Veteran Coach Shows Wayne the Way

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

September 16, 2015

WAYNE – Donald Anderson watched the Wayne Memorial football program lose game after game after game.

As a fan of high school football and a resident of Westland, Anderson, at times, just shook his head. As a former coach, Anderson thought about the possibility of doing something about it.

Few Class A programs have had less success than Wayne. The Zebras have made the playoffs twice and have yet to win a playoff game. Wayne’s last winning season came in 2006, when it finished 5-4. From 2010-2013, Wayne won one game. The Zebras were 2-7 last season.

Wayne is a member of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association and competes in the South division with such well-respected and successful programs like Canton, Livonia Churchill and Plymouth. Even its sister school, Westland John Glenn (the schools are part of the Wayne/Westland school district), has been a playoff team on a regular basis.

As a point of fact, four members of the KLAA South (Canton, John Glenn, Livonia Franklin and Plymouth) have reached an MHSAA Final. 

Wayne’s road to rise is not an easy one.

But they have begun the climb.

“We’re getting better. We moved it well against Plymouth (in a 36-13 loss last week). We just don’t have a lot of firepower," Anderson said. 

“We’ve got a good young squad. We have just seven seniors, and we don’t have a JV. We have just 12 sophomores and I didn’t want to take away from our freshmen, because they’re good, and we can build on that.”

Last April the Wayne/Westland school district had openings for a head varsity football coach, at both John Glenn and at Wayne. Anderson applied for both and was hired at Wayne. This season he became the school’s fourth head coach in as many years.

Anderson, a Detroit Cody graduate and former NFL player (he was the 32nd player taken in the 1985 NFL Draft after playing four years at Purdue University), has had success as an assistant or head coach at every school he’s been at since he starting coaching in 1989. 

Anderson was the defensive coordinator at Cody before becoming the head coach in 1995. In 1999, he went to Detroit Henry Ford as an assistant under Mike Marshall before going to Detroit Northwestern in 2003 as an assistant under Michael Crayton. In 2009, Anderson became the head coach at Northwestern. The school closed after the 2009-10 school year, and Anderson decided, at that time, enough was enough.

He’s been a spectator ever since. Until this season.

“I was still involved,” he said. “I was in consultations with other schools. They wanted to pick my mind. I had a lot of opportunities to coach. It wasn’t the right time. I’ve lived in Westland since 2009. I live between Wayne and Glenn, and I’ve been watching Wayne for a while. I decided to give it a shot. The subject just drew me in. When the opportunity came, I said let’s try it.”

But coaches at Wayne don’t last long. Why would a person, 52 years old and a successful businessman, take a position there when he passed up other coaching opportunities?

A big part was wanting to help local athletes pursue their dreams at the college level. But there also was the challenge. 

“I like a task," Anderson said. "It’s like when I left Henry Ford and went to Northwestern. People thought I was crazy. Low and behold, look who’s on my staff.”

Marshall is now Anderson’s assistant, as is Charles Spann, a former head coach at Detroit Chadsey and Detroit Pershing. It’s people like Marshall and Spann who waited for Anderson to get back into coaching to return to the sidelines themselves.

Both Marshall and Spann won Detroit Public School League titles as head coaches. Now they’re trying to help a friend experience the same.

There are definite reasons for optimism. Anderson sees a lot of potential in 6-foot-3, 215-pound sophomore Reggie Micheaux, a receiver and defensive end. "He can go up and get it, and he's a big target," the coach said. 

Running backs Jarvis Martin and Malik Bryant, the latter also a defensive back, are among others who are impressing early.

Anderson said former players like himself are different. They have their pride. Their egos push them into circumstances others wouldn’t tread.

But for Anderson, it’s more than his ego he’s trying to satisfy. Ten years ago he was diagnosed with kidney failure. He went through dialysis until he received a kidney transplant five years after the diagnosis. After two years, his new kidney failed. Anderson has received kidney dialysis, three days a week, since 2012. With all of that comes a different perspective.

The winning, for now, has had to wait. Wayne is 0-3. Still, those 13 points represented the most they’ve scored against Plymouth since 2007.

It doesn’t get any easier with Canton (3-0) next, but the Zebras will continue to build.  

“It’s about passing it on,” he said. “God has been good to me. It’s about helping others.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Malik Bryant breaks past pursuing Plymouth defenders during last week's game. (Middle) Jarvis Martin works against a Plymouth player. (Below) Kyle Brooks turns upfield. (Photos courtesy of Wayne Memorial athletic department/Kathy Hansen Photography.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)