Football Helped Bond Father & Son, But Fermans Will Meet As Rivals 1 More Time
By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com
September 14, 2022
For about 2½ hours Friday night, Jeremy and Bryce Ferman will be opponents.
During that time, it will be about North Branch and Almont battling to remain unbeaten on the football field. About getting another win in the Blue Water Area Conference.
It will be a football game they try to treat like any other football game.
But immediately before and immediately after, their dynamic will be a much more familiar one, and one that was strengthened by the sport: father and son.
“I love him more than anything,” said North Branch coach Jeremy Ferman. “Just to see him over there, that part of it right there is special. Just to see how he’s grown up and the person that he is – the young man that he is. But yeah, once kickoff goes, it’s game on. We’re both competitive people. We probably hate losing more than we enjoy winning.”
Bryce Ferman is a senior running back and linebacker at Almont. He’s also a captain.
He grew up on the Almont sidelines, as his dad turned the Raiders into a perennial power. From 2004-15, Jeremy Ferman led Almont to the playoffs eight times, including trips to the Semifinals in 2011 and 2014. The Raiders won five BWAC titles, three District titles and two Regional titles during his time there.
And that success was made more special by the fact Bryce was right there for all of it.
“There’s a picture of him wearing an old headset, and it wasn’t working, but he had it on,” Jeremy Ferman said. “Some reporter took a picture of him and said, ‘Coach Little Ferman making the calls.’ It’s definitely been in his blood.”
As the Fermans were strengthening their father-son bond through football, Bryce also was soaking in lessons of how to be successful on and off the field.
On it, all he knows is winning. Almont has been to the playoffs every year since 2010, including a run to the Division 5 Final in 2019, Bryce’s freshman year.
As a player, he’s won a pair of postseason games – one during his sophomore year when he was called up late in the season, and one as a junior. This year, the Raiders are off to a 3-0 start.
“I learned how a good, sound football team should run,” he said. “I mean, that’s what my whole life has been. I’ve never been around a poorly run or structured team. It’s always just been that every year the playoffs were expected, and that’s how it still is.”
The greater lesson learned on those sidelines, though, was how to be a leader. It’s something he focused on as he worked to be part of Almont’s leadership team heading into his junior year.
“We had to go through interviews, write letters, all the stuff that really prepares you for jobs and everything,” Bryce said. “What I wrote my letter on is how I saw all these leaders growing up. That’s all I know. That’s all I know how to be.”
Watching his son make the most of those lessons has been a point of pride for Jeremy Ferman.
“To watch him mature, to watch his leadership – as a dad, it’s pretty (darn) special,” he said.
Following his time with Almont, Jeremy Ferman spent a year apiece with Durand and Flint Kearsley before taking over the North Branch program in 2017. Over his first five seasons, Ferman has taken the Broncos to the playoffs four times, including a run to the Regional Final in 2020. Prior to his arrival, the program had three playoff appearances all-time.
“Every year, I expect him to win – I mean, that’s all he does,” Bryce Ferman said. “That’s all he does.”
The benefit of the two now competing in the same conference is that they get to compare notes on other teams. And having grown up around football, Bryce has become quite a student of the game. The two break down film together regularly, and even when their teams or opponents aren’t involved, their viewing experience involves analyzing the action on the field. Jeremy Ferman remarked that he would welcome Bryce on his coaching staff, whenever he’s done playing.
So while this week there will be no talk of strategy, there is normally plenty of it.
“We both played Imlay City already, I played them the week before he did, and he picked my brain a little bit and we watched film together,” Jeremy Ferman said. “I help him out with personnel, and vice versa. He’s helped me out. We talked about Hamtramck (Almont’s Week 2 opponent, which North Branch plays in Week 5), a little bit. … He wants me to be successful, and I want him to be successful, as well.”
The common opponents also give Jeremy Ferman a chance to see his son on film as he’s breaking down other teams.
“I always have my dad hat on, but my coaching hat kind of gets bigger sometimes,” Jeremy Ferman said. “I have a job to do there. But yeah, you’re watching film and he’s playing against them, and I’m peeking. I’m seeing what he’s doing and then I’ll say, ‘Oh crap, that’s right. I’m Dad, but I’m the head coach right now.’”
Friday night’s game won’t be the first time the two have squared off. A year ago, North Branch defeated Almont 20-14 in a hard-fought game.
That doesn’t make this upcoming matchup any easier, of course, but the Fermans are approaching it in the same way.
“I want him to have the best game of his career Friday night, but I want NB to win the game,” Jeremy Ferman said. “That’s the best of both worlds in this situation. … He’s going to run his (tail) off this Friday night, and he’s going to block, and he’s going to be the leader because that’s what is expected of him.”
Added Bryce: “It doesn’t matter who I’m going up against. When we’re out on the field, between the lines, we’re playing football. But from before and after the game, (this week) is a different story. And that’s with a lot of the kids up there, too. I mean, I know a lot of them. But it doesn’t matter when we’re between the lines and we’re playing.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. 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) North Branch coach Jeremy Ferman and Almont junior Bryce Ferman hug after last year’s matchup between their teams. (Middle) Jeremy Ferman, then the coach at Almont, accompanies Bryce across the field about a decade ago. (Photos courtesy of the Ferman family.)
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:
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.)