Tag Archives: MHSAA

Grand Rapids Catholic Central Sinks the Mariners to Earn 3rd Straight Title

It may seem a bit odd to claim the defending back to back MHSAA Division 5 state champions had to overcome incredible adversity this season to claim their third straight title. However, early this season, the Cougars were delivered a significant blow when senior quarterback Joey Silveri was sidelined for the season with a knee injury.

The stalwart slinger’s loss was a challenge that the cougars answered in spades. Central Catholic turned to John Passinault and the train kept rolling with the greatest test coming in the season finale at Ford Field.

Despite being heavily favored, the Marine City Mariners battled to keep things within just three points at 10-7 deep into the second half. Neither team could sustain drives and both defenses played incredibly well all evening. That stalemate began to unwind and the repeated blows finally wore the Mariners down.

When the levy finally broke, the Cougars proved ready to ride the wave and poured on points on the offensive and defensive ends. Central Catholic closed the book on the 2021 season with their third straight title: 31-7.

Detroit MLK withstands Comeback Attempt and Goal Line Stand against Dewitt

The Detroit Martin Luther King Crusaders seemed poised to dominate the defending Division 3 champions, Dewitt Panthers, in the 2021 high school football swan song and both teams have fans one last ride to remember.

Despite being heavily in control of the momentum and direction of the game, Detroit MLK was on the receiving end of a comeback that could only come from a team playing with the kind of championship confidence that the Panthers brought with them on Saturday night.

The Panthers forced several turnovers and managed to get going offensively behind Mr. Football candidate and Brown University commit Ty Holtz. The effort flipped the script and had them up over the #1 ranked Crusaders, 21-19, at half.

Both teams came out in the second half and an absolute slugfest of Michigan high school football juggernauts ensued the final 24 minutes. The back and forth was finally broken when Crusader quarterback Dante Wright, a favorite for Mr. Football and five-star recruit, led his squad down the field to take the lead, 25-21, late in the fourth quarter.

Dewitt wasn’t done, however, and marched down the field where they were stymied on a fourth and goal from the one yard line that left them just inches short of the end zone and regaining the advantage. Detroit MLK managed to push ahead and gain two first downs that sealed the game and ran out the remaining clock to earn the final state football title of 2021.

Pumas Set Course Ablaze at Michigan International Speedway

Lezawe Osterink, better known to his friends as Moses, arrived at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS) with a clear eyed view to be the first across the finish line on Saturday morning in the Division 4 cross country state finals. That vision was realized and his time of 15:50 put the small school standout among the top runners in the state regardless of class. The state champion’s run was not as easy at it may have appeared to outsiders.

“Going into the race I knew I was the heavy favorite to win, but I really just wanted to post a good time that would compare with (the best times) in the whole state.” His race strategy was to run a 4:55 pace for the first mile and maintain the pace as best he could in the second.

However, a few elements made that strategy shift early on. “MIS is a great course that is smooth and really flat for the most part and would be a really fast course on days that are not windy and muddy like Saturday.” Despite the early morning conditions, which largely began to wane as the sun came out for later races, Osterink found himself alone in first place entering the track portion of the course and had to will himself to the finish. “The hardest part of the race was definitely the last 1k when you enter the race track. That was where I felt like I wasn’t moving, my legs were heavy, and the wind and mud were really bad there.”

Osterink’s strategy may have shifted throughout the race, but his role as the division 4 favorite did not. He entered the final stretch without another runner in sight and never let his competitors close the incredible distance he had put between them. The Potter’s House had its first cross country state champion as Osterink crossed the finish line with more runners in tow to bring it home for the Pumas.

The Potter’s House Boys XC team was plagued with injuries this year and forced the squad to shift strategy and expectations at MIS. The Pumas second finisher on Saturday, Logan Swiney, explained how injuries impacted his strategy going into the season’s final race. “Originally, my plan was to go out conservative and hang back around 30th place. Then I would slowly make my way up and get around top 10.” Things fell apart after the first mile and the impact of injuries and time away from training began to set in for Swiney who managed to overcome the odds and finish 25th and earn all state honors.

Injuries also forced some changes to the makeup of the Pumas roster with Ian Palacios out for the season. Potter’s House adopted the next-man-up mentality and turned to freshman and Moses Osterink’s younger brother, Reed Osterink, who delivered in a big way despite the grandeur of the moment. Swiney commented about the impact the freshman had on the team’s final push during regionals and the state final. “(Reed) has been showing that he is a key factor on the team and will continue to be one in the next three years. I was very proud of his clutch performance in the regional as well as state.”

