BY DAN STICKRADT
WILLIAMSTON — Over the past two decades, both Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and Grand Blanc have consistently been amongst the top programs in Michigan.
The only thing separating the two powerhouses is that one owns more than one state title and the other is still seeking its first crown.
The same element is the one thing that still separates Forest Hills Central and Grand Blanc.
Top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central ran the tables as the state’s No. 1-ranked team in Division 1 and capped it with a 2-0 victory June 17 over fourth-ranked Grand Blanc in the MHSAA Division 1 state finals at the Wiliamston High School Soccer Complex.
It marked the Rangers’ fourth overall state title, with the others coming in 2005, 2007 and 2008. FHC lost in the finals back in 2003 — with those previous four title game appearances coming in Division 2.
Grand Blanc dropped its second state title match in three years and third overall with the other defeats coming in 2004 and 2015.
This day belonged to Forest Hills Central, ranked in the top 25 in the nation.
“We’ve been able to change and adapt and find ways to score goals all season long and that has been our strength,” said FHC Coach Jeremy 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,” continued Stacy. “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.”
Forest Hills Central (21-0-4) went on a 7-0 run through the state tournament. The Rangers finished with a 114-10 scoring edge in their dominating season.
Grand Blanc (22-3-4) outscored its opposition 100-24 this season but still came up agonizingly short once again. The Bobcats have also lost in the boys soccer state finals twice and the school owns a trophy case of league, district and regional titles and multiple final four berths between boys and girls soccer.
“The bad thing about this is that the girls will be remembered for this one game and that shouldn’t be the case, the state championship game,” said veteran Grand Blanc coach Greg Kehler. “All the hard work over 20-plus games and the run we had is what should be remembered. Our girls had a great run. We just lost to a great team. They deserved to win.”
Forest Hills Central outshot the Bobcats with a 15-11 shots edge, including 9-3 with shots on frame. The Rangers finished off a pair of opportunities in the second half and held off a flurry of offensive rushes by Grand Blanc’s talented arsenal of forwards.
“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.”
Senior Bailey Kohorn and sophomore Ashley Ward scored for the unbeaten Rangers (21-0-4).
Following a long pass 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 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 blasted an 18-yard shot into the net with 29:52 for what proved to be the game-winner.
Forest Hills Central tacked on an insurance goal with 5:48 to play on Ward’s tally. Kohorn clanked a shot off the crossbar and Ward was able to head home the rebound from the close range to cap the scoring.
“This is so unreal, winning it all as a senior. This is what we worked for the past four years,” said Kohorn. “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.”
Junior Emma Yoder picked up her team’s 16th shutout overall and fourth in the postseason for the Rangers. Madison McKay finished with seven saves for Grand Blanc.
“It was a great game between two very good teams,” added Stacy. “We were fortunate enough in the end to finish a couple of opportunities. I thought our defense played great slowing down their forwards. Grand Blanc has some very talented players.”