JACKSON – It has been nearly 38 years since Herb Brogan became head football coach at Jackson Lumen Christi. It is hard to imagine anyone facing tougher circumstances in a promotion than he did early in 1980.
Lumen Christi was coming off its second Class B championship in three seasons, this one capping an undefeated season. Head coach Jim Crowley was named the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Class B Coach of the Year, and Brogan had been on the varsity staff since 1973 and had been part of the program since 1971.
It was a close coaching staff, but everything changed on the first Friday night of 1980. Crowley confronted a man in his driveway as he returned home from picking up his daughter. After sending his daughter inside, Crowley was shot and killed, leaving the Jackson community shocked and saddened.
At age 30, Brogan was chosen to succeed Crowley, his friend and mentor who had been the coach at rival St. John while Brogan played for St. Mary. The two schools merged in 1968, and Crowley was named head coach. Crowley and Brogan formed a strong friendship during their years together, and Brogan was the obvious choice to be the new head coach after Crowley’s sudden death.
“You’re in shock,” Brogan said of his recollections of that tragic night. “It played out slowly, and it was a long, long night. I remember that.”
Taking over the program under those circumstances was challenging for Brogan.
“It was hard just because I missed Jim,” he said. “I had the support of his family, and the coaching staff remained the same and constant, and the kids bonded together. We just worked our way through it.”
A year later, the MHSFCA created the Jim Crowley Award, and continues to hand it out each season.
Through the years, Brogan put his own stamp on the program, but the Crowley influence always has been evident to those who could recognize it.
“A lot of the plays are the same; that play-action pass is the way we ran it back then,” Brogan said. “He established the foundation, and a lot of the things are run the same way. Circumstances have changed, but the tradition has stayed the same.”
Brogan’s first two teams both finished the regular season undefeated. In 1980, Lumen Christi lost to Farmington Hills Harrison 7-6 in the Class B Regional, and in 1981, the 9-0 Titans were denied a playoff spot despite outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 301-26.
From 1981-94, Lumen Christi made the playoffs just twice but still had 12 winning seasons out of 14 and never finished worse than 4-5. In 1995, Lumen Christi had an unbeaten regular season and won a playoff game before losing to Detroit Country Day.
The following season, Lumen Christi won its third MHSAA title – and the first with Brogan as head coach – and the most prolonged successful run in school history was underway.
Since 1992, Lumen Christi has not been worse than 6-3 in any season. It also has 263 wins – an average of more than 10 per season over 26 seasons. The Titans won seven MHSAA championships during that run, including two capping back-to-back 14-0 seasons in 2000-01.
Brogan said each title brought its own satisfaction.
“They are all different, and the kids are different,” he said. “Sometimes you expect it, like in 2000 and 2001 and in 1996. It would have been a disappointment if we didn’t win those.”
And sometimes the expectations are not as high. At the beginning of the 2016 season, Brogan saw promise in his young team but was unsure how things would turn out. It did not look real promising after the Titans started 1-2.
“The team did what we hoped it would do,” he said. “We knew we weren’t going to be very good early on, and we weren’t, but we were young and we had a chance to get a lot better and we did.”
Lumen Christi ran the table, winning its last 11 games with a few key victories along the way. One of those came in the sixth week against Coldwater.
“The Coldwater game that we won in overtime was a big confidence booster because we had already lost two games at that point,” senior fullback/linebacker Kyle Minder said. “It was a big game to win.”
Senior left guard Austin Maynard, then a junior, pointed to the victory over Schoolcraft in the Division 6 District Final as a key point in the season.
“We found out we can win it all because that team was probably the best we faced all year,” he said. “When we won that game, we looked at each other saying. ‘It’s possible that we could win it all.’ “
The 11-game run was capped with a 26-14 victory over Maple City Glen Lake at Ford Field in Detroit.
“It was what everyone dreams about; the feeling that happens when you win is indescribable,” Maynard said. “It feels like you are on top of the world and nothing can bring you down. You know all the hard work that you put in during the summer paid off.”
The players, however, wanted more.
“They have embraced the challenge of being the defending champions,” Brogan said. “We’ll see what happens, but it’s been on their minds ever since we walked off Ford Field last year.”
Driven to repeat
Brogan does not shy away from scheduling a tough foe or two in the non-conference, and this season the Titans opened against four-time reigning Division 5 champion Grand Rapids West Catholic for the second year in a row. They knocked off the Falcons 27-24 to get the season off to a rousing start.
“In the non-conference, there is nobody better to play than Grand Rapids West Catholic,” senior tight end/defensive end Cameron White said. “Just having them on our schedule is great, and to come out with a win was awesome.”
One of the neat aspects for this group of players is that it is the first to complete an entire season of playing its home games at the high school. In the past, Lumen Christi has always played its home games at Withington Community Stadium, which is located at Jackson High School. A few years ago, Lumen Christi opened its own field and eventually ended up playing all of its home games there.
“I was a little bit concerned about that because Withington is such a nice venue, and we wondered how the kids would accept it, but they love it,” Brogan said. “I think the kids in the school like it, and they have their own little section down there in the end zone and there is a lot of enthusiasm down there.
