Menominee Follows Winning Formula

October 29, 2015

By Dennis Grall
Special for Second Half

MENOMINEE – Explaining the continued success of football at Menominee High School is not difficult.

"Football is just work. The kids are willing to work," fourth-year coach Joe Noha said of a simple explanation of a premier program for decades.

The Maroons (9-0) host Grayling (6-3) Friday at venerable Walton Blesch Stadium in a Division 5 opener. Noha, a former Menomninee player and assistant coach under legendary head coach Ken Hofer, is 45-4 since taking over the program.

Menominee was Division 5 runner-up under Noha in 2013 and reached the MHSAA Semifinals the other two seasons. Under Hofer, with Noha as the top assistant, the Maroons won Division 5 titles in 2006 and 2007 and Class BB in 1998.

There is more to this amazing success than simply hard work, something every successful program can also claim.

"We try to put our guys in the best position to have success," Noha said. "We can do a lot of different things."

Again, all successful teams can make that claim.

The Maroons also can point to stability in the coaching staff. Hofer, who retired after the 2011 season, is the all-time leader in victories among Upper Peninsula coaches with a 313-141-2 record. Noha, who graduated from Menominee in 1983 and then played football at Saginaw Valley State University, joined Hofer's staff in 1994.

Assistants like Ron "Satch" Englund, Jamie Schomer, Dave Mathieu, Nathan Linsmeier, Lucas Chouinard, Tyler Uecke, Bill Schwanz and Mark Klapp have also been part of the program for many years, providing stability to that success. Many of them also played for Hofer.

"After every practice we evaluate and look at ways to get better," said Noha, mentioning something else that of course is done across the sports universe.

Noha noted successful operations, referring to Fortune 500 companies, as he said, "everyone has core values. We put kids first, teach them hard work and responsibility (and discipline). Our teaching staff, our community; it is all part of what we do. We always have a support staff to lean on. Our kids know that. They know what the Menominee standard looks like."

He also pointed out, "There is a lot of pride there. We talk about giving back to what was given to you."

Noha also notes a "family mantra" in Menominee. "There is definitely family here, there is definitely community support here, the school supports us. There is not a lot of turnover here. We stick together, we work well together. A lot of people maintain the standard.

"A lot of people have a vested interest."

Again, nothing different from other successful programs.

But here's what is different: The Menominee Maroons do all of those things, and most importantly, perhaps, is it has been like that for nearly half a century.

One other explanation could also be how the Maroons operate on the gridiron. They are one of the very few remaining teams who use a single-wing offense, which makes it difficult for potential playoff opponents to prepare for since it is tough to emulate in practice.

Familiar Upper Peninsula opponents such as Escanaba, Kingsford, Gladstone and Marquette get to see the single-wing every year, as well as at the freshmen and jayvee levels. Grand Rapids West Catholic, which beat the Maroons in the 2013 title game and the 2012 semis, also has a good idea of the single-wing intricacies.

"West Catholic has beaten us because they were better," admitted Noha. "Trying to replicate it in practice is very difficult. You have to execute. It comes down to putting kids in good spots."

The Maroons have obviously modified the single-wing through the years, from fullback spinners to jump passes to bubble screens and fly patterns for receivers. "We can spread it out and we can pound it, but the single-wing concepts are still there,” Noha added.

"Everybody puts their tweaks on everything. If you are defending us, you better know the top three plays in our formations. Everyone's film is your DNA, your template. It is not brain surgery by any means."

It still comes down to other areas. "You have to have the kids, the coaches, and the kids have to be resilient," Noha said. "You can have any system you want."

Talent also comes in handy, and the Maroons again are blessed in that department. Led by quarterback/running back Nathan Nowack, the Maroons fill six defensive positions and five offensive positions on the Great Northern Conference all-star team this fall.

Nowack, who scored seven touchdowns against Gladstone this year, is the GNC's offensive player of the year, and lineman Adam Beyersdorf is the GNC's defensive player of the year.

Noha said changes have been made throughout the 35 years he has been associated with the program, some mandated by the MHSAA such as the reduction of contact in practice and the emphasis on concussions.

"The practices and the schemes stay the same. We look at nutrition more and we don't hit nearly as much as we used to," said Noha, who also indicated weight training has been emphasized much more since he was a player.

"The kids are bigger, stronger, faster and more physically fit. The game is faster, the kids are more skilled and get out in space more," Noha said.

