Troy Athens Comes Back Again, This Time to Claim Program's 6th Finals Win

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

November 4, 2023

GRAND LEDGE — Usually if a soccer teams falls behind late in a state championship game, there’s a big “uh-oh” and sense of dejection. 

But falling behind late against Brighton in the 2023 MHSAA Division 1 Final put Troy Athens in a comfort zone.

“We were behind in the District Final, we were behind in the Regional Semifinal, we were behind in the Regional Final, we took the lead in the Semifinal but then fell behind, and we were behind again tonight,” Athens head coach Todd Heugh said. “Certainly, there’s a lot of resolve and resiliency in our group.”

As it turned out, it was championship resolve and resiliency for Athens. 

Thanks to a goal late in regulation that tied the game and one more 2:59 into overtime, Athens is once again a Finals champion in boys soccer following a 2-1 win over Brighton.

The title was the sixth in program history for Athens (20-3-2).

The winning goal with 7:01 left in the first portion of overtime came from senior Manny Aigbedo, who put home a loose ball in the Brighton box after a mad scramble following an Athens corner kick.

“I just kneed it,” Aigbedo said. “I got anything I could on it. Just a little bit and went in. I didn’t even know I scored at that moment because there was so many people trying to get it.”

The game was scoreless until 9:02 remained in regulation, when Brighton took a 1-0 lead on a goal from senior Colin Robertson. 

The Red Hawks' Daniel Kadiu (23) races upfield with a Brighton defender chasing.The goal came after a flurry of shots on Athens goalkeeper Adam Ethridge, who initially stopped Brighton leading scorer Devlin McGinnis on a point-blank shot in the box. A rebound caromed to Brighton junior Owen Buckley, but he was stopped by Ethridge. 

But with Ethridge out of the net, another rebound came to the left side of the box to Robertson, who fired a shot into essentially an empty net just past multiple Athens defenders who tried to scramble back to the goal line. 

From there, Athens pressured to get the equalizer, and finally did.

With 1:56 remaining in the second half, senior Brody Fahnestock stepped into a fast-paced shot from roughly 30 yards out that went past Brighton’s keeper and into the goal to tie the game at 1-1.

The tying goal seemed to deflate Brighton (19-4-2), which was less than two minutes from winning a first Finals championship in school history. 

Athens dominated the overtime period, outshooting Brighton 10-1 overall and 8-0 on goal.

“When they got that tying goal, it kind of took the wind out of our sails there at the end,” Brighton head coach Mark Howell said. “We knew overtime was going to be an uphill battle trying to climb back in it momentum-wise. We knew they had a lot of experience returning on the big stage. It just didn’t fall the way we wanted it to.”

Athens got off to a slow start this season, but got rolling in September and never looked back, showing once again there’s no substitute for experience as the team had 16 seniors.

“We don’t always play the prettiest brand,” Heugh said. “But we’re usually organized, and we usually are going to fight to the end.”

Click for the box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Troy Athens celebrates its overtime win in Saturday's Division 1 Final at Grand Ledge. (Middle) The Red Hawks' Daniel Kadiu (23) races upfield with a Brighton defender chasing. 

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.