By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half
WATERFORD – Mike Boyd always had a grand vision how his last home game as head coach at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes would play out.
As it got into the later stages of a nearly 50-year tenure as football coach, athletic director and so much more at the school, Boyd had one specific idea for how he wanted to go out.
“I always said that the last game I coached before I retired, I was going to play it here under the lights,” said Boyd, referring to the field at the school that doesn’t have permanent lights. “I didn’t get a chance.”
Boyd did not, since in April 2013 he decided to retire as football coach from WOLL after a 46 year-career in order to move full-time to Sarasota, Florida.
However, last Friday proved to be the next best thing for Boyd and the Our Lady of the Lakes community.
In a ceremony that was more than three years in the making after he made his retirement official, Boyd was brought back for the honor of having the entire athletic complex at Our Lady of the Lakes named after him.
To top it all off, the ceremony took place under portable lights in what doubled as the first night game ever at the school.
The game was against Royal Oak Shrine, which is not only the biggest rival for Our Lady of the Lakes, but coached by Boyd’s longtime best friend in coaching, John Goddard.
All anyone needs to do is look at MHSAA record book for evidence that it was a no-brainer for Our Lady of the Lakes to name the athletic complex after Boyd, one of the state’s all-time greatest prep athletic figures.
As football coach, Boyd won 357 games in his 46 years, which currently is good for fourth place on the all-time wins list for coaches in that sport.
He led the Lakers to three appearances in MHSAA football championship games, with the zenith of his coaching career on the gridiron coming in 2002 when his Our Lady of the Lakes team won its only Finals title in school history with a 13-10 overtime win over Gaylord St. Mary in Division 8.
Facing a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line that day, Boyd didn’t hesitate in sending his offense out to go for the win on a do-or-die running play, and the decision paid off when running back Murray Percival broke the goal line to give Boyd his long-awaited title.
The jubilation was apparent on Boyd with how high he jumped over and over again in celebration following the handshake line.
While that was the only time Boyd celebrated an MHSAA championship in football, he did so plenty of times on the softball diamond.
Boyd led Our Lady of the Lakes to what remains a team state-record eight MHSAA championships in softball, going a perfect 8-for-8 in title game appearances and finishing with 703 career wins before retiring from that sport in 2007.
During his tenure, Boyd also coached two games for the hockey team, track & field and started the baseball program by coaching it for its first year of existence.
When not on a playing surface, Boyd was a principal, bus driver, the athletic director and overall face of not only what has become one of the state’s best small-school athletic programs, but the school as a whole.
One of Boyd’s big contributions was creating the home football field at Our Lady of the Lakes behind its school in stunningly quick fashion after some unexpected news.
Our Lady of the Lakes used to play home games at other high schools or middle schools in Waterford, but that changed suddenly in 2001 before a scheduled home game against Royal Oak Shrine.
“They got a new school board one year,” Boyd said. “We used to pay like $250 a game. They came back and said ‘We want $1,200 a game.’ The Dads club got together and put (the press box) up on one week and got the field ready.”
Indeed, in a matter of days a three-story press box was built (fully furnished later in the season) and space for a football field was created (the right side of it through the infield of the baseball diamond) to allow Our Lady of the Lakes to play games on its campus.
It was fitting that the first home game in 2001 was against Shrine and that the ceremony last week was against Shrine, given his nearly 50-year friendship with Goddard.
The two had a nice chat on Shrine’s bench before the game last Friday, and one can only imagine the stories that were re-hashed.
In fact, when Boyd announced his retirement in 2013, he said how much he would miss playing against “that old turkey” in Goddard.
No doubt, Goddard misses competing against Boyd just as much.
“One year he had a kid that got hurt during practice during that week and he shows up at our place for a game, and after kickoff he comes out and starts running a single-wing,” Goddard said. “I go, ‘What the heck is this offense he is running?’ We beat them, but it took us half a game to figure what he was doing. He made it up on Saturday and we played on Sunday. He was a great coach.”
Boyd still follows the Our Lady of the Lakes program from Florida, watching film online and communicating regularly with current Our Lady of the Lakes head coach Josh Sawicki, a player on that 2002 title team – although Boyd was quick to point out he wants no part in decision-making with the Lakes team. “He’s his own coach,” Boyd said of Sawicki.
Boyd also returns to Michigan every August to help out with preseason practices for Lake Orion, which is coached by his son-in-law, Chris Bell, and he visits Sawicki at his preseason practices while in the area.
Before the game last Friday, Sawicki spoke about how little the topic of the ceremony came up with Boyd during conversations in the days leading up to the game.
“He was talking to me Wednesday or Thursday night, and there was not one question about (the ceremony),” Sawicki said. “It was all about the game plan. ‘What have you got? What have they got? What will you do if they do this? Watch out for Goddard because he likes to do this and likes to do that.’ Still to this day, that was all he was talking about.”
Sawicki said doing things without fanfare is who “Coach” has always been, and it’s a legacy that will be carried on in name now that the athletic complex is named after Boyd.
More importantly, it will also be carried on in spirit.
“He built that brand,” Sawicki said. “It’s the responsibility of the coaches and the players to continue that brand on. That is what we are focused on doing.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Our Lady of the Lakes football coach Mike Boyd hoists the Division 8 championship trophy in 2002 after his team defeated Gaylord St. Mary at the Pontiac Silverdome. (Middle) Boyd (left) receives a plaque from Rev. Lawrence Delonnay, Our Lady’s pastor, on Friday to recognize the naming of the school’s athletic complex in Boyd’s honor.
Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.
They may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.
The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.
Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.
There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.
Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.
Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.
Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.
“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.
“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”
Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game.
The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.
Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.
Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.
“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”
Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.
“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said. “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.
“It was very emotional,” Conner continued. “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”
Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.
In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.
He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire.
On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.
Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.
Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.
“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.
“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued. “But nothing like a family does.”
Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.
Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.
“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.
“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”
Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.
Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.
“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’
“You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”
In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.
This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.
The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.
“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain.
“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”
Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)