Top 50 Michigan HS boys soccer teams: Grand Rapids Christian is loaded, while Troy Athens, Salem, Detroit CC aren’t far behind
GRAND RAPIDS — This November marks the 20th anniversary since Grand Rapids Christian captured its first of two state titles in boys soccer.
The Eagles captured the Division 2 state crown in 1998 with a 4-0 shutout of Detroit U-D Jesuit, then followed that up three years later with a 1-0 victory over Farmington in the 2001 D-2 finals.
Although Grand Rapids Christian, 17-3-2 a year ago, has consistently been a top 20 team in Division 2, the Eagles hope to soar to heights like it did nearly two decades ago with perhaps its most talented team to date.
“As a coach, you always dream about having a class like this,” admitted Grand Rapids Christian coach Bruce Bobcik. “To have all of these seniors and talent like we do, we hope it is a golden season.”
Coaches around the state have raved about the Eagles, who reached the D-2 regional finals last season before bowing out against eventual state champion Holland, 2-0. They should be serious title contenders in D-2 and as good as anyone in Division 1 with a deep and talented roster.
Senior midfielder Tommy Visser (Butler) is a Mr. Soccer candidate and returning All-State First Team honoree. He notched nine assists in his team’s first four games after collecting 15 goals and 19 assists last season. Senior outside midfielder Chris Schlau (10 goals, 10 assists), an ODP Region II player, also has Division I college offers.
Senior forward Trey McBride led the team with 19 tallies and eight assists last season, while senior M Hunter Reuitter is another scoring threat for GRC, which features 14 returnees, nine returning starters and a host of future college players.
Seniors Nate Vanharn and Reed Vanderlugt return to anchor the back line, while junior Greyson Parks and senior Daniel Wunder give the Eagles two sturdy goalkeepers, meaning the rich get richer.
“Greyson and Daniel are too of the better goalkeepers in the state. It’s a nice problem to have two very good goalkeepers,” Bobcik said.
Junior M/F Evan May, junior M Graham Kormash and junior D Alex Deboer lead the newcomers.
Grand Rapids Christian has opened the season 7-0-0 with five shutouts and a 32-2 scoring edge. Amongst the wins are 2015 Division 1 state champions Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (5-0).
The rest of the top 50 teams:
2. TROY ATHENS (15-4-1): After finishing as the D-1 state runner-up in 2016, Athens was a first-round upset victim last season by Brother Rice. The Red Hawks were apparently quite eager to get the taste of winning back, as they opened with an 8-0-0 record and a 21-2 scoring edge. Senior D Aiden Fawcett, senior midfielders Sean MCConnell, Chris Anaya and Elio Zoto, senior D/M Jack Merbach and junior G Jason Kemp are the returning starters. Senior F Jacob Slimak, senior M/D Rithik Hosalli, junior M Andre Myftari and senior D Jake Doyle also return, while sophomore sniper TJ Renaud leads the newcomers. The Red Hawks move at a fast pace and are deep across the field.
3. SALEM (12-7-2): Always a talented side, the Rocks have been one of the state’s better programs dating back to the 1980s, winning a title in 1995. Now with 15 seniors and nine starters back, Salem is a seasoned brew of talent. Playing a tough schedule, the Rocks opened 8-0-1 and even defeated defending champion Detroit Catholic Central in the finals of the Balconi Invitational. Senior G Buraq Oral is one of the state’s top keepers, while senior M Josh Stevens, senior D Jeremy Pascarella, senior D/M Gabe Dillon, senior M David Burt, senior D Justin Soosik, senior F/M Bryan Rodwell, senior F Thomas Dono and junior F Ethan Harkins are all returning starters. Sophomore D Nolan Chaput, who played club ball last season, and freshman D Anthony Deruvo have stepped into the starting lineup.
4. NOVI DETROIT CATHOLIC CENTRAL (21-2-4): The Shamrocks reached the semifinals in 2016 and followed that up with their first Division 1 state title last season. Although CC has started 8-2-0, with close losses to the aforementioned Salem and Athens, the deep Shamrocks could be a team worthy of a repeat run. Senior Andrew Nicholson was a part-time starter last season, but the goalkeeper just committed to Michigan State. Senior M Drake Midgley, senior M/F Josh Finnerty, senior M Jeswin David, senior D Michael Palushaj, junior M Ben Kirovac, senior D John Willemson, senior D/M Luke Willemson and senior D Shane Knechpges also return. Senior M Owen Becker, who played tennis last season, junior M Matt Ampunan, who played Vardar Academy last year, sophomore F Clay Moskovic and junior F Zach Jones lead the newcomers.
