BOYS SOCCER TOP 50 TEAMS: Troy Athens, Detroit Catholic Central, Gull Lake, Forest Hills Northern, Unity Christian are the top teams for 2019
TROY — When Todd Heugh took over the reins in 2012 for Hall of Fame soccer coach Tim Storch at Troy Athens, needless to say Heugh had some big shoes to fill.
The 1990 Athens grad has done just fine over the past seven years.
Athens has maintained its presence as one of the top programs in Division 1 and opened the 2019 campaign as the boys soccer team to beat to Michigan. The Red Hawks were ranked 13th in the nation but Top Drawer Soccer back in August and are still ranked in the top 20 nationally three weeks into the campaign.
Athens is one of the more successful programs in state history, having won several state titles in boys and girls soccer to go along with numerous league, district and regional championships dating back to its inaugural season in 1981. The Red Hawks hope to add plenty of championship hardware to its lengthy resume over the next couple of months.
“We hope to be up in there in the mix again,” said Heugh, who won a state title as a player and head coach. He was a starter on Athens’ Class A state championship squad back in 1989 and led Rochester to the Division 1 state title in 2002 as coach.
Heugh also owns a state runner-up trophy as head coach of Rochester’s girls (Division 1 in 2007) and guided Athens’ girls team to the 2015 Final Four.
He has never had a losing record as head coach in the varsity ranks.
Since taking over Athens in 2012, the Red Hawks also finished as the D-1 state runner-up in boys soccer and have also posted two unbeaten regular seasons.
The 2013 campaign saw Athens go 20-1-0 with the sole loss coming to Utica (3-2 in double overtime) in the district finals. A similar situation happened in 2018, where the Red Hawks went 21-1-0 with a 1-0 setback to Utica Ford in the district finals.
Athens held a 21-5 shots edge in that Utica Ford game the but could not find the back of the net. The Red Hawks surrendered a goal in the final 15 minutes to suffer defeat and fall short of the ultimate goal — the school’s first state title in boys soccer since 1997.
“You not only have to have talent, but you also have to have a little luck to make a deep postseason run,” Heugh said. “We might have had more talent in 2013 and 2018 than we did in 2016, but that year we got on a roll in the tournament after not winning the OAA Red (Division) and reached the finals. In 2013 and last year, we should have won our district but couldn’t get the lucky bounce. That’s soccer.”
Athens has been ranked No. 1 in the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association Division 1 polls since the first rankings came out in September. Over half of the roster is back in uniform and between the varsity, JV-A and JV-B squads, the Red Hawks only lost a combined three games last season.
Below is a list of teams statewide to watch, as schools dive into the meat of their schedules.
Teams from the power conferences in each division are already beating each other up or posting draws — meaning that this list will surely change on a daily basis:
1. TROY ATHENS (21-1-0):There are 12 players that return from a deep and fast team that saw playing time last season and have led to a 6-0-1 start. Senior Jason Kemp (All-State First Team) is one of the state’s top keepers and junior sniper TJ Renaud (All-State Third Team) could be a Mr. Soccer candidate in 2020. Senior F Davis DiGiovanni, senior midfielders Andri Myftari, Donvan Sharp and Austin Looser call carry plenty of pedigree, while senior Paul Ciak was part of a defense that yielded only seven goals last season in 22 games. Senior M Rishi Kaylan, senior defensemen Nikhil Somani, Luc Schmidt and Jaden Makowski also return, while sophomore F Ryan Gruca, junior D Jack Must and junior M Anthony Kapala lead a talented cast of newcomers.
2. NOVI DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL (17-5-1): A Final Four in 2016, the D-1 state title in 2017 and an appearance in the regional finals in 2018 has amounted as a great run for the Shamrocks. Quite a few players have graduated in recent years, but for CC it’s truly next man up on a deep roster of 29 players. Senior M Matt Ampunen, junior F Clay Moskovic, senior F Zach Jones, senior M Ben Kinovac, senior D Shane Knechtges and senior F Nick Johnson all return. Junior M Chad Ewing comes back from the Wolves Academy, sophomore M Yolo Shiraishi, junior G John Drowning, senior G Eric Dosh and sophomore M Vance Stockton are the top newcomers for a team that started 5-0-2.
3. RICHLAND GULL LAKE (18-6-1): After reaching the Division 2 state semifinals last autumn for the first time since 1993, the Blue Devils are one of the D-2 state title contenders with 15 returning players, including nine starters. Junior F/M Eron (Roni) Sylejmani (All-State First Team) will be a Mr. Soccer favorite in 2020 and leads the way. Sophomore midfielder AJ Boucher is one of the state’s top 10th graders, while senior M Jack Hirzel, senior defenders Nick Tracy and Donovan Below, senior M Jacob Louden, senior D Jack Locherbie, senior M Rini Sylejmani and junior G Riley Folk are all key ingredients mixed together for a potential championship run. Senior F/M Nolan Jaros is a transfer from Portage Central and should be a huge plus in the attack.
4. GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN (23-1-1): The Huskies have two state runners-up in the past four years, including their sole loss against Country Day in last year’s D-2 state finals (1-0 on penalty kicks). Plus the FHN girls program has four state runners-up in the same span. This could be the year the Huskies break down the door for that elusive first title. Senior D Aidan O’Connor (All-State First Team) is a Mr. Soccer candidate, while the goalkeeper tandem of seniors Jon Kliewer (All-State Second Team) and Carter Clark are two college prospects and gives this team two of the better backstops in the state. They will split time in net. Senior D Will Patrick (All-State Honorable Mention), senior M Simon Scharich and senior M Ethan Jansen are also college prospects and key returnees. Over 75 percent of the roster from last year is intact and there are 14 seniors.
5. HUDSONVILLE UNITY CHRISTIAN (23-2-1): With a junior-heavy roster last season, Unity Christian pulled together for a Division 3 state title run and now returns a bulk of its team that is ranked No. 1 early in the season. Three Division I recruits lead the way — Mr. Soccer candidate Kadin Shaban, a All-State Dream Team senior forward and Michigan State commit, senior G Grant Balcer (recruited by Marquette) and senior D Evan Nieuwenhuis (Oakland and Valparaiso). Senior M Logan Kunnen, senior D Camden Berlin, senior D/M Grayson Berlin, senior M Adrian Byl and senior D/M Grant Gulker are also returning starters. Junior midfielders Anthony Sterk and Tristar Sayumwe have stepped into starting roles.
6. ROCKFORD (12-5-3): The Rams finished second in the OK Conference Red Division last year, slipping from pole position during the final week. This year’s team should be one of the state’s better D-1 programs. Senior D Sayvion Young (All-State Honorable Mention) is one of Michigan’s top defenders, while senior G Jack Hanssen and senior F Adam Goushaw are both slated for big years. Senior F Jacob Rademacher, senior D/M Max Dalton, senior F/M Kyle Switzer, senior M/F Dominic Meinke and junior D/G Ian Johnson all return. Junior M Drew Wood, sophomore M Aaron Woods, sophomore D Danny Leja, sophomore M/D Alex Ducey, sophomore M Aidan Smith and junior M George Martin have also made their presence felt. The Rams started the year 5-0-1.
7. OKEMOS (14-4-0):The always-tough Chieftains could field their best team since the 2004 D-1 state title squad with an explosive roster. Senior F Ty Usiak (All-State Third Team) is a Dream Team candidate and senior M Alenandro Arana should also find his way onto a college roster next year. Senior M Jackson Grabill, senior M/D John Luca Migaldi, and senior D Austin Thornburg, senior G Zac Larson, senior D Matt Hutsell, junior G Aiden Hanchett and sophomore M Jack Guggemos help form a solid nucleus of dangerous players.
8. NOVI (10-3-7): For three straight years Novi has seen its season come to an end by CC in the district rounds. This year’s version is again in the D-1 Top 15 and will contend for championships behind nine talented returnees. Senior M Taiga Shiokawa, senior F Kevin Fapllaj, junior D Miles Brown, senior D Alvin Li, senior F Blair Mayes, junior M Shion Soga and senior M Mason Stroman all played minutes last season.
9. BRIGHTON (13-5-2):Another talented side in the deep KLAA-West Division, the defending divisional champion Bulldogs have the mettle to make a run at a league and district championship — maybe more. The state’s top defenseman Josh Adam (All-State Honorable Mention) is one of top juniors and will make this team tough to score upon. Junior F Seth Bedford, sophomore D/M Shane Simon, who played club with the Nationals last fall, junior F Nick Cassar, senior D Drew Tappen, senior M/F JD Vandermergel are all college prospects. Senior D Ben Cox, senior G Kiernan Dunn, junior G Hagen Carriere and junior F Nick Cassar have all made an impact so far this season. Sophomore F Michale Kramer and senior transfer Lucas Velencelos (F) have also joined the fold.
10. MATTAWAN (18-4-0): Two years removed from its first D-2 state title and Mattawan boasts a loaded junior class and is one of the serious title contenders again in D-2. The Wildcats started 6-0-1 and feature junior F Joshua Filiputti, junior M Connor Burkett (All-State Honorable Mention), senior F James Sobol (All-State Third Team), junior D Tommy Martinis and junior G Carson Foor as the top players.
11. EAST LANSING (15-2-2):Under a new coach last season for the first time in decades, the Trojans started slow but peaked later in the season to win the CAAC Gold Cup tile and reach the regional finals. This year’s version will see EL back again amongst the state’s top D-2 teams. Senior F Mohamed Babele, senior M Robert Nystrom., senior F Jake Isham, senior G Nekko Criswell-Ginage, senior F Cade Moreno, junior D Sam Morse, junior M Drew Lietz and junior D Will Knapp all return.
12. MIDLAND DOW (20-1-3): The Chargers are off to a 7-1 start with the only loss coming against No. 1 Athens. Senior M Tyler Lehman is one of the top prospects in the state, while senior D/M Sean Anderson and senior D Logan McNamara gives the Chargers three legitimate All-State caliber players. Senior F Julien Theuerkauf, junior M Sam Hatfield, senior D/M Adam Haydanek, senior D Adam Yarch, junior midfielders Luke Meyer and Ethan Swartzentruber are all players that played significant minutes last season for a program that has reached the regional semifinals the pst three years. Senior G Adam Pacholke is a full-time starter this season.
