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Boys Soccer Team Preview: Canton, Portage Northern top the list

Soccer   | Dan Stickradt

Boys Soccer Team Preview: Canton, Portage Northern top the list

(PHOTO CREDIT - P-ECP)

The prep soccer landscape in Michigan has definitely changed over the years.

Not only has the U.S. Soccer Academy taken some of the talent away from the high school game, preventing some squads to fill rosters with Division I talent, the overall talent pool has also slowly shifted to all points of the compass.

Power conferences will still produce some of the state’s top teams but many highly-rated teams are located all over the Lower Peninsula.

As the 2016 season moves into the bulk of the league schedules for power teams, State Champs! presents its third annual Fab 50 Boys Soccer Teams to entice soccer fans across the state until the postseason begins in late October:

1. CANTON (20-6-3): Always a quality side, the Chiefs captured the Division 1 state crown in 2014 and were runner-up last season. There’s a 6-0-1 start this season and many reasons why Canton is again one of the top teams in state. Senior F Mohamed Miri (seven goals) missed his junior season with an injury yet is one of the state’s top snipers. Senior D Matt Rockafellow, senior M Ryen O’Meara, senior M Alex Spratte, who rejoins the Chiefs after suiting up with the Wolves Academy last year, junior M Avery Olsen, senior F Luke Kurili and senior D Caleb Moraw give the Chiefs talent all over the field. 

Senior Steven Paige and junior David McGrath offer Canton two talented goalkeepers. 

2. PORTAGE NORTHERN (21-5-1): Flying under the radar last season, the Huskies put it together late in the campaign and made a run to the Division 1 regional finals. Northern returns 12 players with plenty of experience and boasts 10 seniors looking to lead the hungry Huskies to their first state title since 2001. Senior M Travis Wojcik (All-State Third Team) and senior G Hasten Biddlecomb (All-State Third Team) are two high-level players who have aided a 5-0-1 start. Senior M Ryan Melgar is a four-year starter. Seniors Matt Ruterbusch and Wes Hayes anchor a strong defensive unit.

3. DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL (21-3-0): Despite graduating a solid cast and losing three key underclassmen to the Michigan Wolves Academy, the Shamrocks look to be just as good as last season’s semifinalist squad. Ranked No. 1 for part of last season, C.C. returns juniors Ryan Pierson and Jared Lee and seniors Cade Kozlowski, Farzad Baghaie and Logan Trevarrow to its deep midfield. Seniors Noah Walter and Justin Savona can find the back of the net without difficulty and juniors Trevor Ostrowski and Kevin Blossfeld give the Shamrocks two reliable goalkeepers. CC began the season 5-1-1. 

4. EAST KENTWOOD (17-3-3): With state titles in 2007, ‘08, ‘10 and ‘12, East Kentwood is one of the state’s most successful programs of the past decade regardless of division. The Falcons are not lacking on talent this season. Junior G Haris Dzafic is one of the state’s better backstops. Seniors Joe Garcia, Narcus Sprecic, Dan Dizdarevic and Orlando Garcia are solid midfielders. Sophomore Sami Escavel and senior David Hoichochea are the top defensemen. Senior F Jaylend Dulaney is capable of finding the back of the net. The Falcons have captured the O-K Red Division in 12 of the last 13 years.

5. FRASER (17-4-0): Since Thaier Mukhtar took over the Fraser program in 2013 the Ramblers have consistently been a top 20 team in Division 1. In fact, they recorded a combined six losses over the past three years and reached the semifinals in 2014. Senior M Connor Piccolo is a playmaker and the team’s engine and junior Andre Eaton is a sniper at forward. Juniors Noah Lowe and Kyler Waelchli are the Ramblers’ top defensive players. Junior Alex Mezin is in his third year as a starter in the midfield. Fraser began the year 5-1-1 and is capable of making another deep postseason run if it remain healthy. 

