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.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 12, 2024

Ubly finished a combined 27-1 over the last two seasons, following up a Division 8 runner-up run in 2022 with its first MHSAA Finals championship this past November. And the Bearcats stacked plenty of record book performances along the way.

Individually, senior Brett Mueller made the single-season extra point list again this past season with 76 in 81 tries, and he set the MHSAA career record with 220 extra points over 232 attempts, 40 games and three seasons. He has signed with Saginaw Valley State.

As a team, Ubly was added to the record book 13 times for achievements over the last two years, most notably in the rushing game. The Bearcats topped 5,200 total yards both seasons, and also made the rush yardage list twice including with a sixth-best 5,148 in 2022. Their 90 touchdowns in 2022 rank seventh all-time, and their 85 this past fall tied for 13th, and they tied the record with 10 rushing touchdowns in a 2022 win over Reese and set another record with 84 rushing touchdowns total that season.

See below for more recent record book additions in 11-player football, and click the heading to see the record book in full:

11-Player Football

Dundee’s Ben Miller has a pair of basketball record book entries, and he’s also been added in football for scoring seven touchdowns in his team’s 72-36 win over Erie Mason on Oct. 20, 2017. A senior that season, he ran for five scores and caught two touchdowns passes.

Nearly four decades later, Howard City Tri County’s Mike Wagoner has reached the record book for his work on defense in 1985. A junior that season, Wagoner returned three interceptions for touchdowns – 65, 55 and 35 yards – which would have been second on the list at the time and remains tied for third-most for one season.

Jaxon Lippert tops the list of 21 who have returned kickoffs 99 yards. Lippert, now a senior at Walled Lake Western, joined the list against Davison during his junior season.

A handful of records from Warren De La Salle Collegiate’s recent run of Ford Field teams and also one from decades ago were added. Jake Badalamenti was added three times for kickoff returns between 96-99 yards, one as a junior in 2016 and two as a senior the following fall, and Marty Wyzlic was added for his 95-yarder in 1976. Mason Muragin is the new leader for tackles for loss in a career with 71 over three seasons, and he also was added to the single-season list with 31 as a junior in 2021, as was Will Beasley for 38 as a junior in 2020. Wayne Wright was added for his 16 sacks over nine games as a senior in 1984, and Josh Cox was added for his 100-yard interception return as a senior in 2012. Muragin plays at Illinois, Beesley plays at Princeton, Cox played at Central Michigan, and Badalamenti played baseball at Wayne State.

Pinckney junior Nolan Carruthers caught 16 passes during a 13-7 loss to Jackson on Sept. 15, good to tie for ninth-most in one game and breaking the Livingston County record of 14 by Hartland’s Greg Matthyssen in 2007 – a listing that also was added.

Ethan Wissner did some major lifting, or rather carrying, during Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker’s 28-14 District Final win over Montrose in 2022. The then-senior ran 42 times to make the record book, for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He’s continuing at Siena Heights.

Senior quarterback Andrew Schuster and junior receiver DeShaun Lanier formed a game-changing pass-catch combo this past season for Clinton Township Chippewa Valley, with Schuster finishing his career with nine record book listings and Lanier totaling six with a season to play. Schuster most notably was added for 212 completions on 301 attempts for 2,766 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, and 321 completions and 4,199 career yards over two years and 22 games. Lanier was added in part for 73 receptions for 1,132 yards and 15 TDs this fall. Junior kicker Juliano Haddad also earned impressive mentions with 10 field goals and 50 extra points – and he’ll carry a streak of 35 straight extra points into next fall. Schuster has committed to Grand Valley State.

Fulton’s Evan Barton has been added to the single-game touchdowns list after catching four scoring passes Sept. 8, 2017, against Potterville. He was a senior that season.

Saginaw Heritage’s Braylon Isom completed his career this past fall as arguably the most accomplished receiver in MHSAA history. His name is listed in the record book eight times, with career records of 3,837 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns over 34 games and four seasons, and with a single-season record 26 touchdowns this past fall over 12 games. His 91 career receptions rank fifth, and he’s also listed for 82 catches and 1,617 yards (seventh-most) as a senior and 1,428 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior. He will continue at Miami (Ohio).

Evart’s 24-8 run over the last three seasons has been its most successful of the MHSAA playoff era, and senior quarterback Preston Wallace has played an enormous part. He finished his 33-game career in the fall – he came up for one game as a freshman – on record book lists twice for single-season passing yards and touchdowns and on career lists for 662 attempts, 421 completions, 6,955 yards and 88 passing touchdowns over those 32 games and three seasons. The yardage ranks 15th all-time, and the touchdowns are tied for sixth-most for one career.  

The 2005 Midland Bullock Creek team was added for scoring 547 points over 12 games. The Lancers finished 11-1, their only loss in a Division 5 Regional Final.

PHOTO Ubly's Seth Maurer (30) carries the ball during the Division 8 championship win over Ottawa Lake Whiteford in November.