The Puma boys managed to finish 12th overall out of the top 27 division 4 teams in the state and all runners finished sub-20 minutes, one of just five teams in division four to claim that feat.

The Puma girls cross country team also qualified for state, a first for the girls team and both squads were thrilled to attend and compete as a program. The girls, for their part, were led by sophomore, Ivy Andreas, who finished 14th overall in division 4 with a time of 20:01. Hannah Geaney crossed a little over a minute later and a slew of Pumas followed close behind. The efforts of the historic run placed the girls 15th, a tremendous accomplishment, as they came into Saturday ranked 25th out of 27 of the top teams in division 4. They ran with a desire propelled by the history they were making as a unit and passed ten teams predicted to finish ahead of them.

Andreas noticed how hard it was to compete in such a unique format as the state final. “It was hard to get out front when there are so many girls running.” Despite the difficult circumstances, Andreas knew what her goals were on Saturday. “My plan was to not focus on the time as much as just placing top 20. I was ranked 17th in division 4, so I just wanted to fulfill that prediction. It was hard to get out in front during that first mile, so I had to pass a lot of girls in mile 2 and 3.” The two-sport fall athlete, who also stars as the Libero on the Pumas volleyball team, did just that and finished ahead of predictions.

The Pumas bring home three all state runners and the hardware to prove it, but while those mementos will be cherished, taking the course at MIS as a team one last time this season was a priceless experience.

Swiney remarked, “I have ran at MIS every year since I was a freshman. I can still remember looking out of my bus window seeing the huge grandstands and realizing how naïve and simple minded I was in the past. I joined cross country because I was good at track and wanted to hang out with my friends. Going to state wasn’t even a thought I considered. (MIS) is special. It’s the place that every XC runner in Michigan dreams of going.”

Andreas noticed how unique the fan support was in such a large stadium in her first appearance at MIS. “It was a really incredible experience. I honestly felt super important running so close to a huge stadium and seeing countless people rallied all throughout the course to watch the race.”

Oosterink’s drive was not satisfied with an individual state championship on Saturday. The junior is ready to come back for more in 2022. “The team did good for having many injury problems this season. I think we all had a higher team placement in mind, but we did our best and we had some great times. (I am) already thinking about contending for a championship next year!”

Boys Results:

1 Lezawe OSTERINK 15:50.60
25 Logan SWINEY 17:08.33
145 Caleb KOOYER 19:00.79
160 Reed OSTERINK 19:14.91
178 Zechariah RUBINGH 19:33.47
179 Noah FINTON 19:33.78
180 Malachi VERWYS 19:37.61

Girls Results:

14 Ivy ANDREAS 20:01.67
60 Hannah GEANEY 21:13.47
126 Erika VERBEEK 22:25.44
197 Samara SUWYN 24:22.14
199 Megan VERMERRIS 24:30.10
216 Lydia VERBEEK 25:36.82
228 Sara KOOISTRA 26:44.06

State Champions: Potter’s House Victorious over Everest Collegiate Academy

One word, perhaps, best defines the 2021 Potter’s House Pumas boys soccer team: Pressure.

The elite squad helmed by head coach Mike Colago and assistant coach Chris Reinsma, has embraced pressure as part of their identity during their incredible postseason run in both terms of its application to their opponents and their own ability to overcome it. The Pumas overcame several pressure moments during the historic slog through some of the state’s most storied programs, falling behind a goal in overtime against West Michigan Christian, dropping 1-0 early against Calvin Christian and battling late into the game with things tied 0-0 against North Muskegon. At every turn, the Pumas answered the pressure situation with aplomb.

When the Pumas weren’t feeling the pressure, they were applying it with a tenacious backline, unrelenting midfield and precise strikers. Saturday was no different as they squared off with the Everest Collegiate Academy Mountaineers in Novi, MI.

The Pumas got things started with a series of shots from senior Jonathan Stout that painted every edge of the goal except the net and kept things scoreless in the early going. Everest responded with two shots on goal that very nearly put the Mountaineers up early. One shot in particular, came to rest and sat perilously just outside the net off a deflection by Puma goalie, Seth Hoeksema. The senior standout jumped on top to maintain things at a neutral 0-0.

