By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half
There’s nothing that could spoil Jerry Angers’ mood right now.
When you love coaching football as much as Maple City Glen Lake’s varsity leader, being able to continue preparing your team deep into the playoffs trumps any tough situations that might come along.
That’s why an early-season snowstorm that hammered Leelanau County and shut down a number of schools in the area hardly registered as problematic for Angers, who is guiding his Lakers into a Division 6 Regional championship game against Calumet on Saturday — a clash of 10-1 squads aiming to advance to the Semifinal round.
“It’s totally awesome,” said Angers, in his 11th year in charge of the Lakers. “We’re getting pounded with snow up here, and we’ve got guys plowing our field off. We practiced in the gym today because it was snowing so bad. We were told we had to go home early. I wouldn’t trade that adversity for anything.”
This will be the second time in the last four years Glen Lake has ventured to the Upper Peninsula to face the Copper Kings. In 2016 the two teams met in the same round of the postseason, with the Lakers pulling out a 14-0 win on the way to reaching the Division 6 Final against Jackson Lumen Christi, which won the title with a 26-14 victory. Nearly all of the 16 seniors on Glen Lake’s roster were freshmen on the 2016 team and have the experience of an eight-hour bus trip to the Keweenaw Peninsula under their belts.
“That’s a really cool similarity because those kids have experienced this trip,” said Angers. “They weren’t playing, but they experienced what it took to get there.”
Angers makes the experience more than just playing the game. Getting in a practice on the way to Calumet, the team meals, the hotel stay — each aspect becomes part of the joy of the journey.
“It’s fun getting on the bus and basically spending two days with the kids and experience all the different things,” said Angers. “It’s like college football life on the high school level.”
There’s little doubt this is a business trip for the Lakers, though.
“When we got into film session on Sunday, Coach just told us it’s college football 101,” said senior running back/linebacker Johnathan Wright. “Long bus ride. We’ve got to stay focused.
“(They are) definitely a typical U.P. power team. They want to run downhill and run the clock out and just keep smashing you in the mouth.”
Angers admits to being superstitious enough that he’s trying to mimic as much of the trip this time to the one in 2016 in hopes that it can lead to a similar outcome. Just maybe not an exact mirror, however.
Right as the Lakers were getting ready to head from the hotel to the field in that Regional contest in 2016, they realized they had been locked out of their bus. Without panicking, players had to file into parents’ vehicles to transport them to the game in time. The Lakers managed to overcome that moment of turmoil by winning the game.
“So, if that’s what goes wrong and you still get to play a game? I was laughing about it,” said Angers. “How many other people are playing football right now?”
The seeds for this season were sown during an up-and-down 5-5 campaign a year ago that included a first-round playoff loss to Beaverton. The senior class — which showed its potential when it got significant playing time and performed well in a postseason victory against Roscommon as freshmen — wanted to leave its own legacy with a deep playoff run like the one the Lakers experienced three years ago.
“That was a huge motivation,” said senior lineman Ben Kroll. “We hated how we exited last year. We did not like the way we played. We do a boot camp every summer before the season starts. It was definitely the best boot camp I’ve been to, how close we all were and how we get along. We’ll fight for each other every day.”
Glen Lake has good athletes at the skill positions. Wright is in his second year starting on offense — he’s also been a three-year starter at linebacker — and is the leading rusher. Quarterback Reece Hazelton, at 6-foot-7, has a greater stature than a typical high school quarterback, though his best sport is basketball. He signed his letter of intent Wednesday to play hoops for Ferris State. His favorite target is junior receiver Finn Hogan.
The line, a position group near and dear to Angers’ heart, is the heartbeat of the team, with seniors Garrett Tremble, Dylan Kilinski, River Dallas and Kroll, and junior tackle Sam Keys.
“Without them nothing would happen,” said Wright.
Angers makes sure everyone on the roster knows they have key roles, whether it’s starting on offense, defense or special teams. Guys who make up the scout team are held in high value. Angers can go down the line and name off kids on his team and big plays they’ve been able to make at some point this season.
“There’s 31 kids I can turn to at any time, and I feel very comfortable and confident that they’re going to go in and get the job done,” said Angers. “Next man up. You’re one play away from being a starter. I think these kids also understand that.”
The Lakers have gone through a brutal schedule nearly unscathed. Five of the nine teams on the schedule qualified for the playoffs, and four of those teams won at least one postseason game. The schedule is specifically created that way for Glen Lake to be properly prepared to handle tough teams during the playoffs.
The one slip up came in the seventh week when Kingsley — which remains undefeated and is playing for a Regional crown in Division 5 — handed the Lakers a 53-14 loss. Angers shoulders the blame, saying he didn’t have the Lakers ready for a game of that magnitude and Glen Lake was uncharacteristically sloppy.
