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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Time to make those selections!
Selections in bold.

Division 1 - Rockford vs. Macomb Dakota

Rockford goes for their third straight Division 1 title. Only three teams have won at least three in a row - Detroit Catholic Central, Detroit dePorres, and, of course, Farmington Hills Harrison. Pretty elite company. Macomb Dakota is making their first appearance in the state finals. Led by quarterback James Stallons, who has verbally committed to Wisconsin, and coach Mike Giannone the Cougars have a conference loss to Utica Ford, and struggled with Utica Eisenhower in their two meetings this year. That's enough to tip the scale in my book to Rockford, who plays in the about to get tougher OK-Red Conference. It has a reputation as the top conference in the state for a reason. Add a coach who's won over 200 varsity contests, and I have to go with the Rams.

Division 2 - Muskegon vs. Warren DeLaSalle

I'm a Big Red. Graduated in 1979. Ended up as a historian because of Big Red football. My kids go to Muskegon Public Schools. I serve on the board of the Big Red Athletic Foundation. I bleed Red.

When Muskegon plays, I will always dismiss myself from the press box for at least a portion of the game. You see - there's no cheering in the press box. That makes it tough.

Muskegon's won 715 game since they picked up a football in 1895. They earned 12 mythical football titles before the MHSAA added the football playoffs to the landscape. They've won three titles since.

The Big Reds could be playing the Chicago Bears, and while my mind might think otherwise, I'd still go with the Big Reds. I'll make it up on the other picks.

So - here's hoping for a fourth pigskin crown... and that the Pilots are not the Chicago Bears...

Thanks for the best wishes Tim! Keep your eye on #2... Some college will be glad they found him...

Division 3 - East Grand Rapids vs. Farmington Hills Harrison

This may very well be the top game of the weekend. These two met on one other occasion, from what I can see. It was the infamous "Ice Bowl". Won 3-2, Mother Nature negated any advantage that Mill "The Thrill" Coleman brought to Farmington Hills Harrison on this nasty day at Flint's Atwood Stadium. A field goal followed by a intentional safety late in the game by Coleman, taken to insure no fumble could erase the slim lead, was all it took to earn a trip to Pontiac. There, Coleman would show off his wares in a classic comeback win against DeWhat...err...DeWitt for the Class B state title, in what still ranks as the top final contest I ever witnessed.

So, does Harrison have the horses to stop the Gradys - QB DeMarcus and Kevin's little brother Kelvin? Do they have an answer to the size of the Pioneer line, which includes 6-5 340 lbs Darrell Davis-Budanauro (is he still going to Michigan State?) and 6-6, 260 lbs tight end/tackle Preston Burrell? What about Dan Laarman? How about fullback Luke Glendening?

Can East deal with the Harrison receiving trio of Mark Dell, tight end Calvin Mann, and Dan Sirovy? Can they deal with the state No. 2 coach in all-time football victories, and his stellar staff of assistants?


Heads itís Harrison, Tails its East

And the new Liberty nickel saysÖ..


Division 4 - Zeeland West vs. Coopersville

With the arrival of the Dux at Ford Field, John Shillito will have brought three different schools to the dance during his coaching career. Only Irv Sigler ever ran the Wing-T as well. Still, Shillito has yet to win the big one. Will West be the one?

Jim Meerman, working on year 22 of his head coaching career, has the Broncos back for an impressive third visit to the title game. He's still looking for his first win.

After watching the Dux give Muskegon all they could handle a little earlier in the season, I'm giving the nod to Zeeland West in the all-West match up.

Division 5 - Menominee vs. Madison Heights Madison

This is the first appearance for Madison Heights Madison in the state finals and only the third time the team has qualified for the playoffs. First was 1985. Next was 20 years later in 2005. Now, Madison and 28-year-old head coach Ryan Culloty are in the spotlight.

Waiting for them is Ken Hofer and his Maroons. Hofer began his head coaching career in Stephenson where he spent two years before moving on to Menominee. That start came in 1964. I was three.