While the Maroons usually boast good size in the line, Noha said the Maroons look more at body composition and how it best suits the players and positions. Many of the players go around the 180-190 pound area and are well-conditioned, solid athletes, he said.

Noha noted the first three playoff games are usually held outdoors, and then the Maroons usually play in the Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University and then hit Ford Field if they reach the title game. He said heavier kids may wilt under the indoor conditions. "We want kids that can run and move," he said.

Menominee's future may look even brighter. After not having a freshmen football team the past four years, Noha said that level will resume in 2016 as 30 freshmen players are anticipated. There were 22 freshmen on the 2015 junior varsity team.

Football is played to be fun for the Maroons, and it is always more fun when you can enjoy success like the Maroons experience. What it all comes down to in Menominee, Noha said, is "the scoreboard never defines us. We try to use football to get us to a better place."

Denny Grall retired in 2012 after 39 years at the Escanaba Daily Press and four at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, plus 15 months for WLST radio in Escanaba; he served as the Daily Press sports editor from 1970-80 and again from 1984-2012. Grall was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and serves as its executive secretary. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Upper Peninsula.

PHOTOS: (Top) Senior Nathan Nowack (36) follows two of his blockers during this season's game against Marquette. (Middle) Hunter Hass works to avoid a Marquette defender on a rainy night. (Below) A Menominee ball-carrier holds onto the ball as two Marinette, Wis., players tackle him. (Photos courtesy of Val Ihde.)

1st & Goal: 2023 Week 5 Review

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

September 25, 2023

As anticipated, the midpoint of this football regular season provided clarity to league championship races all over the state over the weekend, setting up some massive build-up as the calendar turns to October.

MI Student AidBut of course, there are always surprises – and the biggest came from our smallest schools. Skip to the 8-player portion of our Week 5 report below to kick things off with a streak-ending stunner.

(Historical information below researched in part at 

Bay & Thumb

HEADLINER Chesaning 16, Montrose 6 Chesaning (4-1) is staring down a possible first league title since 2005 after handing the Rams (4-1) and previously New Lothrop their only losses in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. This also was Chesaning’s first win over Montrose since they helped form the MMAC in 2018 – and now Chesaning will turn its attention to Ovid-Elsie this week and reigning champion Durand after that with that league title possibility growing. Click for more from the Flint Journal.

Watch list Saginaw Heritage 49, Lapeer 21 The Hawks (3-2) opened Saginaw Valley League Red play with losses to Grand Blanc and Davison but are still to be feared as handing this first loss of the season to Lightning (4-1) showed. Further putting that start in perspective, all five of Heritage’s opponents so far have winning records heading into Week 6.

On the move Millington 21, Standish-Sterling 20 The Cardinals (5-0) clinched a share of the Tri-Valley Conference Blue title after losing out to Standish-Sterling (2-3) a year ago. Corunna 49, Lake Fenton 17 The Cavaliers (5-0) will play Goodrich this week to decide the Flint Metro League Stars champion for the second year in a row after taking Lake Fenton (3-2) out of the title race. Almont 13, Armada 12 Almont (5-0) and Croswell-Lexington will face off this week for first in the Blue Water Area Conference after Almont came back from down 12-0 in the third quarter to get past the reigning co-champion Tigers (2-3).

Greater Detroit

HEADLINER Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 28, Macomb Dakota 21 Four teams are in the running again in the Macomb Area Conference Red, with Chippewa Valley (3-2) helping to open the race back up with its first win over Dakota since the 2019 regular season. The Cougars (4-1) drew close with a touchdown with a minute to play, but the Big Reds secured the onside kick – and now those two and Utica Eisenhower sit a game behind Romeo in the league standings. Click for more from the Macomb Daily.

Watch list Riverview 36, Flat Rock 34 The Huron League is back to a three-team race with these two and Carleton Airport after Riverview (4-1) handed Flat Rock (4-1) its lone loss. All three have played each other, so they’ll need help to break the tie at the top.

On the move Redford Union 33, Dearborn Heights Robichaud 22 Union (4-1) sits alone atop a close Western Wayne Athletic Conference race but with wins over two of three teams tied for second, plus Robichaud (3-2) as well. Warren Michigan Collegiate 44, Detroit Edison 16 In successive weeks, Michigan Collegiate (5-0) has handed lone losses this season to Romulus Summit North and now Edison to take control of the Charter School Conference Gold race. Warren De La Salle Collegiate 14, Detroit Catholic Central 7 They both trail Toledo Central Catholic in the Catholic League Central, but both will be expected to factor heavily in the playoffs even if they miss out on a league title. DCC (3-2) entered this game No. 9 in Division 1, and De La Salle (3-2) was No. 2 in Division 2.


