Rockford's Lewis Aims to Finish On Top

October 16, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Dewey Lewis received two rare opportunities as a freshman at Rockford High School that helped set him up for a long and successful high school soccer career.

He was promoted to the varsity soccer team – something that usually doesn’t happen at a school as big as Rockford, or in a program as successful.

And he got the opportunity to play with his brother Sean, a senior at the time who now plays goalkeeper at Western Michigan University.

But Dewey had plenty of learning to do before setting himself apart as possibly the state’s top high school player this fall with the Rams heading into their Division 1 District opener tonight at Okemos.

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t want to put in the extra work. I was willing to do the minimum I needed to do to get by,” Lewis said. “But the past couple years I’ve become more mature. My effort has gotten better, and that’s allowed me to make the team better.

“You can be extremely skilled and everything, but if you don’t put in the effort, there’s not a good chance you’re going to succeed. A big part of that is having both the skill and effort, but you’ve got to be willing to put the team before yourself.”

And frequently, Lewis has put Rockford’s team on his shoulders as well.

The senior forward, a Second Half High 5 honoree, entered this week’s postseason play with 52 goals and 46 assists for his career. Last season he broke the team’s single-season scoring record with 20 goals and made the Division 1 all-state third team. Although the career assists just make the bottom of the MHSAA record book list, his body of work from a statistical standpoint doesn’t necessarily jump out compared to some of the ridiculous numbers put up by others over the years.

But context is important. Few players above him on those lists played four years for an MHSAA power, surrounded by similarly-skilled teammates and against competition to match.

This season, bouncing all over the front line and midfield in order to avoid increased defensive attention, Lewis has 17 goals and 12 assists, and Rockford was ranked No. 2 in Division 1 heading into Monday’s games.

“This year his performance has been more dynamic because there’s been so much added pressure. Teams are trying to take him out of the game, but he has nearly the same stats,” Rockford coach Steve Thomas said.

“But that’s what’s great about Dew. He’s a pass-first guy. He’s so willing to give the ball up, to put the ball into a more dangerous situation. I would categorize him as one of the most unselfish kids I've been around.”

The two butted heads at times early in Lewis’ career. Partly, it was because of some of that immaturity that Lewis admits. He also came to the Rams playing at a high club level, but had to adjust to the more physical style of the high school game.

His first two seasons, Lewis was “just fitting in” to those teams, Thomas said. He’d talk with Lewis after practices and express his expectations for his young but talented forward. Sean also kept tabs on his brother, refusing to let him slack off.

At the end of his sophomore season, everything started to click. That next summer, Dewey played a significant role on a Grand Rapids Crew club team that won a U-17 national championship. Last fall, Lewis became the first junior Thomas knows of at Rockford to be named a captain.  

He was selected for the same this fall, but not after making a major decision. For the first time, Michigan high school players were forced to pick between high school soccer and playing for U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams that also play during the fall. Lewis was among the elite with the option to do both.

Many from his grade, especially from the Detroit area, chose academy teams. But Lewis – who has committed to play at Michigan State University next fall – decided to stick with the Rams.

Part of his reasoning came down to the high school atmosphere – Rockford played East Kentwood in front of 2,000 fans last season. Part was influenced by the opportunity to play with his hometown friends one more time. And the biggest part likely came down to style of play – he considered the higher-skilled competition he’d see at the academy level, but thought he might benefit more from the harder work and effort he’d have to put in to succeed at the high school game.

And getting one last chance to succeed at this level is the biggest reason he’s back in orange and black this fall. Hailing from any other region of the state, Rockford could have made deep runs in the MHSAA tournaments his first three seasons. But the Rams fell to East Kentwood during the District tournament to end each one, and East Kentwood went on to win the Division 1 championship in 2010.

The Falcons are the only team ranked ahead of Rockford this week, and would be the District Semifinal opponent Thursday if the Rams can get past No. 7 Okemos tonight.

“I think I learned a lot from this season, and going forward it made me a better player in different areas that I wasn’t improving on before,” Lewis said. “There was a lot of pressure to be one of the stars on a high school team, and it helped me learn about dealing with the pressure.

“I don’t like leaving things half done. It was nice to come back and be able to finish things off."

PHOTOS: (Top) Rockford's Dewey Lewis works between two defenders during a game earlier this season. (Middle) Lewis works to pass an East Kentwood player. Rockford could play East Kentwood in a District Semifinal on Wednesday.

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

By Tom Spencer
Special for

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 [email protected] 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.)