Hofer took three years off back in the early 70's and yet he still ranks No. 10 in all-time football victories. Word is that he was assisting Bill Walsh develop the West Coast Offense. I don't know if I believe that one. All I know is give him those three years and a bunch of forfeits from the fall of 1966 and the state's list of 300 game winners goes from six to seven in a year.

I assume Hofer is still running the single wing. If so, I guess the old adage, "age and treachery will overcome youth and skill" fits this game to a tee. Haslett had NO idea what was happening that last time this offense came to a Dome near the Motor City. Unless Culloty has stumbled upon a treasure chest of 1948 University of Michigan game films, I see similar trouble ahead.

Division 6 - Inkster vs. Saginaw Nouvel

Gregory Carter, the former head coach at Detroit St. Martin dePorres, has the chance to join Pete Kutches as the only coach to win state titles at two different schools. Kutches pulled it off as coach of Muskegon Catholic and Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (remember "The Catch"?)

Considering that the personnel changes at Inkster have created a team that bears striking similarities to the dePorres team of old, and the fact that Carter is an outstanding coach, I have to go with the Vikings. Especially since they put up 53 points on Montague a week ago...

Division 7 - Muskegon Catholic Central vs. Grass Lake

Team Records
Appearances in MHSAA Football Finals

16 - Farmington Hills Harrison (1976, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2006)
13 - Detroit St Martin dePorres (1978, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2003, 2004)
12 - Detroit Catholic Central (1979, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003)
10 - Birmingham Brother Rice (1977, 1980, 1983, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005)
10 - Mendon (1982, 1983, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005)
10 - Muskegon Catholic Central (1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1991,1995, 2000, 2001, 2006)
10 - Crystal Falls-Forest Park (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1981, 1984, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006)
8 - Jackson Lumen Christi (1977, 1979, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005)
8 - East Grand Rapids (1976, 1983, 1993, 1994, 1995, 2002, 2003, 2006)

Look over that list. Click here, then scan down a bit to count the number of state titles owned by these teams.

Hence, I'm going with the Crusaders - especially since they own my favorite Son of Swami nickname of all time...MCC(ABE)

Division 8 - Crystal Falls Forest Park vs. New Lothrop
Is the third time the charm? Coach Bill Santilli's Trojans are due. Two years ago, they Climax-Scotts at Pontiac. Last year, it was to Mendon. The 2005 trip gave the kids the chance to check out the palatial digs of Ford Field. Now they can get down to the business of snagging one of those Championship Trophies to go with the pair the school won back in 1975 and 1976. Back in the days when Santilli roamed the field with a football in his handÖ.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ford Field Follies, the Best of Breslin, and Ron Cooks?
OK - my first two homework assignments are complete.

Annually, I have the opportunity to display the fruits of my research displayed in the game day programs at a few MHSAA championship sporting events. The first set is now complete.

My thanks go out to readers who were so kind to point out gridiron Trophy Games from around the state. Did you know that the state now hosts at least seven Brown Jug games?

If you make the trip to Ford Field on Friday or Saturday, make sure you pick up a copy of the Football Finals program (tell 'em "Ron sent ya!" and watch the seller scratch their head) to read all about those Traveling Trophies, include details on many previously mentioned in this blog (as well as a number not listed here). Also, stay tuned to the MHSAA website as I'm told it will include "web only" exclusive information on this great tradition. Remember, I'm collecting a list, so if you don't find one you know of listed, drop me a line!

The programs also feature a "Flashbacks" article where I recap final contests from 10, 20 and 30 years ago. Thanks to the work of Rob Kaminski at the MHSAA, they always look wonderful, and usually sound like I know what I'm talking about. Of course, sometimes I write my self into a corner, and Rob has to bail me out. One of these days, I should take my first journalism class, so I can begin work on correcting this issue.