5. EAST KENTWOOD (19-5-0): The state’s most successful Division 1 program the past 15 years, the Falcons have won five state titles and seven regional crowns in that stretch. EK has also posted 11 district crowns in the past 20 seasons. There are five returning starters and 15 seniors on this roster and the Falcons will again be a factor come late October. Seniors Giuseppe Calabrese (M), Damir Sabanovic (M) and Ben Cengic (D) are key performers, as is third-year starter Jackson Strabel, a sniper who missed part of last season with injuries. Seniors Jaren Bea (D), Nico Bonjazzi (D), Uriel Garcia (M), Suleiman Isack (D) and Bawi Lion (F) and junior F Jordan Lara-Zepeda will keep this team in the discussion.
6. CANTON (12-4-7): Another team lodged in a deep talent pool, the Chiefs are always capable of contending for championships at all levels. A 6-1-3 start has proven that this team will still be a factor, as 12 returnees have continued the trend. Senior F Tyler Turko, senior F Justin Gottschalk, senior D Jackson Percy and senior D Jake Crippes all started games last season. Senior D Kyle Kulas, senior D/M Larry Cheaney, senior M Bennett Austin, senior F Nick Provenzano, senior F/M Alex Hyde, senior G Ian Nielsen and senior M Diego Galvin are also contributors. Junior F Srikar Komanduri is one of the key newcomers for the Chiefs, hard-hit by Academy defections.
7. PLYMOUTH (16-5-3): The Cougars won the KLAA-Black Division and D-1 district titles last season and appear to be a championship contender. Senior F Caleb Crawford, Senior D Alex Bowser, senior F Justin Wojcik, senior M/F Shane Young and Senior F Cam Cieslik are the key returnees for Plymouth, who have played seven games against top-20 talent.
8. PORTGE CENTRAL (18-3-3): The SWAC regular season and tournament champions last year made a run to the D-1 regional finals before bowing out to East Kentwood in the regional finals. Senior F Michael Kettleman (All-State Second Team) is a Mr. Soccer candidate, junior M/F Nolan Jaros, junior M Ben Kahmark, senior M Eliot Greathouse, senior M Gunnar Fredericks, junior D Ben Sosville, sophomore M Mitchell Haines and senior M Jason Mih are all back.Junior Devin Horn has moved into a starting role in goal. The Mustangs, who have never won a title, are 6-2-0 on the year with one loss to one of the top teams in Ohio and the other to aforementioned Plymouth.
9. OKEMOS (13-4-4): The defending CAAC-Blue Division co-champions return a bulk of its talent and hope to make a run in Division 1, where their only finals appearance came as the 2004 state champs. Junior F Ty Usiak is dangerous up top, while seniors Brandel Brogan and Ben Derby along with juniors Alejandro Arana, Jackson Grabill and John Luca Migaldi for a deep and talented midfield. Senior D Miles Telemaque anchors the back, along with senior new starters Jamie Brynn, Brett Cesar and Nick Williams. Okemos is 4-0-0 to start the season.
10. GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN (17-2-2): One of the favorites in Division 2, the Huskies were ranked in the top five all of last season and are 7-0-0 this season. The defending OK Conference White Division and district champs lost last season in the regional semifinals to Grand Rapids Christian and have the cast to be just as good if not better this year. Forest Hills Northern has a good problem to have, as junior goalkeepers Carter Clark and Jon Kliewer are amongst the state’s better shot-stoppers. Senior D Devin Riley, junior D Aidan O’Connor, junior D Will Patrick, senior M Sawyer Rilett, senior D Zac Meyer, junior D Simon Scharich, who missed last season with an injury, senior F Nate Texer and senior M/F Jordan Okito have alls tarted games in the past. Sophomore D Ayden Riley and freshman F/M Seth Scharich are both first-year starters.
11. MIDLAND DOW (21-4-1): The Chargers had just one bad game last season, that coming in the regional semis to Grand Blanc. Dow has been on an absolute tear this season behind a 9-0-0 start and a 22-1 scoring edge. Amongst the wins are Grand Blanc, Haslett, Berkley and Flint Powers. Senior sniper Andrey Hofius is one of the state’s top finishers and senior D Jordan Plewa anchors the back. Junior M Tyler Lyman, junior D Logan McNamara and junior M/D Sean Anderson are returning starters, while senior F Adam Elfawal and senior G Zach Arnold will have more prominent roles.
