Bear Lake Looks to Begin New Streak

September 25, 2020

By Tom Spencer
Special for Second Half

When Bear Lake takes steps on the football field at Brethren tonight, the Lakers have a chance they never had last fall.

It’s a chance to win two games in a row and remain undefeated. Bear Lake is coming off a 26-6 win over Ashley last week, the Lakers’ first win since 2018. The victory sparked a lot of relief and a great celebration in the Bear Lake community. 

“It was a long time coming,” said assistant coach and offensive coordinator Samantha Mullet. “Seeing the guys get to experience the results of all their hard work was rewarding. 

“But it’s just the beginning,” she continued. “They’ve set the bar now. They know that feeling only comes if you’ve earned it.”

Mullet, who goes by Sam and Coach Sam, has been an assistant coach with head coach John Prokes since 8-player football began at Bear Lake four seasons ago. She was also an intern the summer of 2019 for the Baltimore Ravens and coach John Harbaugh.

The Lakers’ seniors who have played football since their freshman year are thrilled to take the field tonight. Wins have been hard to come by and they were 0-9 in 2019. COVID-19 nearly took away their chance to play football in 2020 and feel the jubilation of victory.  

It was long, hard summer of training not knowing the future of all MHSAA sports. The Lakers’ last victory was 28-18 over Big Rapids Crossroads Academy during the 2018 campaign.

“Participating in sports is one opportunity that provides our young adults with an experience that will only continue to help them with the trials and tribulations throughout their own life,” noted Prokes, who also teaches science in the middle and high school. “We are fortunate to have football at our school and in our community.  

“The memories we've established will last well beyond the wins and losses.”

Mullet and Prokes have been together since Bear Lake exited a football co-op with Onekama to start the exciting 8-player football option. It hasn’t been a smooth road, but both feel the ship is righted now and the future is bright. 

Bear Lake athletic director Karen Leinaar couldn’t be happier with the football program. She had never served a school district previously that didn’t offer football.  

“The cool thing was the community stepped up and the board made a commitment to football,” she said.  “They took a chance and it paid off.

“These two coaches have given hundreds and thousands of hours to these kids,” she continued. “Taking it from nothing to where it is today is great!” 

A new culture of football began this summer as training for a possible 2020 season began. Not knowing how COVID-19 would impact MHSAA sports, the Lakers embarked on significant changes.  

“With students having been out of school and away from each other since March, we felt it was important to get the kids together and active again, even if it was just for socially-distanced outdoor workouts,” recalled Mullet.  “They were really the shift from there – they showed up and worked hard day after day, even when the future of sports was uncertain.

“Their attitude and commitment made us realize this could be the group to really establish our program,” she continued.  “We’d been building, but without much of an identity. These guys committed to defining the vague ‘success’ we’ve always talked about and hashed out exactly how things were going to go down – what would be required of everyone and what would not be tolerated of anyone.”

The Lakers took their name and turned it into a “LAKES” acronym for core qualities that all players and coaches must be – Loyal, Accountable, Knowledgeable, Excellent, Resilient, and Selfless.

“We took an Edward Everett Hale quote and used it to establish our creed, Mullet said. ‘I am only one. But I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will.’”

The Lakers’ new creed and culture also came with new helmets featuring improved safety components to start the season. The helmets were made possible by a grant from the Manistee County Community Foundation.  

The Lakers were led offensively to victory Saturday afternoon by Bryce Harless and Jake Griffis. Harless connected on 5 of 8 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Griffis had five receptions for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

Tate Aultman led the Lakers defensively with 10.5 tackles and a sack. Griffis and Quentin Ruize each had nine tackles and combined on a sack. Jack Cook recorded nine tackles.

“We are not the biggest team, by no means,” Prokes said after the Bears snapped their losing streak. “We’ll probably be outsized in every game we play, but we play with a lot of heart. 

“Our guys aren’t going to back down from anybody.” 

And, when they walk on the field for every practice and tonight’s game, each player must contribute, Mullet believes.

“Every single player has been instrumental in pushing our culture forward,” she said. “As our creed implies, if one person doesn’t do their job, doesn’t give 100 percent effort, doesn’t buy in, the whole team fails. 

“You may only have one job, but that one job is critical to the success of the whole team.” 

Prokes and Mullet are appreciative of tremendous support they've received from everyone in the Bear Lake community, especially the boosters.  

“The town has really embraced the team and has shown nothing but encouragement and patience with our development,” Mullet said. “They've enjoyed the experience that comes with having a football program including the tailgating, Friday Night lights, and even Saturday afternoons.”

And every Laker tonight will be playing with an undefeated helmet.

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 tomspencer@chartermi.net 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) Bear Lake’s Jack Cook makes a move upfield during last week’s win over Ashley. (Middle) Bear Lake assistant Samantha Mullet, far left, during her Baltimore Ravens internship, with, following left to right, John Wolfe (co-founder of ShirtFaced), Tim Goins (coach from Japan’s X League) and Jordan Hogan (formerly at Cornell, now a new assistant coach for the Arizona Cardinals). (Below) Bear Lake head coach John Prokes in his science classroom. (Photos courtesy of the Bear Lake football program.)

Moore Finishes Legendary King Career by Leading Crusaders to D3 Repeat

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

November 27, 2022

DETROIT – Dante Moore had no tears left to cry Saturday night, even happy tears, after he played his final high school football game for Detroit Martin Luther King at Ford Field.