6. OKEMOS (15-4-2): Always a top level team in Division 1, the Chieftains have the talent to make a deep run if it can escape a quality district. The CAAC Blue Division runner-up last season, Okemos has ample talent all over the field, led by seniors Owen Cannon, Talon Christensen and Andre Owczarek, and junior Alec Thornburg in the midfield. Seniors Ben Meschke and Joe Chappelle complement each other at forward and are capable of lighting up the scoreboard. Senior Vince Plascencia, junior Nick Zepf and sophomore Brandel Brogan form a solid nucleus in the backfield. Junior G Patrick Restum is a rising star in goal. 

7. TRAVERSE CITY WEST (20-4-0): If a team from northern Michigan is to make a deep run in Division 1 the Titans are the top choice. Senior Dalton Michael (All-State Second Team) is one of the state’s top forwards and is a Dream Team candidate and twin brother Donovan Michael is no stranger to finishing off scoring chances. Senior Alex Gloshen (All-State Third Team) is a quality set-up man. Junior Cody Miller is a playmaker in the midfield and juniors Mitch Hebblewhite and Adam Hunt are quality players in the backfield. Senior G Sam Schrieber is reliable in net and has aided a 4-1-1 start. 

8. UTICA FORD (18-3-2): The Falcons reached the semifinals in 2013 and the regional finals last season. Ford should again be a team capable of making a deep run this season with the return of eight starters. Senior F Robert Wist is a load to markup top and junior Alejandro Steinwascher and seniors Alem Cizmic and Zac Waldorf are complementary set-up players in the midfield. Seniors Andrew Ritonja, Evan Leclerc and Brendan Cooper are all back on defense. Sophomore Gabe Parra (M) and seniors Damian Wywrocki (M), Vito Palozzolo (D), Jacob Amez (M), Alek Grishaj (M) and Christian Wells (F) will all have increased roles. Freshman Jeremy Taras and sophomore Jacob Iloff split time in goal. 

9. GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN (22-2-3): Northern reached the Division 2 state final last season, losing to Mason in a shootout. Northern returns a bulk of its talent and fields a formidable side this season once again. Senior M Adrian Miling is a dynamite playmaker and is joined by senior Evan Van Nortwick, junior Yoel Lees and sophomore Sawyer Rilett in a solid midfield. Senior G Ben Meyers, senior D/M Sam Scharich and sophomore F Luca Licari have all seen increased roles. Senior Jack Elwell and junior Hayden Strobel play in the backfield and rarely come off the field, while freshman D Aidan O’Conner has been impressive in his own right. 

10. NORTHVILLE (16-3-1): The Mustangs entered the postseason last year ranked No. 1 in Division 1 before being ousted in a district final by Catholic Central in what was a loaded district. There are 10 players on a roster of 23 who saw substantial minutes and Northville will again be a team worth watching in 2016. Senior Mario Platcha and junior Felipe McCarthy anchor the midfield. Senior F Ben McCauley is the top scoring threat and senior D Alen Braseker is the leader in the backfield. Senior Evan Treiber gains the nod as the Mustangs’ top goalkeeper.

11. TROY ATHENS (14-3-5): Athens has posted winning seasons in 32 of 35 campaigns entering 2016 and is normally found wedged comfortably in the Division 1 top 20. Junior forwards Samit Sami and Cole Valentine headline a dynamic attack, senior M Shamik Patel is a quality playmaker and senior G Mason Maziasz is a three-year starter. Junior M Will Harrison, junior D Chris Culp and senior D/M Kyle Kohl are all quality players, while senior D Zac Ayotte returns to soccer after a year hiatus. 

12. NOVI (11-6-2): Lodged in the KLAA Central Division and also in a loaded district of numerous powerhouse teams, Novi is one of the many quality teams that has an opportunity to win any type of championship this season. Versatile senior F/D Kyle Bandyk (U-D Mercy), seniors Eric Rice, Nik Mundkur and Ben Noud along with junior Dominic Gatson unite to form a stingy backfield. Junior G Luke McDonald, senior M Shion Maidens and junior F Adam Dellavecchia are all returning starters. Freshman F Taiga Shiokawa will be one to watch.