HEADLINER Grand Ledge 21, Lansing Everett 12 With its first-string quarterback sidelined, Grand Ledge emerged from a scoreless game at halftime to remain atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue while moving to 5-0 overall. The Comets’ defense was especially tough, holding back an Everett offense that had reached 40 points in two of its last three games as the Vikings (3-2) entered the night the having won three in a row. Click for more from the Lansing State Journal.

Watch list Hastings 34, Battle Creek Harper Creek 6 The Saxons (3-2) are in the mix in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference, having picked up some serious momentum by handing Harper Creek (4-1) its lone defeat.

On the move East Lansing 35, Grand Blanc 7 East Lansing’s 0-2 start keeps gaining context as those early opponents keep winning and the Trojans (3-2) do the same against league title contenders like the Saginaw Valley League Blue’s Bobcats (3-2). Mason 35, Haslett 20 The Bulldogs (5-0) can clinch a share of the CAAC Red this week after holding off Haslett (3-2) for their closest win, with the defense coming up big late as the Vikings were driving to attempt to tie the score. Portland 52, Lansing Catholic 14 The Raiders (5-0) ran their winning streak over the rival Cougars (2-3) to two as they look to repeat as CAAC White champions – and with Week 8 against Lansing Sexton looking more and more like a potential decider.

Northern Lower Peninsula

HEADLINER Gaylord 35, Cadillac 14 The Blue Devils are only halfway through the Big North Conference schedule but may be impossible to catch. Gaylord sits atop the standings and has handed the lone league loss to the three teams in second or tied for third, including the Vikings (3-2). The Blue Devils scored 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points this time to get to 5-0 for the first time since 2003. Click for more from the Petoskey News-Review.

Watch list Traverse City West 24, Midland Dow 21 The Titans (2-3) started 0-2 and have played three games decided by a touchdown or less, including this one to keep them as one of two teams undefeated in SVL Red play.

On the move Charlevoix 29, Benzie Central 12 The Rayders (4-1) can clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title this week after sending Benzie Central (2-3) into second place. Kingsley 44, Traverse City St. Francis 21 The Stags (4-1) had lost to the rival Gladiators (2-3) the last two seasons, including 49-12 a year ago, but this time kept pace with Ogemaw Heights atop the NMFC Legends. East Jordan 26, Maple City Glen Lake 3 Coming off a Week 4 loss, the Red Devils remain in the NMFC Legacy title hunt after a solid bounce-back against the Lakers (3-2).

Southeast & Border

HEADLINER Chelsea 28, Adrian 18 The Southeastern Conference White is looking like it will come down to Chelsea and Jackson after the Bulldogs sent Adrian (4-1) into second place. Since falling to Grand Rapids Northview in Week 1, Chelsea (4-1) has won its next four games all by double digits. Click for more from the Chelsea Sun Times News.

Watch list Dexter 55, Ann Arbor Huron 29 The Dreadnaughts (3-2) are picking up fast after an 0-2 start, with this win dropping Huron (3-2) out of a tie for first in the SEC Red. Dexter has gone over 50 points two straight weeks.

On the move Clinton 50, Blissfield 0 The Redwolves (4-1) also have won four straight after an opening loss and sit tied with Hudson for first in the Lenawee County Athletic Association, while Blissfield (3-2) fell into third. Napoleon 35, Grass Lake 26 For the second-straight week, Napoleon handed the first loss this season to a league opponent – and the Pirates now sit atop the Cascades Conference East with Michigan Center. Erie Mason 40, Petersburg Summerfield 16 Coming off three straight losses, the Eagles (2-3) were in need of a rebound – and got it by handing Summerfield (4-1) its lone defeat.

Marquette quarterback Jaxon Jurmu (2) keeps the ball and gains several yards before being tackled by Sault Ste. Marie's Owen Horrigan (52).

Southwest Corridor

HEADLINER Dowagiac 27, Benton Harbor 26 A one-point Week 1 loss to South Haven is all that’s kept Dowagiac from a perfect start, and the Chieftains (4-1) with this win guaranteed their best finish since at least 2019. Dowagiac trailed 18-13 at halftime, then held off the Tigers (2-3) late to open the Lakeland Conference schedule on the right foot. Click for more from the Niles Daily Star.

