By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half
TRAVERSE CITY – Congratulatory messages streamed in Saturday after Maple City Glen Lake defeated Leroy Pine River 34-20 in a Division 6 football Semifinal at snow-covered Thirlby Field – a win that secured the Lakers’ first MHSAA Finals appearance in 20 years.
Head coach Jerry Angers’ phone was particularly active. Among those calling or texting: Former Traverse City West coach Matt Prisk, who Angers previously worked under as a defensive coordinator; retiring St. Ignace coach Marty Spencer, whose Saints fell to defending Division 8 champion Muskegon Catholic earlier in the day; and Eric Gordon, the former Michigan State linebacker, who played for Prisk and Angers at West.
Angers, who was still fielding calls and texts late into the night Saturday, was “touched” by the show of support for his Glen Lake program.
Most of all, he was proud of his players, who kept improving every week to make this moment possible.
“They have worked hard for this opportunity,” he said. “I told them (after Saturday’s game), ‘You’re going to Ford Field. You’re one of 16 teams still playing. A lot of people will be watching, but I want you to enjoy it.’
“It’s like the Alan Jackson song ‘Remember When.’ I said in 20 years when you come back to see me I want you to say, ‘Remember when.’”
Glen Lake, which faces Jackson Lumen Christi for the title Friday, won the Class DD championship in 1994 under coach Bill Hollenbeck. The Lakers lost in the Class DD Final in 1996. Now, 20 years later, Glen Lake’s back.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” all-state linebacker Duke Angers, the coach’s son, said a few hours after the game. “It seems surreal right now. Growing up as a kid, you dream about playing at Ford Field. Now we get that opportunity. We’ll enjoy this for 24 hours and then get to work for Jackson Lumen Christi.”
Junior quarterback Cade Peterson, who rushed for 179 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Pine River, is also a coach’s son. His father, Tim, was head coach at Lake City for 15 seasons. The family moved into the Glen Lake school system this year. Tim is the quarterbacks coach for the Lakers.
“I’ve been going down to the state finals since I was 12,” Cade said. “And I would always think, ‘I want to play in this (state finals).’ Now it’s happening. You can ask any team in the state, and their ultimate goal would be to go to Ford Field and play for a state title. Only a few teams can say they accomplished that – and we did. As soon as that moment set in (Saturday), it was ‘Hey, we achieved our goal. Now let’s go win a state championship.’”
For Tim Peterson, who led Lake City to nine playoff berths, including Regional appearances in 2012 and 2013, it was a moment to savor.
“You work your whole life as a coach to try to get to the apex – and this is it,” he said. “We’re there. I couldn’t be happier for the kids, the program and the community.”
Now the task for the 11-2 Lakers is to a win a 12th game. Glen Lake will be taking on a program steeped in tradition. This will be Lumen Christi’s eighth MHSAA Finals appearance since 2000. The Titans have won five crowns during that span under coach Herb Brogan.
“Our kids have been facing challenges all year, and people keep underestimating them,” Tim Peterson said. “They just keep doing what they do – and they do it very well.”
Glen Lake’s losses were to Traverse City St. Francis (21-13) and Frankfort (26-21), teams that finished 11-1. The Lakers came in second to Frankfort in the Northern Michigan Football League’s Leaders division. Jerry Angers, now in his eighth season at the helm, said his team learned valuable lessons from those defeats.
“Sometimes losses are good for you,” he said. “We, as coaches and fans, never want to believe that, but in our two losses we had 15 or so penalties in one and five turnovers in the other. So you go back and you work on it. You try to reduce the penalties, reduce the turnovers. That became a great focus for our kids. I think we’ve had eight penalties in four playoff games – total. And we’ve kept our turnovers to a minimum. If you focus on the task at hand, and what’s in front of you, those things are going to be eliminated.”
Cade Peterson said the setbacks brought the team closer together, too.
“People can start pointing fingers (in defeat),” he said. “That didn’t go on here. Everybody picked each other up and kept fighting, kept going.”
The 16 seniors on the team led the way.
“They set the tone,” Tim Peterson said. “The senior leadership has been phenomenal in keeping the focus.”
Glen Lake had to go on the road at Roscommon and Calumet to win two of its four playoff games. On Saturday, the Lakers, who were averaging 160 yards passing and 215 yards rushing per contest out of their spread offense, stuck to the ground to beat Pine River in blustery conditions that forced officials to clear snow off the artificial turf before and during the game.
Glen Lake rushed for 309 yards. In addition to Peterson’s 179 yards, Duke Angers picked up 59 and Nick Apsey 54. Apsey also hauled in two catches for 34 yards. The Laker backs – running behind a line that features tackles Jake Palmer and Brandon Tremble, guards Ryan Nadlicki and Zack Gushurst and center Tommy Kendall – averaged nearly five yards a carry. Nadlicki’s uncle, Mike, was a star on Traverse City’s state championship team in 1988.
