As Perfect As It Comes

By Ron Pesch

Unbeaten, untied and unscored upon - the perfect season is certainly a rarity in the world of football. For the first time in 22 years, a Michigan high school team has again accomplished this dream of perfection. Competing in Class A, Dearborn High Sc hool pulled through the 1995 regular season with nine shutouts. Records are incomplete, but to date, a total of 16 teams have been identified as meeting the criteria of playing a minimum of eight games.

Prior to this season, Saginaw Arthur Hill's 1973 squad was the last team on record to have accomplished the feat. Coached by 31-year-old George Ihler, the Lumberjacks racked up 443 points (over a point-a-minute) enroute to the Class A mythical state championship.

All-state quarterback Ron Rummel led the attack with 16 touchdown runs and 11 through the air. "He was the key to our powerful offense," noted Ihler, "the one player we couldn't afford to lose." Teammate Terry Eurick ended the season with 984 yards on 116 carries and 20 touchdowns. Defensively, Guy Pelkey led the team with 55 tackles, followed by Tim Jank with 50.

A year earlier, Holt, a Class B school located near Lansing, rolled through eight games without allowing an opponent to cross its goal line. The scoreless mark was nearly ruined in the Rams season finale against Eaton Rapids, when halfback Mitch Turner raced 70 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown. However, Turner was ruled out of bounds at the Greyhound 42-yard line, and the record was saved. Coach Darold Briggs' Rams finished the campaign with 144 points to their credit.

Riding an eight game streak of perfect defense, Portland's 1959 season-ending contest was not for the superstitious. On Friday, the 13th of November, the Raiders, seeking their 13th consecutive win, were scheduled to meet a winless Saranac squad. Runn ing back Jerry Falor shattered the barriers to an unbeaten, unscored upon season. His four touchdowns and two conversions lead the Class C Raiders to a 39-0 win, giving Falor 145 points for the year - a Portland record for scoring in a single season. C oach Lyle Layer's defense never allowed an opponent within its 10-yard line.

Reese ended the 1958 season undefeated, untied and unscored upon in eight games. The following year, the school again prevented anyone from crossing its goal line. However, Reese had a scoreless tie in the first game of the 1959 season. Thus the team compiled a streak of 16 consecutive shutouts, but only eight consecutive victories.

Coach Thornton Auwater's Caledonia squad joined the elite list in the fall of 1950. The Fighting Scots rolled up a 243-0 margin in eight contests, capped by a 73-0 rout of Hopkins in a season-ending game.

"There have been several unbeaten, untied and unscored upon teams in Michigan prep history," noted longtime high school historian Dick Kishpaugh in a 1989 article on the Class C Morenci Bulldogs, "but none so awesome in scoring power as (the) 1949 Moren ci squad." Indeed, this juggernaut tallied a whopping 514 points while protecting an uncrossed goal line through nine games. Over 45 years later, only the 1992 Battle Creek Pennfield squad, with 541, has notched more points during the regular season.

Mt. Pleasant posted eight shutout victories during the 1943 campaign. The Oilers scored early in their final game of the year with Grand Haven, then turned back a pair of scoring drivers by the Buccaneers for a 6-0 win.

North Muskegon, coached by Lyle McNitt, posted a perfect season in 1941. In contrast to Morenci's scoring machine, the Norsemen slipped past eight opponents, scoring a mere 108 points. Among the victories were 6-0 wins over Manistee and Shelby, and a 7-0 victory over Fremont to end the season. In the Shelby game, a desperation pass from Lloyd Dunham to Jim Morse in the closing minutes nearly ended the streak. Chased to his own goal line, Dunham hit Morse across the middle. The Tiger end dashed 72 yards, and only a great tackle by Moe Sikkenga at the Norse 13-yard line stopped the sure touchdown. An intercepti on on the next play sealed the victory.

Combined with two season ending shutout wins in 1940, North Muskegon's streak stood at 10. In August of 1942, McNitt was named as successor to Gerald Ford as head football coach at the University of Grand Rapids. With Paul Moyes at the reigns, the Norse never missed a beat and extended their streak to 15 consecutive shutout victories - a state record that still stands today. The total might have been 18 if not for a single touchdown by Scottville in the season's sixth game. I t was the only mark against North Muskegon in the fall of 1942, as the squad again finished the year undefeated in eight contests.

Two teams were added to the unbeaten, untied and unscored upon list during the decade of the thirties. Constantine, coached by Robert Finlay scored 248 points in eight games enroute to an unblemished season in 1937, although a game against Comstock lat e in the year was recorded as a 2-0 forfeit. State High of Kalamazoo also accomplished the task in the 1935 season. Frank Noble's squad scored 175 points in eight contests.

The 1925 season hosted a real rarity, as a pair of state high schools ended the year unscored upon. Grand Rapids Union, facing some of the state’s perennial powers, strolled through a nine game schedule with only Muskegon and Grand Rapids South posing real threats. Thanks to the toe of Robert "Rocky" Parsaca, the Red Hawks slipped past Muskegon, 3-0, on the muddy grounds of Grand Rapids' Island Park. In the season ending battle against South, the junior sensation kicked three field goals for a 9-0 v ictory. Port Huron, coached by Melvin Myers, also ended the year unbeaten and unscored upon in ten contests. Typical of a time when scheduling was much less formal, there was talk of the two schools playing in a season ending battle, however it never came to pass.

In the fall of 1919, little Lake Odessa High ended the year with its goal line uncrossed. After defeating two Grand Rapids area reserve elevens, a host of Ionia County opponents, and a team that included six members of the Grand Rapids Junior College s quad, Coach Ervin Howard and his players laid claim to county championship. In eight games, the team scored 375 points.

Through the first seven games of the 1911 season, Bay City Eastern, now known as Bay City Central, averaged nearly 40 points per contest, while holding the opponents scoreless. Game eight, against upriver rival Saginaw Eastern (now known as Saginaw Hig h School), and game nine, against Lansing Central, provided the team with their greatest challenges. Saginaw, defeated earlier in the year 27-0, put up a real battle in the second meeting of the season. Early in the second quarter, the Saginaw squad r eached the Bay City seven-yard line before turning the ball over. An 85-yard scoring run by William Schultz late in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in the contest, as Bay City pulled out a 6-0 win.

Lansing was defeated 21-0. However, in the third quarter, the Capital City eleven drove to the Bay City one-yard line. "Forced for the first time all season to fight with their very backs to their goal, the red and white rose..." noted the Bay City T ribune. In total, Coach Gordon Carver's mythical state champions scored 306 points in nine games.

The 1905 Kalamazoo Central team is Michigan's first recorded instance of a perfect defense. Coached by Herbert "Buck" Read, (later renowned as a basketball coach at Western Michigan University), the team scored 10 shutout victories over a strong schedule of opponents. Despite this fact, the Kalamazoo squad was not considered for the state championship.

For seven seasons, beginning in 1899, the University of Michigan and the Michigan High School Athletic Committee (a forerunner of the present MHSAA), sponsored an official title game on Thanksgiving weekend. In 1905, the final year of these early playoffs, Ishpeming was named state champion based on their 17-5 win over Grand Rapids Central in the title game. Kalamazoo fans felt slighted, as their team had defeated Grand Rapids Central earlier in the year by Kalamazoo, 18-0.