All Hands on Deck, P-W Earns 1st Title

November 26, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – Jared Smith’s final football game in a Pewamo-Westphalia uniform ended Saturday how he’d always dreamed.

He waved his arms up and down during the final seconds, beckoning to the crowd for a final blast of cheers as he first hugged teammates, then hoisted up assistant coach Nathan Thelen and spun him around a few times for probably his longest carry of the Division 7 Final.

With that, the most successful decoy in MHSAA championship game history began celebrating the history-making event that’s always mattered most. 

It was apparent by halftime Saturday there would be no career rushing record for the Pirates senior back, who will graduate atop all-time lists in five other categories. He didn’t score this time and didn’t even lead his team in rushing. But the second-most traveled rusher in more than a century of Michigan high school football ended as a champion, drawing so much attention from opponent Detroit Loyola that his teammates could do the lifting in a 28-14 win at Ford Field.

“We have so many weapons on the team this year, so many tremendous athletes. … Teams are going to key on me just because of what I’ve done, and it opens up things for everybody else,” Smith said. “When everybody steps up, we’re hard to stop. 

“I’ve got no problem with how we win if we come out with the win. I said at the beginning that I don’t care about my records. I just wanted a state championship.”

That championship was the first in Pirates football history, coming in their third Finals appearance, the final victory of a perfect 14-0 run. They entered the playoffs ranked No. 2 in Division 7 and beat No. 1 Traverse City St. Francis, No. 3 Saugatuck and No. 4 Ubly on the way to Detroit before downing No. 5 Loyola.

Last season, P-W led into the final four minutes of the Division 7 championship game before falling 22-16 to Ishpeming. And the lessons from that day – plus the familiarity with this stage from that trip – clearly paid off for a team that returned nine starters on both sides of the ball and the second player to go over 8,000 yards rushing for his career.

Smith entered with 8,140 yards over four varsity seasons, only 291 yards shy of the career record set by East Grand Rapids’ Kevin Grady from 2001-04. But Saturday, Smith ran for a mere 48 on 20 carries, not even the most on his team – but enough to open up opportunities for the Pirates’ pair of quarterbacks, senior Ryan Smith and junior Jimmy Lehman. They orchestrated an attack that scored the second-most points Loyola had allowed in the playoffs over the last five seasons – second only to the 30 P-W scored against the Bulldogs in a Semifinal win last fall.

Ryan Smith led the Pirates in rushing with 81 yards and a touchdown, while Lehman was 6 of 8 passing for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns tosses to senior Logan Hengesbach. Lehman also added a touchdown run from a yard out with 5:05 to play.

That Lehman run score not withstanding, it’s been a little predictable which quarterback was going to do what. But with the Bulldogs keying on Jared Smith, it didn’t matter much. Lehman’s first touchdown pass came on play-action after a fake handoff to Smith. Ryan Smith’s running touchdown came after a fake dive up the middle to Jared, which drew the interior of Loyola’s defense as Ryan ran right two yards into the end zone.

“(The quarterback predictability) does speak to the play of our offensive line, which was solid today,” P-W coach Jeremy Miller said. “When Ryan comes in, we’re reading some stuff, and we want to get him going with his legs, but Ryan can also throw the ball, hurt you through the air. When Jimmy comes in, it’s more of a passing look for us, and we use him as more of a blocker, but then today Jimmy got a big play for us at the end of the game with his legs.

“To both of their credits, for the last two years they didn’t care who was in, they didn’t care who was carrying the ball, what we were doing. They supported each other, and that’s an example of the brotherhood we had on this team.”

Loyola, a three-time finalist this decade and the champion in 2014, pushed to the end despite facing a three-score deficit with just under nine minutes to play.

The Bulldogs (11-3) got on the board with an 18-yard touchdown pass from senior Price Watkins to junior tight end Keith Johnson, followed by a two-point run by Watkins that made the score 21-8. After Lehman’s run touchdown, Loyola drew to the final deficit on sophomore D’Vaun Bently’s scoring run with 2:04 to play.

The Bulldogs’ late offensive start surely wasn’t helped by the absence of senior Malcolm Mayes, who didn’t play (and was reported earlier in the week to be injured). The usually run-heavy veer offense gained only 123 yards on 38 carries and 186 yards of total offense.

“They attack with the D ends. They really were crashing them,” Watkins said. “So it was hard to make those outside runs. We run a veer, and it’s outside – so they crashed down with the D ends, and basically stopped us from running our plays.”

Senior linebackers Nathan Smith and Devon Pung led the Pirates’ defensive effort with nine and seven tackles, respectively. The most impressive individual defensive performance, however, came from Loyola senior linebacker Kailen Abrams – he had 16 tackles, including 4.5 for losses, at one point taking down Ryan Smith two plays in a row to help force a field goal attempt that ended up no good.

Total, the Bulldogs had nine tackles for losses and a sack. But the Pirates just kept coming.

“Our plan going in there was more concerned with that quarterback read (by Ryan Smith) than Jared. I thought with our speed, I thought we could contain Jared, but we were concerned with the read with the quarterback,” Loyola coach John Callahan said. “And he did an outstanding job on the read. He rode that until the very end, tucked it and took it.

“We watched enough film on them to know they had some receivers, had some guys. Early on that first half, the kids made some big-time plays. … (But) they aren’t just Jared, and obviously you saw that.”

Click for the full box score.

The MHSAA Football Finals are sponsored by the Michigan National Guard. 

PHOTOS: (Top) P-W quarterback Ryan Smith breaks a Detroit Loyola tackle during Saturday’s Division 7 Final. (Middle) Logan Hengesbach (5) and Garrett Trierweiler celebrate one of Hengesbach’s two touchdown catches.

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.