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 [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) 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.)

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.