13. ANN ARBOR SKYLINE (17-4-2): The defending D-1 state champs lost half of its roster to graduation, but still return a bevy of talent that should make them contenders in the SEC Red Division and beyond. Senior F Bryce Schaner and senior D Jamie Palms (All-State Second Team) are two high-level talents, while junior M Gabe Kellman, senior F/M Chris Emerson, junior M Zack Kubisiak, and senior M/F Oskar Shiomi-Jensen were all starters at the end of last season. Senior G Daniel Bennett, junior M/D Conleth Stead, senior D Austin Earns, junior F Tyler Warren and junior D Caleb Sauers will all play more prominent roles.
14. HUDSONVILLE (12-7-1): Despite losing its best player to graduation, Hudsonville has dented the D-1 rankings this season for the first time behind a 5-2-0 start. Junior F Jack Deboer and junior D Jaeger DeBoer are stars on the rise, while senior M Max Kuperus, senior M/D Jacob Burma, junior M Jaiden Buist, junior D Ryan Wetters and junior F Nate Vanderveen are all returning starters.
15. BERKLEY (19-4-2): Last season’s OAA-Red runners-up have come a long ways as a program and will again be a top-15 team in D-1 this season. There is ample talent on the roster, led by junior M Jacob Schleicher, who comes back from the Wolves Academy. Junior F Zico Rubio, senior D Sam Stone, senior D Luke Bormann, senior D/M Lucas Schodowski, senior F Marco Luna-Gen and junior M TJ Withrow are all solid players. The Bears opened with an 8-1-1 mark.
16. DETROIT JESUIT (9-4-6): The senior-laden Cubs could have perhaps their best team since winning the 2001 D-1 state championship. Senior M Matthew Wimmer (All-State Second Team) is a college prospect, while senior G Lamar Price has been steady between the pipes. Senior backs Nick Said and Evan Johnson, senior M Mateo Manriquez and senior snipers Nolan Morgan and Robert Williams are all stalwarts in UD Jesuit’s lineup.
17. PORTAGE CENTRAL (15-4-1):Graduation and transfers may have hurt the Mustangs some, but this side should still compete in the SWAC and for a district title. Senior Kyle Toutanji is a D-I level keeper, having led the Kalamazoo Kingdom to the national league club nationals tournament this past summer. Senior D Ben Sosville, senior M Ben Kahmark and junior M Mitchell Haines are three other standouts for Portage Central. The defending SWAC champs also counter with sophomore M Daniel Girl, sophomore F Mason Bell and freshman M Tristan Speittel.
18. BLOOMFIELD HILLS (9-7-2): The OAA White Division may be as deep as the OAA-Red this season and the Blackhawks will be in the thick of the race. Senior D Dominic Curti, senior M Lincoln Judge, and senior midfielders Ian Kirner and Zack Bennet also return. Junior F James Swanson, senior M Danny Jandali and junior backs Richie Carter and Blake Kaufman are the top newcomers.
19. BIRMINGHAM SEAHOLM (12-7-1): After finishing third in the OAA-White last season, the Maples are one of the favorites this season behind a experienced squad. Junior F Cole Karmanos, senior D/M Mark Wischmeyer, who comes back from the Vardar Academy, senior G/D Zayd Faraj, senior D/M Sam Sheckell, senior F/M Dean Abdrabboh, senior G Leo Adams and senior D Maxamus Shayer will aid the title hunt.
20. WEST BLOOMFIELD (7-5-6): One of the contenders is a deep OAA White Division this season after winning the OAA-Blue last year, the Lakers actually cracked the D-1 rankings for the first time in school history this month. Junior G Elijah Burlak, senior M David Martin (Detroit Mercy), junior M Jake Ward and senior D Brian Synowiec lead the way. Senior D Michael DuFresne, senior F Sverre Sears, junior D Mathew Lee and sophomore F Hudson Williams also return.
21. TROY (8-7-3): After reaching the D-1 state semifinals in 2017, the Colts replaced 19 of 23 players last season. This year they are a top-15 ball club with plenty of returning talent. Senior F Ahmad Dakrouni (All-State Third Team), senior M Rafa Khoury, senior G Will Hamilton, junior M Andrew Howard, senior D Nathan More and senior D/M Ryan Peluso are returning starters. Sophomore M Aidan Baraiac, sophomore D Ryan Decker, junior F Adrian Kijek and freshmen Jimi Levitt (M) and John Palomino (M) have joined the cause. Troy started the season 6-2-0.
22. GROSSE ILE (27-2-0): Behind a vaunted offensive attack, the Red Devils reached the D-3 state title game before falling to Unity Christian (2-0). Although some talent was lost to graduation and the Wolves Academy, Grosse Ile will still contend again this season and began the year 7-1-1. Senior M Jacob Sawicki All-State First Team) is the leader. Seniors Tony Bogataj (D) and Joe Duke (M) were All-State Honorable Mention, while senior M Alex DeSana, junior Max Ashton, sophomore M Bosh Tonyi, junior D Luc Kawadri and junior D/M Luke Yops also return to the starting lineup. A freshman group of five players have also aided the Red Devils efforts.
23. CLINTON TOWNSHIP CHIPPEWA VALLEY (10-7-4): This is perhaps the Big Reds’ top team since former Mr. Soccer Nick Draw haunted defenses from 1995-1998. Chippewa Valley has dented the D-1 top 15 with a 6-1-0 start and returned most of its roster from last year. Senior forwards Anthony Prenkocevic and Adriana Pjetrushi, M senior Danny McClorey, and senior D Nicolas Pulcini are four of 17 returnees leading the way. The Big Reds lost in the district finals last year to eventual state semifinalist Warren De La Salle.
