Any number of contenders in the hunt for CHSL boys soccer championship

University of Detroit Jesuit’s Nolan Morgan (11) has just enough of an edge against Brother Rice’s Giuliano Denipote to control the ball in a crucial moment in a game between these Central Division rivals. Morgan scored midway in the first half for the Cubs 1-0 victory. (Photo by Paul Kania)

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — The Catholic League boys soccer championship is a mere 14 days away.

Who will be playing in three of the four slots in the finals Wednesday, Oct. 2, is still to be determined.

Only Royal Oak Shrine in the Intersectional 2 Division has locked up its place to defend the title it won a year ago, the first in the school’s history.

At stake: the Central Division and Double A Division winners will vie for the Bishop Trophy (formerly the A-B Division), and the Intersectional 1 and 2 winners will compete for the Cardinal Trophy (formerly the C-D Division).

Chad O’Kulich, coach of Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood, put the home stretch in perspective after the Cranes slipped past Macomb Lutheran North on Sept. 17 to take over the top spot in Intersectional 1.

“The Catholic League has some outstanding soccer teams from top to bottom,” O'Kulich said. “On any given day, any team can be a winner.”

Here’s a division-by-division look at the probable contenders:

Central Division

University of Detroit Jesuit leads the division at the moment with a 3-0-2 record, adding up to 11 points (3 points for a win, one point for a tie.)

Novi Detroit Catholic Central and Warren De La Salle are tied for second place with identical 1-0-2 (5 points) records.

The Cubs can put themselves in a pretty good position to win the division by winning one of its two remaining games. That will be a daunting task as they will face the two teams they tied earlier: 3-3 against De La Salle back on Aug. 29, and 0-0 against Catholic Central on Sept. 5.

On one hand, either Catholic Central or De La Salle could win the division if it wins all three of its remaining games, but it's not likely to happen because one of the games is against each other.

Here’s the schedule: 

Sept. 19 – De La Salle at University of Detroit Jesuit; Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice at Catholic Central 

Sept. 24 – Catholic Central at De La Salle

Sept. 26 – De La Salle at Brother Rice; University of Detroit Jesuit at Catholic Central

On the other hand, it could be a serious blunder to overlook last-place Brother Rice with its 0-4 record, despite the fact that three of the losses were shutouts, with only one goal scored.

The Warriors pushed U of D Jesuit to the limit Sept. 12. Cubs coach Kevin Tuite called it “a survival game.”

Played in a game-long mist on the slick artificial turf of Rice’s Ambrose Field, senior Nolan Morgan took a pass in stride from freshman Maxwell Hendrix and drilled the ball past goalie Henry Allen for what turned out to be the game-winner at 17 minutes of the first half.

“We’re doing a lot of reshuffling of our offense,” Tuite said, “trying to find our rhythm.” U of D’s defense, however, was “as solid as it has been all year,” he said.

A rejuvenated Rice attack threatened a handful of times in the second half, only to be rebuffed time and again by Cubs senior goalie Addison Kalmbach and his cohorts in front of him.

Double A Division

Coach O’Kulich said the Cranes were “fortunate” to beat Lutheran North, 2-1, in a battle for first place. Cranbrook is 5-0-1, the Mustangs 4-1-1. They tied 2-2 in an earlier meeting.

Sophomore Zack Wittenberg put the Cranes on the board with a goal with just 36 seconds remaining in the first half.

“It was a mistake on defense,” said Lutheran North coach Brian Horvath. “Just some basic soccer stuff.”

The Mustangs got that goal back 22 minutes into the second half. Senior Andrew Finkel broke away toward the Cranes goal. When he was blocked, senior David Mueller rescued the loose ball and fired it to tie the game at 1-1.

In a span of 90 seconds, Lutheran North had three consecutive corner kicks, but were turned away by Cranbrook Kingswood goalie Charlie Hefter on a pair of point-blank shots.

“We should have had a 3-1 lead,” Horvath said.

With 3:56 left, senior Ryan Marvar blooped the ball just over the outstretched arms of North freshman goalie Joe Woloszky and just under the crossbar for the game winner.

Cranbrook hosts Dearborn Divine Child (2-3) Sept. 19 and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (1-5) Sept. 26 for its remaining games.

Lutheran North hosts Ann Arbor Greenhills (2-5) Sept. 20 and visits Divine Child Sept. 26.

Intersectional 1

Three teams are in the running: Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (5-0), Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard (3-1), and Riverview Gabriel Richard (4-2).

Liggett can control its own destiny. The remaining schedule:

Sept. 19 – Riverview Gabriel Richard at Liggett; Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard at Detroit Cristo Rey (2-5).

Sept. 24 –Liggett at Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard.

Sept. 26 – Allen Park Cabrini at Liggett; Ann Arbor Fr. Gabriel Richard at Riverview Gabriel Richard.

Intersectional 2

Royal Oak Shrine with its perfect 5-0 record has this division sewn up.

Notable: The Knights and Liggett are scheduled for a non-league game Sept. 28. If Liggett wins the Intersectional 1 division, that game could be a preview of the championship game.