“Everybody sees I’m not crying – I really cried before I got here to the game. Before I walked to the gate, I was crying and I cried last night,” Moore said.

King’s four-year starting quarterback cemented his legacy, leading the Crusaders to their second-straight MHSAA Division 3 championship with a 56-27 victory over Muskegon.

The Oregon commit finished 21-of-26 passing for 275 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions to power King (10-3) to its sixth Finals title overall and fifth in eight years.

Before Moore even took the field for his first offensive series against Muskegon (11-3), junior Jameel Croft Jr. staked King to an immediate lead with an electrifying 96-yard return of the game’s opening kickoff.

The Crusaders never looked back.

“I wasn’t expecting that. I just followed my blocks. Guys were blocking for me and the coaches set it up perfectly for me, for real,” Croft said. “It gave us a lot of momentum in the beginning of the game. It helped us out a lot.”

Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. Muskegon pulled within 14-7 midway through the first quarter and 21-14 three minutes into the second, but Moore & Co. always seemed to have an answer.

Croft scored the game’s first two TDs, as he added a 13-yard scoring catch from Moore to make it 14-0 with 6:28 left in the first quarter.

“We started out chasing. We gave up that opening kickoff for a touchdown and we just got ourselves chasing and kind of things went from there,” said Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield, whose team trailed 35-14 at halftime and pulled within 14 with five minutes left in the third but got no closer.

Croft was Moore’s top pass-catcher, finishing with six receptions for 64 yards and two TDs. Senior Sterling Anderson Jr. was a blur as King’s top rusher, totaling 207 yards on only 13 carries, highlighted by his 80-yard scoring sprint that gave the Crusaders a 49-27 lead with 10:55 remaining.

Seniors Samuel Washington and Tim Ruffin paced King defensively with nine and eight tackles, respectively. For Muskegon, senior Julian Neely registered a team-high seven stops, while junior Stanley Cunningham recorded two sacks among his six tackles.

Muskegon junior quarterback M’Khi Guy ran 20 times for 135 yards with two TDs, including a 60-yard breakaway to pull the Big Reds within 14-7 midway through the first quarter. He also completed 2-of-4 passes for 97 yards, including a 71-yard scoring strike to junior Destin Piggee.

Muskegon junior Jakob Price added 93 rushing yards and a TD on 17 carries, but the night belonged to King and Moore.

“There’s no excuse: That kid is amazing. He threw balls that we haven’t seen probably in my career,” said Fairfield, whose program was seeking its first Finals title since 2017. His Big Reds teams have been to the Finals to finish eight of his 13 seasons at the helm.

“Only one other guy threw touchdown passes like (Moore) and passes and balls like that in my career here, and that was (Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice’s) Alex Malzone – went to Michigan. Seems like we always see the (Dequan) Finns and the Dantes and Malzones and stuff when we get here, but you know, we’re here,” added Fairfield, whose 2018 squad lost to Finn and King, 41-25, in the Division 3 championship game.

King coach Tyrone Spencer said that his team overcame a lot of adversity this season. The Crusaders could not practice on their field because it’s undergoing a makeover, so they bussed to practice. They lost their season opener to Warren Central (Ind.), 44-26, and dropped the final two games of the regular season to Detroit Cass Tech (28-14) and Cincinnati Moeller (30-14).

King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.The Crusaders got it going in the playoffs, however. They threatened the Finals record for points by one team, established Friday night by Grand Rapids West Catholic with 59.

“(The season) was up and down, but the kids, I mean, they trust us and we got it back going,” Spencer said. “They’re a resilient group of kids. It speaks to their character.”

Moore mentioned the “championship culture” at King, how one expects to be a champion once he puts on that jersey.

It’s also about giving back and respecting the game, too, which has been a custom of Moore’s since his freshman year when King lost to Muskegon Mona Shores in the Division 2 Final, 35-26.

“My freshman year, me playing against Brady Rose and Muskegon Mona Shores, I remember Brady Rose pulled me to the side and that’s where I really got it from – him taking me to the side, telling me things I can work on, and me congratulating him for what he’s done and being one of the best players to come through Michigan to be honest and leading his team on his back,” Moore recalled.

“I just knew that I had to carry that on through this past year and really pull the (opposing) quarterbacks to the side, especially (those) younger than me. Me being a senior, I’ve been through a lot. I just want to give them the keys and terms to help them be the best they can be in high school.”

Croft called the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Moore a “great leader,” who is “so poised” and one who will leave “a great legacy right here for sure.”

“Special, man,” is how Spencer reflected on Moore’s four-year run.

“You know, he’ll be the one that they’ll talk about maybe the greatest we’ve ever had here,” Spencer said. “Just really proud of him and the person that he is. He deserves it. He works hard for it, and I just couldn’t be more pleased. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”

Meanwhile, Muskegon got off to a bit of a slow start this season by Big Reds standards. They lost two of their first five games, including a 49-16 road defeat to eventual Division 2 champion Warren De La Salle Collegiate, but got healthy and played their best football at the right time leading up to Saturday night.

Fairfield said the Big Reds battled and left it all on the field.

“They played 14 and when you play 14 games, of course this is going to hurt more because it’s the very last one and now you’ve got 364 days to get back,” he said.

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Detroit King’s Samuel Washington (10) wraps up Muskegon’s M’Khi Guy during Saturday’s night’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Crusaders quarterback Dante Moore rolls out looking for a receiver. (Below) King’s Sterling Anderson Jr. (3) follows his blockers through a sizable opening.