24. HOLT (17-5-2):Last year, the Rams came out of nowhere and surprised plenty of teams, which led to a D-1 district title and berth in the regional finals. This team should challenge in the CAAC-Blue this season and be capable of another tournament run. Junior Zac Kelly is one of Michigan’s top keepers, while senior F Kenneth Dagadu, senior midfielders Cameron Alaniz and Mason Pride, senior D Zach Schray, junior F Caleb Schray, sophomore D Timmy Vinton and sophomore M Guershorn Sylvan are all solid players.
25. GROSSE POINTE SOUTH (12-5-2): The Blue Devils may have their best side in nearly two decades and the MAC White Division runners-up from last year have cracked the D-1 Top 15 behind a 5-0-1 start. Senior M Connor Stencel leads the way. South won the Country Day Bartoshuk Invitational in late August and have dented the D-1 Top 15.
26. LIVONIA STEVENSON (11-9-1): The Spartans had to rebuild last season but with the benefit of a few key players returning from the Wolves Academy this season, should contend for KLAA East Division and district titles. Senior M Zach Gacioch, senior M/D John Evangelista, senior F Griffin Brown, senior F Jake Kaupp, sophomore F Reece Brown, junior D Adrian Rakipi and senior D Ryan Maisonville form a solid nucleus for the Spartans, who were third in their division last fall. One of the state’s all-time most successful programs is off to another fast start with a 6-0-0 record.
27. CALEDONIA (13-5-2): The defending OK Conference Red Division champions could have one of their better seasons in 2019 with several talented returnees. Senior F Avery Kidd is a Mr. Soccer candidate and senior M Joshua Williams has committed to Western Michigan. The Fighting Scots have played a brutally-tough schedule in the opening weeks and started 1-1-4.
28. SALINE (17-2-4): The defending SEC Red Division champions were knocked out by eventual champ Ann Arbor Skyline last year and a 3-1-2 start has the Hornets believing they can compete once again. Senior M Zeke Gray has multiple D-I offers and is a legitimate Dream Team player, while senior D Hayden Larance played with the Michigan Wolves Academy last season. Junior M Dominic Rossi, senior M Noel Sompa, junior D Zack Mitzel, junior M Brayden Stavros and senior G Sam Herner are also keys to the ride. Christian Rossi (M/F) is one of the better freshmen in the state and is gaining a reputation of being dangerous in the attack.
29. EAST KENTWOOD (17-4-4): Already the state’s most successful program over the past 15 years, the Falcons were the D-1 state runners-up last year but most replace 16 of 25 players. Senior F Jotran Lara-Zepeda and senior Adin Alicehajic are the returning starters. Sophomore M Antonio Calabrese is one of the state’s top 10th-grade talents, while senior D Sam Olsen, senior M Maid Maric, senior M/D Adin Hasovic, senior M Daniel Williams, senior F Boh Res and senior G Louis Schultz will all play more prominent roles.
30. WARREN DE LA SALLE (19-4-3): The Pilots saw the return of legendary coach Thaier Mukhtar last season and with that a senior-laden team that reached the state semifinals. Most of that starting lineup departed via graduation. Senior M Alex Teftsis came back from Vardar Academy to play his senior year and is a D-I recruit. Senior F Tommy Turner, senior G Logan Manor, senior D Connor Jasman, senior D Jett Schodowski, senior F Jack Panos, senior M Scott Larson, junior M Matt Rafferty, junior D Spencer Le Beau, junior D/M Gabe Luck and junior F Craig Fritz are some of the players who will see more prominent roles this season.
31. BIRMINGHAM DETROIT COUNTRY DAY (20-5-2): With a young team, Country Day rose to the occasion and captured their state-leading 15th state crown in Division 2. Although graduation and Developmental Academy defections will hurt, this team is still ranked in the Top 10 in D-2 and could surprise. Sophomore D Grant Mateer, junior D/F Ryan Tang, junior D/M Tyler Fouck, sophomore D Connor Adams, senior D Enoch Hung, senior F Michael Stakits, senior D Aidan Hogle, junior D/M Josh Gust, junior D Allen Gu, junior M Dillon Mavunga, junior M Connor Shi and senior G Avery Wilson are all back from that championship roster. Three freshmen, Gabe Hunter (D), Grant Stice (M) and Andrew Engle (D), have all made impacts. DCD lost its top three returning players in the school to Academy programs.
32. GRAND HAVEN (13-4-3):Another talented side in the deep OK Conference Red Division, the Buccaneers will again be a force to be reckoned with this season. Senior D Dylan Fett, senior G Gavin Jonker, junior M Zach Falconer, senior M Turner Oosterbaan, senior F Jaden King, junior D Ethan Jhamb, sophomore D Nathan Boehnke, senior M Joey Fischer and senior M/F Max Jerovsek will keep this team in the title chase.
