When it was announced Sunday night that Byron was included in the Division 6 playoff bracket, it wasn’t a surprise for the 5-4 Eagles – but it did provide new opportunities.
An opportunity to play another game. An opportunity to avenge a Week 1 defeat against Flint Hamady. An opportunity to stay together for at least one more week as a team.
In the Marvin household, it provided one other unique opportunity: a chance for senior TJ and his younger sister Sarah, a sophomore, to be teammates on the Eagles’ offensive and defensive lines. Sarah Marvin was a captain on the Eagles’ junior varsity team this year, and is among a group of players moving up to the varsity for the postseason.
“That’s awesome to be able to play football with your sister,” TJ Marvin said. “But to play the same positions and not have to go easy, it’s good, because I can still get a good look.”
It’s the second straight year the Marvins have had this opportunity, and in 2017 they actually were able to line up next to each other late in the Eagles’ loss to Ithaca.
When it comes to practice, being on the same field is nothing new as Byron’s varsity and JV teams often practice together. That means brother and sister – who both play defensive end and offensive tackle -- not only share a field, but also get to square off throughout the season.
“It’s fun,” TJ Marvin said. “It’s cool to be up against your sibling. Caliber of player wise, she lines up just like all the other guys, so I’m still getting a good look. It’s not much different.”
The Marvins get to spend plenty of time together athletically, as both are also throwers on the track & field team, along with Sarah’s twin sister, Becky. Sarah and Becky also get to play basketball for their mother, Theresa, who is the Byron girls varsity basketball coach.
“Everyone in my family knows about throwing,” Sarah said. “All of the sports – you can go home and talk about it, and everyone in your family understands.”
Football is also a family thing, but it’s something special TJ and Sarah share. They started playing while she was in first grade and he was in third, and often times found themselves not only as teammates, but also lined up next to each other on the offensive line.
Starting in the male-dominated sport was something Sarah didn’t think twice about.
“I don’t know if it was something that so much drew me to it. It was just that all of my boy cousins always played,” Sarah Marvin said. “I have (two younger cousins, two younger brothers), an older brother and an older cousin, and we would always rough house.”
Theresa Marvin said her daughter has always loved the game -- whether it be watching or playing -- and became a student of it. TJ agreed.
“Sometimes I’ll give her tips and stuff, but she is very athletically smart,” TJ Marvin said. “She knows the game, watches a lot of football and she’s very good at big picture plays and seeing what’s going on. Any sport, really, but especially football where there is so much going on, she really analyzes the game.”
While they started playing at the same time, TJ does have plenty of experience he can pass onto his younger sister. Injuries kept him off the field for the majority of his freshman and sophomore seasons, but the 6-foot-3, 235-pound two-way starter was an all-conference selection as a junior. He also is a varsity captain this season.
Sarah Marvin already has established herself as an all-state athlete, finishing third this spring at the Lower Peninsula Division 3 track & field championships in the discus and shot put. She was also an honorable mention all-state selection in basketball during her freshman year.
Throwing appears to be her future as an athlete, and continuing to play football is something they’re taking year by year.
“All through my freshman year I was dead set on it, that I’m going to play all four years,” Sarah Marvin said. “I think that’s changed a little bit. I had a kind of close call where a kid went to make a tackle and I was behind our running back, and he fell right into my knee. So that’s the main thing, is not getting hurt.”
Worrying about getting injured, however, has nothing to do with Sarah’s gender.
“Sometimes I worry about it, but I don’t worry about her anymore than I would other guys on the field,” TJ Marvin said. “I worry about it a little bit with her coming up on varsity where there are much bigger players and it’s a little more intense, but I know what she can do physicality wise and the kind of athlete she is. I worry about her getting hurt, but I worry about every one of my teammates getting hurt.”
Sarah is simply a member of the team, and she says that’s something that resonates through the program.
“Within my grade level and even the grade older, since I’ve played since the first grade, I think they’re just used to it -- we’re definitely just regular teammates,” she said. “They don’t treat me any different than the other kids; they’re just out there to play football. I’d probably be annoyed if they didn’t hit me as hard as they hit everyone else.”
Despite that, the Marvin siblings realize their situation is unique, and they feel fortunate to be able to experience playing together for at least one more week.
“(Getting on the field together) would be a really cool thing to do,” Sarah Marvin said. “Especially in his senior year.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) TJ, left, and Sarah Marvin take the field for Byron’s varsity and junior varsity teams, respectively, this season. (Middle) TJ and Sarah first teamed up nine years ago when TJ was in 3rd grade and Sarah in 1st. (Photos courtesy of the Marvin family.)
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.)