Dow Charged to Make Deep Playoff Run

November 10, 2015

By Bill Khan
Special for Second Half

MIDLAND — When Midland Dow football players looked at the playoff accomplishments of past Chargers teams, it felt like they were getting a lesson in ancient history.

There was the 1976 team that won the MHSAA Class A championship back when there were only two rounds in the playoffs. There was the 1997 squad that reached the Class A title game, winning three times in the postseason before losing to Farmington Hills Harrison at the Pontiac Silverdome.

And that's it.

For a program as consistently solid as Dow, it seems strange that only two teams in school history were able to win more than one playoff game.

"Sometimes it's matchups, sometimes it's getting a couple breaks to go your way," Dow coach Jason Watkins said. "When you get to this round of the playoffs, all the teams are going to be good."

So far, none of the teams in their path have been better than the Chargers.

They have made a task that has been difficult for past Dow teams look easy, winning 42-7 over crosstown rival Midland in the first round before beating Fenton, 41-14, in the District championship game.

"It's a big win for the development of the program," Watkins said after eliminating Fenton for the second time in three years. "Since 2010, this is our fourth trip to this round; we came away empty each time. It's nice to be able to finish that and get that District championship. It's a good landmark for us. Let's try to grow the program."

The 10th-ranked Chargers (10-1) will travel to second-ranked Walled Lake Western (11-0) on Saturday to play for the Regional championship.

"It's awesome," Dow junior quarterback Bruce Mann said. "We're gonna be on the board for a long time. People are going to be able to see us and remember us."

It hasn't been a lack of opportunities that has made this season's achievement so rare for Dow. Beginning with the unbeaten 1976 MHSAA championship team, Dow has 30 winning seasons in the last 40. The Chargers have made the playoffs nine times in the last 19 years.

They won their playoff opener each of the past two years and in three of the previous five years, but had their seasons end in the second round.

"It feels great," Dow senior receiver Justin Cook said. "I've been on two losing teams in the District Finals the past two years. The third time's the charm, I guess. It feels really good to finally get the (second-round) win. We're clicking at the right time. We're getting better each week."

Those currently wearing the green and gold of Dow are mindful of those who went before them, laying the foundation for such a strong program.

"It's huge for everyone that is involved, all of the past classes who didn't make it this far or got beat at this step," senior receiver Mike Robb said. "It's a big deal."

The season didn't begin like one that was shaping up to be special. The Chargers lost their opener to Mount Pleasant, 34-20. Not that there's any shame in that — the Oilers are 9-2 and still alive in Division 3.

In that game, Mann had only 26 yards of offense in the first half, as Dow fell behind 21-0 by halftime. He had 281 yards in the second half — and hasn't slowed up since.

It was Mann's first game in a Dow uniform after playing varsity as a freshman and sophomore for Bay City Western, where his dad, also Bruce Mann, formerly was the coach.

Led by Mann, the Chargers have scored at least 41 points in each of the last five games. Over that span, he is 81 for 109 (74.3 percent) passing for 1,451 yards and 24 touchdowns. For the season, he has 35 touchdown passes and only four interceptions in leading Dow to 10 consecutive victories.

"Coming into Dow, I had a bunch of friends, so it didn't take long to jell," Mann said. "It was just me calming down and realizing I'm not the only player and I have 10 other teammates behind me helping me succeed."

Mann has spread the wealth, throwing 11 touchdown passes to Robb, and nine apiece to Cook and Devontae Stine.

"Bruce has been picking up the offense each week," Cook said. "He's playing out of his mind. Every week, he's getting better. You can tell by the way he plays. He doesn't turn the ball over anymore."

Robb, the team's most dangerous receiving weapon, has become a dual threat in recent weeks.

Watkins moved him to defense for the regular-season finale against Midland. In that game, Robb returned an interception for a touchdown, in addition to catching four touchdown passes. In the playoff rematch a week later, Robb had two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Robb's hot streak continued against Fenton, as he caught two touchdown passes, blocked a punt and grabbed his fourth interception in three games.

"Right time, right place," Robb said of his newfound knack for picking off passes. "I love playing football. Wherever coach wants to put me, that's where I'll play."

"He's always been a special teams and offensive player for us," Watkins said. "We only moved him up to defense two weeks ago. It's something we saw in the scheme of things and the teams we were playing against. There was an opportunity to use his athleticism and some of his natural instincts. He's been on a pretty good little run the last couple weeks."

The same could be said for the Chargers as a whole, as they attempt to further enhance their legacy.

Years from now, perhaps 2015 will be spoken of with the same sense of awe as 1976 and 1997.

Bill Khan served as a sportswriter at The Flint Journal from 1981-2011 and currently contributes to the State Champs! Sports Network. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) A collection of Dow defenders makes a tackle during a win this season against Flint Powers Catholic. (Middle) Chargers quarterback Bruce Mann has thrown 35 touchdown passes this fall. (Click for more from

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.