Reading is Believing for 1st-Time Champ

November 23, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – Alex Price’s 11 words – or rather, 56 characters – last Nov. 25 spoke volumes.

And he and his teammates made them count during Friday morning’s Division 8 Final at Ford Field.

Two days shy of a year ago, the Reading now-senior quarterback tweeted that his team would be making the trip to Detroit this weekend. It was quite a prediction. The Rangers had just finished 8-3 – but hadn’t reached a Semifinal since 2008 and had never played in an MHSAA football championship game.

Well, Reading is believing. Breckenridge scored first Friday, but the Rangers popped back up and broke away for a 39-20 win and their first Finals championship in this sport.

The win actually capped a three-year run that saw three freshmen and seven sophomores join the varsity in 2016, boosting that team from 11 to 21 players even as the overall level of experience fell dramatically. Reading finished only 3-6 that season, but set the stage for the team to play on the state’s biggest.

“What’s special is the kids,” Reading coach Rick Bailey said. “Basically we played that (2016) year with a junior varsity team at the varsity level. We went 3-6, but we competed in every game. They decided back then they were going to make it happen.”

Friday morning was going to be filled with firsts, regardless of the winner. Breckenridge also was making its first MHSAA Finals appearance in football, and both teams were undefeated heading into the day.

Reading (13-0) rarely had been stopped this season – even the local police escorted the Rangers through a few red lights early Friday as part of an escort kicking off the morning march.

But they knew they were in for some challenges right away. First, Breckenridge stopped Reading on a fourth down play at the Rangers’ 32-yard-line just four minutes into the game. The Huskies followed up by scoring the game’s first touchdown, converting two fourth downs on the way to the end zone.

Reading had been giving up only 7.2 points per game, and Breckenridge suddenly led 6-0. Game on. But the Rangers’ defense – one of the most impressive in any division this fall – brought things back to even with a Finals first.

With just over a minute left in the first quarter, senior Caleb Miller’s 42-yard punt pinned the Huskies on their 1-yard-line. On the next play, Miller got a sack and the ball came loose, and junior Elijah Strine ended up with it in the end zone – the first fumble recovery for a touchdown in MHSAA championship game history. Senior

Ethan LoPresto’s 2-point conversion run put the Rangers ahead, to stay, just 14 seconds after one of the few times they trailed this fall.

“We were down when they scored first – we’re not use to that. We’re not used to teams scoring much on us at all,” Miller said. “That got the momentum up and really helped us out.”

Bailey said Breckenridge (12-1) had the toughest defense his team had seen this season. And the Huskies didn’t let up despite the disappointing and historic turn of events. But Reading began to grind, adding a touchdown on a drive of 5 minutes, 10 seconds, midway through the second quarter and extending the lead to 24-6 on a Price score to cap a 5:39 drive to start the third period.

Breckenridge still didn’t go away, and that was saying a lot against a Reading defense that also had given up just a little more than 500 rushing yards total and only rushing touchdown over the first 13 weeks.

The Rangers held the Huskies to just 21 yards rushing for this game – but Breckenridge did get a touchdown on the ground and two through the air from senior quarterback Carter Staley to senior running back Hunter Collins, who also had the rushing score.

“I was just extremely proud of everyone on our team, pushing ourselves and pushing each other and not giving up on one another,” Staley said. “That’s just what got us here.”

LoPresto led the Reading offensive effort with 123 yards on 16 carries. Junior Hunter Midtgard had the most memorable play, breaking free in the fourth quarter off a block from junior Ben Affholter for a 57-yard score. Strine also ran for a touchdown.

No player had more than five tackles for the Rangers – but as a unit they had 10 for losses and three sacks.

Staley finished 14 of 19 passing for 177 yards and the two scores, and Collins caught six passes for 55 yards while junior back Lukas Ebright caught four for 55.

Breckenridge had a similar back story to Reading – the Huskies went 0-9 in 2015 when a handful of this team’s leaders were learning on the fly as freshmen. Four years later, 11 seniors are done but next season’s returnees have played up to another full season with extra games during the last three playoff runs.

“We’ve got a plan, and we stick to it,” Breckenridge coach Kris Robinson said. “It’s good athletes coming through, but we’ve also got a process. We’ve learned as a coaching staff, and I’m hoping we can move forward from here.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Reading celebrates its first MHSAA football championship Friday. (Middle) The Rangers’ Caleb Miller, right, chases Breckenridge quarterback Carter Staley.

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.