13. EAST LANSING (20-4-1): Two years removed from the Division 2 title, the school’s fifth, and the defending CAAC Blue Division champion Trojans should be amongst the top programs once again. Senior forwards Sam Lebbie and Quinton Hay head the attack, along with junior Alden Metzmaker. Seniors Nick Isham, Drew Pearson and Logan Reynolds join a thriving midfield, while seniors Sam Maves, Brady Carlson, Josh Wolfinger and Joe Draheim anchor the back. Senior Scott Campbell is solid in net, while junior F/M Ansumana Lebbie is a newcomer that will help offensively.

14. GRAND RAPIDS SOUTH CHRISTIAN (20-3-3): The Sailors have firmly cemented themselves amongst the state’s elite programs of the past decade with Division 3 state titles in 2010, ‘12 and ‘15 and state runner-up finishes in ‘09 and ‘13. Over the past three seasons, South Christian has garnered a 63-6-8 record and are the defending O-K Gold Division champion. The Sailors have started off 4-0 this year with a 18-1 goal differential. Senior M Ryan Doornbos (All-State First Team), junior F Sam DeVries and senior F/M Zach DeKock headline one of the state’s most potent offenses. Junior Matthew Hubbard is rock solid in the backfield.

15. CLARKSTON (16-4-5): The defending OAA Red Division co-champions have lost 26 players to graduation over the past two seasons. But the Wolves, in recent years, have consistently reloaded and have posted a 3-2-2 start this season against mostly Fab 50 programs. Seniors Kyle Hayes, Jacob Moreno and Josh McCaghy lead the midfield contingent. Hayes was All-State Third Team as a sophomore but played with the Vardar Academy last season. Seniors Justin Reinke and Brock Schultz are tough in the back and senior F Robbie Sarrell has stepped up his game. Sophomore G Noah Bridgman looks promising in goal.

16. ROCHESTER (8-9-3): Despite losing four players to the Vardar Academy, the Falcons have been impressive in the first two weeks of the season with a 4-0-1 start with five shutouts. Seniors Demetri Pliakos and Daniel Lyok along with junior George Zagrodski form a dangerous midfield. Junior Troy Athens transfer and fellow juniors Grant Benedettini, Joel Fickel and Tyler Sommith have formed a stingy defensive unit. Sophomore Grant Ellison can play anywhere on the field and is being used as a target up top. Senior G Brad Carlson is vastly improved in goal. 

17. ROCHESTER ADAMS (17-7-3): Although the Highlanders have started to season a little slow with a 3-2-2 ledger, always expect Adams to be in top form when districts roll around. In recent years, the Highlanders have enjoyed plenty of postseason success, reaching the Division 1 semifinals in 2009, the regional finals in 2013, a state final in 2014 and the semifinals once again in 2015. Nine players return that started some games last season led by senior G Dylan Brown (All-State First Team) and junior D/F Alex Kim (All-State Third Team), a college recruit. Seniors Jon Kmiec and Peter Lencioni, junior Ben Champine and sophomore Parker Raymond are all quality defensemen. Seniors Matthew Lencioni and Zach Battaglia and sophomore Beck Tapert anchor the midfield and junior F Ryan Alda is capable of putting up big numbers. 

18. ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK (9-11-3): With one of its youngest teams last season, Stoney Creek came on strong in the second half of the campaign and reached a Division 1 district final. Senior M Pablo Koyckyj only played in three games last season due to injury after garnering All-State Third Team honors as a sophomore. Seniors Matt Turcotte and Blake Garavaglia join talented freshmen Diego Perez and Sebi Kolyckyj in the midfield. Junior F Mike Melaragni was the second-leading scorer last year. Junior Ivan Perez, sophomores Adam Johns and Alex Vitale and freshman Michael Sloan are solid defensemen. The Cougars lost four players to the academy system this season.

19. GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS CENTRAL (23-0-3): The defending Division 1 champions lost a lot of talent to graduation, plus three other players who departed for the Wolves Academy, including two of the state’s better players. The Rangers have started slow, but by no means are they a pushover. Senior M Kevin Conn, senior D Noah Saleh and junior G Jared Ireland all started in the state championship game last season. Senior F Dylan Mackey will be asked to be the main offensive threat and freshman M Sam Postelwait is an emerging playmaker.

20. BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD (20-2-1): The Cranes have soared into a Division 2 powerhouse nest in recent years and last year reached the state semifinals before bowing out to eventual state champion Mason (1-0) in a shootout. Seniors Kolin Clark and Joey Luciani lead a potent offense. Sophomore M Ethan Goldstein and senior D Mario Watson are also key returnees.

21. BRIGHTON (10-8-3): After finishing second in the KLAA West Division last season, the Bulldogs look to be much improved and a team capable of logging weeks in the Division 1 rankings. Seniors Cameron Williams (Aquinas), Mason Rozman and Bailey Rudberg lead the midfield, along with junior Ian Sosenko. Senior defensemen Jon Daily and Jace Rose anchor the backfield. Junior G Riley Radwanski-Gallas is sturdy in goal, junior F Keegan Gormley has a knack for the goal and F Thomas Stanis is only the third freshman in the past decade to make varsity. 

22. HOLLAND CHRISTIAN (21-1-2): Holland was ranked No. 1 in Division 2 for a stretch last season before the O-K Green Division champions were upset in a regional semifinal, the program’s only loss last season. A solid nucleus is back in uniform led by senior defensemen Tyler VanWyk and Brody Brower, junior G Nick VanderLaan, senior M Jon Los, senior F Tim Zuiderhof and junior D/M Josh Schoenberg, who will all be main contributors for the Maroons.

23. SPRING LAKE (16-3-2): The Lakers have lost to the eventual champion in Division 2 the past five sesaons, including twice in the finals and last year to East Lansing in a regional semifinal in a shootout. Senior D Dylan Constantine is rock solid in the back, playing in front of senior G Bruce Boes. Senior forwards Max White and Ryan Zietlow, senior M Robby Hartfieled and junior M Barusch Kamps will aid the offensive attack.

24. GRAND HAVEN (14-5-2): The Buccaneers captured another district title last fall before bowing out in a Division 1 regional semifinal. Senior M/D Drew VanAndel is a versatile player capable of playing all over creation. Senior M Ethan King, senior forwards Jake Swifney and Mason Harloff and senior backs Chris Dougherty and Andrew Krapohl are all returning starters. 

25. COLDWATER (16-4-2): In recent years, Coldwater has emerged onto the scene as a quality side and one capable of making a strong tournament run. Senior F Mana Ahmed (All-State Second Team, 30 goals) has built a reputation as being one of the state’s better players. Sophomore G Balel Nasser, junior D Ben Fagen, junior M Brandon Cortes, senior F/M Yones Mussa, senior M/G Cameron Barnes and junior F Shauib Aljabaly have aided a 6-0-0 start. Coldwater has produced multiple college players over the past five years. 

26. GRAND BLANC (16-3-1): The perennial power Bobcats have reached the finals of the KLAA Tournament each of the last three years and also reached a Division 1 regional semifinal last season. Graduation, injuries and three defections to the Academy will hurt Grand Blanc’s depth this season, but the Bobcats will still be a formidable, well-tested side based on its strength of schedule. Senior G Ben Stokes, senior M Austin Hobbs, junior M Chase Clark, senior F/M Sammy Saeed, senior D Michael Barish and senior M/F Brennan Kane are the key returnees. Senior M Drew Kubani suffered a knee injury and may be out for the season. The Bobcats started the season 1-2-3.

