Undefeated Colon Turning Work into Wins

By Wes Morgan
Special for MHSAA.com

October 2, 2018

Monday Run Day for the Colon varsity football team is far from a fun day. But the Magi have embraced the burning in their lungs, the cramps and the piercing sound of the next whistle sure to bring on more agony.

The grueling session of sprints follows study hall and weights. Then position groups work on their particular craft. And as the sun sets, the long day finally ends with a thorough cleaning of the locker room.

As third-year coach Robbie Hattan began the interview for this story Monday, he paused for 30 seconds to survey the grounds surrounding the football field, taking mental notes as to which players stuck around for even more voluntary cardio.

“The biggest thing that was a change in culture for Colon was the work ethic in the offseason,” said Hattan, whose team is 6-0 and ranked No. 2 in the latest Associated Press 8-player poll behind Pickford. “We went from maybe having 10 kids in the weight room two summers ago to no less than 25. These kids are working hard. We’re in Week 7 and these kids are working like they’re in two-a-days.”

It’s paying dividends as the Magi have outscored opponents 122-40 during the second half this year.

“We make sure we get a lot of cardio in and make sure we’re conditioned enough to get to the fourth quarter,” 6-foot-5, 190-pound senior lineman Brenden Shelton said. “We end up running a lot of teams down because they just can’t hang with us. It’s a noticeable difference, especially from the beginning (of the year). What we did today (in practice) we probably wouldn’t have been able to do (at the beginning of the year). When we’re playing in the fourth quarter, you can see it in the other team. They’re gassed, and we’re firing.”

Colon also has earned its first conference championship in school history. The Magi wrapped up at least a share of the Southern Central Athletic Association A division title with last week’s 51-0 win over Camden-Frontier.  

Colon made a calculated move to 8-player this year, but not because of dwindling participation numbers. In fact, with 34 players, the program is healthy compared to other small schools still playing 11-player football.

The cost of scheduling opponents all over the state to fill out a nine-game slate, along with the possibility of lower participation in the future, were considered.

“That’s not smart with our taxpayer dollars,” Hattan said of long treks from past seasons. “Now, we still have our identity. We still have games here on Friday nights. Now, with more schools going to 8-man, the competitiveness and the level of play (have improved). If you would have come here and watched Colon versus Bellevue and you would have thought that wasn’t a football game, I would have called you a liar to your face.

“That was a smash-mouth, hard-hitting football game. The more schools you get, you’ll find that middle ground. When 8-man first started, you were getting so many blowouts. You were either really good or you were really bad. We still have our blowouts, but we had that in 11-man. But it’s few and far between now.”

Schematically, Hattan initially overcomplicated the transition, thinking an overhaul of the offense might be in order. Following a conversation with Crystal Falls Forest Park coach Dave Graff at a summer clinic, the plan became simple and clear.

“He said, ‘Hey, run what you run, but just run it in 8-man.’ We started playing with some stuff with the veer and how we could still be an option school,” Hattan said. “Colon has always been an option school since Coach [Spencer] Henley was here. We know we have some good running backs and some speed, so we just started implementing our option offense. Now we’re getting a little more creative with our options and motions. We’re getting more out of our kids. The option is great because you can leave two guys unblocked every single play and you’re good.”

Sophomore running back Brandon Crawford has racked up 862 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on 99 carries through six games. Junior quarterback Phillip Alva has added 569 yards and 10 TDs on 64 carries. Junior Jonathan West and freshman Kaleb Johnson have combined for 476 yards and six TDs.

Crawford played as a freshman and finished with just over 600 yards last fall.

“It definitely humbled me. Coming into the season, I thought I was just going to start instantly,” he said. “But seeing how much bigger everyone was made me want to push myself harder.”

Though the Magi certainly don’t focus on the passing game, Alva and West have connected on three touchdowns through the air.

Defensively, senior linebacker John Ruby leads the squad with 59 tackles (six for a loss), Crawford has notched 42 (two for a loss), and Shelton has made 35 stops (14.5 for a loss).

“John Ruby is a stud,” West said. “He can lay a hit and fill a hole. Crawford really gets in there and can lay a hit. Shelly (Brenden Shelton) never lets anyone get outside of him.”

Added Alva: “I believe it’s just buying into the program with Coach Hattan. He’s building a pretty good program from Rocket all the way through high school with the weight room and everything. Every single kid is buying into it. I think that’s why we’re doing as good as we are.”

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Philip Alva gets around the corner during last week’s win over Camden-Frontier. (Middle) Brenden Shelton locks up a Camden-Frontier ball carrier. (Photos by Laura Alva/JoeInsider.com.)

Ubly Offense, Kicker Pile Up Record Book Listings During Championship Run

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.