At Hudson, Winning Starts with the 'Ride'

November 2, 2017

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

HUDSON – It was a couple hours before kickoff for the Hudson Tigers, and head coach Tom Saylor didn’t think his team was focused enough.

“It was early on in our winning streak,” said Saylor. “Everybody was kind of laughing and just not thinking about the game. I told them to get on the bus and we drove right out of town, past the cemetery and I think we drove clear to Clayton (a town about six miles away). The players were thinking, ‘What is this guy doing?’”

The home game for Hudson turned into a road game – complete with a bus ride. A tradition was born.

“I thought we played better on road games,” said Saylor, who coached the Tigers through their record-setting 72-game win streak during the 1970s. “There weren’t so many distractions.”

Friday night, Hudson’s players will board the bus once more this season and take the trip from the high school locker room into downtown Hudson to Thompson Field, where the Tigers play their home games. Hudson will take on Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in a Division 7 District championship game.

The head coach now is Chris Luma, who was a quarterback for Hudson during part of that win streak. He said the bus ride is a little shorter these days, but remains a surreal moment for all Tigers players and coaches.

“Coach Saylor liked to only make right turns,” Luma said. “That was his thing. We’d go out of the school and only make right turns to get to the field. Now, we just come out of the school, go down Maple, go right past my house and turn and go to the stadium. It’s about a five-minute ride.”

And it takes place in total silence.

“I don’t even know how to explain it,” said Tigers running back Malik Ray, who has more than 1,500 yards rushing. “It’s a really different experience. It’s legit. We get on the bus and some kids pray and others just think about the game. We don’t have time to mess around. Once we hit the seats, it’s go time. There’s no joking around. No way.”

Luma said every so often a young player will board the bus and talk or say something and a captain will quickly let him know the bus ride is done in silence.

“I’ll get on the bus, count them up and make sure we have everybody and give them the look,” he said. “It’s all quiet. We drive to the stadium, pull up and the players get out and go to the shed. Everyone has their own routine.”

Hudson has been home to a lot of big games on Friday nights over the years. The Tigers’ tradition is well known. Hudson held the national high school football winning streak record of 72 games for 22 years. Thompson Field has been the site of a lot of those Hudson wins and impactful games.

“The place has held more huge games than any other venue in Lenawee County over the past 60 plus years,” said Hudson sports historian Bill Mullaly. “Thompson Field has been around since 1955, and there have been many exciting, thrilling and very meaningful games played there with upwards of 5,000-plus people watching, especially back in the winning streak days.”

Before 1955, Hudson’s field was located in a low area right next to the current stadium, which sits on a hill in town and was moved because the old field was prone to flooding. The stadium is not on campus, somewhat atypical at the high school level.

Saylor used to live right next to the stadium, on the hill.

“I would wake up and see the stadium every morning,” he said.

Luma said the bus ride is different to the ‘home’ game than it is for an actual road game.

“When I was a player, I’d sit right next to Coach Saylor,” he said. “For road games, we’d go over my assignments, what he expected out of me. We’d talk about situations and what I should say or do in the huddle. I think those times sitting on the bus with him is one of the reasons I went into coaching.

“Riding to a home game, though, there was no talking. It’s still that way.”

Luma has had a remarkable coaching career at Hudson, winning 175 games, including a Division 7 championship in 2010. Friday will be Hudson’s second game ever against St. Mary, a traditional power from Monroe County with a couple of MHSAA championships to boast about – including its most recent in 2014, a Division 6 championship. The Falcons are competing for the first time in the Division 7 playoffs.

Ironically, both teams run the ‘T’ offense and both teams have strong rushing attacks. Hudson (9-1) was the Lenawee County Athletic Association champion while SMCC (6-4) got into the playoffs at 5-4 after navigating a difficult Huron League schedule.

No matter the weather, Thompson Field figures to be a packed house.

When it’s game time, Ray will board the bus, make the silent ride, get to the stadium and play catch for a few minutes with Hudson quarterback Andrew Valdez. When the team is ready to take the field, they’ll leave the shed and take turns with the rest of the team touching a sign above the door that says “The Team, The Team, The Team.”

Then – and only then – will it be game time.

“On the bus ride to the game, you’ll see people on the streets and they are waving at you and they are excited,” Ray said. “You can see joy in their eyes.

“Anytime you play in a playoff game, it’s a truly great experience. Playing one more game with these guys … its more than I can say.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Hudson’s players enter Thompson Field at the start of a game this season. (Middle) Malik Ray works to elude a Morenci defender during a Week 2 win. (Photos by Mike Dickie.)

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.