Wooer Leads Kingsley's Return to Power

November 1, 2018

By Chris Dobrowolski
Special for Second Half

KINGSLEY — Tim Wooer does not have the ability to wave a wand and make victories on the football field appear out of thin air.

The Kingsley football program is certainly grateful for the magic Wooer has brought back to the gridiron in no time at all, however.

After going 1-8 at year ago, Kingsley has had a remarkable turnaround in the first year of Wooer’s second tenure as Stags varsity head coach, going 9-1, including last week’s 62-22 Division 6 District playoff win over Tawas.

“The bottom line is — people have asked me how did this happen? I can only give you one answer, and it is the kids,” said Wooer.

It’s a group of players who have endured a lot the past few seasons. The once-proud program had fallen on hard times, seeing a decline in wins after a 6-4 playoff season in 2014. The Stags went 5-4, 5-4, 3-6 and bottomed out with one win during a tumultuous 2017 campaign that saw the previous head coach placed on administrative leave in the middle of the season before he later resigned. Interim coach Jamie Mullen finished out the fall. Needless to say, Kingsley’s players didn’t find many good, positive memories from the season.

“I didn’t even want to play anymore. I was just happy for (the season) to be over,” said Kingsley senior captain Dylan Case.

Wooer noticed the apathy, lack of energy and complacency that seemed to be common among many of the male athletes at his alma mater not long after he came on as a long-term substitute teacher at Kingsley just months after retiring from education. He also was in his 10th year as the head coach at Traverse City West and was enjoying his best year yet with the Titans, who finished 9-2 and won their first playoff game since Wooer arrived in 2008.

But while he was subbing, Wooer was able to drive his two daughters, Lauren and Sarah, to school every morning. He realized then how precious the moments with them and his son, Tyler, had become. So, when Wooer was approached about taking over the Stags in January, he didn’t need much time to make a decision.

“From a football standpoint it was a very poor decision at the time,” said Wooer. “We thought we had things going at West. We were 8-1, had a good nucleus coming back. Our numbers at the middle school were great. It was really kind of self-sustaining at that point. We had a really good thing going. But all the other factors made it a quite simple decision. It was family and obviously my love for Kingsley and the community of Kingsley.”

There was good reason for people in Kingsley to yearn for Wooer to come back. When he left after nine years, he had compiled a record of 68-29 and, most notably, guided the Stags to the 2005 Division 6 championship. A few of the oldest players on Kingsley’s current team were in kindergarten during that season. Many others had not started school. But many knew of Wooer. Parents, older siblings, cousins and community members alike had talked fondly of the 2005 title team, and a picture documenting the championship hangs prominently in the school. It gave Wooer instant credibility.

“He led Kingsley to a state championship,” said Case. “We knew he knew what he was talking about and that he wanted what was best for us.”

Coming off a 1-8 season, the players were more than willing to buy in to what Wooer was selling — winning football.

“You don’t really question it because we went 1-8,” said senior Jake Radtke, another senior captain. “We were like, ‘OK, this doesn’t work.’ Just trust the process and believe what he’s saying and buy in. He bleeds Black and Orange, and I love it. He knows we bleed Black and Orange, and he’s part of our family.”

Wooer surrounded himself with a staff of coaches who are mostly Kingsley alums and former players. Dan Goethels played on the team in 1997. Al Olds, Ryan Zenner and Dave Zenner all played for Wooer on the 2002 Kingsley squad. Mullin and Ron Hessem were three years behind Wooer in school in the late ‘80s. Ray Fisher, whose son Jake plays for the Cincinnati Bengals after starring for Wooer at West, has followed Wooer from Kingsley, to West, and now is back with the Stags.

“We’ve surrounded ourselves with some really good people who have a love for Kingsley and understand the system and what we want to do,” Wooer said of his assistants.

Wooer laid down the law at his first meeting with the team last winter. He talked about bringing discipline to the program and set his expectations for players in preparation for the season, particularly getting better participation in the weight room. More than 40 players in the high school took that to heart and had perfect attendance in lifting over the summer.

“There were lots of expectations,” said senior lineman Nathan Ames. “You could tell from his speech that it was going to be a lot of work. From the first second of team camp everybody bought in. After team camp, I definitely knew what was going to happen.”

Wooer still might not have been so sure how much success he would have with the Stags right away. He thought his team played poorly in its first preseason scrimmage at Manton. Even after an improved showing against the likes of Harrison, North Muskegon and Mason County Central in a second scrimmage, Wooer still wasn’t convinced his team was ready to compete when it met McBain in the first week of the regular season.

“I can still remember driving down to McBain — I was terrified,” said Wooer. “I’m on the bus thinking we are so unprepared. We couldn’t make an adjustment outside of a timeout. It was timeouts and quarters where you had to throw as much information at them as you could, hoping they could make those adjustments. It took two or three weeks before we could. We were making adjustments on the fly. I was yelling stuff out on the field.”

The Stags ended up pulling out a 24-20 victory over a good McBain squad. People were already half-joking that the team had equaled its win total from the previous season.

“That was a huge turnaround,” said Ames. “We all just kind of looked at each other after that win and said this is it.”

Wins over Ogemaw Heights and Grayling followed. Though the Stags fell to Traverse City St. Francis in the fourth week, they rebounded with five straight victories to finish the regular season.

With the wins have also come some individual accolades. Six players were named to the all-Northern Michigan Football League Legends division first team — running back Ayden Mullin, who was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, along with Ames at defensive tackle, Radtke at guard, tight end Ian Sousa, outside linebacker Devon Hager and defensive back Owen Graves.

“It was very refreshing to have kids who want to be coached and want to be pushed,” said Wooer. “That’s not common in today’s world.

“It has not been an easy process. There were some chewings and some tough times, but they didn’t flinch once. Once they saw the success they received for their efforts, and everything did work as it was planned, it kind of fell into place. I just can’t say enough about the kids. It’s all about every one of the kids in our program.”

Chris Dobrowolski has covered northern Lower Peninsula sports since 1999 at the Ogemaw County Herald, Alpena News, Traverse City Record-Eagle and currently as sports editor at the Antrim Kalkaska Review since 2016. 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 football coach Tim Wooer addresses his team during practice this fall. (Middle) Wooer, bottom left, celebrates with his team after the Stags won the 2005 Division 6 title at Pontiac Silverdome. (Top photo courtesy of WPBN.)

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.)