D-Coach Stratton, QB Son Leaving Family Mark on Whitehall's Undefeated Run

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

November 2, 2022

Keith Stratton may be an assistant coach, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has the best vantage point of his son Kyle, Whitehall’s standout junior quarterback.

“I actually miss most of his plays,” explained Keith Stratton, who is in his 10th year as the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.

“I usually have my back to the field, talking to my (defensive) guys. I know he did something good from the roar of the crowd or the PA announcer.”

Kyle Stratton – whose trademark, flowing blonde locks seem to atone for his dad’s bald look – has done plenty of good this fall, leading his team to a West Michigan Conference Lakes title, a No. 2 ranking in Division 4 and a 10-0 record. The Vikings’ closest game since Labor Day was a 42-12 win over Big Rapids in last week’s playoff opener.

Whitehall will face a stiffer challenge in Friday’s Division 4 District title game against Fruitport (8-2), winner of six in a row and tri-champions of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue.

“It’s been a great season, but we still have a lot of unfinished business,” said Kyle, 17, who also plays basketball and baseball. “We’re motivated to bring new things to Whitehall which we haven’t had before.”

Whitehall’s longest postseason runs came in 2003 and 2014, both ending in Regional Finals. The goal this year is to sail into uncharted waters – i.e., the Semifinals and then the Finals at Ford Field, for the first time in school history.

Stratton (5-foot-8, 170 pounds) gives the Vikings a great shot with his ability to run and pass out of the veer offense. He has been a great runner since earning the starting QB job as a sophomore, and is the team’s leading rusher with 99 carries for 802 yards and 14 TDs. But his emergence as a highly-accurate passer has elevated Whitehall’s offense to a new level, as he’s completed 72-of-112 passes (64 percent) for 1,362 yards, with 24 TDs and six interceptions.

Stratton uses all of his weapons through the air, including wideouts Trannon Aylor and Camden Thompson and slotbacks Nate Bolley, Malcolm Earvin and Ca’Mar Ready.

“Kyle has worked so hard and essentially doubled his statistics from a year ago,” said 10th-year Whitehall coach Tony Sigmon, a former standout linebacker at DeWitt and Alma College. “He always has the ability to take off and run, but he now has the patience to scramble and still be looking downfield for his receivers.”

Keith Stratton, left, and Kyle man the sidelines during Kyle’s younger years supporting the program. Whitehall’s offense, directed by Kyle Stratton and averaging 51 points per game, has received plenty of accolades this fall. But the Vikings’ stingy defense, under the tutelage of Keith Stratton, might be the key to a postseason run.

Keith Stratton, known for his backwards baseball cap and hands-on-his-knees stance before each play, directs an ultra-aggressive unit which has allowed a total of 40 points over the past two months.

“I don’t wear a headset; it clouds my brain,” Keith said with a laugh.

His blue-collar mentality is instilled in his defense, which is led by senior inside linebackers Graycen Shepherd and Jackson Cook.

“People ask me what it’s like to coach my son, but really, I look at all of these kids like my sons,” said Stratton, who is married to Jodi, and the couple has two older sons, Caleb and Andrew. “They are all thinkers. They come up to me and ask questions. They have exceeded my expectations.”

Stratton, a 1990 graduate of Muskegon Catholic Central, walked-on to the football team at Grand Valley State and was one of eight walk-ons out of 50 to earn a spot on the roster, playing backup fullback and on the scout team.

He majored in criminal justice and went on to work for the City of Muskegon Police Department for 25 years, retiring last year. Early in his career as a cop, he coached eight years of junior varsity football at Muskegon Catholic, then started coaching at Whitehall in 2010. When Sigmon took the head coaching job in 2013, one of the first things he did was name Stratton his defensive coordinator.

“We had been coaching defense together (under previous coach Cliff Sandee), and when we would compare notes before practice, it was like looking in a mirror,” said Sigmon, who is also aided by offensive coordinator CJ VanWieren. “So I was very comfortable putting Keith in charge of the defense. We’ve been at it for 10 years now, and he’s done a great job of growing and progressing as a coach.”

Stratton’s defense will be put to the test against a Fruitport offense which features a big offensive line and the senior twin duo of running back Paschal Jolman and quarterback Collin Jolman.

Paschal already has eclipsed 2,000 rushing yards through 10 games, with 146 carries for 2,028 yards (13.8 per carry) and 25 TDs. Collin has completed 65-of-111 passes for 1,284 yards and 14 TDS, while also scrambling 96 times for 825 yards and 17 TDs.

“Fruitport is balanced and tricky and fast and big,” said Keith Stratton, who grew up in Fruitport. “They break a ton of big plays. We need to limit those big plays and make them work for everything.”

Fruitport turned some heads and gained major respect back on Oct. 7, when it upset then-undefeated and Division 6 top-ranked Grand Rapids West Catholic, 28-20. Since that thrilling signature win, the Trojans have been riding high, scoring an average of 56 points over the past three weeks.

The only time Keith Stratton ever puts on a headset is when his son is on the field directing the Vikings’ offense. While he said it would be nice to watch his son live, his time is better used talking to the other coaches in the booth to make defensive adjustments.

Kyle, meanwhile, said he is motivated by his dad and wants to follow in his footsteps as a college football player and then taking up a career in law enforcement.

“I respect him a lot,” said Kyle. “He’s told me a lot of stories about his time as a cop – going out at 2 a.m. and risking his life. That motivates me more than he even knows.

“If he can do that, I can go out there every Friday night and give every ounce of what I have for my town, and my team, and my friends.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Whitehall quarterback Kyle Stratton embraces his father Keith after a game this season. (Middle) Keith Stratton, left, and Kyle man the sidelines during Kyle’s younger years supporting the program. (Photos courtesy of Jodi Stratton.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.