27. MATTAWAN (23-3-1): Regional finalists in 2014 and a Division 2 semifinalist in 2015, Mattawan has established itself as one of the top programs from the state’s west side with 89 wins over the past five years. Senior F Jarrett Hageman has 12 goals in the first two weeks. Mattawan is 3-1-0 to begin the season. 

28. SALINE (16-4-4): Over the past two decades Saline has consistently fielded a winner and will be another team that could contend for a league (SEC Red Division) and district titles this season. Senior D Cole Larance and senior M Aaron Mentzer give the Hornets two All-State level players. Junior F Anthony Sweier, freshman F/M Chris Chuparkoff, senior G Nolan Krause, senior M Jacob Herner, senior D Gabe Walder, junior D/M Jack Fenelon and sophomore F Ryan Nichols are other quality players.

29. SALEM (17-5-1): Another perennial quality team located in a logjam of top-level competition, the Rocks are always capable of making a run at league and district titles. There are eight returnees and six starters back in the mix led by senior M Mikey Schwartz. Senior defensemen Jake Wymer, Adam Graunke and Shane Rusinek return to the backfield along with senior G Andrew Kozan. Senior F Jamie Crosby, junior M Christian Freitag, and sophomore M Josh Stevens join junior newcomers Jason Warras (F) and Jeremy Pascarella (D) as other key players for the Rocks.

30. ANN ARBOR SKYLINE (10-5-7): After winning the Division 1 title in 2013, the school’s first in any sport, Skyline dropped a bit the past two years but is back on the rise. Junior M Jordan Tirico is off to a fine start. Junior Blake Sunderman and seniors Joe Armstrong, Trey Smith and Andrew Lemmen form a defensive unit that is hard to beat. Senior Jake Hutnik is sturdy in goal. Seniors Dylan Furlong and Marc Dargis and junior Elijah Maze lead the midfield and sophomore F Jack Bakker is a reliable target up top. There are 18 players with varsity experience.

31. PLYMOUTH (14-4-0): The Wildcats are another team in the depth-laden KLAA capable of tournament success if they get hot at the right time. There are 13 letter winners returning, led by senior D Van Nguyen and senior M/D Anthony Iacopelli, a pair of Division I recruits. Senior defensemen Erli Metko and Matt Weiner, junior D Tommy Sullivan, junior midfielders Bennett Brooks and Ben Tetlow and senior M Ben Tetlow will all help keep Plymouth amongst the KLAA leaders this season. 

32. AUBURN HILLS AVONDALE (8-8-2): This matured side is favorited in the OAA White this season and may have their best team since winning the Division 2 title in 2011. Senior midfielders Griffin Kubert and Owen Killewald can control play, while sophomore M Nick Kubert is a rising star. Seniors Eric Gayden (D), Irvin Castro (F) and Roman Choronski (M) are all key contributors, along with junior D Luke Choronski and junior F Jake Deboer. Avondale is 5-1-2 to start the campaign. 

33. TECUMSEH (12-6-3): District and SEC-White Division champions last season, Tecumseh finished 10-2-3 down the stretch at the end of 2015 and have started 7-1-1 this season. Senior M Josh Nowak is a two-time All-State pick and senior G Devin Mendez, who has committed to U-D Mercy, returns after playing with the Wolves Academy the past two years. That duo is joined by senior Noah Schoenberger and juniors Nick Giovannone and Johnny Montoya in a talented midfield. Senior Noah Crots and junior Matt Nowak-Rochford are sturdy in the backfield and sophomore Kenner Linn and junior Owen Swan can provide quick offense at forward. Tecumseh outscored its first nine foes 31-4 with six shutouts. 

34. MASON (24-3-0): Last season’s preseason No. 1 team ended up winning the Division 2 title with a senior-heavy squad. Nine starters departed, leaving senior M Lerim Shefkiu, a Division I recruit, and junior F Tristan Peafe as the sole returning starters. Junior D Evan Jonefon, sophomore Caleb Graham and senior M Jarod Prome are three of the younger players that have increased r