Behind Scenes, St Mary's Goes to Goddard

September 27, 2016

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

As a coach and athletic director at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s over nearly three decades, George Porritt has been asked plenty of times to recall details from his football program’s storied past.

That comes with coaching a program that annually has a roster full of highly-touted high school players coveted by college recruiters and has seen the best not only shine for prominent college programs but also NFL organizations (see Allen Robinson of Jacksonville).

“When was the last time a player did that?”

“What is the school record in this category?”

“How often has your team done this in a season?”

“When was the last time you lost to this opponent?”

Porritt’s answer is usually quick and consistent.

“Ask Robin Goddard,” Porritt typically says.

For the past 40 years, turning to Goddard has been a frequent option for anyone around St. Mary’s, and for that matter, other schools around the state.

It is why there will be lots of people in the prep sports community thinking of him when he has surgery on Thursday to break up kidney stones that have been bothering him during recent weeks.

Goddard each year puts together media guides with records and teams at St. Mary’s that go all the way back to the early 1900s. (See "Michigan's Football Past: A Must Read")

He can easily point out the fact that St. Mary’s won a state basketball championship in 1933, lost in the state basketball semifinals in 1919 and won its first state baseball championship in 1913. (Note: The MHSAA was not formed until Dec. 1924; previous championship tournaments were hosted by various entities around the state.) 

“If he doesn’t have it in something, he finds it right away,” Porritt said. “He goes to the library and he tries to dig it up. He calls the other school and has done it for years. He keeps a great history of our school.”

Surely though, there have to be times when people raise their eyebrows at Goddard and wonder how he can possibly get accurate information from a century ago, right?

Actually, not really.

Not around St. Mary’s, anyway, even if it is hard to fathom for many others that high school sports in Michigan actually did exist before the start of World War I.

“I won’t even challenge him,” Porritt said. “I know he found it somewhere. He’ll tell other schools what their records are historically, and they don’t even know what theirs is. He has fun doing it and will go anywhere and find any way to find out the history of whatever he is looking into.”

Goddard’s importance to the school isn’t limited to being arguably the Encyclopedia Britannica of prep sports in the state of Michigan.

Also a facilities coordinator and valuable fundraiser, Goddard has spearheaded projects to put a track and lights at the football field, and was the architect of one of the most ambitious and out-of-box ideas ever seen at the school – the red artificial playing surface now on the football field.

During Labor Day weekend in 2011, Goddard flew to Cheney, Wash., to meet with officials at Eastern Washington University, which at the time had the only red-colored artificial football field in the country.

Goddard picked the brains of the folks at Eastern Washington, came home and started a fundraising effort to try and secure $600,000 to bring a red-colored artificial surface to St. Mary’s.

By the following spring, the funds were raised and construction began on the field that was ready by the start of the 2012 season.

At the time, it was the third red-colored field in the country in addition to Eastern Washington and a high school field at Canyon High School in Texas.

Goddard also helped start the annual Polish Country Fair that takes place on the St. Mary’s campus every Memorial Day weekend, which is one of the most regularly-attended festivals in the Detroit area.

Len Karschnia, an administrator and assistant coach for the both the football and basketball teams at St. Mary’s, said when Goddard gets in touch with alums who have the means to donate back to the school, there usually is no hesitation because of their respect for Goddard.

“They always trust Robin to do that,” Karschnia said. “Everything he does (is) for the kids and the school, and that is why nobody is really reticent to give back to any projects that he runs because if he tells you on Tuesday he wants $500 to put up a banner in the gym, on Thursday the banner is up and done and there is a plaque on the wall saying thanks to whoever gave it to him.”

A staple at the school since he arrived in 1976, there obviously will be a lot of prayers and well-wishes around the state for a speedy recovery from surgery.

“He is a guy that whatever St. Mary’s needs, he’ll do it and he doesn’t need any fanfare for his good deeds,” Karschnia said. “It’s all for the kids, for George and for the school. That is really his value.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Orchard Lake St. Mary's takes on Detroit Cass Tech on its home red turf in 2012. (Middle) Tucked away in the McLane Stadium bleachers, Robin Goddard watches the Eaglets' run to the 2015 Division 2 baseball championship. (Top photo by Terry McNamara.)

Football Title Reflects Kingsley's Current Success, Recalls Loved Ones Passed

By Tom Spencer
Special for

December 1, 2023

Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThey may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.

The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.

Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.

There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.

Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.

Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.  

Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.

Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back.“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.

“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”

Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game. 

The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.

Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.

Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.

“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”

Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.  

“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said.  “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.

“It was very emotional,” Conner continued.  “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”

Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.

In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.

He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire. 

Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right.On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.

Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.

Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.  

“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.

“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued.  “But nothing like a family does.”

Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.

Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.

“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.

“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”

Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.

Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.

“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’

Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. “You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”

In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.

This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.

The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.

“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain. 

“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”

Tom SpencerTom 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) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)