ALLEN PARK – Reigning Division 1 singles champ Izaac Goergen almost met his fate in the ninth frame of his second game in the boys semifinal Saturday at Thunderbowl Lanes.
A 3-7-9 split paved the way for Holt’s David Schaberg to reach the final. Goergren’s 233 could have been beaten if Schaberg struck out. But Schaberg left a seven-pin on his first shot in the 10th and his 245 game left him three pins short of advancing, 467-464.
“I threw three good shots in the 10th and I wanted to make him earn it if he beat me,’’ said Goergen. “I did that and was lucky enough to advance.’’
Schaberg, meanwhile, was stunned: “I wanted to stay aggressive. I thought it was down. In that situation, you have to stay aggressive.’’
Goergen emerged with an opportunity to make MHSAA Finals history – and took advantage. The Midland senior faced junior Ian Cain from Livonia Franklin in the championship and became the first Division 1 bowler (and second across all divisions) to repeat in singles, claiming his second straight title, 463-384.
“This means everything to me,’’ said Goergen. “With the pandemic and how the season went, there were things going on that weren’t in my favor.’’
In the girls division, Westland John Glenn senior Anna Maxwell, who shot a 278 in the semifinal, knocked off the top seed on her way to the final. There she faced South Lyon’s Ava Crumley, who had stopped second-seed Melanie Straub of New Baltimore Anchor Bay to advance.
Maxwell came out firing in the championship, throwing the first 10 shots for strikes to shoot a 289 and build a 54-pin lead on her way to the title, 470-389.
“The big lead gave me some room,’’ said Maxwell. “(Crumley) is a friend, so even if she won I would’ve been fine.
“This means so much considering what we have been through.’’
Cain advanced to the championship by knocking off Nick Johnson of Swartz Creek 377-331.
Goergen was the top qualifier at 1,361, 10 pins higher than Northville’s Brandon Leavitt, whose 279 in the sixth game shot him up to second in the qualifying block.
Jacob Vernier of Wyandotte Roosevelt was the final qualifier at 1,210, one pin better than Gabe Johnson of Plymouth and three more than Patrick McLetchie of Clarkston.
Despite a split in the 10th frame of his second game, Goergen advanced to the quarterfinal with a 383-371 victory over Vernier.
The toughest match pitted Franklin teammates Cain and Kenneth Kloth Jr. Cain advanced to the quarterfinal with a 399-368 win to face junior Brandon Leavitt of Northville in a semifinal.
“It was tough, especially with him being a senior,’’ said Cain. “I just concentrated on my game. The lanes are really tough.’’
Schaberg moved into the semifinal by eliminating sophomore Jermiah Swain of Hudsonville 445-308.
Nick Johnson of Swartz Creek shot 254 in his second quarterfinal game and beat Andrew Martin of Utica Ford 489-434.
Goergen reached the semifinals by eliminating Shane Legeret of Macomb Dakota 388-335.
Grace Meyer of Oxford was the top girls qualifier at 1,271, 17 pins better than sophomore Straub.
Meyer eventually met her match and fell to Maxwell in the quarterfinal, 411-282.
Meyer had eliminated Sarah Lyeria of Lapeer, 432-351, to get to Maxwell, while Straub moved past Alexis Thompson of Grand Haven, 466-365.
Belleville, the team runner-up on Friday, had two singles advance to the quarterfinal. Junior Sydney Allison eliminated Carrington Beamon of Farmington, 426-308, while teammate Asia Wells beat Kaitlyn McGovern of Midland, 352-345.
Straub, who hadn’t bowled a game under 210, beat Wells, 441-393, to advance to the semifinal to face Crumley, who had defeated Morgan Smith of Zeeland East 415-335. Allison, meanwhile, was stopped by Monroe’s Nataleigh Eagle, 368-319, in the other quarterfinal.
Rogers City’s bowling team is on a roll. And the Hurons haven’t even had their first competition of the season.
Rogers City has a decorated past, including winning the first state bowling championship in 1999, organized by the Bowling Center Association of Michigan, against a field including schools of all sizes and five years before the addition of MHSAA Finals in the sport. The boys team also was the Division 4 team runner-up at the first Class C-D Finals hosted by the MHSAA in 2004.
