Reading Reaches Next Level with Repeat

November 29, 2019

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

DETROIT – An arduous playoff road over the last five weeks pushed Reading up against some of the most established football programs in Michigan high school history.

Pre-District opponent Mendon is tied for 10th with 12 MHSAA Finals football titles. Semifinal foe Fowler has won seven championships. Those two, Cassopolis and Adrian Lenawee Christian all were state-ranked during the regular season. Friday’s championship game opponent Beal City was not, but is tied for the most playoff appearances in MHSAA history with 35 over the 45-year history of the tournament.

Reading made its 25th playoff appearance this fall, an impressive feat on its own. But by winning a second straight Division 8 championship – after last year’s first in school history – the Rangers launched their program into that group of the most revered. 

They concluded this chapter with a 33-6 win over the Aggies on Friday at Ford Field, extending an incredible run while allowing a star-studded senior class to leave its personal imprint on what Reading has accomplished. 

“I really think we left a mark in the playoff book,” Rangers senior Hunter Midtgard said. “Just because we came through last year, we had a really good team, and then we came through this year and we wanted to prove a point that this was our team and we wanted to leave a legacy. We just wanted to finish the job.” 

Reading finished this fall 13-1, winning 13 straight after a 14-0 opening loss to Pewamo-Westphalia, which will play Saturday for a third Division 7 title in four years. The Rangers are 27-1 over the last two seasons.

Not that the senior class needed motivation after making a major contribution to last season’s title run. But coach Rick Bailey emphasized that those seniors shouldn’t feel like reigning champions, and instead pursue making their own impact – and the P-W loss threw kindling on that message.

“We worked hard over the summer, but that first loss … kinda lit a fire in us and told us what it took to make it back here, so we really wanted it,” Reading senior lineman Nick Affholter said.

“Also, I thought it was great, because it was our team this year,” said senior linebacker/tight end – and Nick’s twin – Ben Affholter. “We got to be seniors and we got to be leaders, and that drove us to win it as our team.”

Friday’s matchup with the Aggies (12-2) was set up to be strength on strength – especially considering the two starting quarterbacks together combined for only about 1,500 yards passing this fall.

The game stayed within a score until midway through the third quarter, when Reading began to show it was stronger in the long run.

The Rangers scored the final 19 points, all on runs, and outgained Beal City on the ground 260-42. Reading also had 10.5 tackles for loss, with Ben Affholter leading with 4.5.

Beal City senior quarterback Jack Schafer was able to counter with 115 yards and a touchdown passing, completing five of nine attempts. But Rangers junior Porter Mauk also made the most of his six attempts, connecting on scoring passes for his team’s first two touchdowns.

“I think their up front gave us fits,” Beal City coach Brad Gross said. “Number 44 in the middle (Ben Affholter) obviously was stunting, and we didn’t do a very good job of picking him up. But I’m sure that kid is an all-state football player. … They’re big, bigger than we are, and also a lot faster than you think they are.”

Reading finished the season having given up 103 points, or 7.4 per game. Lenawee Christian (21) was the only team to score more than 18. Ben Affholter finished with 10 tackles total Friday, and brother Nick had eight. The Rangers recovered two fumbles and snagged an interception.

Senior Elijah Strine ran for 73 yards and a touchdown and Midtgard added 68 yards and a score on the ground and a 40-yard touchdown reception. Senior Jayson Scoville caught an 18-yard touchdown pass to open the scoring with 3:21 left in the first quarter. Sophomore Matthew Stewart added a 12-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds to play.

Schafer connected with junior T.J. Maxon on a 56-yard touchdown pass two minutes into the second quarter for Beal City’s lone points. Senior linebacker Seth Schafer had 14 tackles and junior linebacker Ethan Locke had 10. 

The Aggies made their eighth appearance in an MHSAA Final, and first since 2013. They had finished below .500 the last two seasons, including 2-7 a year ago, before mounting arguably the strongest comeback in the state this fall. 

“I think they fit right in there with the best (in school history),” said Gross, who quarterbacked the 1994 team to the Class D title. “I can’t ask for anything more from these guys, starting from last year at the end of the year. It didn’t start in June; it started last year, in November. These kids made a commitment to be there and get things done, and that’s what they did.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Reading’s Roger Hill rushes into Beal City’s defense Saturday at Ford Field. (Middle) The Rangers’ Elijah Strine (30) stretches into the end zone just ahead of Beal City’s Logan Chilman.

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.