Forest Hills lacrosse originally started in the mid 1980’s. Jamie and Mike Engels and his family are credited with starting the program within the district in 1986. Dr. Engels, a graduate of Notre Dame University, played on the Irish lacrosse team, and Mike was a sophomore. In 1987, Joe Engels stepped in and took over as head coach. In 1990, Mike came in as head coach and won the championship. FHC was the first program in the GR area and actually allowed a student from EGR to play on the team the first year (1986), as EGR did not have a team yet. It was not until the next year (1987) that EGR started a lax team and an intense rivalry started with FHC taking the upper hand through the early 90’s.
Along with East Grand Rapids, the Forest Hills team started to play teams around Michigan (especially the Detroit area) and often found themselves traveling throughout the Great Lakes Region to find opponents.
Since the 1980’s there have been hundreds of lacrosse players, parents, coaches, and volunteers through the Forest Hills program…student-athletes from Forest Hills Central and Northern combined to make up the original teams. The Forest Hills cooperative team even claimed a Division B Club State Championship in 1990. There were and are so many community members that deserve recognition for helping to foster lacrosse in Forest Hills…it was truly a community effort.
In 2005 the Michigan High School Athletic Association began to sanction lacrosse in the state of Michigan. The undeniable growth led to numerous schools adding teams, therefore leading to change throughout the state and within Forest Hills.
In 2007 the growth of the sport within Forest Hills had become so tremendous that it was necessary to have two varsity teams. With the help and guidance of Athletic Directors: Tom Walters, John Dolce and Clark Udell the Forest Hills Central and Forest Hills Northern/Eastern teams formed. The two teams did not play each other in their inaugural seasons, but both were very successful in their own right. Forest Hills Northern Eastern won the conference championship in the Tier 2 division of the West Michigan Lacrosse (OK) Conference. Forest Hills Central won the MHSAA Regional Championship and was a member of the state final four.
The two teams started their friendly rivalry on March 27th, 2008. Amongst the snow, the highly competitive game went to the team from Central, 10-6. With the completion of that game, the two coaches (Tony Quinn FHC and Jake Heglund FHN/E) decided to establish a perpetual trophy. The KING of THE HILLS trophy is in possession of the team who is victorious. It was created by Andrew Smith (FHC 2009) and Industrial Arts teacher, George Dykstra. The trophy, displayed with great pride, by the team that becomes “The King of the Hill.” (See “Rivalry Games” page for other key games)
In 2014 the growth of lacrosse in West Michigan and Forest Hills caused another change. The separation of the Forest Hills Northern and Eastern cooperative team. Thus, all three high school began competing as individual schools.
Since 2007 the success of the FHC lacrosse program has been a model to program throughout the state and Midwest. At the completion of the 2014 season “The Program” has accumulated:
2 State Championships
2 State Runners Up
4 Conference Championships
7 Regional Championship
7 Final Four Appearances
4 MHSAA Academic Team Recognitions
2 MHSAA Sportsmanship Awards
16 All Americans (Field and Academic)
52 All State Athletes
14 All State Academic Athletes
45 All Conference Athletes
60 All Region Athletes
5 Coach of the Year Awards
3 Assistant Coach of the Year Awards
2014 marked the first year FHC had the opportunity to compete in the North American Lacrosse Invitational. They finished 1-1 in the invitation only event which features the best 12 teams in the Midwest and Canada based on legacy and tradition of success on the field. FHC became the first West Michigan and public school to ever participate in this event.