MHSA(Q&)A: Mendon football coach John Schwartz

February 2, 2012

John Schwartz didn’t really want the Mendon football head coaching job when a group of players convinced him to take it before the 1989 season. And his first contract started out on a napkin. The rest is history.

Mendon won its 11th MHSAA football championship this fall, downing Fowler 33-0 in the Division 8 Final, to tie for third-most football titles won by one program. Schwartz has coached in the program for all 11, including 10 as head coach, and his record of 236-39 gives him a winning percentage of .858, tops in the MHSAA record book. He recently was selected as this year’s recipient of the high school Duffy Daugherty Award, annually given for career contributions to the game. He follows recent winners Ralph Munger of Rockford and Herb Brogan of Jackson Lumen Christi.

His Mendon teams have had just one losing season. And although he retired a year ago after 36 teaching middle school science, and then fought off cancer over the summer, he has no plans to leave his post on the Hornets’ sideline.

How would you characterize your program?

I think we have very good coaches and I think the kids respect the coaches, and they know the coaches think more of them than just being football players. They care about them. We have their attention, and what we really try to do is form a team concept as soon as we can. We try to stay away from giving any one person too much recognition. We don't give out MVP awards at the end of the year. It's a program where we're all in it together: coaches, kids and community. We try to get the best out of the kids, give the kids the best shot we have at being the best we can be.

How does a small school continue to reload every season?

My first year there, the first thing I did as a head coach was I started the junior high program. I think that's where everything starts. We even have the younger kids called the rocket kids, and those coaches come in and talk about (football) terms so when kids move from one level to another there's no re-teaching. Everyone has an ego, coaches have egos, and they like to do some things differently. But we don't have that. They do what we do. We give them a lot of flexibility, but we have certain drills we want to run. By the time we get them, these kids are in tune with what we are doing. The summer program also is something I started my first year as head coach too. ... It means that during the season we can concentrate more on teaching than conditioning.

You went from 3-6 in 2006 to 12-0 in 2007. Explain how you bounced back.

The losing season we had, we didn't have a lot of kids, and our two best kids were hurt early in the season and couldn't play. We never did bounce back. Even in that season, we were ahead at halftime in all but one game. We just didn't have enough to come back and pull the game out, and we had some very tough games. It wasn't a good season, but I thought those kids played awfully hard for what we had. We got a lot of experience, and it paid off the following year.

Our JVs practice with the varsity. When I work with inside linebackers, I work with (grades) 9-12. Kids learn quicker from kids than from coaches, as far as I'm concerned. ... Football's really changed. It's become a lot more complex. I think we have to delegate more and more every year so we can stay with the changes. It's too much for one person. I remember my first three, four or five years it was just three of us at the varsity level. The other two, neither one taught at the school. We were pretty successful right off the bat, and we started getting more and more interest from people. Now 9-12 we have seven coaches, and we have three at the junior high, and all the coaches but two have played for me. They know what I expect, what I'm looking for, what I want. ... And they want to win. I'd be lost without those guys.

Are there certain seasons that have meant more than others?

The first year I took the job, in 1989, we went undefeated and won a state title. A lot of those kids are very good friends of mine yet, and they're pretty special to me. They were a big boost to my program. In the '95 year, my son was a sophomore on that state title team. I remember a lot about that team.

They all have something they did very well. They either threw the ball well or played great defense or had a big line. When I hear a year now, I think about those teams.

You grew up in a small town (Colon) and have taught and coached in a small town. Was that important for you to do?

I've never taught anywhere else. I never felt I really had a reason to leave. I've gone through at least six superintendents since I've been there. The fourth or fifth said to me, "The only thing that bothers me about Mendon is these people think an awful lot of winning. There are other things." He asked me, "How do you feel about it?" I said, if they didn't feel that way, I wouldn't be here.

Who was your biggest coaching influence?

I would say Morley (Fraser, Jr., under whom Schwartz was an assistant for three seasons). Years before I got there, Mendon was pretty good in the early 70s, and then in the mid 70s football wasn't very good. I was the JV coach the first year, and the second year after two games they brought me up to varsity. The best thing I did was I told them I would not take the head job, but I'll assist. I knew (Fraser) was the kind of person and personality we needed there. It wasn't necessarily all of his football knowledge, but his energy and excitement that he brought to the game.

You said during the Finals postgame press conference that you'd battled cancer during the summer. How did you come back, and did you ever think that might be time to step down?

Everything's fine. I had coaches that took over. At the same time that that happened, I was retiring. If you retire in Michigan, you can't be at the school for one month. So I couldn't be at summer weights all the way through June. So my coaches did all the summer weights. But I had no intention of stepping down. If something (bad) came down ... but once they said they got it, everything went as normal.

After a championship season, how do you ramp things back up for the next fall and a new group of players?

When we go to the playoffs, we take all the JVs unless there are couple who don't want to go. They experience that and get an extra five weeks of practice if we win a state title. And they're excited about it. They want to do that. They’ve' tasted it, and they want a part of that the next year. We remind them it's not what you did, it's what can you do for me now. ... This is your year.

We talk about winning state championships from day one. A lot of people say we shouldn't do that, but why not? Isn't that the ultimate goal? I can't imagine telling a team we think we could be 7-2 this year. We expect to be 9-0 every year. Of course, that's not going to happen. But at same time, I think the losses make you better the following week. We've won state titles where we haven't won the league title. ... You get better.

PHOTO: Mendon coach John Schwartz talks things over with his players during the Hornets' 21-14 win over Decatur in the 2002 Division 7 Final at the Pontiac Silverdome.

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.