ERIE – Vaughn Brown never worried about replacing a legend. He just wanted to be the Erie Mason starting quarterback.
After a solid rookie season last year, Brown has started out his junior year with a bang. In the Eagles’ season opener Friday, Brown threw eight touchdown passes during the first half, tying a state record, and his right arm has Erie Mason fans thinking a third-straight playoff season is possible.
“It was one of those nights,” Brown said. “Everything was going well. It kept working. It didn’t matter what we did, they couldn’t stop it.”
The Eagles beat Saranac, 50-14. Brown threw a 61-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the game and had three TDs in the first quarter. He tossed five more in the second quarter to become just the second player in state history to have eight touchdown passes in a half.
“Watching film, we knew what their corners and safeties would do,” Brown said. “On the second play of the game, Korbin Herrera went deep and just ran right past a guy. I dropped back, and I knew right then it was going to be a good day. I threw it, and he ran under it and scored. It was a great play.”
Getting into the Erie Mason passing record book is no easy feat. That’s because the quarterback who Brown replaced last year was Noah Beaudrie, now playing at Mount Union College.
Beaudrie was a four-year quarterback at Erie Mason and put up some stunning numbers. As a senior in 2020, Beaudrie accumulated more than 1,000 yards rushing and passing. Over his four seasons, he completed 371-of-647 passes for 5,747 yards and 56 touchdowns. He ran for another 4,503 yards and 59 touchdowns.
He earned all-state honors and had multiple college offers before landing at Mount Union, one of the most storied small-college football programs in the nation.
As a sophomore, Brown had the unenviable task of taking over for Beaudrie. He said he never felt like he had to replace Beaudrie, just help his team win.
“I knew Noah,” Brown said. “He was super good to me and helped me along the way. I just came into the season just wanting to help last year’s seniors win games. I didn’t care about stats. I never really have cared about that. The stats never crossed my mind.”
Brown grew up just across the state line in Toledo, Ohio, and moved to Erie Mason before he was in the seventh grade. He was part of the Eagles program when Beaudrie was setting record after record.
“He was a good mentor. He helped me along the way. Noah was a great athlete and an amazing player in general,” Brown said.
“Me and him play a different type of game. He’s more athletic than me. He liked to run. I’d rather stay in the pocket and throw the ball 100 times a game than run.”
Erie Mason head coach Steven Bower said Brown has grown into the quarterback position and as a team leader. During the summer Brown never missed a chance to work out, lift weights or get in time with his receivers.
“He’s the poster child for our program. He does everything,” Bowers said.
“I hate missing stuff. I enjoy being there and being around the guys,” Brown said.
During the offseason, Bowers had some of his players go through leadership training. Bowers called it “captain’s classes.” Brown was one of the players to go through the training.
“The kids have done a good job of listening to him and following him,' Bowers said. “He sets the standard for everyone.”
Brown was a four-sport athlete last year, playing basketball in the winter and pulling double duty in the spring by playing baseball and running track.
“Vaughn is a tremendous athlete and leader,” Erie Mason basketball coach Kevin Skaggs said. “In a summer game he had to defend a 6-foot-5 post player in one scrimmage. He outworked, outran, and out rebounded him. He’s a tough, tough kid.”
Brown (6-0, 170) plays down his basketball abilities.
“I’m one of those guys who just goes out there, plays defense and rebounds and helps the team win,” Brown said. “I might ride the bench, but I’ll push people in practice and do the best I can.”
Brown said he gets his work ethic from his parents, Allen and Paige Brown, both Ohio natives. His dad was an all-state defensive lineman in high school.
“My parents have always instilled in me hard work. They’ve always told me I had to earn everything,” Vaughn Brown said.
“My mom and dad have driven me to so much stuff over the years. I can’t count how many times they gave me rides to sports. My mom would get off work early, and my dad took me places. I’m very grateful for that.”
Brown said he had never heard of Erie Mason before his parents bought a home in the community. Now he lives right across the street from the school.
Brown finished Friday’s game with 13 completions on 19 attempts for 358 yards. He completed passes to six receivers.
“We have five or six guys who are great receivers,” he said. “Friday gave us a lot of confidence. All our guys just played so well. The line blocked great, and the guys made some great catches. I’m excited about what’s to come.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Erie Mason quarterback Vaughn Brown pulls away from a Saranac tackler during Friday’s season opener. (Middle) Brown rolls right during the win at Olivet College. (Photos by Amy Brighton South.)
Separated by 527 travel miles – whether over Mackinac Bridge or around Lake Michigan, the Novara family celebrated nearly parallel football successes this fall.
At Portland, John Novara completed his 25th season as head coach leading the Raiders to a 12-1 record – their best since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2018, and a second-straight Capital Area Activities Conference White championship on the way to reaching the Division 4 Semifinals.
At Kingsford, fifth-year coach Mark Novara led the Flivvers to a 10-2 record – their best since posting the same in 2004. Kingsford shared the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title and won a Division 5 District title, its first District championship since 2009.
John Novara graduated from Iron Mountain in 1989, and younger brother Mark graduated from Kingsford in 1993.
Similarly parallel, both teams were quarterbacked by Novaras. Dominic Novara directed the Raiders’ attack, and cousin Nic Novara led the Flivvers. Both are juniors. (Mark Novara was a Division III All-American at quarterback at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.)
One more connection: Portland athletic director Kevin Veale quarterbacked the Iron Mountain teams with John Novara as tight end long before they worked together downstate. Veale’s nephew Garrett Veale was a standout two-way lineman for Mark Novara and Kingsford this fall.
Small gesture, memorable connection
Dante DeGrazia’s senior season was sadly short-lived this fall, as he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half of South Lyon East’s opening game against White Lake Lakeland at Michigan Stadium.
But an official provided a memory the DeGrazias will not forget.
Chris Curtis had begun his 16th season as an official earlier that day at U-M, and stuck around to watch the Lakes Valley Conference matchup. A month later, he was officiating the East/Warren Mott game, and made sure to check in with DeGrazia – a small gesture, but a meaningful one as well and another reminder of the interconnectedness of communities within educational athletics.
“When he heard my son wasn't able to play anymore, needed surgery and that he was a senior, he offered him kindness and a hug on the field,” Dante’s mother Dana DeGrazia wrote to East athletic director Greg Michaels. “As a parent whose son is going through a rough time dealing with losing his senior season, hearing this story from Dante means a lot to me and the support that was given to him and I wanted to reach out and tell him thank you.”
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford football coach Mark Novara, far left, quarterback Nic Novara and Portland coach (and uncle) John Novara celebrate the Flivvers' District title. (Middle) South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game. (Photos courtesy of the Portland football program and DeGrazia family, respectively.)