Michigan's Football Past: A Must Read

September 27, 2016

By Ron Pesch
Special for Second Half

This week, the contents of my mailbox reminded me about one of my favorite items to collect – booklets and programs celebrating the history of Michigan high school football.

Contained within was the 2016 edition of the book, “Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep Football History.” Featuring a glorious image on the cover, it’s a delight to flip through. Rob Goddard and crew are to be commended on the fantastic job they’ve done with this 104-page chronicle.

The package recalled the first in my collection – a publication I helped create.

The 25-year celebration of Muskegon Mona Shores football was a modest piece, created before the days of desktop publishing. Because I had assembled the scores of the district’s games, I approached the school and found an individual willing to take a chance. Jerry Fitzpatrick, Sailors athletic director at the time, approved the idea of a booklet celebrating the school’s Silver Football Anniversary.

With gusto, we tapped into a host of resources and dove into digging out photos and details designed to capture everything we could on the years 1962 through 1985, with room for fans to collect details on the coming season. We even included a page on cheerleaders and Homecoming Kings and Queens in hopes of broadening our market.

My second acquisition was a document on Battle Creek Central football, created by MHSAA historian Dick Kishpaugh. It totaled 42 pages in length and included most everything there was to know about the Bearcats, Kishpaugh’s alma mater.

A souvenir football program celebrating Kalamazoo Central’s history followed, also heavily influenced by the work of Kishpaugh. A 60-year history of all sports at Gaylord St. Mary soon landed in my hands, passed on to me by sportswriter and historian Jay Soderberg, editor of the publication. A history of little Grant High School football, published, I believe, in 1979, was the next to arrive.

In 1993, I partnered with baseball historian Marc Okkonen to produce “100 Years of Muskegon Big Red Football 1895-1994,” a 90-page history of our alma mater. That publication was marketed by the school’s Athletic Foundation as a fundraiser and sold well. To my delight, it seemed to spark the publication by a number of other districts of their football histories. Grand Haven and Escanaba followed a similar format and were both quick to market. Each book also celebrated a centennial of gridiron action. Other publications began to surface.

Riding a string of gridiron championships, Farmington Hills Harrison produced a 108-page program, highlighting the accomplishments from their 25-year football history, in 1994. Additional histories from Cadillac, Frankenmuth, Lowell, Negaunee, Boyne City, Niles, Sturgis and Traverse City appeared, some focused on football, others on all sports. So too did one highlighting the Centennial football game between Saginaw and Saginaw Arthur Hill, as did one a few years later celebrating the M & M game, among the nation’s oldest cross-border battles staged between Menominee and Marinette, Wisconsin.

But since then, things seem to have fallen silent. I believe a lengthy history on Grand Rapids Catholic Central made it to press, although I don’t possess a copy. I’ve seen, but have yet to acquire, a football booklet on Sparta High School football.

Do others exist? Enquiring minds want to know.

During the gap, John Hulsebus has created, and continues to maintain and enhance a dream website, Michigan-football.com, containing an exhaustive collection of scores, season win-loss marks and records versus opponents for games played since 1950. The site lists schools, past and present for every high school in the state. Like many, I reference it often. Yet, for many schools in the state, that means as many as 55 years of gridiron action remains unrecorded.

Also missing are the stories that sit behind the scores: the players, the coaches, the drama, the locals and pageantry of a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon at the stadium. In the meantime, scrapbooks containing news clippings, game programs, and photographs, once prepared for our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, gather dust or disappear.

Tell me please, we haven’t forgotten to capture those details from our past?

Ron Pesch has taken an active role in researching the history of MHSAA events since 1985 and began writing for MHSAA Finals programs in 1986, adding additional features and "flashbacks" in 1992. He inherited the title of MHSAA historian from the late Dick Kishpaugh following the 1993-94 school year, and resides in Muskegon. Contact him at [email protected] with ideas for historical articles.

PHOTOS: (Top) Orchard Lake St. Mary's annually produces an updated history of the school's football program. (Middle) Niles and Muskegon Mona Shores are among other programs that have documented their histories in book form. (Below) The program for the 100th game between Menominee and Marinette, Wis., was a keeper as well. 

MHSAA, MHSFCA to Provide Spring Evaluation Camps for College Football Hopefuls

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 27, 2023

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, in partnership with the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), will be hosting first-ever Spring Evaluation Camps to provide athletes with aspirations of playing college football opportunities to show their skills and abilities to college coaches at one of five locations.

The one-day camps will take place between May 15-18 at Jenison High School, DeWitt High School, Jackson High School, Brighton High School and Detroit Country Day High School. The MHSAA’s involvement will allow for the opportunity for Division I college coaches to attend, and representatives from college football programs at all levels are expected.

Athletes who will be juniors or seniors in Fall 2023 may register to participate via a link on the Football page.

“This is an attempt by the MHSAA to help our athletes get exposure during the spring evaluation period in a way that does not intrude on spring sports,” said Brad Bush, an MHSAA assistant director and past high school and college football coach. “We are working with the MHSFCA to help put together a first-class experience for the athletes and college coaches.”

Cost is $20 per player, and each registrant will receive a shirt to wear based on the athlete’s graduation year and registration number so college coaches in attendance can monitor their camp performance. College coaches also will receive registration information for each athlete in attendance.

All athletes must have a coach from the athlete’s school staff present at the camp, and that coach must be a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association.

MHSFCA executive director Andrew Pratley called the Spring Evaluation Camps a tremendous opportunity for high school athletes in Michigan.

“We are very excited with the partnership with the MHSAA that allows our kids the opportunity to wear a helmet and do drills in front of college coaches in the spring at a minimal cost,” Pratley said. “College coaches are thrilled, and it's a unique opportunity to have the rules waived by the MHSAA at these events only in order to showcase the tremendous talent all over the great state of Michigan.”

The Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) has been devoted to the promotion of high school football since its inception in March 1972. The MHSFCA has more than 2,500 members and provides several educational and development opportunities for members and their athletes, including an annual coaching clinic, an annual leadership conference for coaches and potential team captains, and the annual summer East-West All-Star Game for graduated seniors. Additionally, the MHSFCA’s Leadership Development Alliance is in its third year of training coaches and offering veteran members of the association as mentors.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.