33. CLARKSTON (7-10-3): The Wolves were a unique team last season in they only won four regular season games but came back to win one of Michigan’s toughest districts and lost nine one-goal games. There were 15 departures by graduation but perhaps better, although younger, talent this season. Senior M/F Ethan Wise (All-State Third Team) is one of the top players in the OAA, while junior D Loghlan Gray, junior F Nick Merritt and sophomore F Dylan Walker also played minutes last season. Sophomore M Jacob Murray played Vardar Academy last season, while senior transfers from Ohio, Owen Collins (M) and Brendan Regelbrugge (M), are former Academy players in that state. Freshmen midfielders Richie Ludwig and Connor Laming are both highly-touted, and senior G Brendan Willis has been steady in goal.
34. SALEM (14-5-3):Salem is always one of the top teams in the KLAA year-in and year-out and hopes to be again this season in a loaded division. Senior F Ethan Harkins, senior F/M Luke Benford, junior M Andrew Schwartz and junior D Nolan Chaput are the top threats for the Rocks.
35. PORTAGE NORTHERN (11-5-3): After spending some time ranked No. 1 in Division 1 in 2016, the Huskies dipped slightly the past two seasons. Northern should again be on the rise, as its 4-2-1 start indicates. Senior M Levi Crooks is one of the state’s better players, while senior M Seth Paige and senior G Austin Freemire are also solid returnees. Junior M Cade Smith, senior F Nick Lesman, sophomore M/F Liam Millership, junior M Ammar Khara, junior M/D Isaiah Spillers and sophomore M Zander Crooks will also aid the hunt for the SWAC title.
36. PLYMOUTH (5-4-10): The Wildcats tied the state record for ties with 10 last season and part of the reason was a ridiculously tough schedule playing against top 20 programs all season. Senior D Luke Winters, senior F Eddie White, senior G Jack Reed and senior M Kyle Pahl are all returning starters, as Plymouth hopes to climb the KLAA-West standings this year.
37. NORTHVILLE (10-5-4):Yet another side from the talent-laded KLAA-West, the Mustangs have the capabilities of making some noise and started 2-3-1 behind a tough schedule. Several key pieces to the puzzle are back, including senior G Robert Damon, senior D Jacob Pichler, junior F Harry Neal, senior M Kyle Zaya and junior M/D Javier Del Bosqu are all cornerstones to the program.
38. CANTON (12-7-5): Competing in the loaded KLAA West Division last season, the Chiefs ended up finishing third and captured a D-1 district crown. Senior M/D Carson Parks, senior M Max Scheffler, senior F Shirikar Komanduri, junior M/F Nick Rockafellow and junior D Logan Hammond are back to lead the way. Canton started 5-4-1 that included two tournaments.
39. ROCHESTER (6-7-6): A major rebuilding season in 2018 occurred after losing 16 players to graduation or the Vardar Academy from the 2017 squad that won a district title. Senior M/F Niko Stathakios (All-State Third Team), senior M Jack Myers, sophomore D Griffin Chamberlin, senior M/D Gunnar Foster, senior M Tommy Zagrodzki, senior M/F Stefan Baseski, and senior M Viktor Juncaj are returning starters, while senior G Jasper Najar missed last season to injury. Freshmen Logan Kennedy (D), Tommy Farrell (D/G) and Dylan Davis (M) lead a talented cast of newcomers.
40. ROCHESTER STONEY CREEK (10-8-2): After struggling to score goals last season, the Cougars have been more explosive this year and are navigating a tough schedule. Senior M Sebi Kulyckyj (All-State Honorable Mention) is on a tear, while senior D Michael Sloan, senior D Diego Perez, senior D Danny Glazier, junior D Dalton Harrison, junior M Will Knish, junior M Mikey Puchalski and junior F Aiden Dixon are key players. Sophomore G Seong Min Kim has been a pleasant surprise in net.
41. GRAND BLANC (19-7-0): Another one of the state’s most winningest programs, the Bobcats have multiple voids to fill after back-to-back large graduating classes. Junior D Andrew Holley (All-State Honorable Mention) and junior D/M Ryan Raybuck are the top two returnees for Grand Blanc, which reached the D-1 semifinals again last season. Senior G Jack Anderson, senior M Andrew Wilson, senior M/D Andrew Jacob, senior M Quincy Blake, senior F Bohdan Boers and senior D Connor Williams also return. Junior M Brenden Servers is the top newcomer.
42. DEXTER (20-3-3): The Defending SEC White Division champs rolled all the way to the D-2 regional finals last season and return a bulk of its team that started 5-0-5. Junior F Haydon Newton is a dangerous threat and sophomore G Wylie Smith a solid backstop. Senior M Braden Lint, senior F Niska Richards, junior M Nick Williamson, senior M Noah Lewis, senior D Evan Rushbrook, junior D Jack Kolka, sophomore D Connor Simpson and freshman M Ben Pritchard help form a solid nucleus.
43. DEWITT (10-10-4): A rebuild is complete and this side should be a top 10 team in D-2 all season. Junior F Landon Hungerford, senior D Nick Robinson, senior D Eric Bennett, junior M Victor Toune, junior M/D Zach Stephan, junior D Ethan Anderson, senior D Isac Rios, junior M Isaac Bosanic, junior G Patrick Woodbury and sophomore M Avery Dreasky are all back. Freshman F Lucas Perez has made an impact.