If fans were watching with bated breath, Hoeksema fell back on instinct and experience. “I don’t even really remember what happened. I just remember (Everest) had a super hard shot on the ground right by my feet and managed to get something on it. (I) turned around and saw the ball slowly rolling over the red line and knew that I had to get it before it got to the yellow. Afterwards, I was almost in shock that I did that because that was one of the best double saves of my high school career.”

The series of saves continued the Puma defense’s stellar play and kept them in the hunt for the team’s third shutout in as many games and the moment was not lost on the senior standout goalie.

“I think (the saves) were absolutely massive. We’ve had experiences as a team of going down early in postseason games two years in a row to Calvin and I knew how hard of a hole that is to get out of, so I knew that I just had to do everything in my power to keep those out, not only for myself, but for my teammates.”

While the defense kept things tied up, the offense was continuing to apply constant pressure to the Everest defense. Stout managed to put the Pumas on the board from a center strike off his right foot that flew deep into the net and gave the squad the advantage midway through the first half.

“I had noticed pretty early that there was a bit of a gap between the midfield and the back line, so if I got past the guy that was on me I was looking to shoot before the back line could step up on me, and that’s exactly what happened on that play. I won the ball and started going at the back line and so I just shot it before the back line could step up on me. Once the ball went in I was just thinking, ‘wow we’re in the state finals right now, and we’re winning!’ Until the ball went in I still hadn’t grasped how close we really were to being state champions.”

The goal off Stout’s right foot may not have been, however. The Michigan State soccer commit has been a standout for years and earned a spot with Midwest United this year. However, he was barred from participating on both teams congruently and had to make a choice. “I thought I was going to be playing for Midwest United this fall but after having to choose one or the other mid-season, the investment that I had made with these boys and the time I had spent with them was what ultimately made me decide to play for Potters House instead of playing academy this fall.” The decision has paid off for the Pumas this year and the postseason was no exception.

If there was any sense that the Pumas would pull back and remain content to play out the remainder of the half and game with the lead, it was quickly put to rest. The Pumas continued their unrelenting pressure and, far from getting complacent, seemed excited by the proverbial blood in the water.

A loose ball seemed to be harmlessly rolling to the Everest defense when senior Jok Nhial tore towards it with a determination that seemed to catch the Everest back line by surprise. “I was thinking to myself, ‘If I keep applying pressure, eventually they’re going to break and there’s going to be openings for us to score.” Nhial put action to that belief and beat the defense to a ball that otherwise seemed like a fruitless attempt. Nhial got to the ball first and punched it ahead to Rukundo Masengesho who in turn, delivered it to the streaking Yosi Mukando who fired a shot through the pipes, just above the Everest goalie’s outstretch arms and put the Pumas up 2-0. “It felt great to have that goal be the outcome of me applying pressure to that back line,” Nhial said of the hustle play.

Mukando knew he’d have a shot on goal and handled the pressure moment like a veteran. “I could hear the sound of people screaming ‘hit the ball!'” He detailed his mindset in that moment, “It was a good pass from Rukundo and I was not too impatient to score a goal.”

The Pumas again remained unfettered by the seeming comfortable two goal advantage and while the early pressure was surmounted by the Pumas, their constant application on the other end began to overwhelm Everest.

Puma midfielder Masengesho finessed his way through layers of defenders and shot the ball, which ended up creating an own-goal situation by the Mountaineers. The Pumas closed out the half with the 3-0 lead and remained aggressive in the second half, but with their lines shifted back guarding the sizable advantage on the scoreboard.

Everest never put the Pumas in serious peril after the early shots on goal and Potter’s House sealed the victory 3-0 to earn the school’s first ever team state championship.

Hoeksema had high praise for his coaches and teammates on completing their third straight shutout and credited his continual improvement to the team’s overall efforts. “I think throughout this entire season I have been able to continuously get better, but most certainly the postseason helped. I think one of the main reasons for (my improvement) is coach Chris, he just always brought us to a new level. Another reason would have to be my back line. We’ve all been playing together for at least two years and I really just wanted to win for them. I just can’t be prouder of the entire team. It was just such a good run this postseason, especially from the backline and I think that was proven through our last three games being shutouts.”

