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.)

Football Title Reflects Kingsley's Current Success, Recalls Loved Ones Passed

By Tom Spencer
Special for

December 1, 2023

Kingsley football fans have become pretty familiar with VIP parking for home games over the last couple of seasons.

Northern Lower PeninsulaThey may just start looking for a Kingsley VIP lot at Ford Field. The Stags just captured the MHSAA Division 6 championship trophy with a 38-24 victory over Almont, their second Finals championship and first since 2005.

The road to the Finals started with Kingsley hosting two playoff games, allowing great use of the VIP Parking of Trina’s Touchdown Club. The lot is adjacent to the school’s Rodes Field and provided in loving memory of Katrina “Trina” Kay Schueller, who passed away Oct. 21, 2021, at Munson Medical Center.

Those playoff games filling Trina’s Touchdown Club’s parking lot featured wins over Mason County Central 61-12 and Manistee 37-18, and 51-27 over Gladstone in the Regional Final. Kingsley then traveled down the road and defeated Reed City 37-7 in the Semifinal.

There may not have been designated VIP parking in Cadillac and Ford Field for the Stags’ followers, but there were a lot of VIPs at both stadiums with Schueller on their minds. Pretty much everyone with an affiliation with the highly-successful program or familiarity with the community’s struggles have become VIPs to the Kingsley coaching staff and many others.

Most certainly among the VIPs are head coach Tim Wooer, assistant coach Conner Schueller, his brother Carter Schueller, and his father Mike Schueller.

Conner was set to play the biggest regular-season game of his career the day after his mom passed. It was the regular-season finale against rival Traverse City St. Francis.  

Wooer vividly remembers the moments leading up to that matchup, noting how difficult it was for Conner. But his then-fullback and now-assistant coach demonstrated amazing strength and maturity he stills exhibits today.

Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back.“He’s in his senior football season, and his mom is in the hospital for four weeks — he’s balancing that playing football and going to school,” Wooer recalled. “And then she passes, and he has the strength to come back to school and deliver the news to our team.

“I am sobbing watching this kid, and I’m just amazed,” Wooer continued. “The next night is Parents Night, and he’s on the field with his dad and brother without his mom.”

Conner still played, making a 4th-down goal line tackle to prevent a St. Francis touchdown. The Gladiators won the game, but Conner won the day, conquering much just to dress for the game. 

The Stags went on to playoff wins over Kingsford 28-10 and Clare 32-6. They bowed out with a 33-18 Regional loss to Frankenmuth.

Conner’s junior year of 2020 had been cut short as the Kingsley was forced to forfeit its District Final to Reed City because several players and coaching staff tested positive for COVID-19. The Stags had Ford Field in their minds that season too after playoff wins over 38-13 Standish-Sterling 38-13 and Gladwin 63-16.

Conner, who celebrated his 20th birthday at Saturday’s Final, remembers his playing days and the challenges presented him.

“At the time it was ‘she’s not there,’ especially my senior year she wasn’t there to watch me and finish it out, but I know she’s watching above,” he said. “We were about to go play Reed City my junior year for Regionals, and everyone got sick and it ended our season unfortunately.”

Those challenges were on his mind at Ford Field, and running through his mind when he saw his brother and father in the stands. Carter, now a senior at Kingsley, had been unable to play football due to injuries.  

“I thought about my brother – he unfortunately didn’t play this year due to his injuries, and I don’t really blame him for that,” Conner said.  “I thought about him as well because it was just me and my dad and my brother now.

“It was very emotional,” Conner continued.  “I got a glimpse of him in the strands.”

Carter also was filled with gratitude for the coaching staff for welcoming and mentoring him. He had become keenly aware of the amount of time coaches spend away from family at practices and going through film.

In addition to his family, Conner was thinking about many others in the Kingsley community – and other senior classes like his that didn’t get the chance to celebrate a championship.

He also was thinking about Justin Hansen, a 2003 graduate of Kingsley. Hansen was a captain on the 2002 conference championship team. He went on to become a special-operations Marine sergeant and was killed in action July 24, 2012, while deployed in Afghanistan. Hansen was on patrol as part of an operation in search of a high-value target when his team was hit with small arms fire. 

Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right.On Saturday, Wooer was wearing a red T-shirt with the letters “USA” on the front and the name “Hansen” on the back. It also featured the number 54, Hansen’s in high school.

Wooer, who turned 54 in July, wore the shirt in Hansen’s memory knowing Hansen would be on the veteran coach’s mind and symbolizing Hansen’s presence with the team at Ford Field.

Wooer wants to make sure Hanson is never forgotten and reminds the soldier’s family the entire community remains behind them.  

“I believe it is part of our job as a community to show our love to this family and help in any way possible to help them get through this process,” Wooers said. “After the funeral, we all went about life.

“We certainly still think about Justin and feel the pain,” he continued.  “But nothing like a family does.”

Hansen’s tragic passing led to the creation of the annual Patriot Game in Traverse City in 2012 while Wooer was coaching Traverse City West. The game features crosstown rivals West and Traverse City Central every year and strives to honor veterans, first responders, active duty military, and area heroes who died while serving their country.

Saturday’s win over Almont left Wooer emotionally exhausted after all the preparations to do it right for the senior class, the school, the Kingsley community, the Schueller family and Hansen. Collectively, they’ve really become more like a family to the Stags coaching staff and many, many others.

“In terms of emotions, there is no doubt Justin was on my mind throughout the game,” Wooer said. “Trina and Conner have been – those are two huge pieces.

“And, a lot of my thoughts are with the seniors,” he continued. “You want to win the game, but also it is your last time with them.”

Wooer has learned a lot from his former players and coaches over the years. He’s become close friends with many of them, going back to his early days of coaching as a student-teacher at Elk Rapids. He also coached at Farewell and Traverse City West, the latter from 2008-2017 after a first tenure at Kingsley. He returned to Kingsley in 2018.

Schueller is among several former players and coaches who have been on Wooer’s coaching staffs over the years. Several continue today.

“I could give you lots of other stories about kids I have had,” Wooer said. “There comes this transition where they turn into such amazing men, you catch yourself every once in a while saying, ‘I want to be like him.’

Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. “You get this huge smile on your face because you’re so proud of them, just like a mother or father would,” Wooer continued. “A coach always looks at his players like they’re part of his family.”

In addition to Conner, current assistants with long-term relationships with Wooer are Tom Kaleita, Kyle Smith, Ryan Zenner, Dan Goethals, Josh Merchant, Jordan Bradford, Steve Klinge, Connor Schueller, Mike Arlt, Larry Mikowski, Bobby Howell, Rob Whims and Jason Morrow.

This year’s seniors were Jon Pearson, Eli Graves, Skylar Workman, Gavyn Merchant, Max Goethals, Evan Trafford, Bode Bielas, Grant Kolbusz, James Person, Caleb Bott, Trenton Peacock, Noah Scribner and Gavin Dear. They and the coaching staff will be the center of attention as the community celebrates the football team at 7 p.m. this evening in the high school gymnasium.

The seniors probably won’t need VIP parking tonight. But if it would help, Conner would surely make arrangements to utilize Trina’s Touchdown Club. He’d have to add a shuttle though as Rodes Field is about a mile away from the school.

“It feels amazing — I don’t think it really hit any one yet, but I am sure it will,” Conner said. “After we won, it is truly something – it is something else I can’t explain. 

“The seniors finally won it the way they were supposed to,” he continued. “It was a good class of seniors.”

Tom SpencerTom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Kingsley students support their classmates during Saturday’s Division 6 Final at Ford Field. (2) Stags assistant coach Conner Schueller watches from the sideline during an Almont run back. (3) Kingsley coach Tim Wooer, in red, prepares to present the championship trophy to his team including Schueller, far right. (4) Trina’s Touchdown Club welcomes members to the VIP lot adjacent to the Kingsley stadium. (Ford Field photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photos; touchdown club photo courtesy of the Kingsley football program.)