“That was a real wake-up call, and I think that was really good for our team because now in these playoff runs we know we can’t take any days off, any moments off,” said Kroll.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to win the Division 6 championship at Ford Field. Two more wins and Glen Lake will be back in the position it was in three years ago, playing in Detroit with a title on the line. Glen Lake’s last football championship came in 1994 when the Lakers won the Class DD crown with a 20-10 victory against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes.
“There’s nothing like it,” said Wright. “All the lights are on you. You’re at the center of a huge dome, and it feels amazing. I just want to get back to that.”
The memory of being in Detroit for Thanksgiving weekend is still fresh in Angers’ mind — arriving at the stadium and feeling the electricity in the air as an earlier game unfolded.
“One of the coolest experiences was when we were all walking in from the bus into the tunnel and there was a big play made in the game before us,” said Angers. “The crowd just erupted, and it just ran down that tunnel. My kids, they were just starry eyed and they looked at me and I went, ‘You’re in the big time boys.’”
And nothing could be better than that.
Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. 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.
PHOTO: Maple City Glen Lake quarterback Reece Hazelton breaks free from Lake City defenders during a 30-19 Pre-District win. (Photo courtesy of the Traverse City Record-Eagle.)
Over the last decade we’ve previewed intriguing football matchups every week from every region of the state, detailing one and highlighting four others. We usually choose from six or seven possibilities in each area that really stand out.
We could have put together a Week 5 list 10 deep in the Detroit area – any other week we may have included Rochester Adams (3-1) at West Bloomfield (3-1), Macomb Dakota (4-0) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (2-2), Grosse Pointe South (3-1) at Roseville (3-1), Dearborn Heights Robichaud (3-1) at Redford Union (3-1) or Clarkston Everest Collegiate (2-2) at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (3-1) in that group.
Head just west, and Dexter (2-2) at Ann Arbor Huron (3-1) has potential. Go farther west and Hudsonville (4-0) at Grandville (3-1) is in the conversation. In the Thumb, Marlette (3-1) at Harbor Beach (3-1) likely will be important down the road, and Houghton Lake (3-1) at McBain (3-1) would make the Northern Lower Peninsula top five most of the time.
And those are just some of the few that also caught our attention as we dive into many more below.
Bay & Thumb
Chesaning (3-1) at Montrose (4-0)
Chesaning’s continued improvement and Montrose’s excellent start have given the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference a fuller field of contenders, and these two are the only ones undefeated in league play. The Rams have defeated both the reigning champion (Durand) and runner-up (Ovid-Elsie) from a year ago – by eight and seven points, respectively – and also have defeated Chesaning all six times (including once in the playoffs) since the two schools began playing in this league together. Chesaning also has an impressive victory this fall, as it provided a loud statement to start the league schedule with a 27-22 win over New Lothrop in Week 2.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Armada (2-2) at Almont (4-0), East Lansing (2-2) at Grand Blanc (3-1), Corunna (4-0) at Lake Fenton (3-1), Marine City (3-1) at Marysville (3-1).
Belleville (4-0) at Livonia Franklin (3-1)
Belleville has won 29 straight games and the last two Division 1 titles, and after getting past River Rouge 35-28 in its season opener has won its first three Kensington Lakes Activities Association East games this fall by a combined score of 165-7. In fact, the Tigers are a combined 36-1 against KLAA East teams since joining the league in 2018. But this weekend’s matchup starts an intriguing month as Belleville pursues big goals again. Franklin has won two straight Division 2 District titles and had the most success among league teams against the Tigers last season, although that still ended with a 42-14 Belleville win.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Flat Rock (4-0) at Riverview (3-1), White Lake Lakeland (3-1) at Walled Lake Western (4-0), Detroit Catholic Central (3-1) at Warren De La Salle Collegiate (2-2). SATURDAY Detroit Edison (4-0) at Warren Michigan Collegiate (4-0).
Lansing Everett (3-1) at Grand Ledge (4-0)
The Capital Area Activities Conference Blue title race could fall a number of ways, but at this moment these two and East Lansing are undefeated in league play with Grand Ledge also the reigning co-champion and with a win already over last year’s other title winner, Holt. Everett bounced back from an opening 23-20 loss to still-undefeated Sexton and has generated some buzz – the Vikings were just 2-6 a year ago, but their defense especially has impressed this fall giving up a combined 37 points over four games. Grand Ledge won last year’s meeting 34-6 – but also just got past Lansing Waverly last week by a point, after Everett had downed the Warriors by 20 in Week 3.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lake City (3-1) at Beal City (4-0), Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-0) at Hastings (2-2), Haslett (3-1) at Mason (4-0), Lansing Catholic (2-2) at Portland (4-0).
