The last Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association state rankings of the season had three mid-Michigan area teams listed at No. 1 and two more at No. 4 that wound up playing for state championships.
So perhaps it’s only fitting that the best player in the mid-Michigan area — East Lansing senior DeJuan Jones — has been voted Michigan’s Mr. Soccer.
Jones scored the winning goal in overtime to enable No. 4 East Lansing to repeat as Division 2 state champions with a 4-3 victory on Saturday over Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood at Brighton.
“It’s a pretty prestigious honor, and I don’t think it’s happened before for a player in the mid-Michigan area,” Trojans coach Nick Archer said.
The Mr. Soccer award also usually goes to a player from a Division 1 school. So Archer felt maybe it helped Jones that East Lansing played most of those schools that were ranked highly — Division 1 No. 1 Okemos, Division 2 No. 1 Mason, Division 3 No. 4 (and eventual state runner-up) Williamston and Division 4 No. 1 Lansing Christian.
Two players from those schools — Mason junior Leutrim Shefkiu and Okemos senior goalkeeper Zach Kovan — joined Jones on the 11-member MIHSSCA Dream Team.
“A number of years ago, the soccer coaches association thought they would go a step above all-state and recognize the state’s best players (regardless of division),” Archer said. “The No. 1 player on the dream team would be named Mr. Soccer.”
To further show the strength of the area, a total of 35 players from mid-Michigan were named to one of the MIHSSCA all-state teams.
But the coaches recognized Jones as the best, in part, because of his clutch scoring.
He scored with 54 seconds left to lift East Lansing past No. 3 Spring Lake in a regional final that was also a rematch of last year’s state final. Then he scored the game-tying goal against Mason in a state semifinal the Trojans went on to win 3-2 in overtime.
“They saw how he played on both sides of the ball (offense and defense), and how he took it upon himself when the opportunity arose to make something happen,” Archer said. “In a lot of critical games this year, he was the guy we were able to get the ball to, and the guy who put it away.”
That was important, because Jones’ total number of goals and assists is lower than some of the top players from other schools.
“We don’t really score a lot of goals at East Lansing, because we don’t play an easy schedule, and because we carry a good number of kids on our squad,” Archer said. “Once we get a three-goal lead, we get other guys playing experience. So it’s not easy to get up there (with a lot of total goals).”
“When Coach Archer told me, it was a total shock,” Jones said. “I have been focusing on a state championship and my teammates.”
He admitted the state championship he was focused on — and the game-tying goal and two game-winning goals that helped East Lansing repeat — helped him win the award.
“I think they played a big part in it,” Jones said.
35 MID-MICHIGAN AREA ALL-STATERS
DeJuan Jones (East Lansing sr.) Mr. Soccer, MIHSSCA Dream Team, Division 2 all-state first team
Leutrim Shefkiu (Mason jr.) MIHSSCA Dream Team, Division 2 all-state first team
Zach Kovan (Okemos sr. G) MIHSSCA Dream Team, Division 1 all-state first team
Eric Oesterle (Williamston jr. D) Division 3 all-state first team
Jacob Lyon (Lansing Christian jr. M) Division 4 all-state first team
Cal Brogan (Okemos sr. D) Division 1 all-state second team
Isiah Handspike (DeWitt jr. G) Division 2 all-state second team
Andy Millar (East Lansing sr. M) Division 2 all-state second team
Shady Omar (Haslett sr. F) Division 2 all-state second team
Noah Thelen (Mason sr. G) Division 2 all-state second team
Adam Stowe (Owosso sr. M) Division 2 all-state second team
Jacob Szombati (Lansing Catholic sr. G) Division 3 all-state second team
Josh Ward (Williamston jr. M) Division 3 all-state second team
Chase Hansen (Lansing Christian jr. G) Division 4 all-state second team
Luke Menne (Grand Ledge sr. M) Division 1 all-state third team
Nate Fiddrill (DeWitt jr. M) Division 2 all-state third team
Holden Dippel (Mason jr. D) Division 2 all-state third team
John Kingman (Mason jr. D) Division 2 all-state third team
Josh Flint (Williamston sr. M) Division 3 all-state third team
Jake Iannarelli (Williamston sr. G) Division 3 all-state third team
Alex McDowell (Lansing Christian jr. M) Division 4 all-state third team
Travon Rogers (Everett sr. D) Division 1 all-state honorable mention
Tyler Bailey (Okemos sr.) Division 1 all-state honorable mention
Eric DesChenes (DeWitt jr. M) Division 2 all-state honorable mention
Brandon DeSmyter (DeWitt jr. M) Division 2 all-state honorable mention
Zach Lane (East Lansing jr. M) Division 2 all-state honorable mention
Ryan Gross (Fowlerville sr. M) Division 2 all-state honorable mention
Austin Montas-Burt (Mason sr. F) Division 2 all-state honorable mention
Brevan Bender (Alma jr. F) Division 3 all-state honorable mention
Giovanni Polini (Alma sr. M) Division 3 all-state honorable mention
Adam Elias (Lansing Catholic sr. M) Division 3 all-state honorable mention
Trenton Mulnix (Leslie sr. F) Division 3 all-state honorable mention
Aidan Pace (Williamston sr. F) Division 3 all-state honorable mention
Malachi Marshall (Laingsburg sr. M) Division 4 all-state honorable mention
Martin Lang (Lansing Christian sr. F) Division 4 all-state honorable mention