12. SALINE (15-5-4): The Southeastern Conference Red Division runner-up and district champions last year lost to Plymouth in the regional semifinals and return a ton of talent. Junior M/F Zeke Gray and senior F Ryan Nichols are a pair of returning All-State Honorable Mention performers. Senior D Devin DeVries, senior M Brendan Foster, senior G Quinn Foster, senior M Mitch Kalitta and senior D Ryan Grill all started games last season. Sophomore F Brayden Stayros, senior D Nate Learn and senior M Nolan Fox also return. Saline’s newcomers have made a difference, as sophomore M Dominic Rossi and sophomore D Zack Mitzel have joined transfers Noel Somba (junior M) and Charlie Rogers (senior F) to aid a 7-1-0 start.
13. ANN ARBOR SKYLINE (14-1-7): The 2013 D-1 state champs have suffered the district curse the past two years, losing in the districts despite being unbeaten and ranked in the top five. Senior G Kyri Wixom is rock solid, along with seniors Omar Hassan and Thomas Halloran on defense. Senior M Kai Jurgle, junior D/M Chris Emerson and sophomore M Zach Kubisiak are also returning starters. Junior F Bryce Shaner, sophomore F Gabe Kellman and senior F Logan Roeser-Nordling have moved into starting roles, while senior transfer Gustav Bottin will help up top. A 3-2-1 start indicates a more challenging schedule.
14. UTICA EISENHOWER (9-9-4): With several defections to the Developmental Academy in recent years and a slight dip in talent, Eisenhower fell off the map the but showed signs of life and earned a district crown last year despite a .500 record. The Eagles are 5-1-0 this season with the sole loss to Canton (1-0) and are definitely back on the radar. Senior F Luis Koleci (All-State Honorable Mention), senior F/M Noah Modena, senior M Dominik Nikaj, senior D Jacob Schaeff, junior D Shayne Bayet and sophomore G Evan DeJong all return to stating roles. Eisenhower will also gain production from a large senior class, including D Dino Raveane, M Joshua Chunn, D Ian Conkey, F Alan Cetovic, M Marc Socha, M Luca Ruffino, F Nik Gjonaj and F James Ciraulo.
15. NOVI (10-6-5): The always-tough Wildcats are lumped into one of the league’s top conferences and districts, meaning championships are not easy to come by. But Novi is always a dangerous team that could catch fire and make a deep run. Taiga Shiokawa (M) is one of the state’s better juniors, while senior M Gonzalo Sans Cristobal, senior M Rimpei Yamasaki, senior F Eric Schulte, senior M Blake Maday and senior F Blair Mayes also return. Senior G Olli Nurmiainen, junior D Kazuma Haraguchi, junior M Calvin Kalemaj, junior F Kevin Kapllaj, junior M/F Mason Stroman and sophomore D Miles Brown will also be key factors.
16. CALEDONIA (15-5-0): Could this be the year that Caledonia escapes the shadows of the likes of East Kentwood, Rockford and the Forest Hills schools? A talented returning senior class and some juniors that are stalwarts might mean new coach Carl Winterbottom has a cast to work up some magic. Senior M Luke Gauthier, who has committed to Western Michigan, and junior F Kidd Avery lead the way. Senior M Pedro Aguillon, senior D Zeke Miller, junior M Josh Williams, senior M Caleb Hughes, senior D Mason Denczek and senior D Colin Salamore tare part of this band rising the charts.
17. BRIGHTON (16-6-3): The Bulldogs earned a D-1 district title last season and return several key players from that group. Senior D Colin Adam, sophomore D Josh Adam, senior F Charlie Sharp, sophomore F Seth Before, senior M Charlie Foresman, senior D Travis Huffman, junior M Thomas Stanis and senior M Parker Tuczak all return. Junior G Kiernan Dunn has been steady in his first year as a starter.
18. EAST LANSING (17-10-2): It’s a new era at East Lansing, where legendary coach Nick Archer stepped down after leading the Trojans to the D-2 state runner-up trophy. East Lansing was 5-3 in state title games dating back to 1987 under Archer. A 4-0-0 start behind new coach Jeff Lyons has the Trojans revved up. Junior Mohammed Babale (All-State Third Team), senior M Kai Francisco and senior D Paul Carney all started in last year’s finals. Senior F Olivier Richmond, junior M Robert Nystrom, junior M/F Jake Isham, sophomore D Sam Morse and sophomore D Will Knapp also saw minutes. Junior Nekko Criswell-Grinage is the new goalkeeper.