Watch list South Haven 45, Allegan 17 The Rams (3-2) won just two games a year ago, but opened with the above-mentioned win over Dowagiac, added a second win over Delton Kellogg two weeks ago, and this time scored their season high to hand Allegan (4-1) its only loss.

On the move Kalamazoo United 30, Parchment 28 (OT) Parchment (3-2) nearly pushed this to another overtime, but the Titans (3-2) held on in another Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore opener to join South Haven and Constantine among early leaders. Portage Central 35, St. Joseph 18 The Mustangs (4-1) equaled last season’s win total and kept pace atop the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference standings while sending the Bears (3-2) a game back. White Pigeon 24, Centreville 8 The Southwest 10 Conference race may come down to the Chiefs (5-0) and Cassopolis in Week 8, although Centreville (2-3) can still be part of the mix if it gets past Cassopolis this week.

Upper Peninsula

HEADLINER Marquette 28, Sault Ste. Marie 7 These two hadn’t met since 2020 but moved together to the Big North Conference for football this fall. Marquette didn’t have an opponent for Week 4 and came back off the break with a big-time defensive effort to even its record at 2-2 and deal the Blue Devils (3-2) their second defeat. Click for more from the Marquette Mining Journal.

Watch list Ishpeming 46, Bark River-Harris 8 The Hematites (2-3) had lost two straight to Bark River-Harris (2-3), but got a needed rebound after defeats the previous two weeks. They could be in for more success with their last next four opponents a combined 2-17.  

On the move Manistique 44, L’Anse 0 The Emeralds (3-2) have posted three straight shutouts and sit one more win from what would be their best finish since 2012. Menominee 56, Houghton 0 Make that four shutouts in five games for the Maroons as they prepare to take on the rest of the contenders in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper over the next three weeks. Kingsford 41, Calumet 0 Coming off their lone loss, the Flivvers (4-1) posted their third shutout of the season and remain in the Copper mix.

West Michigan

HEADLINER Byron Center 15, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 14 The Ottawa-Kent Conference White continues to look like one of the most competitive leagues in the state this fall, and Byron Center (5-0) remains tied for first with East Grand Rapids thanks to a two-point conversion after a last-minute go-ahead score. FHC (4-1) entered the game ranked No. 1 in Division 3, and Byron Center was No. 4 in Division 2.

Watch list Grandville 44, Hudsonville 37 These teams traded leads all game, but Grandville (4-1) scored last to earn a spot atop the O-K Red, tied with Rockford. The Bulldogs have defeated the Eagles (4-1) in four straight.

On the move East Grand Rapids 14, Grand Rapids Northview 10 As noted above, EGR (5-0) kept pace atop the O-K White – thanks to a late go-ahead score that sent Northview to 3-2. Zeeland West 36, Zeeland East 13 The Dux (5-0) ran their streak over the Chix (4-1) to five straight wins and in doing so remained tied with Muskegon for first in the O-K Green. Whitehall 35, Manistee 0 The Mariners (5-0) are alone atop the West Michigan Conference Lakes after blanking a Manistee offense that averaged 40 points per game during its 4-0 start.


HEADLINER Lake Linden-Hubbell 28, Powers North Central 25 The longest winning streak in Michigan 8-player football history is over. Lake Linden-Hubbell handed the three-time reigning champion Jets their first loss since the 2019 Regional Finals and after a stretch of 41 consecutive wins, pulling ahead with a long touchdown pass during the final minutes. Click for more from the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.

Watch list Climax-Scotts 53, Bellevue 22 Climax-Scotts keeps climbing and got to 5-0 for the second year in a row with their fourth showing of 50 points or better, this time to send Bellevue to 3-2.  

On the move Indian River Inland Lakes 26, Munising 24 The Bulldogs (4-1) played their second two-point game in a row, but this time came out on the winning side after falling to St. Ignace by two in Week 4. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 20, Gobles 17 (2OT) The Mustangs (3-2) ended another undefeated start, edging the Tigers (4-1) while holding them 42 points below their average this season. Marion 42, Rudyard 8 The Eagles may have given up their first points this fall, but impressed again against arguably their toughest opponent so far in Rudyard (3-2).

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PHOTOS (Top) Davison applies a pass rush as Saginaw United takes to the air during the Cardinals' 63-0 win Friday. (Middle) Marquette quarterback Jaxon Jurmu (2) keeps the ball and gains several yards before being tackled by Sault Ste. Marie's Owen Horrigan (52). (Photos by Terry Lyons and Cara Kamps, respectively.)