BY DAN STICKRADT
WEB AND CONTENT EDITOR
DEXTER, Mich. – When Dexter learned back in the summer that the team would be competing this year down in Division 2 after several seasons up in Division 1, the Dreadnaughts saw it as an opportunity.
Dexter competes in the eight-school Southeastern Conference Red Division as the only Division 2 school within its division. The Dreadnaughts spent the last five years in Division 1 – but as a small Division 1 school. League opponents Ann Arbor Pioneer (1,938), Ann Arbor Huron (1,868), Monroe (1,766), Ann Arbor Skyline (1,536), Saline (1,683), Temperance Bedford (1,425) are all significantly larger than Dexter. Only SEC- Red Division member Ypsilanti Lincoln (1,160) is close in enrollment.
Several of the Dreadnaughts’ non-league opponents were also Division 1 schools.
“We saw it as a great chance,” said senior JP Assenmacher, the team’s most experienced player, about playing in Division 2 this season. “When our coach to us that we were in Division 2 at the beginning of the season, I thought we could very well win a district. We have some talent, some young talent, but we wouldn’t be playing (larger) schools.”
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This year Dexter finished sixth of the eight teams in the league, which also has the six-school SEC-White Division and that features schools much closer in size enrollment-wise to Dexter. In the state tournament, the school captured its first district title since 2018. Even in 2020 when the Dreadnaughts finished 12-2-1 the school couldn’t advance out of its district.
Jamie Lewis, Dexter’s co-coach along with Drew Ducker, also felt his team’s chances for a run increased simply by dropping down to Division 2. Instead of being one of the smallest D-1 schools, Dexter is now one of the largest D-2 schools with around 1,140 students.
“We knew that this helped us competing against schools closer to our size,” admitted Lewis about being down in D-2 this season. “You look at the Ann Arbor schools and Saline, even Monroe, and they are all much larger than us. We love competing against them. It’s great competition with great players and our league is so tough. But once we saw that we were in Division 2, we knew we had a better chance, especially with such a young roster.”
Dexter outscored its three district opponents 12-4, topping Garden City (3-0), eighth-ranked Walled Lake Western (4-1) and SEC-White Division champion Ypsilanti Community (5-3) to win its district title. The Dreadnaughts bowed out with a regional semifinals loss to Dearborn Divine Child (7-1), a game much closer than what the final score indicated.
Dexter finished 12-8-1 this season, outscoring the opposition 47-44 with three shutouts. The roster featured seven sophomores and a freshman that play regularly, plus Assenmacher missed a handful of games due to injury. Assenmacher is one of the state’s best players, making the Michigan Soccer Network’s Top 45 Field Players To Watch List at the beginning of the season and was All-State Third Team last year. Dexter will only graduate a small amount of players and most of the starting 11 should be back next year.
Sophomore Hayden Gaetino (D/F), sophomore Tyler Craig (ACM/F), sophomore twins Dane Bargara (CB) and Andrew Barbara (OM), senior Owen Bruderly (CB/F), junior Tristan Snyder (CB), junior Nicholas Kiss (OB/F), junior Sam Renaud (G), senior Luke Nevin (F/M), senior Vaughn Meyer (D), sophomore Kyle Gehitter (G) and freshman Carter Weiss (F) are some of the other top performers this season.
Assenmacher was named All-League in the SEC-Red for the third season, while he is joined by several other Dreadnaughts on the Division 2 All-District team.
With most of the roster set to be back next season, Dexter could be a force to be reckoned with in 2024.