19. GRAND HAVEN (15-3-3): The OK Conference-Red co-champs and D-1 district champs have a new leader in coach Nick Tejchma, but same old expectations. The Buccaneers are seven years removed from its state runner-up finish and will be dangerous this season. Seniors Tax Mast (F), Trevor Kalis (D), Mason Mahacek (M), Joe Walsh (M), Timmy Kleyla (M) and Jack DeKlyen (M), juniors Max Jerovsek (F), Gavin Yonker (M) and Jaden King (F), and sophomore Charlie Van Singel (M) lead the way.
20. MARSHALL (20-3-1): The Interstate 8 Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champs were logged in a tough district last season that featured four ranked teams and lost to eventual state semifinalist Coldwater in overtime. With most of that team back in uniform, the Red Hawks have begun the campaign 8-0-0 behind a 19-2 scoring edge and five shutouts. Senior F/M Jeremy Luciani and senior D Jack Luciani are a pair of skilled 6-foot-7 towers on opposite ends of the field with the former an All-State Second Team honoree. Senior D Landon Morgan (All-State Third Team), senior G Jack Vernar, senior M Carter Peek and junior F Jake Lyon are returning starters. Senior midfielders CJ Clapper and Tyler Martin, junior D Cole Greeber, senior D Garrett Voigt and senior forwards Reid Mauer and Ethan Johnson are also back.
21. BLOOMFIELD HILLS CRANBROOK KINGSWOOD (13-3-2): Upset victims by Farmington Hills Harrison in last year’s D-2 districts, the Cranes are senior-laden and capable of making a long tournament run this season. Senior M Clark Doman is a dominate playmaker, while senior D Zach Buvallic anchors the back. Senior F Tony Yazbeck and senior midfielders Teo Uno, Joe Marvar and Ethan Goldstein also return.
22. DETROIT U-D JESUIT (13-5-2): A member of the CHSL-Central Division, U-D Jesuit was upset by Detroit Western in last year’s districts. The Cubs hope to return to the elite club this season by playing one of the more challenging schedules in the state. Jesuit began the season 4-2-3.
23. BERKLEY (15-4-2): The Bears finished sixth in the loaded OAA Red Division and reached the district finals last season yet even spent time in the D-1 Top 20 due to their strength of schedule. Senior M Max Rebori (All-State Third Team), senior M Jason Bormann, senior F Jackson Lovchuk (All-State Honorable Mention), junior D Lucas Schodowski, junior D/M Sam Stone and senior F Trey Bishop all return. Sophomore M Jacob Schleicher joins the program after spending last season in the Wolves Academy.
24. ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK (14-4-3): Although 2017 Mr. Soccer Mike Melaragni departed for Western Michigan, the cupboard for the Cougars is far from bare. Stoney Creek is 4-1-4 to start the season and has improved vastly on defense. Senior F/D Alex Vitale and senior M/D Adam Johns are fourth-year veterans. Sophomore D/M Will Knish is a rising star, senior G Jorge Chaustre, junior D Zac Bosanac , junior M Sebi Kulyckyj, junior D Danny Glazier, senior M/F Brandon Kim and junior D Michael Sloan all started games last season. Sophomores Dalton Harrison (D), Mikey Puchalski (M) and Aiden Dixon (M) have also made an impact.
25. MACOMB DAKOTA (13-2-5): Regional finalists in Division 1 two years ago, Dakota lost in the districts finals last season after winning the MAC Red Division crown. there are seven starters and 10 total players back to lead the Cougars. Senior M/F Stefano Moraccini, senior M/F Brendan Petz, senior M Alex Kaiser, senior D Joshua VanDeVelde, senior D Parker Dreher, senior D/M Brady Zarschler and junior D Garrett Barnett are returning starters. Junior M Nestor Nestorovski and senior D Stephen DeCook also return.
26. HASLETT (14-5-3): A 3-4-0 start is a testament of the schedule that Haslett is playing, mostly D-1 schools in the first three weeks. The defending CAAC Red Division champions return most of its talent, led by senior defensemen AJ Salazar, Griffin Doran and Charlie Tuley on the back line. Senior M Henrik Holland, senior M/F Paul Schmidt, senior G Sam Burke, junior M Jack Dillon and junior F/M Nick Bidigare. Sophomores Holden Clark (M/F) and John McCloskey (D) and freshman M Drew Archambault are talented newcomers.