“It’s nice getting dressed here and walking out to play a ballgame.”
It certainly has been a hit with the players.
“It’s nice to be at our own school and not have to travel for home games,” senior receiver/defensive end Sam Mizner said. “It’s nice to have that LC in the middle of the field all of the time.”
Maynard said it’s a different feeling to be playing on the school grounds.
“When we played at Jackson High, they are one of our biggest rivals in football, so playing there you just didn’t feel at home,” he said. “Here we are playing in front of our home crowd at home.”
This year’s team is experienced with strong line play, and one improvement over last year – at least statistically – is on defense. The Titans have allowed an average of 12.8 points per game after giving up 17 a year ago.
“Offensively, we’re physical, and we have a great offensive line,” Brogan said. “I’d say that’s the strength of our team. We’ve been able to block everybody all year long. We have two good tailbacks who have rushed for 1,800 yards and a fullback who has rushed for 750. Our quarterback has thrown for about 1,200 yards and completed 68 percent. We haven’t thrown it a lot, but we have thrown it effectively off our play-action stuff. When we have been able to run it well, we’ve been able to hurt people.
“It’s an experienced group. Most of these kids had a role in the state championship last year. We returned a lot. It’s a mature group. They are fun to coach and fun to be around. They enjoy themselves and play hard and play with intensity, but they have a lot of fun doing it.”
Lumen Christi played an eight-game schedule this regular season and went 7-1 with a one-point loss to Battle Creek Harper Creek in the third week of the season.
“I think it was a very good point in the season when we ended up losing,” White said. “It was a wake-up call that everything wasn’t going to be easy and everything wasn’t going to be given to us.
“It showed that we need to work that much harder.”
Lumen Christi will take an eight-game winning streak into its Division 6 Semifinal on Saturday. The first eight Finals championships in school history were either in Class B or Division 5, but declining enrollment dropped the Titans to Division 6 in 2014. But that hasn’t necessarily meant an easier road to a title. This year, perennial powers Ithaca and Traverse City St. Francis are meeting in the other Semifinal game.
“Last year, I thought Division 5 was more difficult than Division 6, but overall this year, Division 6 is probably more difficult than Division 5,” Brogan said. “What I have found over the years is that there are really good teams in every division, just the further down you go there are less of them.
“We felt last week that seven of the eight teams who were left could win it, and now, any of the four could win it.”
Brogan – The Leader
With a lengthy resume as impressive as Brogan’s, there is no doubt who is in charge. And the players know of him long before they ever play for him.
“When you come into the program in seventh grade, you look at Coach and he’s a very intimidating guy,” Maynard said. “You know the hard work that he is going to put you through just from the stories you’ve heard, and true football players want that; they want coaches to come up to you and challenge you and put you through the most difficult workouts you’ve ever been through.”
And, when they mess up, they will hear about it.
“At first, you are scared of making a mistake, but you have to do everything 100 percent,” Mizner said. “You know you are going to get yelled at because you’re not perfect, but things will happen and you’ll get better during the season.”
Brogan will coach with an iron fist, but he isn’t one to run up the score. Often during his career a 28-0 halftime lead ended with something like a 35-0 victory.
He preaches clean play and will not tolerate any of his players doing something that might be deemed dirty. His players told of one such instance this season. One of the Titans pushed an opposing player after the play, and as White told it, that player felt the wrath of Brogan.
“Coach Brogan got in his face,” White said. “It solved the problem, and the player learned his lesson. And he learned his lesson at conditioning, too.”
And finally, there is a saying around football circles in Jackson. It goes something like this: “If Lumen Christi is close at halftime, the coaches will more often make the proper halftime adjustments to give the Titans the edge in the second half.”
In typical style of the low-key coach, Brogan directs that credit to his assistant coaches.
“I think we have a great coaching staff, and honestly, they do a lot more of that stuff than I do,” he said. “We have an offensive staff and an offensive coordinator and a defensive staff and a defensive coordinator, and my job is to sit here and talk to the media.”
Brogan is fifth all-time in coaching wins in the state of Michigan and second among active coaches. His career record is 341-83, and he is one of just 10 coaches to reach 300 career victories. He doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
“It’s still fun,” he said. “I don’t have a lot of classes anymore, and in the offseason I can kind of do what I want to do. I’m coaching with great guys and coaching great kids.
“I’ll be here as long as these guys want me around.”
Chip Mundy served as sports editor at the Brooklyn Exponent and Albion Recorder from 1980-86, and then as a reporter and later copy editor at the Jackson Citizen-Patriot from 1986-2011. He also co-authored Michigan Sports Trivia. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Lumen Christi players stand arm-in-arm. (Middle top) Titans coach Herb Brogan talks things over with his players. (Middle below) Lumen Christi fullback Kyle Minder, left, leads the way for tailback Sebastian Toland. (Below) The Titans are succeeding again behind a powerful offensive line. (Photos courtesy of the Jackson Lumen Christi football program.)
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They 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.
“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.
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.’
“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 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.)