Glen Lake Plays for Weekends Like This

November 15, 2019

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.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

July 10, 2024

CJ Nightingale's family values, small-town upbringing and Christian faith steered the Mendon native into a career coaching college football.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosNightingale, a 2010 Mendon High School graduate, is busily preparing for his first season as Belhaven University's eighth football coach. He was officially named the Blazers' head coach seven months ago, on Jan. 1.

Belhaven, a Division III school located in Jackson, Mississippi, competes in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Nightingale credits his love of coaching to his father Chris Nightingale and grandfather Charles Nightingale.

"It all started with my dad and grandfather. At one time they were both involved in coaching, and their general love for sports wore off on me," CJ Nightingale said.

Once CJ reached high school, his interest in athletics only intensified thanks to several people who made a big impact on him.

"I had the most wonderful experience attending school and participating in Mendon athletics,” Nightingale said. “We didn't always have the better athletes, but we were successful because of all the time and commitment put in by our coaches, teachers, administration along with parental and community support. Success is the result of many people who focus on the same cause."

Nightingale lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Mendon, earning four varsity letters in all three sports. He was named the St. Joseph Valley League's MVP in all three sports his senior year, and Mendon earned league titles in all three during Nightingale's senior year as well.

As a starting quarterback and defensive back his sophomore year, Nightingale led Mendon to the 2007 Division 7 football championship with the Hornets' 20-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis. Nightingale still holds the state record for career interceptions with 27.

Mendon had finished the 2006 season 3-6. A losing season remains rare in Mendon, and Nightingale stated it fueled the Hornets' title run the following season.

"I think losing is more difficult in football than in any other sport because of how much work goes into preparing for a season,” Nightingale recalled. “We were a very young team in 2006 and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't the best feeling, but it was a real learning experience and served as a big driving force that next season.

"All the hard times we endured the previous year served as a byproduct for our success in 2007. That team was unselfish, and not one player on the team cared who got the stats or accolades."

At Mendon, Nightingale played for legendary coach John Schwartz in football, David Swanwick in basketball and Glen Samson in baseball.

Lessons from Schwartz – a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame – and Samson have especially stuck with Nightingale into adult life and his own coaching career.

"Coach Schwartz had a way of getting everyone on the same page not just on the field, but he taught you how to be the best version of yourself off the field in every-day life. Coach Samson knew how to get his players in the right positions on the diamond to make us successful," Nightingale said.

"The environment at Mendon solidified my desire to become a coach and teacher. The best leaders are also the best teachers, and when you are surrounded by people like that it makes a big difference."

Nightingale attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he lettered in football four years as a defensive back and return specialist. During Nightingale's career, the Thunder posted a combined record of 34-8 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs when he was a freshman.

After graduating college, Nightingale taught history and spent two years as the varsity football coach at Richmond High School in Indiana. In 2016 he secured his first collegiate coaching job at Greenville University (Ill.) as a defensive backs coach, where he spent one season. He then served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana Wesleyan University beginning in 2017 before returning to his alma mater Wheaton in 2019 as the Thunder's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. Nightingale coached 24 all-conference players, 10 all-region performers and seven All-Americans over his four seasons at Wheaton, and the Thunder made the Division III playoffs all four years.

The head football coaching position at Belhaven became available in December 2023 when previous coach Blaine McCorkle moved on to Division 1 Northwestern State (La.). Nightingale applied and went through a three-week interview process before being selected as the program’s next head coach.

"I truly feel like God has called my wife Shanel and I and our family here for a reason. We are going to pour into Belhaven as deeply as we can and see what life brings us,” CJ Nightingale said. “As a college football coach, you have the unique chance to pour into your players spiritually, academically, athletically and socially. That's what is really special about this profession."

Belhaven's program has enjoyed a lot of success, especially the past three seasons with a combined 24-7 record, including a 9-2 finish last fall.

"I am very fortunate to be taking over a strong program here at Belhaven. You don't sustain success, but rather you must be able to build on it," Nightingale said. "We are excited about this season after a great spring. This group of coaches and players got a lot done these past six months. We have had a lot of guys here on campus all summer working to get better. There are lot of goals in front of us that haven't been achieved yet. Two of those goals are to go undefeated in conference play and host a playoff game.”

CJ and Shanel have three children, including 5-year old daughter Charlotte, 3-year old son Trey and 14-month old daughter Coco. They are expecting a fourth child in mid-September.

2024 Made In Michigan

June 28: E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Mendon’s CJ Nightingale (2) celebrates during his team’s 2007 championship win over Traverse City St. Francis at Ford Field; at right Nightingale is pictured with his wife Shanel and children Charlotte, Trey and Coco. (Middle) Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. (Family photo courtesy of CJ Nightingale.)