Forest Hills Central scores twice in the second half, defeats Grand Blanc, 2-0, for D1 title
Williamston — Top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central entered the 2017 campaign as the No. 1 team in the state and held the top spot throughout the regular season.
The Rangers also capped a stellar run with a large target on their backs, going 7-0 in the postseason and blanking fourth-ranked Grand Blanc, 2-0, Saturday in the Division 1 final at the Williamston Soccer Complex.
Senior Bailey Kohorn and sophomore Ashley Ward scored for the Rangers (21-0-4), who captured their fourth overall title and first in Division 1. Forest Hills Central also won in 2005, 2007 and 2008 and lost in the finals back in 2003, all in Division 2.
“This is so unreal, winning it all as a senior. This is what we worked for the past four years,” said Kohorn, a Miss Soccer finalist who has signed with Cincinnati. “For us to be the No. 1 ranked team in the state from the beginning of the season and being state champions. There was a lot of pressure. But we came together and captured the state championship. What a way to go out.”
Forest Hills Central coach Jeremy Stacy missed the Rangers’ last state title game in 2008 during his first season as head coach. That was his wedding day.
He witnessed the ending of a brilliant season this time as his team fought off a multitude of challengers looking to knock the Rangers off.
Forest Hills Central lost in the state semifinals last season to Canton (2-1) despite being ranked No. 1 for the second half of the 2016 season.
“We’ve been able to change and adapt and find ways to score goals all season long and that has been our strength,” said Stacy. “We worked really hard on the things we needed to do to win. And that wasn’t easy, being ranked No. 1 in the state all year. Teams were gunning for us, just like last year when we lost in the semis. I think we went into a little bit of (a lull) at one point (this season) and weren’t playing our best soccer. But we came together in the postseason and won seven games when it mattered most.
“This is an incredible accomplishment to beat a team with so many weapons. Grand Blanc is a very talented team and very well coached. It took a great effort to keep them off the scoreboard and defeat them.”
Neither team could generate much offense in the first half, with both teams scooping up five shots apiece during the first 40 minutes. Forest Hills Central scored both goals in the second half.
Following a long serve into the penalty box from sophomore Avery Tack, junior Natalie Lunt flicked the ball back to the top of the box. Korhorn retrieved the loose ball, turned around and fired an 18-yard shot into the net with 29:52 left in regulation. The game-winner was Kohorn’s 30th goal of the season.
Forest Hills Central tacked on an insurance goal with 5:48 to play on Ward’s tally. Kohorn ripped a shot off the crossbar and Ward was able to head home the rebound from the close range to seal the deal.
The Rangers held a 15-11 shots edge, including 9-3 with shots on frame. Junior Emma Yoder picked up her team’s 16th shutout overall and fourth in the postseason.
The Rangers outscored the opposition 114-10 this season and gave up only five goals over the final 15 games. Forest Hills Central was ranked No. 1 in the Great Lakes region and top 25 nationally entering June.
Grand Blanc lost in the finals for the third time.
Greg Kehler knows the feeling and believes the line between winning and losing in this game came down to one key ingredient.
“My speech to the girls was just that. This was a great game — two evenly matched teams. My hats off to them because they finished their chances and we didn’t,” noted Kehler. “We had some good looks, too. It’s not that we didn’t have our chances, even when it was 0-0. A goal there could have changed some things.”