Clarkston Surges by Kicking it Forward

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

October 27, 2016

CLARKSTON – Coach Kurt Richardson held a disdain for kickers. He didn’t trust them. He contends that a poor kicking game cost his Clarkston football team the 2000 Division 1 Semifinal, a 17-15 loss to eventual champion Grand Ledge.

Three years before, Clarkston had lost one-point games to Rochester (20-19) and Troy (21-20) that cost the Wolves an opportunity to play in the playoffs. Again, the kicking game had let him down.

“We didn’t have kickers,” Richardson said. “We made kickers. We tried a soccer player once back then, and it didn’t work.”

Enter the Breen brothers, Andrew and Ryan. Andrew Breen was Clarkston’s kicker in 2003. Ryan Breen followed and was the kicker in 2005 and 2006. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but Clarkston hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2002. You won’t get Richardson to say that.

Andrew Breen went on to kick for Tiffin University (Ohio), and every place-kicker since has gone on to college as a kicker – including his brother, Ryan, who went to Penn State.

The others include Alex Barta, who went on to kick for the U.S. Naval Academy. Then there’s Shane Hynes, the place-kicker on the 2013 Division 1 championship team, who is currently Kent State’s place-kicker. Alex Kessman was the place-kicker on the 2014 Division 1 title team, and he’s at Pittsburgh after graduating from high school this past June.

Zach Mansour is Clarkston’s place-kicker this season. And although he hasn’t decided what college he will attend next year, rest assured Mansour will be on a roster somewhere, whether it’s at the Division I level or below.

“Andrew kind of broke up the ice,” Richardson said. “It’s made a big difference. What also comes out of making field goals and having good kickers is now we’re kicking the ball in the end zone and teams are starting from their 20.”

Ryan Breen doesn’t remember exactly when it happened, but his life changed when he was a freshman at Clarkston High.

Breen and his brother were soccer players throughout their childhood. Then his freshman year his brother was a senior and Clarkston’s kicker, and something clicked. Ryan was just having fun working with his brother, shagging footballs, when he got the urge to try it.

Something clicked for the Clarkston football program as well.

“Coach Kurt realized, after a while, that kicking is so much part of the game,” Ryan Breen said. “He started to trust me my junior and senior years. He’d been let down so much (by kickers). It’s frustrating.

“It opened his eyes that (Clarkston’s) kicking game could be so good.”

Ryan gives credit to his brother for starting what has become a fraternity of kickers at Clarkston. And it continues today with Ryan Breen giving back – or paying it forward, if you will.

Clarkston is a sports-crazed community with football and basketball taking the lead. The fan support these teams receive is as fervent as any in the Detroit area. When an athlete experiences success at a school like this, often that person is motivated to give back. That’s what Breen has done.

“My brother kind of got me into it,” Ryan said. “We were athletes first. My freshman year I’d help him, chasing the footballs after he kicked them. I figured I’d do it for him. I never thought I’d kick. We never thought we’d kick.”

At first, his experience in college led Ryan to go back to Clarkston and share his expertise with the next kicker in line, Barta.    

“I got with Alex and his dad,” Ryan said. “I tried to lend the knowledge I had.”

After coaching as a volunteer, Ryan came on staff at the junior varsity level for three seasons. He was there to start this season, but was forced to leave due to the time commitment he had with his business in Oakland County. He’s hoping that soon, perhaps in a year or so, his business will become less demanding and he’ll return to Richardson’s staff.

But he’s left his mark, and others have picked up his lead. Those who have followed, like Mansour, are reaping the benefits.

Mansour handles the place kicking and kickoff duties for Richardson, and he’s 5 of 7 on field goal tries with a long make of 45 yards. A junior, Jermaine Roemer, is the punter and, at this point, it appears he will replace Mansour as the team’s place-kicker next season.

“I was close with Shane (Hynes) and Alex (Kessman),” Mansour said. “I got a ton of knowledge from them. And Shane learned from Barta. I’m close with Jermaine. And Tristan Mattson is on (junior varsity). I’ll be working with him after the season.

“We’ve gotten so good with our kicking. It puts us ahead of other teams. When I worked with Shane and Alex, they were brutally honest. They’ll break you down. They yelled at me. It’s not to hurt your feelings. It’s all for the game.

“Paying it forward? It’s kind of my job. Jermaine and I developed a good relationship. We’ve had that reputation of having good kickers, and we want to keep it that way.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Zach Mansour kicks off Clarkston's season against Lapeer on Aug. 26 at Michigan Stadium. (Middle) Shane Hynes follows through on a kick during the 2013 Division 1 Final at Ford Field. (Click to see more of top photo from

Football Title Reflects Kingsley's Current Success, Recalls Loved Ones Passed

By Tom Spencer
Special for

December 1, 2023

Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThey 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.

Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back.“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. 

Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right.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.’

Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. “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 SpencerTom 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.)