Challenges Conquered, Resilient P-W Raises Title Trophy Again

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

November 27, 2021

DETROIT – The 11 on the field for Pewamo-Westphalia’s football team may have looked different at any given time this season because of mounting injuries, but no worries for the Pirates.

They just kept playing. Consequently, they continue to add MHSAA Finals hardware to the trophy case.

In a defensive battle of unbeatens and mirror images, senior Dak Ewalt’s 35-yard touchdown burst with 5:50 remaining lifted perennial power P-W to a 14-10 victory over first-time Finals qualifier Lawton in the MHSAA Division 7 title game Saturday at Ford Field. It was the fourth title in six years for the Pirates.

“Just the resiliency that this group had. There were so many times this year when we could have broke, but they just seemed to get stronger,” said P-W coach Jeremy Miller, who improved to 105-9 in nine seasons at the helm.

“I can’t really explain it, but it just makes you proud as a coach to see them get through that.”

P-W capped its third 14-0 season in six years. The Pirates added to their trophy case, which already features awards from 2016, 2017 and 2019 championships, plus runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2015.

It definitely wasn’t easy this season, however. A number of key players missed significant time with injuries. For example, Ewalt was sidelined by a broken arm at the start of the season and missed last week’s 28-21 Semifinal victory over Traverse City St. Francis because of a concussion.

When the speedy 5-foot-9, 180-pound Ewalt got the call Saturday, he was ready. 

After Lawton (13-1) took a 10-7 lead in the hard-fought game on senior Ethan O’Donnell’s 43-yard field goal with 10:06 left – the fifth-longest field goal in 11-Player Finals history – Ewalt and the Pirates answered. He took a dive handoff and sprinted untouched for what proved to be the winning TD.

“It meant a lot, coming here together, duking it out with a really good team over there,” said Ewalt, who finished with a game-high 61 yards on eight carries. “Just a really heart-felt moment – couldn’t believe it.”

Lawton coach Wade Waldrup, who is 30-4 in four seasons, shouldered the blame for having the Blue Devils in the wrong defensive scheme on P-W’s game-winning TD.

Miller believed that eventually P-W would find a crease, and the Pirates did.

Division 7 Football Final“I know for a while it looked like we were just banging into a brick wall, but they were bringing so many guys, we thought if we could find that crease, then he’d be gone,” Miller said. “Dax’s a tremendous runner. This guy’s put in a ton of work in the weight room, and I’m so happy to see him break to that next level because I knew once he got there, he was gone.”

It took a while for Lawton to gets its footing in the game. The Blue Devils exhibited some early jitters. 

They fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Three plays later, P-W senior quarterback Cam Cook scored on a 3-yard keeper around right end to stake the Pirates to a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest. 

P-W stayed in attack mode, as the Pirates recovered an onside kick. They drove into the red zone, but Lawton’s defense tightened and the Blue Devils settled into the flow of the game.

It was a brand-new game with 1:13 left in the half, when Lawton senior QB Landon Motter hit junior Luke Leighton on a 41-yard strike down the sideline to knot the score at 7.

“You watched the game, it took us about 5 seconds to get over it,” Waldrup said. “We had the long pass (34 yards from P-W’s Cook to Brock Thelen, setting up Cook’s TD) and we had the fumble, and that was it. From that point on, I would say (that) Pewamo would say we played them even except for one play at the end of the game.”

P-W finished with a 240-204 edge in total offense, including a 139-86 advantage in rushing yards. Seniors Ashtin Wirth (fumble recovery) and Landon Nurenberg led the Pirates defense with eight tackles apiece.

Lawton senior all-stater Jake Rueff, who entered with a state-leading 49 total TDs (46 rushing), managed only 50 yards on 16 carries. He closed his spectacular season with 2,367 yards on the ground.

Motter finished the game 8-of-17 passing for 118 yards with one interception. Senior Drew Stephayn paced Lawton’s defense with a game-high 10 stops, while junior Carter Cosby had nine tackles and a pick.

Lawton’s run to Ford Field was a long time in the making. Seven seniors had started on the varsity team since their sophomore seasons. The Blue Devils put their small southwestern Michigan town on the map and captivated the community.

“It’s legendary. I mean, Lawton’s never seen anything like it,” Motter said with red eyes during the postgame press conference. “We haven’t even won a District title before this year, and then we won a District and then we went on to win a Regional and a Semifinal, and here we are.”

And here are the Pirates – hoisting another state-title trophy.

There were plenty of challenges for P-W, which was saddled by injuries all season long. In the third game, senior back Tanner Wirth – an all-stater as a sophomore – was lost to injury. In consecutive weeks, Cook and Thelen were injured. Connor Pohl and Cade Stump also suffered injuries. 

Miller noted that many of his team’s injuries happened in freakish ways.

“It’s a next-man-up thing. These guys all train, and they’ve all got to be ready – they know that,” Miller said. “Being a small school, you know, if somebody goes out, we’re not really deep. They just do a great job being ready.”

Cook suffered a knee injury in Week 5 that he thought might cost him the season. He returned in last week’s victory over St. Francis and split reps with junior Troy Wertman.

For the Cook and Pirates, it was all about being ready when your number is called. On Saturday, Cook scored the game’s first TD, and he kept the Blue Devils defense honest by going 6-of-15 passing for 101 yards with one pick.

“Just going down with an injury, it was really hard for me in my senior year,” Cook said, “and to fight back, rehab back into this position, it’s just amazing to come out like this.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTO (Top) Pewamo-Westphalia’s Dak Ewalt celebrates his fourth-quarter score that proved the game winner Saturday. (Middle) The Pirates’ Troy Wertman (17) looks to elude Lawton’s Kallon Motter (8) and Carter Cosby (2). (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.