“The weather forced us to be very one-dimensional (Saturday), but we’re real pleased with our ability to run the football as well as throw it,” Tim Peterson said. “That’s a good combination to have when you go deep into the playoffs because you never know what the weather will be.”
For the season, Cade Peterson’s completed 106 of 207 passes for 1,953 yards and 20 touchdowns. Jared Jackson, last year’s starting quarterback, has caught 30 passes, Apsey 23.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Peterson leads the team in rushing with 843 yards. Apsey, also a junior, has added 791 yards.
Defensively, Duke Angers, a four-year starter, is averaging 10 stops a game and Tony Duperon seven. Glen Lake is surrendering less than 200 yards in offense per game. Angers was the Traverse City Record-Eagle’s Defensive Player of the Year a year ago.
“As a football coach, he’s one of the best leaders and overall players that I’ve ever been associated with,” Jerry Angers said.
Jerry Angers led Glen Lake to back-to-back 9-2 seasons in 2012-13. The Lakers reached the District Finals those years.
Glen Lake qualified for the playoffs a year ago, finishing 5-5. This season, with a number of experienced players returning, coupled with the addition of Cade and Drew Peterson, the team has flourished. Drew is a sophomore defensive end and receiver. He had an interception Saturday.
Cade Peterson was a two-year starter at Lake City, throwing for 1,753 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore.
“I feel a big part of why I’ve been successful (at Glen Lake) is because of how welcoming everybody was – not only the team and coaches, but the school and community,” he said.
“When those two (Peterson) boys walked in, our kids just grabbed them and said, ‘Hey, let’s go. You’re part of us now,’” Jerry Angers added.
Tim Peterson retired as a principal in June of 2015. He coached the Trojans that fall, but after the school year the family decided to make a move. Peterson was familiar with the Glen Lake area, since he worked camps with Hollenbeck. He was also good friends with Angers.
“It was time for a change,” Peterson explained. “We came up and looked at the academic piece of it, which is most important to us, and we said this is where we want to go.
“We’ve always said, at some point, we’d like to get here. This community is so supportive of their kids and of their school and that’s what you look for as a parent.”
Now the Lakers are one win away from a second MHSAA title. Regardless of what happens, though, Duke Angers said he believes his senior class has made an impact.
“We raised the bar a little,” he said. “We wanted to leave a trail to follow – and I think we have.”
Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. 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) Maple City Glen Lake’s Nick Apsey (5) follows his blockers on the way to the end zone during Saturday’s Semifinal win over Leroy Pine River. (Middle) Wes Peplinski (68) drops the Pine River quarterback in the 34-20 victory. (Photos by Kim Jackson.)
Separated by 527 travel miles – whether over Mackinac Bridge or around Lake Michigan, the Novara family celebrated nearly parallel football successes this fall.
At Portland, John Novara completed his 25th season as head coach leading the Raiders to a 12-1 record – their best since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2018, and a second-straight Capital Area Activities Conference White championship on the way to reaching the Division 4 Semifinals.
At Kingsford, fifth-year coach Mark Novara led the Flivvers to a 10-2 record – their best since posting the same in 2004. Kingsford shared the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title and won a Division 5 District title, its first District championship since 2009.
John Novara graduated from Iron Mountain in 1989, and younger brother Mark graduated from Kingsford in 1993.
Similarly parallel, both teams were quarterbacked by Novaras. Dominic Novara directed the Raiders’ attack, and cousin Nic Novara led the Flivvers. Both are juniors. (Mark Novara was a Division III All-American at quarterback at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.)
One more connection: Portland athletic director Kevin Veale quarterbacked the Iron Mountain teams with John Novara as tight end long before they worked together downstate. Veale’s nephew Garrett Veale was a standout two-way lineman for Mark Novara and Kingsford this fall.
Small gesture, memorable connection
Dante DeGrazia’s senior season was sadly short-lived this fall, as he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half of South Lyon East’s opening game against White Lake Lakeland at Michigan Stadium.
But an official provided a memory the DeGrazias will not forget.
Chris Curtis had begun his 16th season as an official earlier that day at U-M, and stuck around to watch the Lakes Valley Conference matchup. A month later, he was officiating the East/Warren Mott game, and made sure to check in with DeGrazia – a small gesture, but a meaningful one as well and another reminder of the interconnectedness of communities within educational athletics.
“When he heard my son wasn't able to play anymore, needed surgery and that he was a senior, he offered him kindness and a hug on the field,” Dante’s mother Dana DeGrazia wrote to East athletic director Greg Michaels. “As a parent whose son is going through a rough time dealing with losing his senior season, hearing this story from Dante means a lot to me and the support that was given to him and I wanted to reach out and tell him thank you.”
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford football coach Mark Novara, far left, quarterback Nic Novara and Portland coach (and uncle) John Novara celebrate the Flivvers' District title. (Middle) South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game. (Photos courtesy of the Portland football program and DeGrazia family, respectively.)