By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Jeremy Moore had wanted to get a bowling program going at Cadillac High School for a while.
More than a month into its first season, Cadillac’s boys bowling team is undefeated and already the champion of the Big North Conference, winning the lone tournament on the league schedule Dec. 2 in what also was the Vikings’ season – and program – debut.
They edged host Gaylord 338-324 in the championship match that afternoon and have yet to be defeated, earning the MHSAA/Applebee’s statewide “Team of the Month” for December.
“We’ve had our core varsity team. These six guys bowled together in youth leagues for several years,” Cadillac coach Jeremy Moore said. “A couple of them are my nephews, and all of their parents bowl.
“We had high hopes. But when we went in and won (the Big North), now we know they’re really good.”
Cadillac will compete in Division 2 during the MHSAA Tournament, and it wouldn’t be shocking if the Vikings found their way into the first state rankings released Friday by the Michigan High School Interscholastic Bowling Coaches Association.
If not, it could just be a matter of the good word continuing to get out. Cadillac also bowls in the Greater Northwest Bowling Conference with a number of schools from the northwestern corner of the Lower Peninsula (including others from the BNC), and has yet to be challenged. The Vikings are winning their matches by an average score of 28-2.
All six are juniors or sophomores. Sophomore Kyle Vermilyea is averaging a team-high 224, followed by juniors Tyler Campbell (193), Brandon Foster (191) and sophomore Korbin Keller (190). Sophomore Kyle Perry adds a 176 average, and junior Brennen Dagner has been effective in limited frames as the team’s sub.
Moore, who works at The Pines bowling center in Cadillac, worked with first-year athletic director Fred Bryant (formerly of Newberry) to add boys and girls programs this season. Moore coaches both.
As noted above, he knew he’d have talent on the boys team. Multiple Vikings had won Junior Gold youth events downstate in the past, and two of his bowlers had competed well against members of the Lowell team that won the MHSAA Division 2 championship last winter. (Cadillac’s girls, meanwhile, entered the season with far less experience but are a solid 4-2 and took fifth in the BNC tournament.)
There have been small adjustments to make for high school bowling. Cadillac is learning the Baker format a bit on the fly – in a Baker game, all five bowlers take turns bowling a frame with two turns per game apiece – but that’s hardly slowed them down. They’re looking forward to continuing to see where they fit among Michigan’s high school elite as the season progresses, especially when the pressure gets higher during Regionals late next month.
Not new is how much Moore’s tight-knit group enjoys competing. But now the Vikings are getting to show their talents while representing their school.
“Up here there’s not a lot to do, so they’ve spent a lot of time in bowling alleys. They had a lot of games under their belts before high school started,” Moore said.
“They’re just always amped up in practice, always pushing each other. These guys have bowled together in youth leagues, and they’ve been friends a long time. They’re always together, wherever they go.”
PHOTOS: (Top) A Cadillac bowler starts a frame during competition this season. (Middle) The Vikings celebrate a Big North Conference championship in their first event as a high school program. (Photos courtesy of the Cadillac athletic department.)
WATERFORD – All Waterford Mott head boys bowling coach Rob Hanson wanted to do was have a personal practice session.
Little did he know it would randomly plant a seed that would eventually produce some state high school bowling history.
More than two years ago, after finding some rare time outside his coaching duties to work on his own game at a local center, Hanson noticed a kid coming in with his grandmother to bowl.
Hanson immediately took notice of how well the kid was bowling and the fact he had a pair of Waterford Mott soccer shorts on. So he asked the kid, then-sophomore Brendan Riley, if he went to the school.
After Riley told Hanson that he did, Hanson had another question for him.
“Why didn’t you try out for bowling?” Hanson said.
Riley said at the time, his mother wasn’t familiar with the bowling team’s schedule and thought it would take too much time away from school.
Once Hanson explained the schedule to the family, Riley ended up trying out after all and made the JV team.
Weeks later, Riley worked his way up to varsity.
The rest, as they say, is history.
After bowling on the varsity for a majority of his sophomore year, Riley as a junior last year won the Division 1 Finals singles championship, capping a rapid rise to the top that might not have happened if not for that chance encounter.
“It was quite surprising,” Riley said. “I wasn’t expecting to see the coach that day. I was just going up to have a good time with my grandma.”
Last year for Riley turned out to be all about his individual success, as he led the Lakes Valley Conference with a 217 average and ended up seeded No. 8 out of the Finals qualifying block.
Riley then rolled to the title, earning a 14-pin win over Mattawan’s Charlie Johnson in the final.
For Riley, his success at the MHSAA Tournament boiled down to one thing: Composure.
“I think the only reason I won was because I had the best attitude,” said Riley, who also was a member of Mott’s soccer team in the fall. “Everyone I bowled in the match play started to get upset at themselves every time they got a split or when they didn’t get a strike.”
As a senior, Riley’s average actually has been down a little compared to last year’s 207, but what his teammates have done has been a bigger testament of his success – and made it even more enjoyable than what he accomplished last year as an individual.
Riley enters Friday’s Regional tournament third on Mott in average behind teammates Dylan Keating and Zechariah Thomas, but that is more a reflection of the improvement those two have shown and how they were inspired by what Riley did last year.
“He hasn’t had a bad year,” Hanson said of Riley. “It’s just that his success is breeding desire for everyone else. His leadership quality is amazing.”
Mott will travel Friday to Century Bowl with four tournament titles, including winning the LVC championship, and a 15-1 record.
Bowling is as fickle a sport as any, but no doubt the Corsairs are contenders if they bowl as they’re capable.
“As a team, it feels a lot better to get more things accomplished beyond just myself,” Riley said.
Riley also has a college future, as he has signed to bowl for Goshen College in Indiana as part of the first recruiting class for the new program.
An individual title last year, team domination so far this season and a future in college bowling? That’s a great crop of greatness that was planted simply by running into Hanson that one day.
“It’s a great story,” Hanson said.
Keith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties
PHOTOS (Top) Waterford Mott’s Brendan Riley finds his shot during a match. (Middle) Riley takes a post-tournament photo after winning last season’s singles championship. (Top photo courtesy of the Riley family.)