In December, the Girls Basketball finals program also features a "Flashbacks" article, as well as one on this year' honorees in the "Legends of the Games" program. The 2006 season features the story of the 1976 state title teams from Marine City, Allen Park Cabrini and Lake City (I was about 60 miles from the town yesterday, as my sons and I made our way to Midland for the Muskegon-Davison game). An amazing bunch!

I do hope for a big turnout from the teams as their tournament runs were great fun to read. The "Legends" program is a wonderful way to honor these pioneers from the game. The pre-ceremony reception is a classy informal affair that makes for a great reunion of old teammates who often haven't seen each other in years.

Well - as I'm sure you can imagine - yours truly is thrilled to have the chance to watch his beloved Big Reds compete for the Division 2 title on Friday. And I hear that blog reader (and e-mail pal) Atif Lodhi will end his finals boycott of the finals since his beloved Warren DeLaSalle squad will provide the opposition in that contest. Atif vowed a few years back that he would not attend another state title game until his team was in it. Well, thanks to the big upset against Brother Rice , followed by this week's dismantling of Dearborn, the fans base at Ford Field will be one richer on Friday. Again - exactly what I love about high school sports... the vows and rituals of fans in support of their favorite teams.

BTW - Terry's tour made a stop at that DLS vs. BBR game. Another wonderful article

Next on my homework sheet (beside coming up with a dinner idea that will please the palates of my 10 and 13-year-old sons) is selecting the winners of this year's gridiron state titles. I've been fine-tuning the SQL script that attacks the content of my extensive historical database of statistics. In just a matter of hours, the winners will be revealed.

In the meantime, feel free to drop me a copy of your favorite dinnertime recipe. I'm not a great cook, but I am good at following those directions that appear on the back of boxes!

Even better, I've learned there is a difference between baking soda and baking power...

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Monday, November 13, 2006

The Record Books!
I'm hard at work trying to catch-up on updates to the record books! Check 'em out at

Lowell - please sent me the updates on incredible career of Keith Nichol!

Grandville and coach Charlie DeRyke - please send me career totals for Alyssa DeHaan - she belongs in the book!!!

Football coaches - start sending along those updates. Who ended the season with over 500 points scored? Tell me about some of the great individual accomplishments.

Have any aspiring historians done the research on their school athletic history? I know there should be additions in football for Lansing Central/Sexton.

How about East Grand Rapids? Their history is long and their tradition is rich.

Detroit Central? Saginaw? Fowler? East Lansing? Mendon? Marysville? (Just make sure you denote if and when they were playing six or eight man football...)

How about in basketball? Any all-time team win-loss records to add? my friend Robin
Goddard at Orchard Lake St. Mary
did a great job with the initial list. Can you add to it?

Can anyone verify the single game scoring record of 97 points supposedly set by Ed Burling of Crystal Falls against Iron River during the 1910-11 season? According to the record book, the final score was 107-27, yet my friend Jim Moyes and I have not been able to find ANYTHING from the Diamond Drill newspaper in the era to substantiate this mark.

Most teams were luck to score 107 points in a SEASON back in those days. The word is that Crystal Falls gridiron coach Dick Mettlach uncovered the achievement while doing work on his masterís thesis and the mark made its way into the record book. Burling was 68 when the performance came to light. Apparently two newspaper accounts of the game listed the total of 97, but I've never seen either clipping.

Does anyone have a copy!

What about the girls who have played professional basketball in the States. Any additions?

Girls basketball coaches - send me those coaching record updates!

Soccer? Anyone? Anyone?

Letís get those cards and letters in the mail!!!

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Girls Basketball
On the morn of the biggest football game in the state - no Michigan - Ohio State doesn't happen for a couple more weeks, and we all know it cannot involve MSU - he's writting about basketball?

Well - I actually wrote this one a couple of weeks ago - but who knows where it went... I cannot seem to find it.

Anyway - now I get to rewrite it. That's OK, as there have been a few interesting developments since then.

First, and foremost, is that my connection to the MHSAA web site has been re-established! So - updates to the record book will begin posthaste!

