'Coaching Bug' Still Drives St Mary's Porritt

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

August 19, 2015

ORCHARD LAKE – George Porritt never seriously considered entering the coaching profession when he graduated from Hillsdale College in 1979 with a degree in both parks and recreation and physical education.

At age 14 he had worked part time in the parks and recreation department in Independence Township, a few miles south of Clarkston where he grew up. With that experience, Porritt thought he had found a career path.

But a year after graduating from college, Porritt, like most in their early 20s, was looking for work – any kind of work. During the fall of 1980, Dan Fife, the head varsity boys basketball coach at Clarkston, hired Porritt as his freshmen coach. The next school year he became an assistant football coach, along with current head coach Kurt Richardson, under Walt Wyniemko at Clarkston.

“I got the coaching bug,” Porritt said.

And he’s been a coach ever since.

Competing in the Detroit Catholic League Central, considered by many the state’s best football conference, is a challenge every year. Butting heads with legendary coaches such as Al Fracassa (now retired) at Birmingham Brother Rice and Tom Mach at Detroit Catholic Central is a daunting task, but Porritt and St. Mary’s have proved worthy adversaries.

The Eaglets are coming off a 12-2 finish and Division 3 title, their fifth under his leadership.

Most who follow high school sports link the name Porritt with football. It’s understandable.

In 1986, St. Mary’s hired Porritt as a teacher, and that summer he became a varsity assistant football coach under Rob Haeger.  Porritt replaced Haeger in 1989.

His record heading into this season is 234-66, which ranks 10th among active coaches. Since 2006, St. Mary’s has reached the MHSAA finals six times. He’s coached 15 players who have gone on to play in the NFL.

There’s more. His brother Rich is the offensive coordinator at Clarkston. His uncle, Bob Porritt, coached at Okemos and a cousin, Rob Porritt, coached at Haslett and Perry.

George Porritt loves coaching football, and it’s likely he’ll coach few more seasons.

But there’s something Porritt loves more than football, and that’s being a part of St. Mary’s.

He’s been the school’s athletic director since 1989, and the year before he was hired as the varsity basketball coach. He coached basketball for 22 seasons (he took six years in the mid-90s off to help his wife, Terry, raise their three children) before he retired from that position this past July.

Porritt’s success in football often overshadowed his success as a basketball coach. He coached the Eaglets to the Class B title in 2000, they reached the Class A Semifinals in 2006 and his teams won 10 Catholic League Central titles, six league championships, 12 district titles and six regional titles. His career record is 336-180.

When asked why he stepped away from basketball, Porritt said he pondered that move two years ago but continued on because of his relationships with the coaching staff and, of course, the players.

In the end he got out of coaching basketball to spend more time with his family. His son Kenny lives in Maryland and he and his wife are expecting their third child. His daughter, Marilyn, graduated from University of Oregon and recently moved to Nashville, Tenn., to begin working for Vanderbilt University. The Porritts’ third child, Mason, is a senior at Grand Valley State University.

Terry Porritt travelled from Maryland and Tennessee earlier this month to visit her children, leaving her husband at home to coach football. Family time is precious, and the Porritts plan to spend more time with their family in the years to come.

But don’t expect George Porritt to leave St. Mary’s. Though he’s not coaching basketball, he’ll be at every home game because of his duties as athletic director. And aside from long road trips, he’ll be at the away games, too.

“I enjoyed my coaching at Clarkston,” he said. “And I wanted to get a teaching job there. But getting into education was tough then, as it is now.

“I love St. Mary’s. When you drive on this campus, it’s an awesome place to be. I want to work here as long as I can. I’ve met so many great people. Msgr. (Stanley) Milewski was awesome. (Headmaster) Larry Reeside has been tremendous. He inspired me and taught me so much. Then there’s the kids.”

Porritt mentioned one player, in particular, on the team this season as being a special person. His name is Josh Ross and his brother, James, plays for University of Michigan. Josh Ross is a 15-year-old junior but one of the team leaders, and he's already received scholarship offers from Michigan State, U-M and Notre Dame. Porritt said Ross is a no-nonsense type of player and one who helps maintain discipline, on the field and off.

Total, the Eaglets will return five starters on both offense and defense. Senior quarterback Brendan Tambone is back and joined by returning starting running backs Brandon Adams and Justin Myrick; Adams scored the lone touchdown in last season's MHSAA Final. Others of note include junior receiver/defensive back Kaylee Hamlee, who has offers from a handful of Big Ten programs, and 6-foot-5, 275-pound two-way lineman Cameron Kolwich, who will sign with Northwestern this fall. 

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 but also contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Orchard Lake St. Mary's football coach George Porritt huddles with one of his players during last season's Division 3 Final. (Middle) Porritt watches a play unfold against Coopersville during his team's 2000 championship game win. (Below) Porritt receives last season's champion's trophy from Muskegon running back and MHSAA Student Advisory Council member Jared Pittman and the Representative Council's Orlando Medina, athletic director at Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse. 

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.)