BOYS SOCCER: Forest Hills Northern Huskies finally have their day, beating Melvindale for first D2 title
NOVI — The old adage is that every dog will eventually have its day.
For the Huskies of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, that day on the soccer pitch finally came Saturday.
Second-ranked Forest Hills Northern earned its first MHSAA Division 2 state title with a resounding 2-0 shutout of Melvindale at Novi High School.
The Huskies boys soccer team lost in the state finals in both 2015 and 2018, including 1-0 in a shootout to Birmingham-Detroit Country Day in last year’s title game, while FHN’s girls soccer team has lost four straight D2 state finals games (2016-2019).
“I think for me it’s been a little bit frustrating to get to the finals all of those times and not win a title. But it’s not about me. This was one special group that had the team goal of coming together of finally winning it and they were able to accomplish that this season,” offers Forest Hills Northern coach Daniel Siminski. “This was such a great effort. We had 14 seniors and most of our team back from last year and they played for each other to try to win the title. I think after losing in a shootout last season that was enough motivation to try to get back and win it.”
Mr. Soccer candidate Aidan O’Connor scored what proved to be the game winner with 10:53 left in the first half. After a teammate was bladed in the box, O’Connor calmly deposited the ensuing penalty kick into the left corner of the goal for his 12th tally of the season.
“He’ll be up for Mr. Soccer and he’s had just an unbelievable career for us,” said Siminski of O’Connor, the Huskies’ center back who made the All-State Dream Team last season. “He’s a big physical presence in the back. He holds it all together back there and doesn’t make many mistakes.”
Senior midfielder Ludwig Twilly finally netted an insurance tally, also his 12th goal of the season, with 10:06 left in the second half when he finished off a cross from senior forward Nate Metcalf.
Forest Hills Northern, which opened the season with a 0-0 draw with Division 1 state-ranked Caledonia, reeled off 23 straight wins to close the campaign. Nothing was sweeter than Saturday’s title-clinching victory.
“It was hard getting here last year and not getting the win,” said O’Connor of losing in the state finals last season. “We came back with 14 seniors to get the win this year.
“Everybody knows that we’ve had a history of losing in the state finals. It’s good to finally break the (door down),” continued O’Connor. “We knew with this many guys returning that we would have another shot again. We knew we could make it here and it was a lot of work but it wasn’t a surprise.”
Forest Hills Northern dominated from start to finish, controlling possession throughout the contest and earning a commanding 23-5 shots edge that included 10-3 with shots on frame. The Huskies outscored seven postseason opponents 26-4 and 103-9 for the entire 24-game, dominant season.
The Huskies are also 46-1-2 over the course of the last two seasons, with their only loss coming in last year’s title game.
Seniors Carter Clark and Jordan Kliewer each played a half and combined for four saves for the Huskies’ 17th shutout of the season.
Forest Hills Northern flooded the Cardinals penalty box with a flurry of shots, crosses, restarts, through balls and long throw-ins. The Huskies (23-0-1) had a difficult time getting past Melvindale senior goalkeeper Julian Castillo, who played 74 minutes in the contest and made seven saves.
Backup keeper Abdul Fattah Ahmed also had one save when Castillo was on the sideline for six minutes due to an injury suffered during a collision with 19 minutes left in the second half.