In fact, one of my favorite posts went up this morning. It more or less details the incredible career of Lisa Roell of Iron Mountain North Dickinson. Roell, who fell just shy of the career cutoff of 2,000 points, racked up 775 in her senior year and earned a scholarship to the University of Minnesota. She posted some incredible prep single game marks, and those are now on display for the world to see.

I also did an update to the boys basketball record book based on research done on - a subscription service (hey - J.J. - can I send you an expense report?) that has been helpful in researching some of the events in high school sports in Michigan. I've mentioned this one before to readers, and I must repeat, this is cool stuff. They scan in images from microfilm of newspapers from across the nation, turn them into searchable text, and, just like that, have created as sports historian's dream of a website. Check it out! Here are some free archives that they offer.

Schools and libraries have an option to offer access to the site free of charge. (Here you go Mark Jalovec!)

Call 1-888-870-0484 or visit to learn how your library or institution can gain free access.

The only drawback I see is that the state of Michigan is not especially well represented, as there are only a handful of newspapers available. So, you're not going to find everything from a local perspective. Now, if you are interested national stuff, or local content from the state of Wisconsin, let me say the offering is fantastic!!!

Tell 'em peschstats sent ya, and maybe they'll throw me a free month of access or something!

Anyway, back to some more girls basketball.

Mike Mattson of the Muskegon Chronicle did a great piece on the lack of scoring in girls basketball as of late. Nice stuff on Ludington's Mandy Stowe, who transferred from the University of Michigan to U-W Green Bay, and who is now playing professionally overseas, and Pentwater's Melinda VanGills who once scored 59 points in a game (the total ranks fourth in state history) contained within. The print edition included a chart of the top performance by school as well - yet another piece for the Pesch archives...

Mike's illustration can be seen in this year's ballot for Miss Basketball. The Detroit Free Press included a rundown of this year's candidates in the Friday edition. Outstanding athletes, one and all, but it appears that only Lonnie Terrell of Inkster via Detroit DePorres has a remote chance of joining the state's single season scoring leaders, where the cutoff is 700 points in a season. (If the 31 ppg average is legit, she could have a game or two that might be added to the single game performers list, wehre the cutoff is 45 points. I see a 37, a 35, a 17... )

As faithful readers may recall, I noted the retirement of Detroit Martin Luther King coach William Winfield following last season's state finals. Well, that lasted about as long as that of the average heavyweight boxer. But in this case, it's nice to see the return. Winfield again has the Crusaders right in the thick of thing again. King knocked off Detroit Communication & Media Arts on Tuesday in the PSL quarterfinals to advance. Sophomore Courtney Townsend scored 20 to lead the Crusaders. Winfield, of course, is among the state's leaders in all-time coaching victories.

Speaking of coaching victories, looks like Frank Orlando just received a nice bonus to assist him on the path to Breslin. Don't know if you saw this from the Free Press:
Birmingham Detroit Country Day has lost an assistant coach, and that means Country Day definitely will win the Class B girls basketball state title.

Erica Solomon, 6-foot-1, is back from ACL surgery, following an April injury. She scored four points last week against Ann Arbor Huron and followed with 14 against Troy Athens and four points Tuesday against Detroit CMA.

"She's been a pretty good assistant coach," said Country Day coach Frank Orlando. "She was telling me things I should be doing. I think it was a good experience for her."

Solomon is one of the state's top juniors, and part of the reason Country Day remained No. 1 in Class B despite two losses was the knowledge that Solomon would return. "She's not fully back yet, and when she is fully back is a question," Orlando said. "She has to be totally right."