Coach Colago remarked on the team’s championship and efforts this season. “Yesterday’s game was a culmination of full team buy-in and effort throughout the season. We had committed ourselves to open gyms, skill workouts, and summer training and scrimmages to get to this championship level. We had four pillars on the season: motivation, confidence, mental stability, and team cohesion. Each one of these was fulfilled. The four pillars were in and among the boys all season long through any trial and hard moment. They stuck together. We had three trophy goals: to win the Dansville tournament, to win conference, and to win district. We did all of them and also put regional and state champs as extras! They succeeded above and beyond.”

While the Pumas’ post-game celebrations have been nothing but extraordinary and jubilant, Saturday’s postgame events seemed to strike a different chord. Senior Puma defender, Zach Reinsma, sensed the difference in tone after claiming victory in the state final game. “I think the excitement was a different type of excitement, we had been so excited to move on the to the next round in every other game and the last win was finishing the job, everyone was still really excited but I think for a lot of us it was kind of surreal and a lot of us were just enjoying the moment and realizing that it was over, but we had finally done it.”

Nhial felt overwhelming gratitude for the team’s accomplishment. “All I can say is, all thanks be to God. It was no mistake that we were all put together in this situation and more than half of our line up has been playin soccer together since we were in 7th grade, but it feels great to have done this with such a special and talented group of guys.”

While Stout, a four year all-state player, has garnered much of the attention from the media and opposing defenses, alike, the Pumas postseason run made one thing very clear, it took every boy dressed in navy & white to make the dream a reality. Colago expressed just how crucial a total team effort had been to their success this season. “Everybody’s contribution was positive and necessary for this group to succeed. The guys sacrificed, played for each other, persevered through past fears, and came out stronger to eventual champions… Each guy should be remembered as a valued member of a team that prayed together, was in fellowship together, and won trophies together!”

Stout echoed his coach. “It’s amazing, these are guys that I have been waking up before 6 with to lift and train before school, even in the spring and summer putting in hours doing passing and shooting drills… But not even just that, I obviously go to school with these guys and see them every day and joke around whenever we see each other. This was a family, and we all wanted to win for each other more than we wanted to win for ourselves, and that not only helped us win, but made the wins that much sweeter.”

Colago concluded, “I love these guys like they are my own sons and I am forever grateful for these last three months with them. They will go down in Puma history as champions and they will be better men because of this experience together!”

A common colloquialism in athletics is “finish.” While all teams will have their curtain call at some point during the postseason, only one team gets to have it on their own terms. This season, that call was answered by the boys of Potter’s House in resounding and united fashion.

Potter’s House Claims Victory over Alliance League Foe Black River: Advances to State Championship

Wednesday night played out much like the rest of the postseason for the Potter’s House Pumas (Wyoming). The senior-laden squad has rode suffocating defense and constant offensive pressure through each round and against a gauntlet of some of the state’s top teams in division 4.

The pumas contest against Black River (Holland) was no exception as the two squared off at Pat Patterson Stadium in Kentwood, MI to decide which would be traveling to Novi this Saturday in hopes of earning a state championship.

Things seemed firmly in control for the pumas from the outset and the #6 ranked team was able to maintain ball control in the Black River zone most of the game. As a low scoring affair, soccer can swing for an underdog on a single play and Black River was not without opportunities of their own.

The River Rats were able to sneak the ball deep into puma territory, past an excellent back line, before being stifled on each shot by Potter’s House standout goalie, Seth Hoeksema.

Hoeksema and the puma defenders posted their second shutout of the postseason and in as many weeks.

While the Potter’s House defense took care of their end, it was time for the attackers to handle things on the other.

Puma senior and Michigan State commit, Jonathan Stout, made several incredible runs, often weaving in and out of wave after wave of Black River a laser-focused defense, but came up short on each attempt. A series of deflected or mishandled passes, Black River tackles and missed shots left things tied at 0-0.

That is until Stout pushed things into a higher gear.

Like a chef, sweetening the seasoning of a fine dish, Stout had trialed his big move several times in the first half. As the teams entered the final stretch in the first forty minutes, Stout once again sliced and diced his way through the defense and took a quality strike from centerfield, burned it past the River Rat goalie and buried the ball in the back of the net. Pumas 1 – River Rats 0.

That is how things would stand the rest of the night and the Pumas advance to yet another round of new territory, this time in the state championship game.

