Lawton’s run to the 2021 Division 7 championship game frequently came on the legs of then-senior Jake Rueff, who posted some of the top performances in MHSAA football history.
He scored 298 points – fifth-most in 11-player history – with his 49 total touchdowns ranking fourth and his 46 rushing touchdowns third. He also made records lists with 2,370 rushing yards, 71 career touchdowns and 430 career points.
Lawton as a team scored 92 touchdowns, tying the record with 10 in one game, gained 5,662 yards of total offense and ran for 4,725 yards over 14 games.
Rueff plays at Michigan Tech.
See below for more recent additions to the 11-player football record book:
Aiden Brunin stacked up many contributions on both sides of the field for Cedar Springs in 2021. But his less frequently-mentioned punting earned the senior a spot in the record book as he booted an 83-yard punt during a Nov. 6 playoff win over Muskegon that ranks as the fourth-longest in state history. The kick flew 62 yards in the air before taking a series of bounces and rolls. Brunin currently is a freshman baseball player at Spring Arbor.
Sturgis’ Jacob Thompson became the 10th to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in one game as a junior in 2021, scoring from 97 and 83 yards out against Paw Paw. Thompson also was added to the records for six rushing touchdowns in a Sept. 9, 2022, win over Plainwell – and he also threw for a score in the 55-34 victory.
Twenty years later, Coleman’s Joshua Moore has been added for a pair of interception returns for touchdowns Oct. 11, 2002, against Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. Moore was a senior that season and scored off those turnovers during the third and fourth quarters.
Nearly a decade later, Cheboygan’s Ben Pearson also was added to the record book for a 99-yard rushing touchdown that tied the record for longest run. Pearson took the handoff deep in his own end zone and scored against Gaylord on Aug. 29, 2013. Pearson, a senior that season, went on to play at Northwood.
A trio of past Grand Ledge standouts have been entered for their achievements going back decades. Mitch Gulker made the record book for 1,002 receiving yards as a senior in 1976. Nick Kissane was added for his 170 completions, 297 pass attempts, 2,452 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air in 2008. Corey Arnouts made the tackles for loss list with 28 as a senior in 2011. Grand Ledge’s Division 1 championship run in 2000 came in part on the arm of Matt Bohnet, and he’s been added for his 2,052 yards passing that season. He went on to play at Iowa and Eastern Michigan. Arnouts went on to play at Ferris State, and Kissane went on to play baseball at Aquinas College.
Justin Brown had multiple returns for touchdowns as a junior at East Lansing in 2018, including a 99-yarder on Sept. 14. That kickoff return tied the record for longest on a list that now stands at 20 players.
Carson Roose earned his 10th record book listing when he threw for five touchdowns during the first half of Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s 58-22 win over New Haven on Oct. 22, 2021. Roose graduated last spring.
Frankenmuth’s run to the Division 6 championship game in the fall saw the Eagles make team record book lists with 544 points and 72 touchdowns over 14 games, featuring as well a kicker who will bring an impressive extra point streak into the upcoming season. Junior Will Soulliere made 69 of 70 extra-point tries and has connected on 61 straight as he prepares for his senior season. Additionally, the Eagles’ defense was added after not allowing a first down during its Semifinal win over Detroit Country Day. Sam Barger was added for a 98-yard kickoff return in 2021, and Ryan Brenner was added for 45 extra points during the abbreviated 2020 season. Barger also is a senior this school year.
West Bloomfield’s run to the 2021 Regional Final was fueled in part by a tough defense, including a pair of pass rushers who rank among the all-time leaders in single-season sacks. Michael Williams II recorded 24 that fall, tied for fourth-most for one season, while Brandon Davis-Swain tied for 12th with 18. Williams, a senior that fall, plays for South Florida, while Davis-Swain is finishing his junior year at West Bloomfield.
PHOTO Lawton’s Jake Rueff (22) breaks into the open during his team’s Division 7 Final matchup with Pewamo-Westphalia in 2021.
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.)