Chain Gang Linked by Decades of Down & Distance

By Pam Shebest
Special for

September 18, 2018

SCHOOLCRAFT — Skip Fox figures he and his buddies have the best seats in the house when it comes to Schoolcraft football.

And the four have had them for a combined 167 years.

Fox, Jeff Bell, David Krum and Dick Goldschmeding make up the chain gang for the Eagles’ home games, and boast tenures individually and working together that surely rank among the longest in Michigan for providing that gameday duty.

They work well together, an asset when it comes to games like Schoolcraft’s 49-48 double overtime win against Saugatuck last Friday.

Each has a specific job with Bell and Goldschmeding working the chains, Krum the clip and Fox the down box.

Do they lose focus during those long games?

“Never,” Bell said, as the others burst into laughter, with one chiming in: “Good answer.”

“We’re always consummate chain people,” Bell continued. “Never once have I been leaning on that stake and having Dick on the other end pull me along to get going.”

The camaraderie among the four is evident as they share memories.

Fox, who is in his 55th season working the chains, started on the sidelines after his 1964 graduation from Schoolcraft High School.

“When I started, it was a three-man crew,” he said. “We always invited somebody from the opposing team to be on the chains. Then they started changing some of the rules.

“At that time, we worked one half on the visitors’ side and one half on the home side. When the chains had to be opposite the press box, we started working the games all on one side.

“It’s always the opposing side, so we’ve heard a lot of opposing coaches over the years. We’ve learned a few new words.”

Bell, a 1966 Schoolcraft grad, joined the crew 51 years ago.

Before retiring, he was a middle school teacher in the district for 28 years and “doing that, you get to know all the kids so it was always fun to be down there watching the kids you knew.

“It’s different now (that he is retired). We kind of refer to the program all the time to make sure we know who’s who on the team.”

The gang has seen definite changes in the game over their tenure.

“We see a lot more conditioning and a lot more safety regulations,” Bell said. “The rules change and we try to keep up with that as much as possible.

“It’s a faster paced game than it was when we first started.”

Krum worked part-time on the chain gang from 1965 to 1970 while he attended Michigan State University and has been full-time the last 49 seasons.

One down side of the job, he said, is “Mother Nature. At times I wished we weren’t out there because we can’t leave. We’re stuck there rain or snow.”

Bell said weather seems to be one of the biggest changes over the years.

“At least half of the season we worked in Carhartts and snow was at least ankle deep,” he said. “Now we usually don’t see snow, but we get cold weather, mosquitoes, things like that.”

Krum really did have the best seat in the house to see his son, Dean, make an outstanding play several years ago.

“It was right in front of us in the end zone,” Krum said. “He knocked a pass down on the last play and we won the game. The whole crowd went crazy.

“I was in utter shock. I kept asking the guys, ‘He didn’t get a penalty, did he?’ It saved a two-pointer and we won the game by one.”

Krum is the one who protects the sideline.

“I’m the one who tells the coaches and players to please get back as we are going up and down,” he said. “You’ve got to talk to them all the time.”

Goldschmeding is the new guy on the crew. 

A graduate of Portage Central High school, he moved to Schoolcraft 50 years ago and was recruited 12 years ago.

“We’ve been friends for a number of years, and they said they had an opening on the chain gang and would I be interested,” Goldschmeding said. “I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

“At the time I was assisting on the (Schoolcraft) sideline at football games, so I moved from one side of the field to the other.”

As an assistant coach, Goldschmeding said he was well aware of the guys working the chains across the field.

“I think every coach is aware of what is going on on the other side of the field because they have to be involved in every play,” he said. “They’re thinking two or three plays ahead all the time.”

One of the first things the crew does is meet with game officials to coordinate moves.

“When a first down is made, one of us will mark the spot and the other will extend the chain the full extent of the 10 yards,” Bell said. “We hold that position until the officials give us the nod.”

Sometimes the crew has to scamper down the field, which becomes time for Fox’s stand-in to appear.

“When they have a 40- or 50-yard run, David’s nephew (Blake Krum) takes over and runs down the field for me,” Fox said. “At age 72, I’m not that fast anymore.”

Bell said the crew’s goal is to go unnoticed.

“If you hold up the game, that’s real bad,” he said. “You want to do your job, and if you’re not noticed and nobody has anything to say about the chain gang, you’ve done your job. That’s pretty much the way it works.”

Fox said about the only downside of the job is not sitting with their wives at games.

“All our wives sit on the other side without us,” he said. “You’ve got to have understanding wives.”

Sideline service one of many school connections

For Fox, Schoolcraft football has been a generational thing.

He lettered in football all four years and added, “My oldest son (Matthew) was on the championship team in 1990 and my other son, Mark, made all-state on both offense and defense, which was a rarity.”

“I’ve got four grandsons, and they all played for Schoolcraft.”

He also served on the Schoolcraft Board of Education for 34 years.

Bell played basketball for the Eagles and his son, Ross, played on the MHSAA Division 6 champion football team in 2001.

Krum did not play sports, but was a sports enthusiast in school.

He spent 29½ years on the school board.

Although he wasn’t involved in Eagles sports as a student, Goldschmeding’s two sons, John and Josh, played football at Schoolcraft and he was involved in the Athletic Boosters. He also has grandchildren involved in Schoolcraft sports.

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Schoolcraft's Jeff Bell, Skip Fox, David Krum, Dick Goldschmeding work the chains during a game this season. (Middle) Clockwise, from top left: Bell, Fox, Goldschmeding and Krum. (Below) From left, Goldschmeding, Bell and Krum meet with game officials. (Photos by Pam Shebest.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)