Bellaire's 'Captain' Robinson Making Senior-Year Impact Sure to Last

By Tom Spencer
Special for

February 18, 2022

Oh, the glory days.

When Paul Koepke took over Bellaire basketball, he stepped into some mighty big coaching shoes.

He’s got the Eagles on the right track as they work to return to being a powerhouse program. The culture almost fits the visions he’s had since taking over for legendary and hall of fame coach Stan Sexton. They’re 8-7 overall and 6-5 in Ski Valley League play.

But today he’s preparing to lose his only senior starter, Cole Robinson, perhaps better known as The Captain.  Robinson may not be as famous as the professional athletes whose careers led to being known as The Captain — baseball’s Derek Jeter and hockey’s Steve Yzerman —but he is to the locals.

“I have a bunch of freshmen,” noted Koepke, who’s been around the Eagles since the early 2000s as a middle school and varsity assistant coach. “I couldn’t ask for a better set up than having him as my captain.”

Robinson, a three-sport star for the Eagles, joined Bellaire’s 22-2 varsity team his freshman year as the postseason run ended with a 50-41 upset loss to Suttons Bay in the Regional. That loss ended a string of deep postseason runs covering decades. It was Koepke’s first year at the helm.

Today the Eagles are preparing to host Fife Lake Forest Area with their captain possibly on the sideline.  He suffered an ankle injury in this week’s 44-32 win over Pellston. Koepke helped the senior guard off the floor after his first career injury. 

He saw a glimpse of how things could be next year without The Captain, but he loved how his Eagles responded and how Robinson handled it.

The Eagles immediately went into a “win it for Cole” mode. Bellaire hopes tonight’s game will be the only game the 6-foot, 205-pounder needs to sit for a full recovery.

“Cole was on the bench cheering like a mad man after the injury,” Koepke said. “The kids were high-fiving him, and he was coaching kids up. 

“We probably had better effort after that,” he continued. “We competed at a higher level, and I think we won that one for Cole.”

Bellaire footballThe injury didn’t hamper his leadership skills a bit. The Eagles beat Pellston with the same freshmen and sophomores Robinson’s had under his wings for some time.

Robinson has high hopes the young players will help win a District championship like the Eagles regularly did during their glory days. He has yet to win a District title – in any sport – during his years at Bellaire.  He’s got this basketball season and his senior baseball season to experience it.

He did experience a first earlier this basketball season. Bellaire beat Gaylord St. Mary 69-62 on Feb. 8, the first win Cole and his senior teammates had experienced over the Snowbirds in any sport.

Robinson, who admits football is his favorite sport followed by baseball, likes helping his young teammates on the court. And he can’t wait to see them on the baseball field.

The Eagles have racked up more basketball wins this season than the previous two combined.

“For us, this is a big improvement,” Robinson said. “We’re a really young team.

“I think we’re going to surprise a few teams in the Districts,” he continued. “It’s going to be a tough one.”

Ellsworth, last year’s champion, will likely get the top seed in the 2022 tournament, hosted by Central Lake. Boyne Falls and Gaylord St. Mary also will vie for the title. The Eagles lost to Ellsworth 70-52 in the season opener. The freshmen were coming off just a two-game middle school season due to COVID-19 cancellations.

“Our record is starting to show we’re not just a bunch of freshmen just being freshmen,” Koepke said.  “We’re starting to get pretty good.”

Bellaire starts three freshmen, a sophomore and The Captain.

“This man is selfless,” Koepke said about Robinson. “He’s the first one to come to me when I get there (to practice or games) to give me a fist bump and ask me how my day is going.

“Captain means a lot of things. He’s the last one to go off the bus. He cleans the bus. He’s the last one to leave the locker room.”

Robinson is averaging nearly six points and three assists per game. He also hauls in eight rebounds per contest. He’s coming from an outstanding football season as the Eagles’ tight end, tackle and defensive end. He had two touchdown receptions in the fall.

Jayden Hansen, a freshman, leads the team in scoring at more than 15 per game. Another freshman, Drake Koepke, averages 12 points.  Hanson is among Northern Michigan’s leading rebounders. Koepke, the coach’s son, is among the area’s leaders in steals.

“We’re always looking for the third scorer,” Koepke said. 

But the starting lineup is set.

“We finally kind of found out these are our guys, our lineup,” Koepke said. “We’re growing now.

“We understand who we are, and now we have to fix some things we struggle with,” he continued.  “Right now we have a great attitude, and we are peaking.”

Bellaire basketballRobinson goes back a long way in Bellaire. He was a water boy for the varsity team when his father, Brock, was the Eagles’ head football coach. Brock died suddenly in 2020, and had served as The Captain’s youth football and baseball coach and high school football coach his freshmen and sophomore seasons.

The younger Robinson also lost his 2020 baseball season due to COVID. But he has persevered. Today he’s a regular on the court coaching youth basketball and his youthful teammates.

“You can say it’s been a little tough —I obviously miss him of course,” The Captain said. “He loved sports just as much as I do.

“I think about him usually before most sporting events – especially football games I’d think about him beforehand.”

Coach Koepke, who also assisted Coach Robinson in football, is amazed by his captain’s career and his contribution to the Eagles’ success.

“He is always a positive person,” Koepke said. “There are so many things he does.”

If the Eagles don’t make the great run this season as they have in the past, the veterans they’ll have next season along with others impacted by Robinson should help them return to the glory days.

“You are going to be a better person because you met Cole,” Koepke said. “That’s basically what Cole is.

“We’re all going to miss Cole. He’s made me a better person for sure.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bellaire’s Cole Robinson looks for an open teammate during a game against Johannesburg-Lewiston. (Middle) Robinson works to bring down a Bear Lake ball carrier. (Below) Robinson works with players in Bellaire’s youth program on their shooting form. (Top and middle photos courtesy of the Antrim Review; below photo courtesy of the Bellaire athletic department.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.