44. MACOMB DAKOTA (14-4-2): Despite a 5-0-0 start and a 26-5 goals differential, Dakota has yet to break into the D-1 top 15 yet this season. Seniors Stefano Moraccini (M/D), Garrett Barnett (D), Nestor Nestorovski (M/F), Aleksandar Sporovski, Brian Mendoza (M), Domenic Colella (M) and Dominic Milana (M) are the top returnees behind the fast start.
45. UTICA EISENHOWER (17-4-3): The defending MAC Red Division and district champion Eagles lost perhaps its top five players to either graduation or to one of the Developmental Academy ball clubs. Still, Eisenhower never falls too far from grace. Senior D Shayne Baylet and junior G Evan DeJong are the top returnees. Senior midfielders Jakson Jaku and Brett Johnson, junior F Liam Smith and senior D Alek Boardman are also returning starters. Junior D Luke Drzewiecki, junior F Dominic Nalou and sophomores Julian Lee (M), Gjon Melakuqi (F), Evan Jakuc (M) and Zach Hoyumpa (D/F) lead a talented cast of newcomers.
46. NEW BALTIMORE ANCHOR BAY (5-10-4): After a rebuilding year in 2018, Anchor Bay has proven that it has the talent to compete this year. Senior M Matt Muzia, senior M/D Cody Smith and junior F Zack Slezak (D) all received various postseason honors last year. Junior D Kian Collins, and sophomores Tanner Hodgson (M), Connor Hodgson (M) and Evan Linsley (G) will also be key. Junior F Ethan Welchner opted to play with the Vardar Academy the past two years but has filled in nicely.
47. ST. JOSEPH (12-9-1): This team has been lingering around the D-2 rankings for the past five years and will be a side that could make a run it can escape the shadows of Gull Lake and Mattawan. Senior F Isaac Filippo, senior F/M Tyler Burnette, senior M Brenden Nolte and senior F Casey Miller are all being recruited by D-II, D-III and NAIA schools. Sophomore M Seth Walters, sophomore F Jacob Scouler, junior F Jack Pended, junior D Lars Razor and junior D/M Cam Dirlam all return. Sophomore G Preston Nichols has been solid, while freshman D Christian Shannon is legacy to a D-I college player and one of Michigan’s top talents in his age group.
48. DEARBORN FORDSON (14-3-1): Fordson cracked the D-1 state rankings for the first time last season and should again contend for top honors in the KLAA-East and for a district trophy. Senior D Ali Saad, senior M Murad Othman, and senior forwards Ahmad Hamad and Hussein Farraj were all-conference first-team players last season. Senior D Hassan Aljuwari also returns.
49. SOUTH LYON (9-7-3): Behind a 5-0-2 start, the Lions are this year’s favorite in the Lakes Valley Association and have the talent to surprise some heavyweights in the postseason. Junior F Jack Voight is coming off a club season where he was named to The Top 11 nationally in the National League for the Michigan Jaguars-Green and is a rising star. Senior M Matthew Moore and sophomore D Josh Mason are two other standouts. The Lions are blessed with a stellar freshman class with the likes of Brennan McGillen (D), Aiden Field (F) and Brayden DeMay (D).
50. BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD (17-2-1): With a senior-laden team last season, Cranbrook reached the D-2 state semifinals. This season C-K is still ranked in the top 15 and is led by senior F Cole Mali, senior D Wesley Reed and senior G Charlie Hefter, along with a talented group of freshmen and sophomores who have filled in gaps. The Cranes opened 6-0-1.
THE NEXT 10
51. GOODRICH (14-4-1): After losing to perennial powerhouses East Lansing and Grand Blanc in a season-opening tournament, the Martians have zapped every opponent since and started 5-2-0. There is ample talent returning for Goodrich, which flipped from the Genesee Area Conference to the Flint Metro League. The Martians should challenge usual suspects Fenton and Linden for supremacy. Senior G Noaln Robb (All-State Honorable Mention), senior F Trevor Taylor (All-State Second Team), senior M Garrett Doud (Northwood) and senior M Grant Deaton rerun. Freshman F Caeden Rossell has been on fire in the opening weeks.
52. HOLLAND CHRISTIAN (15-3-3): Last year’s OK Conference Green Division runners-up opened the campaign in the top five in D-3 and will contend for championships this season. There is plenty of returning talent, led by senior D Grant Koops, senior F Chase Freriks, senior M Zach Flowerday (All-State Second Team), senior D Ryan Lindberg, sophomore F Kirby Eggers, senior D Zach Wood, junior M/F Charlie VanZalen and senior D/F Josiah Holiday.
53. GAYLORD (11-9-3): For the first time, Gaylord has cracked the D-2 state rankings and returns a bulk of its roster from last season. Senior F Tyler Ashley, junior F Isaac Gerstenberger, sophomore M Ian Busch, senior D Gabe Kleinsorge, senior M Jack Holsher, senior D Regan Distel, senior D/M Riley Gapinski, sophomore D Kyler McKenzie and senior G Jake Pietrzak lead the way for the year’s biggest surprise. The Blue Devils will contend for the Big North Conference title.
54. HOLLAND WEST OTTAWA (4-15-1): A 5-0-1 start and a tie against last year’s D-1 state runner-up East Kentwood has turned some heads in the Grand Rapids area and beyond as perhaps the state’s most improved side. Senior F/M Ryan Mackey, junior M Dony Gonzales and senior D Blake Pedersen lead the way. This should be West Ottawa’s best team since reaching the D-1 regional finals back in 2010.
