Tigers' Turnaround Earns Another Salute

November 5, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Even with the national attention Benton Harbor’s football program has earned over the last few weeks for its incredible turnaround this season, the sources of support the Tigers have received remains astounding.   

First-year varsity football coach Elliot Uzelac and his players – who this fall won their first game since 2012, posted their first winning season since 1989, earned their first MHSAA football postseason berth and last week won that first playoff game, all despite going a combined 4-68 from 2007-14 – have received kind words from faraway fans living in states on both coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the Midwest.

“I do think the young men on our football team deserve it, and I wish all the attention went to them because they’re the ones that did all the work. They had to make changes around their lives; they had to make cultural changes and they’ve done that. I’m very proud of them,” Uzelac said. “All over the country we’re getting people that have no connection whatsoever to Benton Harbor but are touched by the story of the young men. It just goes to show there are a lot of wonderful people in this country with great hearts.”

Adding to those salutes, the Tigers are October’s Applebee’s MHSAA Team of the Month. Click to read today's report on the team's season and turnaround under Uzelac, a former coach at the college and professional levels. 

Benton Harbor (6-4) on Friday will face undefeated Zeeland West in a Division 4 District Final. West has won MHSAA championships two of the last four seasons and is considered a favorite to claim another later this month.

But regardless of the result this round, the Tigers and the community supporting them have created the framework – and just as important, enthusiasm – to keep them building for seasons to come.  

“There are some young men that have really become leaders. Percy Brown is an example of that. Shawn Hopkins is an example of that. I think Adrien Alexander has made a turn for the best. There are several others like Jeremy Burrell,” Uzelac said. “Sharief Alexander and George Kirkland and Daryl Gill — three seniors. Sharief has not missed a single practice. These guys have given us great leadership. Some of them are known and some of them aren’t known, but they’re really good young people and they’re trying really hard to make a change in their lives."

Each month during the 2015-16 school year, Applebee’s will recognize a Michigan high school team or teams not only for performances on the field of play, but also in the classroom and community.

PHOTO: A Benton Harbor ball-carrier charges past two defenders during last week’s playoff win over Dowagiac.  (Photos courtesy of Randy Willis/Harbor Photography.)

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.