27. GRAND BLANC (15-9-2): A change of conferences from the KLAA to the SVL will see the Bobcats play some different schools, but this program is still one of the state’s most consistent for the past four decades. Regional finalists in D-1 the past two years, Grand Blanc returns senior F Muaz Asperger (All-State Third Team), senior D Keegan Hobson, senior D/M Blake Peterson, senior G Jacob Whitmore and senior F Jeronn Body to its starting lineup. Senior M Gavin Miller is also a key player for the Bobcats, who have played a rugged non-conference slate and have started the campaign 6-4-0.
28. WALLED LAKE CENTRAL (22-2-2): The Vikings came out of nowhere and put together their best season in school history, reaching the D-1 state finals for the first time. That came after WLC cracked the top 20 late in the regular season. The defending LVC champions graduated many of its offensive stars, but with two stellar goalkeepers and a fine defense, this team will be hard to score against. Senior G Brian Ostapenko (All-State Honorable Mention) stole the show in the postseason and will again share time with fellow senior G Jackson Bowers. Junior M Danny Plumbaj, senior F Alex Sayeg and senior back KC Fegely also started games. Three sophomores newcomers that should fill some voids are M Alexandru Diac, D Josh Peterman and F Brendan Martin. The Vikings started the year 3-4-1.
29. HARTLAND (18-4-1): The Eagles won a district two years ago and lost in the district finals last season. A ton of offensive firepower graduated but Hartland should still be competitive.Senior D Seth Buff, junior F Brett Kuhlman, senior G Kieran Malachino, senior D Easton Czarnecki, senior F Anthony Tamas, junior D Logan White and senior M Danny Parisien are all key contributors for the Eagles, who began the season 5-4-0 against quality competition.
30. NORTHVILLE (13-5-1): Another team hailing out of the loaded KLAA, Northville is in a logjam of quality teams in its area and may not win championships each year but rarely finishes under five-hundred. There are seven returning starters, led by senior defensemen Paul Koaris and Brian Politi and two quality keepers in senior Yianni Kannellopoulus and junior Robert Damron. Senior midfielders Nikco Wood and Demetri Zorvos and senior M/F Adam Silberg are also back in the starting lineup. Seniors Mike Gruianu (M), Vinni Chandraskhar (M), Shane McHugh (F) and Brandon Kearney (F) are also back, while sophomore F Steven Mitchell, junior M Jacob Pichler and junior D Mitchell Johnson are quality newcomers. The Mustangs are 3-3-1 to begin the campaign.
31. WARREN DELASALE (8-8-5): One of the winningest coaches in state history with more than 700 career wins, Thaier Mukhtar, is back at DeLaSalle after a seven-year hiatus and hopes the Pilots can return to their winning ways. DeLaSalle has loaded up its schedule, a recipe that has led to the program winning 28 district titles in the past 35 years. Senior D/F Ted Gabriel is a D-I recruit and senior G Justin Huttenlocher (All-State Honorable Mention) is also on the college radar. Senior M Matt Johnson, junior F Tommy Turner, senior D Ryan Beginian. What will help the Pilots in the long run is senior F/M Rocco Galenti, who spent the past couple years in the Vardar Academy and is a D-I recruit.
32. ROCHESTER ADAMS (12-5-2): The bad news for the three-time defending OAA Red Division champion Highlanders is that only seven players return. The good news is that there are 15 seniors on the roster. Senior D/F Parker Raymond is a D-I recruit in both soccer and track and field, while senior G/M Logan James is versatile. Adams is 3-4-1 to open the campaign, all against high-level competition and all against teams that at least won a district in the past two years.
33. BIRMINGHAM DETROIT COUNTRY DAY (15-7-2): One of Michigan’s top programs over the past 35 years, DCD reached the Division 3 semis last season and now have moved up to Division 2. Senior G Justin Dougherty (All-State Second Team), sophomore M Justin Harris (All-State Honorable Mention), senior M Elbert Yi, sophomore D Josh Gust, senior F Gabe Akeel, senior F/M Kevin Tang and senior M Tyler Fouck all played key roles last year. Sophomore M John Nino, who played with Vardar last season, and freshmen midfielders Grant Matter and Maclin Stover will help this team be even more dangerous.