55. BYRON CENTER (11-7-2): A Top 15 ranking in Division 2 for the first time and a 5-2-1 start has Byron Center on the map as a program on the rise. Senior D Owen Hill, senior F Colton Baker and senior D/M Angel Saucedo are three returning players that have aided the ascent.
56. MARSHALL (23-1-1): Plenty of the firepower from the best team in school history departed, but Marshall is still a challenger in the Interstate 8 league and for a deep run. Senior F Jacob Lyon (All-State Honorable Mention) is a dangerous sniper and junior M Brett Swanson bolsters plenty of pedigree for a team that started 6-1-0. Senior G Laine Day, senior F Konner Voigt, senior M/F Payton Johnson, senior M Tyler Tucker, senior defenders Cole Graeber and Domniic Hills, senior M Spencer Rupp, senior D Garrett Voigt and senior D/M Zach Pugh all have varsity experience on a deep team last year. Freshman F Josh Pugh leads a talented cast of newcomers.
57. MACOMB LUTHERAN NORTH (17-6-1): The Mustangs hope to make another run to the D-3 Final Four with another talented side this season. North began the campaign 6-1-0. Senior F/M David Muller (All-State First Team) and senior M Joey Shore are back to lead the way. Senior G Joesph Woloszyk and freshman F Joshua Matthews are new starters who have helped significantly.
58. SPRING LAKE (13-5-2): The Lakers won another D-2 district crown and should contend for another deep tournament run again this season. Junior M Benjamin Bush, sophomore F Keegan Fritske, senior F Malachi Mulder, junior D Gavin DeVowe, senior M Jonathan Bricker, junior M Sheldon Burnell, senior M Clayton Glasgow and senior D Liam Beck are all key players.
59. GRAND RAPIDS CHRISTIAN (19-2-1): Last year’s preseason No. 1 team, which reached the D-2 regional finals each of the past two years, still has some holdover talent that should keep them in the D-2 Top 15. Senior G Greyson Parks, senior M/F Evan May, senior M Graham Kormash and senior D Alex Deboer lead the way for the Eagles, who lost several players to the college ranks.
60. ALPENA (12-5-3): A disappointing exit in the D-2 districts has motivated the Wildcats, who moved into the D-2 Top 15 early this season. Senior F and Swedish exchange student Ardidsson Ullberg, junior M Grant Botha, senior D Kolton Goebel, senior D/M Jake Schiller and senior G Wenton Harrison will keep Alpena on the radar this season.
BREAKING DOWN THE MHSAA DIVISIONS
Ann Arbor Skyline got hot at the end of last season and made a run to the D-1 state title, topping perennial power East Kentwood, who entered the postseason unranked, in the finale (2-0).
Unbeaten Troy Athens only lost once last year and is ranked No. 1 in the state and top-20 nationally. But when it comes to Division 1, there are no guarantees for anybody.
There are more than 30 schools in D-1 that have the talent to reach the Final Four. They all must navigate not only brutally-tough regular season schedules, but run the gauntlet in the pathway to the Final Four.
Dating back to 1982, the first year the MHSAA sponsored boys soccer, Division 1/Class A has only seen repeat champions four times — Troy Athens (1983, 1984), Livonia Stevenson (1985, 1986), Warren DeLaSalle (1992, 1993) and East Kentwood (2007, 2008).
It truly is anybody’s guess who will emerge on top of the heap come Nov. 2. Over 20 schools have already cracked the top 15 and were not at the midpoint of the season quite yet.
A total of 40 Division 1 schools are ranked in the top 60 as of early September, with D-2 taking 16 spots and D-3 four spots.
Last year’s state champion was Birmingham Detroit Country Day, which won its record 15th state title with a young team. The Yellowjackets lost some key components to graduation and Developmental Academy programs.
Richland Gull Lake, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern and Mattawan look like serious challengers to the throne this year — all which return a bulk of their talent. Mattawan won in 2017, while Gull Lake last won in 1993. Forest Hills Northern lost in a shootout to DCD in last year’s title game and also came up in the runner-up spot in 2015.
East Lansing, DeWitt and St. Joseph are some of the others that could unseat DCD. Gaylord, Marshall, Spring Lake, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, Byron Center, Alpena, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Christian are some of the other sides that have crack the D-2 Top 15. Watch for Dexter and Goodrich as well.
While defending state champion Hudsonville Unity Christian is one of the state’s overall top 10 programs littered with college prospects, it seems that there will be few realistic challengers for the Crusaders.
Grosse Ile was the state runner-up and the Red Devils are playing a tougher schedule this season. But they also lost some firepower to both graduation and Developmental Academy defections.
Beyond that, Lansing Catholic, Macomb Lutheran North, Holland Christian, Williamston, Wyoming Lee, Grand Rapids South Christian and Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, which jumps up from D-4 to D-3, all appear to have sides that could make deep runs. Can Grosse Ile or any of the aforementioned teams be a serious threat to Unity Christian?
Besides Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett and Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, considered the top two Division 4 programs in the early going of the season, there are a handful of teams that could contend for the state title in D-4 or make runs to the Final Four.
