MHSA(Q&)A: Menominee football coach Ken Hofer

June 28, 2012

By Brian Spencer
Second Half

Ken Hofer has been nothing short of legendary during more than three decades as Menominee’s head football coach -- a tenure that came to an end earlier this month when he announced his retirement.  

In 41 seasons -- including his first two, at Stephenson -- he won three MHSAA championships (1998, 2006, and 2007) and built a record of 342-136-3. He is one of nine coaches in MHSAA football history with at least 300 wins.

He guided more than a thousand athletes, and that influence extended to league rival Kingsford -- where his son Chris Hofer is the football coach. Ken also is known statewide as the guru of the single wing offense, a rarely-used but for the Maroons frequently unstoppable attack that does not utilize a traditional quarterback.

Hofer is a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and Upper Peninsula Sports Halls of Fame. He also served as the Menominee athletic director, principal, and assistant principal. He grew up in Stephenson, where he was an all-stater in football and track and field, and later competed in both sports at the University of Wisconsin. 

Did you always want to become a football coach?

I was predicted to be a coach somewhere in our (Stephenson) annual (yearbook). So I suppose I was always predetermined to coach. However, before coaching I was in the service as a Lieutenant and spent two years in Germany. After Germany, I spent another five years working for Wilson Sporting Goods before I finally came back in 1964 to coach football and teach social studies for Stephenson.

How did you decide it was time to hang up the whistle?

Well, I’m 77 years old, so age was definitely a determinant. The biggest factor was that as much as my mind said I could continue, my body said “slow down.” So I guess age and my inability to continually go full throttle and stay energetic helped me make my decision.

In your 45 seasons, what is the most helpful piece of advice you are going to take away?

The best advice I will take away is to treat young people the way I like to be treated. 

What do you plan to do with your free time, now that your schedule has opened up slightly?

I am going to try and catch up on stuff that should have been done a long time ago. I’m sure that my wife will give me plenty of stuff to do, too. I also want to try to travel more and visit my kids.  I now have a grandson who will be playing for Kingsford, so I will become a fan of my grandson’s at his Kingsford games. 

Now that your grandson and son both have affiliations with Kingsford, will you become a Kingsford man?

No (chuckling), I will cheer for my son and grandson, but I will forever be connected with Menominee and Stephenson. 

What was it like to be recognized by both the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and Upper Peninsula Sports Halls of Fame?

It was like a utopia for coaching. When your peers give that honor it is a pretty special time. As a coach you don’t strive for that kind of accolade; however, it is definitely a special honor to receive. 

What has been, in your opinion, your greatest achievement as Menominee’s head football coach?

My greatest achievement will always be working with younger people; I think that is the most important thing that most coaches would like to have, is the ability to stay young by working with these young men.  You don’t always have to win to have that experience. Winning on the field doesn’t always correlate winning in other aspects of your life. 

What advice can you give aspiring or current coaches who look to share similar successes as a head coach?

The biggest thing is to make sure that you treat the players like you like to be treated. Using that approach will get a great response.

Of your 300-plus career wins, is there any one that you find particularly special?

I always found that whenever I could beat Kingsford when my son was coaching (he said, followed by a bellowing laugh). My son Chris will like that one.

There are so many that I consider to be special. There were a ton of close games, too many to count. Two years ago, we had one of those close games where we played Morley-Stanwood, and won 41-40 in overtime (in a 2010 Regional Final). The young men played very hard. It was very special.

Do you think that your son will follow in your footsteps and coach for 45-plus seasons?

I think Chris has that type of coaching in his blood. He’s struggling physically with a knee injury; however he has a coaching mind that is as strong as ever.  I think he’ll coach until he won’t be able to. 

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly 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:

8-Player Football

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.)