34. GROSSE ILE (26-1-0): Regional finalists last season with the sole loss to Detroit Country Day, Grosse Ile may have the best team from the Downriver region since Riverview Gabriel Richard ruled the roost back in the mid-1990s. The highest-ranked D-3 school on this list, the Red Devils are 7-1-0 to start with some impressive wins. The defending Huron League champions welcome back senior M Jacob Sawicki (All-State Second Team, 42 goals, 23 assists), senior G Brendan Ebilo (All-State Honorable Mention), junior M Benedict Tanyi (All-State Honorable Mention) and senior M Christian Drzyzga (All-State Second Team) are all future college players.Senior D Alec McKheen, junior D Tony Bogataj, senior D Nick More and junior M Joe Duke are also returning starters. There are 18 total returnees.
35. HUDSONVILLE UNITY CHRISTIAN (17-1-5): A mainstay in the D-3 top 20, Unity Christian isn’t deep but has a lineup that could carry the Crusaders deep into the postseason. Regional semifinalists last season, UC captured another OK Conference Green Division crown and could once again this season. Forward Kadin Shaben (All-State First Team) is one of the state’s top juniors, while junior D Evan Nieuwenhuis, senior D Zach DeVries and junior G Grant Baleer are all solid. The midfield is also stacked with juniors Ethan Somero and Adrian Bye and senior Dan Hacksemer.
35. JACKSON (16-4-2): One of the state’s surprise stories in 2017 was Jackson, which won the CAAC Blue Division crown last year in its final season in the conference and cracked the D-1 Top 20 for the first time. New coach Damon Havlicek has the Vikings off to a 4-0-2 start behind eight returning starters and 11 total players. Senior M/F Caleb Sexton (All-State Honorable Mention) is the school’s all-time leading goal scorer, while senior M Quintin Smith, senior F Josh Chirackal, senior D McKael Hein, senior F/M Kyiuan Tanner-Robinson, senior M Brendan Sargent and senior D/M Will Esser are also back. Another key player is junior D Josh Kraeuter, who missed half of last season with a broke leg. Juniors Colin Glick (F), Matthew Sargent (M) and Kerik Sharp (M/F) are seeing increased roles.
36. PORTAGE NORTHERN (12-8-3): Two years ago the Huskies spent part of the season ranked No. 1 in Division 1 before falling in the district finals. Last year, Northern ventured into rebuilding mode but appears to be back on the way up. Senior D Josh Hartman, senior M Trent Wojcik, junior M Seth Paige, junior F Levi Crooks, junior M/F Cam Adams, sophomore D Isiah Spillers, senior D Jonah Tilnick and freshman Henry Lewis (F) and Zander Crooks (F) will help the cause. Senior G Ryan Ingersoll is solid between the pipes. The Huskies began the season 4-1-0.
37. STEVENSVILLE LAKESHORE (15-10-1): A slow starting ship was eventually righted last season, as the Lancers reached the D-2 regional finals before falling to Coldwater. Several key players are back, led by senior M/F Dylan Sing, a Mr. Soccer candidate who has committed to Western Michigan. Sophomore F Mikey Tibbitz (All-State Honorable Mention) has scored nine goals in the first three weeks and been a dominate player in the Lancers’ 9-1-0 start. Senior defensemen Mack Happier and Will Rosso, senior M Ryan Beaufils and junior M Tony Castine are also solid players. Junior G Oli Carmody joined the team midway through last season and has become steady between the pipes.
38. COLDWATER (22-4-1): Coming off its best season in school history which included a Final Four berth in Division 2, the Cardinals graduated many of its offensive targets but will still be a hard team to score upon. Senior Balal Nasser (All-State Second Team) is one of the state’s best at his position, while senior defensemen Mohamed Saleh and Bakeel Abdullah are also back. Senior midfielders Erik Corona, Shaif Ahmed and Anas Asker are also key players for the Cardinals, 4-3-1 to start the campaign.
39. DEXTER (21-1-0): After an unbeaten regular season and a No. 1 ranking in D-2, Dexter lost to Coldwater in the regional semifinals. That was with a senior-laden team and a squad that did not yield a goal in SEC White Division play. This year new coach Drew Ducker will rely on senior M Alex Doletzky, senior D Nathan Quintana, senior F Sam Harsh, freshman G Wyley Smith, freshman F Will Palazzolo, senior D Noah Lewis, senior D Matthew Roller and senior M Nick Urana to lead the way. The Dreadnaughts started the season 8-1-1 despite large graduation losses.