Northern Lower Peninsula
Whitehall (4-0) at Manistee (4-0)
This might be Manistee’s biggest game since it finished its perfect regular season in 2018, as the Mariners welcome Whitehall in what eventually may determine the West Michigan Conference Lakes champion. Whitehall won last year’s meeting 55-0 – but Manistee already has avenged a 46-19 loss to Muskegon Oakridge and improved on last season’s results over Mason County Central and Muskegon Orchard View as well. A strong defense (35 points allowed over four games) will get its best challenge yet as Whitehall has scored 34 or more in all four of its games.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gaylord (4-0) at Cadillac (3-1), Charlevoix (3-1) at Benzie Central (2-2), Traverse City St. Francis (2-2) at Kingsley (3-1), East Jordan (3-1) at Maple City Glen Lake (3-1).
Southeast & Border
Adrian (4-0) at Chelsea (3-1)
Chelsea saw its three-year Southeastern Conference White title streak end at three last fall, but the Bulldogs are shaping up as favorites again – especially after they followed an opening loss to Grand Rapids Northview by nearly doubling up Edwardsburg the next week. The Bulldogs won a 10-game winning streak against Adrian, including 31-7 a year ago. But this Maples team is resembling more those that made the playoffs all but one season during the first decade of the 2000s, with the 4-0 start their best since 2010. They handed reigning league champion Tecumseh a 29-7 defeat last week.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Blissfield (3-1) at Clinton (3-1), Napoleon (4-0) at Grass Lake (4-0), Dearborn Divine Child (3-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (4-0), Monroe (3-1) at Saline (4-0).
Portage Central (3-1) at St. Joseph (3-1)
St. Joseph has bounced back well from an opening-week loss to Niles and can put that first game further out of mind over the next three weeks as the Bears face Central, then Portage Northern and Stevensville Lakeshore – the other three teams that have started 2-0 in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference. St. Joseph has won five of its last six against Central, but only 13-12 a year ago. The Mustangs are rebounding from last season’s 4-5 finish, with a nice win over East Lansing to start and their only loss the closest game Division 3 top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central has played this season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Benton Harbor (2-2) at Dowagiac (3-1), Parchment (3-1) at Kalamazoo United (2-2), Centreville (2-2) at White Pigeon (4-0), Niles (3-1) at Sturgis (2-2)
Menominee (4-0) at Houghton (2-2)
The Maroons have started well with their move to the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper, outscoring their first three league opponents by a combined 154-6 after opening the season with another shutout of century-old rival Marinette, Wis. But things get only more challenging from here. Houghton has won two straight as it looks to build off last season’s best finish in a decade. Menominee then will face Gladstone, Negaunee and Kingsford over the final three weeks of the league schedule. Those three have been dealing each other losses over the last three weeks but remain in the title hunt.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Calumet (1-3) at Kingsford (3-1), Sault Ste. Marie (3-1) at Marquette (1-2), Negaunee (3-1) at Hancock (1-3), Ishpeming (1-3) at Bark River-Harris (2-0).
Byron Center (4-0) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-0)
Anticipation of this rematch goes back to last season as their Ottawa-Kent Conference White opener ended up deciding the championship in FHC’s favor thanks to its 21-13 win. Byron Center didn’t lose again over the final six weeks of league play, and the Rangers went on to finish Division 2 runners-up at Ford Field. Forest Hills Central is Division 3 this season and, as noted above, top-ranked. Both can boast large average margins of victory and impressive wins over Division 4 No. 3 Grand Rapids Christian. The main difference perhaps is that East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Northview and Lowell also are looking like O-K White contenders – and the winner of this matchup surely will have an important edge when considering the full league picture.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY East Grand Rapids (4-0) at Grand Rapids Northview (3-1), Spring Lake (4-0) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (4-0), North Muskegon (4-0) at Hart (4-0), Zeeland West (4-0) at Zeeland East (4-0).
Gaylord St. Mary (3-1) at Onaway (3-1)
Onaway followed a 2-7 finish in 2021 with a 1-8 run a year ago and a forfeit of this fall’s season opener after a late-breaking coaching change. But the Cardinals' immediate resurgence has been awe-inspiring. With boys basketball coach Eddy Szymoniak also taking over this program, Onaway has outscored its last three opponents by a combined 132-38. Gaylord St. Mary has bounced back nicely as well from an opening loss to Pickford, shutting out its first two Ski Valley Conference opponents (and receiving a forfeit from a third). The Snowbirds join Indian River Inland Lakes – which received that Week 1 forfeit from Onaway – as the teams undefeated in league play.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Climax-Scotts (4-0) at Bellevue (3-1), Lake Linden-Hubbell (2-2) at Powers North Central (4-0), Marion (3-0) at Rudyard (3-1), St. Ignace (4-0) at Rogers City (2-2).
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PHOTO Bark River-Harris's Dominick Lantagne (13) finds a big hole and gains several yards during his team’s opening day win over Ishpeming Westwood. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)