Defending champion Leland still has plenty of holdover talent, senior-laden Dansville, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic, Adrian Lenawee Christian, Grandville Calvin Christian, Royal Oak Shrine, North Muskegon and Birmingham Roeper all bolster high-level talent to make a run. Ann Arbor Greenhills has reached the finals the past two years, while Burton Genesee Christian is not too far behind the leaders after winning in 2015 and 2016.
Defending Michigan Association of Christian Schools Division I state champ Rochester Hills Christian must replace five starters lost to graduation.
Last year’s runner-up, Midland Calvary Baptist, is scheduled to compete in Division 4 this fall and might not have the opportunity to play in dual state tournaments. The Kings are unbeaten early on the season.
Troy Bethany Christian is the likely favorite if Midland Calvary does not enter the MACS Division I tournament, while Davison Faith Baptist and Clinton Township Faith Christian could be challengers.
Waterford Oakdale Christian Academy was the MACS Division II state champion last season and didn’t have any seniors on its roster last year. The Patriots dominated runner-up Vassar Juniata Christian in the finals.
There are now around a dozen home school teams that compete in the West Michigan Christian Home School Athletic Association State Cup tournament in boys soccer, with Byron Center West Michigan Heat being the defending state champion, Midwest regional titleist and national finalist.
The West Michigan Heat started the season 6-0-1 against home schools and Division 3/4 programs.
Other teams that could threaten the Heat are Sterling Heights Summit, Hudsonville Home School and Kalamazoo Home School.
With close to 20 programs now sponsoring boys soccer in the U.P., this could be the year that Marquette, is challenged in the U.P. tournament. The defending champion Redmen are young and started slow, albeit against mostly Lower Peninsula teams.
Others teams in the U.P. with soccer include Bay Mills Ojibwe Charter, Bessemer-Wakefield-Marenisco Unified, Calument Copper Country Christian, Cooks Big Bay De Noc, Escanaba-Gladstone Bayside Unified, Houghton, Ironwood, Iron Mountain, Kingsford, Mackinac Island, Manistique, Munising Baptist, Negaunee, Norway, Paradise-Grand Marais Unified, Rapid River, Sault Ste. Marie and Wilson Hannahville Nah Tah Wahsh
OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH (Not ranked in the Top 60)
Division 1 — Ann Arbor Huron, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Battle Creek Lakeview, Birmingham Groves, Dearborn, Dearborn Fordson, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Grand Rapids Union, Grosse Pointe North, Hartland, Jackson, Jenison, Kalamazoo Central, Kalamazoo Loy-Norrix, Lake Orion, Livonia Churchill, Midland, Monroe, North Farmington, Oxford, Rochester Adams, Romeo, Saginaw Heritage, South Lyon, Sterling Heights Stevenson, Traverse City West, Utica, Utica Ford, Warren Cousino, Walled Lake Northern, Walled Lake Central, Walled Lake Western, White Lake Lakeland, Woodhaven
Division 2 — Allendale, Allen Park, Battle Creek Harper Creek, Bay City Western, Birmingham Brother Rice, Cedar Springs, Chelsea, Coldwater, Dearborn Divine Child, Dearborn Heights Crestwood, East Grand Rapids, Fenton, Garden City, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern, Grand Rapids Northview, Hamtramck, Haslett, Holland, Jackson Northwest, Linden, Lowell, Madison Heights Lamphere, Marquette, Melvindale, Middleville Thornapple-Kellogg, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, New Boston Huron, Niles, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Ortonville Brandon, Parma Western, Petoskey, Pinckney, Plainwell, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, Riverview, Stevenseville-Lakeshore, St. Johns, Tecumseh, Warren Woods-Tower, Wyoming
Division 3 — Allegan, Alma, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, Big Rapids, Birch Run, Brooklyn Columbia Central, Clawson, Dearborn Advanced Tech, Dowagiac, Elk Rapids, Essexville-Garber, Flint Powers Catholic, Freeland, Gladwin, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Grand Rapids South Christian, Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy, Grayling, Hanover-Horton, Hemlock, Imlay City, Lake Fenton, Lansing Catholic, Leslie, Livonia Clarenceville, Ludington, Macomb Lutheran North, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, Muskegon Orchard View, Otsego, Paw Paw, Portland, Richmond, Shepherd, Taylor Prep, West Branch Ogemaw Heights, Williamston, Wyoming Lee,
Division 4 / MACS / Home Schools — Adrian Lenawee Christian, Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, Ann Arbor Greenhills, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, Bad Axe, Birmingham Roeper, Boyne City, Brighton Charyl Stockwell Prep, Buckley, Burton Genesee Christian, Byron Center West Michigan Heat, Clarkston Everest Collegiate, Dansville, Fennville, Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett, Grand Rapids Northpointe Christian, Grandville Calvin Christian, Harbor Beach, Hartford, Hillsdale Academy, Hudsonville Home School, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic, Kalamazoo Home School, Lansing Christian, Leland, Lincoln-Alcona, Madison Heights Bishop Foley Catholic, Manchester, Marcellus Howardsville Christian, Maple City Glen Lake, Marlette, McBain Northern Michigan Christian, Memphis, Midland Calvary Baptist, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, New Haven, North Muskegon, Plymouth Christian, Riverview Gabriel Richard, Rochester Hills Christian, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, Roscommon, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, Saginaw Valley Lutheran, Sterling Heights Summit, Traverse City Christian, Troy Bethany Christian, Unionville-Sebewaing, Westland Lutheran