40. BIRMINGHAM BROTHER RICE (10-3-4): An enrollment dip has sent the Warriors down to Division 2, where they will compete in a brutally tough district. A trio of fourth-year veterans lead this group, including Nick Rassel (D), Julian Khemmoro and Davion Paige (M). Senior M Brett Gregory, senior D Jared Webb, senior F Julio Roque and senior M Jake Farr are also back.
41. WILLIAMSTON (13-3-3): The Division 3 Hornets won the CAAC-White last season and have made numerous lengthy runs in the postseason over the past 15 seasons. Seniors Joseph Hahnenberg, Lochlyn Reed and Clark Martin are all capable finishers, and junior M Soren Murphy and senior M Evan Pugh control the midfield. Senior G Ross Davis and senior D Isaiah Daik all started games last season, while junior D Will Bellinger and junior M Will Schafer have stepped up into more prominent roles.
42. PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP (9-10-4): The independent Irish have played mostly D-1 schools the past two years and it has paid dividends, as they have earned back-to-back district titles in Division 2. NDP has played to a 2-2-2 start against quality teams, led by a foursome of third-year players in M Tyson Lance, D Evaristo Garcia, M Nolan Mylenak and D Brian Connolly, all seniors. Senior M Oscar Guerreo and junior newcomer Julian Lee (M) are also key performers.
43. WHITE LAKE LAKELAND (12-3-2): The bridesmaid to Walled Lake Central in last year’s debut LVC standings, the Eagles return a bulk of their team and will challenge this season. Junior F Kyle Scott and senior G Jacob Wojchiehowski give Lakeland bookend stars with plenty of balance in the middle. Scott is already the all-time leading goal scorer in school history.
44. RICHLAND GULL LAKE (10-9-2): There are nine returning starters and 13 players back in uniform as the Blue Devils hope to make a push in Division 2. Senior G Kaden McCloughan leads the backfield, along with juniors Nick Tracyand Donovan Below and senior Zach Reed. Juniors Jack Hirzel and Jacob Louden are back in the midfield, while sophomore Elon Sylejmani and junior Erin Sylejmani are both returning starters at forward. Freshman AJ Boucher (M) is a highly-touted prospect.
45. MATTAWAN (12-5-5): Two years removed from its first D-2 state title, Mattawan may be a team built for the future with a loaded sophomore class, seven which are on varsity. Sophomore G Carson Foor, junior D Conner Williams, junior M Lukas Grivins, senior D Dalton Hagerman, sophomore F Joshua Filiputti, junior M James Sobol, sophomore D Chad Harrison and senior D Jalen Kraushaar are all back. Sophomore D Tommy Martinis, sophomore D/M Thatcher Dobson and junior M Brandon Sysol lead the newcomers.
46. PLAINWELL (18-3-3): This was originally tabbed as a rebuilding season, but this program began the season 6-1-1 and several newcomers have filled in voids nicely. Senior newcomer Andre Leonardi is a converted forward now playing goalkeeper, while seniors Ryan Leger (D) and Lucas Collins (D) and sophomore newbie Nikoli Emde (D) have formed a solid backfield. Juniors Nick Tiller, Devon Nelson and David Sheer and senior Sam Scalpone join forces in the midfield. Sophomore F Lucas Kalavitz, who played with the Wolves Academy last season, and junior F Jacob Leger are scoring goals in bunches. Plainwell was a regional semifinalist last season.
47. ANN ARBOR PIONEER (7-8-4): Coming off a major rebuilding season, Pioneer welcomes in a new coach in Jon Sundermann with the hopes of a comeback year. Senior D Markus Powell, who missed last season with an injury, junior D/F James Simon and junior G Ojanis Frometas are slated for big seasons. Senior D Josh Martins-Caulfield and junior M Ben Matton also return, while sophomores HJ Kim (M/D) and Andrew Lee (M) have been solid newcomers.
48. ROCHESTER (16-3-4): One of the most skilled teams in the state the past couple of years, Rochester was hard-hit by the graduation of 12 players. Plus the Falcons also lost their top two returning All-State athletes to Developmental Academy programs. Senior M Noah Scott, junior F/M Niko Stathakios, senior M Ryan Hegarty, senior M/D Matt Petrusha, senior F Spencer Christensen and senior M Suray Naderimar are the holdovers. Junior M Stefan Basecki, junior G Jasper Najar, freshman D Griffen Chamberlin, sophomore F Eli Luca and junior D Hayden Bearre lead the talented newcomers. Winners of back-to-back districts and a state semifinalist two years ago, Rochester started slow with a 1-2-3 mark on the ledger.
