Pack is Back: Longtime Coach Returns

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

September 18, 2020

MANCHESTER – Ben Pack never stopped being a coach. He just didn’t have a team for the past 18 years. 

Pack stepped away as a football coach at Jackson High School in 2002, and other than a brief interim job in 2012, has not been on the sidelines since. But tonight, Pack is Back. 

“When I got into coaching in the 1970s it was about the kids,” Pack said. “That’s the same reason I’m coming back.” 

Pack was named head coach at Manchester in March. His season begins tonight when the Flying Dutchmen host Addison in a Cascades Conference opener. 

It’s been a strange journey over the past few months. After he was hired, he had hoped to get into the Manchester halls and start looking to build the numbers for the Manchester football program, which has been down to around 35-40 players the last couple of seasons. 

“When the Manchester job opened up, I applied and was hired in March,” Pack said. “Covid hit a week later. It’s been somewhat of a tailspin since. It’s nothing liked I had planned for.” 

Not even the best planners could have predicted what 2020 has been like for high school football. But, when the season was brought back a few weeks ago, Pack and his colleagues from across the state went right to work. It’s a tough time to build a program. 

“One of the Achilles we’ve been facing is low participation,” he said. “Trying to get the numbers up when school is not in session is very difficult. The players didn’t know me, I didn’t know them. I didn’t have any of their phone numbers or e-mail addresses. It was a struggle. 

“I think if I would have been in the building, we could have resurrected those numbers to 45-50.” 

Instead, Manchester is 37 kids strong playing high school football.  

“The kids have done a fabulous job,” Pack said. “We’ve had a few hiccups, but we are young. About 30 of our kids have never stepped onto a varsity field. There are some good kids, but they don’t have any experience. I still expect them to do well. We coach them to do well. We’ve gone all in, and they’ve responded.” 

Manchester is no stranger to the postseason or success. The Flying Dutchmen made the playoffs every year but once from 2003 to 2015. Last year they went 4-5. Pack is working in a new offense and modified defense as he embarks on his first season leading the program.  

“Trying to get everything put into the game plan in eight or nine days is brutal,” he said. “But I love teaching kids the game of football. I love that part.” 

Manchester is in Washtenaw County, about 20 miles from Pack’s hometown of Jackson. Pack was a three-sport athlete for Jackson High School before going on to Jackson Community College and, later, Central Michigan University. 

He was coaching as soon as he became an adult, first as a volunteer. He was the head coach at Parma Western from 1983-1986, then coached 16 years at Jackson, from 1987 to 2002, leading the school to its first playoff appearances. He came back briefly in 2012 on an interim basis to coach Jackson. He was hired at the last minute, and the team went 0-9.  

“The assistant superintendent tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘You have the experience. We need you to coach football,’” Pack said. “I did it, but everybody knew it was just for the year. We got through it.” 

Pack has a career high school record of 75-119. He also was an assistant coach at Albion College for a short time. His most recent job as an assistant coach was at Parma Western after he retired from the classroom. 

“I thought it was a good chance to get back into it,” he said. “I told my wife it was going to confirm if I really wanted to coach again. When you are a coach these days, it’s an all-in commitment. With the time commitment it takes, you really have to want to coach.” 

Pack said he gave up coaching because of the opportunity to become an administrator, not because he didn’t have a passion for football.  

"It was the right thing to do for my family,” he said. “I had to be a dad. I told my wife when I did it that as soon as I retired, I was going to get back into it.”  

Pack said he missed it every day. His comeback begins tonight, but don’t expect a quick exit. He’s waited years to get back on the sidelines and is having a blast doing it. 

“When I was out of coaching, I was still a coach,” he said. “I worked at it every single day in hopes that I would position myself to get back into it. I studied film. I was a habitual attender of college practices. I kept working on my playbook and schemes. I never stopped any of that. I worked on those things all of the time.” 

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTO: Manchester coach Ben Pack watches over his players as they stretch during practice this fall. (Photo by Doug Donnelly.)

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.