, jr. F/M (19 goals, 25 assists), Tariku Klipsch, sr. M (15 goals, 7 assists), Zavier Thomas, jr. F (12 goals, 9 assists).
Outlook: After closing the regular season with a pair of losses, Gull Lake has defeated No. 2 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, No. 8 Parma Western and No. 9 DeWitt on the way to this weekend. Jeff Corstange took over the Gull Lake boys program this fall after previously leading the girls varsity to three Division 2 championships and a 153-20-6 record over eight seasons. Ryker Corstange earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and junior keeper Evan Kaiser made the third team. Kaiser and junior Braden Minehart have nearly split time this season and combined for 14 shutouts.

Greenhills' Raj Tiller gets a foot on the ball during his team's game against Monroe St. Mary.

Division 3

Record/rank: 14-7, No. 14
Michigan Power Rating: No. 18
Coach: Jon Evans, seventh season (150-15-10)
League finish: Second in Huron League.

Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2020), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Drake Rossi, sr. M (16 goals, 12 assists), Joe Molnar, sr. M (12 goals, 5 assists); Cannon Kawadri, sr. D (5 goals, 6 assists); Hayden Watson, sr. D (2 goals, 1 assist).
Outlook: Grosse Ile will be playing in its fifth-straight Division 3 Final, having won titles in 2019 and 2020 and finished runner-up in 2018 and last season. Only 8-7 at the start of the playoffs, the Red Devils have defeated No. 13 Milan and No. 2 Detroit Country Day during this run and saw Troy, Riverview and Elk Rapids as part of a strong regular-season schedule. Kawadri made the all-state first team last season, and Watson made the third.

Record/rank: 19-1-3, No. 6
Michigan Power Rating: No. 2
Coach: Dave DeBoer, 10th season (157-30-22)
League finish: First in O-K Blue

Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2003).
Players to watch: Daniel Morgan, sr. GK (0.31 goals-against average,15 shutouts); Kyle Cannon, sr. F (16 goals, 3 assists); Lucas Freriks, sr. F (10 goals, 12 assists); Michael Pierce, sr. F (8 goals, 3 assists).
Outlook: The Maroons have navigated a postseason path that’s included wins over top-ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central, No. 9 Elk Rapids and No. 15 Fennville. That lone loss came in the team’s third game of the season, against Grand Rapids South Christian, which entered the postseason No. 3 in Division 3.  Morgan made the all-state second team last year and has given up seven goals this fall while playing all but two games.

Division 4

Record/rank: 8-6-4, unranked
Michigan Power Rating: No. 39
Coach: Lucian Popescu, 13th season (161-100-26)
League finish: Fifth in Detroit Catholic League AA

Championship history: Division 4 champion 2017, four runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Lachlan Rae, jr. M (5 goals, 4 assists); Michael Zheng, jr. F (15 goals, 5 assists); Jay Vigan, sr. M (4 goals, 11 assists); Adrian Bardwell, sr. D.
Outlook: Greenhills came out of a league that includes Division 2 finalist Cranbrook, and the Gryphons played mostly larger teams before entering the postseason at 3-6-4. That preparation clearly has paid off as Greenhills has yet to give up a goal over five playoff games, with wins over No. 11 Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep, No. 6 Plymouth Christian Academy and No. 3 Lansing Christian along the way. Bardwell earned an all-state honorable mention last season, and sophomore Etienne Rouillard has a 1.2 goals-against average in net.

Record/rank: 15-8-2, unranked
Michigan Power Rating: No. 11
Coach: Ben Buursma, third season (37-23-6)
League finish: Does not play in a league.

Championship history: Seven MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), six runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Gavin Riksen, sr. F (18 goals, 5 assists); Charlie Buursma, jr. M (8 goals, 11 assists); Ashton Leffring, sr. F (22 goals, 18 assists); Cole DeJonge, soph. M (6 goals, 9 assists).

Outlook: Western Michigan Christian rebounded from a 2-5 start to get to 10-8-2 by the end of the regular season, and then reached its 14th Final despite losing a top midfielder to injury during the run. The Warriors have won eight straight games, avenging losses to No. 13 Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian and Leland during the playoffs and defeating top-ranked Hartford in a Regional Final. Leffring made the all-state second team last season.

PHOTOS (Top) Gull Lake's Jasek Zielaskowski gains possession during his team's Semifinal win Wednesday. (Middle) Greenhills' Raj Tiller gets a foot on the ball during a Gryphons' win over Monroe St. Mary. (Top photo courtesy of The Open Shutter Photo/Cindy Corstange. Middle photo by Lei Zheng.)

Working Together, with Neighbor's Help, Schoolcraft Teams Making Selves at 'Home'

By Pam Shebest
Special for

September 19, 2023

SCHOOLCRAFT — If it is a home game for the Schoolcraft football team, head over to Vicksburg.

Southwest CorridorIf 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.

Schoolcraft’s Kolby Lloyd (10) works to break away from a tackler during a “home” game played at Vicksburg this fall. “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.

Clockwise, from top left: Schoolcraft football coach Nathan Ferency, Schoolcraft boys soccer coach Jeremy Mutchler, soccer player Jack Curtis and football player Jake Bailey.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.

Schoolcraft athletic director Bryan Applin has taken over the maneuvering of the teams’ home sites during his first year on the job.“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 ShebestPam 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.)