Longtime Assistant Set to Lead Dakota
By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half
August 17, 2016
MACOMB TOWNSHIP – Greg Baur was content to continue coaching in the background, much like a supporting actor in a movie.
Baur, 46, had been an assistant football coach for 26 years at four different schools, most recently at Macomb Dakota. For 21 seasons he was a defensive coordinator, including the last 12 for the Cougars.
And he was good at it. In 2001, under then-head coach Mike Carr, Bauer was instrumental in guiding Clinton Township Chippewa Valley to its only MHSAA title, in Division 2. Chippewa Valley held Jenison to 139 yards in its 26-13 victory in the Final. In 2006 and 2007, Baur was with head coach Mike Giannone when Dakota won its two MHSAA Division 1 titles. That gives him the distinction of being the only Macomb County coach to play a big part in three MHSAA championships.
Last January, Giannone left Dakota to take the head coaching position at Warren DeLaSalle. The move took Baur by surprise – but it also started the wheels turning in his head.
Just once had Baur sought to be a head coach. When Carr left Chippewa Valley after the 2004 season, Baur applied to take over. When he didn’t get the job, Giannone quickly hired him at Dakota.
With Giannone gone, Baur made another bid at a head coaching gig. This time, he got it.
“I don’t remember the date,” Baur said. “I just remember it was a snow day. They called me and told me I had it. The first thing I did was make sure the staff would stay, and they did. Next I met with the players, and the kids were really excited about it.”
At most programs, going from a coordinator position to take over as head coach is akin to jumping into a pool after sitting an hour with just your feet in. Baur said it isn’t like that for him.
Sure there’s more paper work, and yes, the fundraising becomes more of his responsibility. But as far as the workload, it’s not as daunting for Baur as it might be for others. Baur has always been a workaholic.
“I’ve always worked extra hard,” he said. “I told my wife, this will amp things up. It’s 24/7. The good thing is the kids have grown up a bit. And it’s not work for me. It’s fun. I’m really excited to get things going. When you wait 25 years you look at what you can tweak here and there. Offensively, I’ll tweak it a little. Defense is the same. I’m still running it. I can’t see myself not coaching (the defense).”
In a sense, Baur has already experienced success. He convinced Carr to come out of retirement and serve as his offensive coordinator.
It’s come full circle.
There are a number of reasons why Baur hadn’t looked elsewhere for a head coaching job. He and his wife, Renee, live in the area, and their three children attend schools in the Chippewa Valley school district, of which Dakota is a part. Their eldest child, Jason, played football at Dakota and graduated this spring. He’s now attending Wayne State University and helping out with Dakota’s freshmen team.
Professionally, there isn’t a program in Macomb County that can match Dakota. It is the only school in the county with more than one MHSAA title, and the Cougars are consistently one of the state’s top teams. They’ve made the playoffs 15 consecutive seasons, and just once since 2003 have they failed to win a playoff game. Last season Dakota lost to Detroit Cass Tech, 16-10, in a Regional Final.
Given that, there’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with being the head coach of such a program. It’s similar to the pressure that’s on coaches like Ralph Munger at Rockford and Kurt Richardson at Clarkston. Those in the community not only expect them to win every year, but expect their teams to be a factor in the playoffs every year. A first-round loss is not only disappointing – it can also raise a few eyebrows.
Baur’s attitude? Bring it on.
“To me, it’s not pressure,” he said. “I love to compete. If all goes well, great. If not, then we move on. I might not be the smartest coach around, but no one is going to outwork me.”
During this time of year, time is scarce. Double sessions start at 9 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. There’s time for dinner, then its film sessions followed by an hour or two of quality time with his children.
“That hasn’t changed,” he said. “That was always the schedule. But now there’s paperwork, putting out fires.
“I love this. There isn’t a part of the job I don’t like. There’s no complaining. You get an opportunity, you make the best of it. I know there’ll be tougher times.
“Being a head coach, it never really crossed my mind. (Giannone) is relatively young. I thought he’d retire (as a head coach) here. It wasn’t something I was campaigning for.”
Baur owes much of his success and where he’s at to those who mentored him. A graduate of Sterling Heights Stevenson, he played and coached under one of Macomb County’s legendary coaches, Rick Bye. After four years, Baur went to Romeo and coached under Greg Ganfield. Ganfield was gave Baur his first shot as a coordinator. Four years later, Baur went to Chippewa Valley.
Carr showed Baur how to run a program, not just coach. He lectured him on how to deal with parents and their concerns. A bit overwhelming then, Baur has gained the experience where such responsibilities are more easily managed.
“(Giannone) wasn’t that much different,” Baur said. “Heck, he coached under Carr, too. But (Giannone) took the program to another level.”
As good as Dakota has been recently, expectations are even higher this season. The senior and junior classes did not lose a game on the freshman or junior varsity levels. Many outside the program, including Utica Eisenhower coach Chris Smith, have said this senior class at Dakota is one of the best they’ve seen.
Baur said one of his biggest tasks is to make sure this group doesn’t become complacent.
“I’m a players’ coach,” he said. “When it got real hot recently, I dialed back. They don’t even call me Coach. It’s like, hey Baur.”
Baur is just like one of the guys – except this time he’s playing the leading role.
Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
PHOTO: Greg Baur (right), the new head coach at Macomb Dakota, directs one of his players. (Photo by Tom Markowski.)
Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
May 26, 2023
Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.
The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).
Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.
See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:
Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.
On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.
A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.
Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.
Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.
Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.
Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).
Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.
Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.
Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.
PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)