Potter’s House will face Clarkston Everest Collegiate this Saturday at 3pm at Novi High School for a chance to bring home the pumas first state championship in any sport.

Kent City Returns with State Finalist Trophy in Tow

There is an old adage in basketball: end on a make. The quip relates to players’ seeming necessity to not end a shooting session or practice until they can end on a made basket. The final score did not reflect the outcome the Eagles had hoped it would as Grass Lake held on for the narrow 52-50 win at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, MI, but Kent City did what all competitors hope to do: end on a make. Despite the outcome being different than hoped, the Eagles capped off their season in a fitting way, making the final bucket of the 2021 Division 3 season.

As things kicked off on Friday afternoon, Grass Lake was clearly the beneficiary of fresh legs after their semifinal game on Wednesday was cancelled by forfeit and the Warriors came out firing on all cylinders. Kent City managed to hold Grass Lake All State performers, Lexus Bargesser and Abrie Cabana under wraps in the first half. That focus led to a wild shooting day for Grass Lake’s Gabi Lutchka. Lutchka played lights out in the first half with 14 points, including four three point buckets, before the Eagles held her scoreless in the second half. While the Eagles were able to spread the scoring around in the first half and benefitted from two stellar three point buckets by Taryn Preston, the Eagles shot a solid, but sustainable percentage from the field. That shooting kept them in the game, but the Eagles fell behind by double digits and looked to be out of it multiple times, only to rally back each and every time.

Bargesser took over the scoring duties in the second half for Grass Lake, most coming on fast break layups, and finished the day with an impressive stat line of 16 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 1 block. The Warriors finish the season 20-1 and Division 3 champion.

The Eagles were led by senior guards Jenna Harrison and Kenzie Bowers who finished with 16 and 13, respectively. The Eagles finish their season 21-1 and brought home the school’s first ever girls basketball state finalist trophy. In the end, the Eagles battled back every time it appeared they were out of it and fell just two points short with the season ending 52-50 loss. This won’t be the last time these seniors see the hardwood as Kenzie Bowers heads to Illinois State and Jenna Harrison will continue her basketball career at Sienna Heights next year. The 2021 senior class will be a tough hole to fill, but if this post-season has showed one thing, it is that the Eagles have a bright future ahead of them with several returners ready to take over as program leaders.

Eagles Fly High on way to State Championship

The Kent City Eagles (21-0) received their first real test of the post-season against undefeated Calumet High School, but answered the call to hand the Copper Kings their first loss of the season in the state semi-final game. Calumet ends their season with a record of 20-1.

While much of the Kent City plaudits are doled out to the senior pair of Jenna Harrison and Kenzie Bowers, and deservedly so, the Eagles were driven largely by underclassman in the early going.

The game opened up for the Eagles with freshman Maddie Geers leading the way on the scoreboard, breaking loose inside the Copper King defense and finding her way to the bucket on several trips down the court. Things began to slow on the offensive end for Kent City and shots were uncharacteristically off the mark in the unfamiliar confines of the Breslin Center arena. They were off the mark, that is, until another underclassman, sophomore guard Lexie Bowers, came alive and dropped repeated triples that pulled the Eagles from several possessions behind to a small lead part way through the second quarter. Though Lexie Bowers didn’t post anymore points after that blitz, the run was crucial to getting Kent City back into things when they needed it most.

That flurry put Kent City in the driver’s seat most of the rest of the afternoon. Calumet made several runs throughout the game and even took the lead again on a few occasions, but those early runs enabled other Eagles to find their shooting touch and join the scoring fun.

The bigger court neutered the Kent City press to some degree and the arena setting cooled early shooting, but the Eagles pushed on until things started to click up and down the roster. Despite a slow shooting start, Jenna Harrison rallied back in the second half to lead all Eagles scorers with 15 and was followed by Maddie Geers (14), Kenzie Bowers (13), Lexie Bowers (10) and Emmalyn Geers (7). In the end, the Eagles held on for the 59-53 semi-final victory.

Once again, Kent City showed that they win games as a team and has players capable of stepping up to score when others start cold. The team first mentality is behind so much of the Eagles’ success this season and they will need to conjure every ounce of it when they face the vaunted Warriors of Grass Lake High School who notably beat Detroit Renaissance; a team that will be participating in the Division 1 State Final this week.

Despite the long odds and underdog status, Kent City seems prepped to slug it out with anyone.

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