The Hurons hope to return to those glory days by bringing back experienced bowlers on both the boys and girls teams. Rogers City last qualified teams for the Finals in 2020 – when both the boys and girls advanced – and both teams hope to make a run at the Northern Michigan Conference title and land a spot at this season’s Finals in March.
The boys did find success last year — with just four bowlers — placing ahead of a handful of teams at its Regional. This year, Rogers City has a full boys team, and more, including junior Gavin Rhode, who qualified for the Singles Finals last year. The Hurons also are returning senior Conner Muller and sophomore Gabe Mina; Muller narrowly missed qualifying for the Finals last winter. And they are excited to see how first-year bowlers Blaise Szatkowski, Cooper Heinzel, George Karsten, Jacob Wickersham and Ryan Morgan perform.
The girls are returning seniors Arianna Anderson and Sophia Mina and sophomore Olivia Reyes. First-year bowlers Ruby Svay – an exchange student – and freshman Brooke Crawford compose the rest of the squad.
Both the boys and the girls have added strong bowlers with incoming freshmen, including Wickersham, a 180-average bowler.
“With a small school you kind of know what is coming along,” long-time coach Brian Bannasch said. “Even with our limited numbers last year, we were still competitive.”
The Hurons will open their season Jan. 6. As has been the case for years, matches will take place on Saturdays for optimal lane availability.
“After the success previous to COVID, the last couple years have really been a letdown just not having enough bodies,” Bannasch acknowledged. “We still sent kids to the state finals individually, but team-wise were just lacking numbers with a small school that has under 175 in the high school.
“When you lose any number of kids, it is tough to replace them,” he continued. “We are really excited to have numbers this year.”
The bowling program has been battling lower overall school enrollment and competing with basketball and wrestling teams for roster numbers.
Long hours in the alley for practice, traveling for matches and competing are paying off for the Hurons. Those long hours are the same for the coaches, forcing absence from the family business.
But it’s being done with a focus on a road trip to the Division 4 Finals in March, at Northway Lanes in Muskegon.
The boys and girls Regionals, hosted by Traverse City Christian, will be held at Lucky Jacks in Traverse City.
“We definitely have individuals expecting to qualify as individuals on the boys side,” Bannasch said. “We have three girls that have bowled before and fewer teams in each Regional.
“We had a pretty powerful Regional,” he continued. “Maybe with fewer teams, it could work to our advantage.”
Bannasch, whose family owns the local bowling alley Nautical Lanes, has been the boys and girls bowling coach from the beginning at Rogers City. The school started with a club team prior to making it a varsity sport.
Bannasch has seen a lot of talented bowlers develop through his youth programs and then vie for championships in high school. The Hurons often have had more than a dozen bowlers on the boys team.
Bannasch points to every bowler in Rogers City history competing in at least one varsity match every year as key to the team’s historical success. His unique philosophy of participation often has paid dividends.
“One of the things that has helped us be successful is that I have a little different philosophy than most coaches,” Bannasch noted. “We’ve had years where we’ve had 12 or 14 boys and 10 girls.
“We had JV matches, but we never consider it JV – they were all part of the varsity bowling team,” he continued. “In the next year, they have experienced that and know what the varsity match is all about.”
Bannasch also has watched other conference schools win or contend for Finals titles, something he points to with pride.
Bannasch spotlighted Cheboygan’s boys having won the Division 2 title in 2009 and Boyne City’s boys — as a newer program — finishing Division 3 runners-up in 2020 and 2021. Cheboygan’s girls finished Division 3 runners-up in 2022.
“Our success has been great, but I take just as much pride in the success of our conference,” Bannasch said. “We’re such a close-knit conference, it is great to see anybody up here be successful at it.”
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) Rogers City’s bowling teams have high aspirations this winter with their first competitions coming up next month. (Middle) Gavin Rhode, a Finals qualifier last season, practices recently. (Below) Arianna Anderson, left, and Sophia Mina are seniors on the girls team. (Photos by Richard Lamb/Presque Isle Newspapers.)