49. EAST GRAND RAPIDS (13-6-1): A 2-2-1 start with a sophomore-heavy squad, featuring all games against opponents expected to be ranked in their respective divisions, bodes well for EGR’s future. Sophomore M Alessio Franco, junior D Connor Claus and sophomore M Aidan Benedict will lead the way. The Pioneers, who have eight sophomores on varsity this season, reached as high as No. 5 in the D-2 rankings last season.
50. ORCHARD LAKE ST. MARY’S (11-7-1): A decade into its program and St. Mary’s returns nine starters and 13 players and could have its best season to date. Senior M Ryan Gray (All-State Third Team), senior D Teddy Kotsakis, senior G Eddie Spengler, senior M Martin Russenberger, senior M Christian Nuckholls, senior D Jacob Mauer, senior M/D Jason Strzewlicz and junior M/F Jacob Vucinaj all started games lat season. Freshman D Tristan Gabel and 6-foot-7 sophomores Peter Nwoke and Harrison Owugochu have all made an impact. The Eaglets started 4-3-0.
OTHER SCHOOLS TO WATCH:
DIVISION 1 — Birmingham Groves, Birmingham Seaholm, Bloomfield Hills, Clarkston, Dearborn, Dearborn Edsel Ford, Dearborn Fordson, Detroit Western International, Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Grosse Pointe North, Grosse Pointe South, Holland West Ottawa, Holt, Hudsonville, Lake Orion, Livonia Stevenson, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, North Farmington, Oxford, Rockford, Saginaw Heritage, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, St. Clair Shores Lakeview, Sterling Heights Stevenson, Traverse City Central, Traverse City West, Troy, Utica, Utica Ford, West Bloomfield, Woodhaven
DIVISION 2 — Alpena, Bay City Western, Chelsea, Coopersville, Dearborn Divine Child, Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy, DeWitt, Edwardsburg, Farmington, Farmington Harrison, Fenton, Gibraltar-Carlson, Goodrich, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern, Grand Rapids Northview, Hastings, Hamtramck, Holland, Holland Christian, Linden, Lowell, Marquette, Marysville, Mason, Melvindale, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, New Boston Huron, Niles, Ortonville Brandon, Otsego, Petoskey, Riverview, Spring Lake, St. Joseph, Sturgis, Tecumseh, Warren Woods-Tower
DIVISION 3 — Allegan, Alma, Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard, Belding, Benzonia Benzie Central, Big Rapids, Boyne City, Brooklyn Columbia Central, Charlevoix, Clawson, Comstock, Delton-Kellogg, Detroit Frontier International Academy, Dowagiac Union, Fennville, Flint Powers Catholic, Frankenmuth, Freeland, Fremont, Gladwin, Grand Rapids Aviation Academy, Grand Rapids Catholic Central, Grand Rapids Covenant Christian, Grand Rapids South Christian, Grand Rapids Union, Grant, Hopkins, Imlay City, Lake Fenton, Lansing Catholic, Leslie, Ludington, Macomb Lutheran North, Manistee, Montrose, Muskegon Orchard View, Ovid-Elsie, Paw Paw, Portland, Richmond, Saginaw Swan Valley, Tawas Area, West Branch Ogemaw Heights, Whitehall, Wyoming Lee, Yale
DIVISION 4 — Adrian Lenawee Christian, Allen Park Inter-City Baptist, Ann Arbor Greenhills, Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, Bad Axe, Bath, Bridgman, Buckley, Burton Genesee Christian, Capac, Clinton Twp. Faith Christian, Dansville, Davison Faith Baptist, Elk Rapids, Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian, Grand Rapids West Michigan Home School Heat, Grandville Calvin Christian, Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett, Harbor Beach, Harbor Springs, Hartford, Hillsdale Academy, Kalamazoo Christian, Lansing Christian, Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic, Lansing Home School Dragons, Lawton, Leland, Lincoln-Alcona. Madison Heights Bishop Foley Catholic, Manchester, Marcellus Howardsville Christian, Marlette, Memphis, Midland Calvary Baptist, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, Muskegon Catholic Central, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, New Buffalo, New Haven, North Muskegon, Plymouth Christian, Riverview Gabriel Richard, Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest, Roscommon, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, Saginaw Valley Lutheran, Sterling Heights Life Summit, Temperance Stateline Christian, Troy Bethany Christian, Westland Lutheran, Wyoming Potter’s House Christian