Here are the latest AP rankings

1. Detroit Martin Luther King (4) (12-0) 74
2. Auburn Hills Avondale (1) (15-1) 71
3. Lansing Waverly (17-0) 65
4. Grosse Pointe North (15-1) 56
5. Saginaw Arthur Hill (14-3) 52
6. Flushing (16-1) 46
7. Detroit Pershing (12-1) 43
8. Brighton (13-3) 22
9. Rochester Hills Rochester (15-2) 20
10. Livonia Ladywood (14-3) 16

1. St. Clair (3) (15-1) 73
2. Detroit Country Day (1) (14-2) 69
3. Hudsonville Unity Christian (1) (15-1) 67
4. DeWitt (15-1) 59
5. Detroit Renaissance (13-1) 53
6. Grand Rapids South Christian (15-1) 50
7. Midland Bullock Creek (15-2) 45
8. Portland (14-2) 39
9. Warren Woods-Tower (14-2) 35
10. Scottville Mason County Central (15-1) 25

1. Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central (3) (16-0) 73
2. Houghton (2) (15-0) 72
3. Kent City (16-0) 64
4. Detroit Community (14-1) 59
5. Sandusky (16-0) 55
6. Morley Stanwood (15-1) 48
7. Michigan Center (16-1) 46
8. Flint Hamady (16-1) 43
9. Allen Park Cabrini (15-1) 31
10. Marcellus (16-1) 27

1. Portland St. Patrick (5) (17-0) 75
2. Chassell (15-0) 68
3. Muskegon Western Michigan Christian (16-0) 63
4. Pickford (15-1) 59
5. Beal City (16-1) 58
6. Auburn Hills Oakland Christian (16-1) 48
7. Frankfort (12-3) 40
8. Lansing Christian (13-2) 39
9. Climax-Scotts (15-2) 34
10. Crystal Falls Forest Park (13-3) 23
10. Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart Academy (15-3) 23

Time to go shower and get ready for Muskegon vs. Lowell. Standing in line at 3:30 on a brisk Wednesday afternoon, waiting to purchase my tickets for today's big showdown reminded my of a photo from 1971 that appeared in the Muskegon Chronicle. In that instance, the wait was for tickets for the mid-season matchup between Muskegon and Traverse City. Over 10,000 packed Hackley Stadium for that one. I hear they expect at least that many this afternoon in Lowell.

From "100 Years of Muskegon Big Red Football"

Muskegon vs Traverse City
Friday, October 29, 1971
at Hackley Stadium

It was the largest crowd to gather at historic Hackley Field in years. Over 10,000 fans showed up for the gridiron war between the state's two top ranked Class 'A' football teams. The Traverse City Trojans, ranked No. 1 in the state by Associated Press and United Press International, had arrived to face the Big Reds of Muskegon, the state's No. 2 ranked team.

The visiting Trojans dominated the first half of action, running 43 plays while holding the Muskegon offense to 18. Traverse City, coached by Jim Ooley, scored on drives of 71, 76, and 77 yards to grab a 18-8 lead in the contest. Muskegon's only touchdown came on a thrilling 65-yard punt return by Larry Sohasky. Many feared that this would be Muskegon's fifth consecutive loss to the visitors from the north.

First year varsity coach Larry Harp and his squad returned to the field prepared. With just over two minutes elapsed in the third quarter of play, senior back Eric VanCamp scampered over from the two-yard line for the touchdown. A fumble stopped the point after conversion, but the Big Reds had cut the deficit to 18-14.

Then the Big Reds came up with the key play of the contest. A Trojan fumble recovered by Muskegon's Jim Olson on the Traverse City 21-yard line offered the Big Reds a chance for the lead. Six plays later, quarterback Bob Lindgren hit Mike Cross from six yards out for the touchdown. The run for two points failed, but the Big Reds led 20-18. However, there were 18 minutes to play in the contest.

Muskegon was ready. The defense rose to the occasion, as the Trojans got no closer than the Muskegon 42. Lindgren and the Big Red offense controlled play for the final six minutes of the contest. They left the field ranked No. 1 in the conference and ultimately tops in the state rankings as well.
Final score: Muskegon 20, Traverse City 18.

They're coming in from at least as far away as Oshkosh, WI to watch today's classic! I'll see you there!

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