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.)

Nightingale Embarking on 1st Season as College Football Head Coach

By Scott Hassinger
Special for MHSAA.com

July 10, 2024

CJ Nightingale's family values, small-town upbringing and Christian faith steered the Mendon native into a career coaching college football.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosNightingale, a 2010 Mendon High School graduate, is busily preparing for his first season as Belhaven University's eighth football coach. He was officially named the Blazers' head coach seven months ago, on Jan. 1.

Belhaven, a Division III school located in Jackson, Mississippi, competes in the USA South Athletic Conference.

Nightingale credits his love of coaching to his father Chris Nightingale and grandfather Charles Nightingale.

"It all started with my dad and grandfather. At one time they were both involved in coaching, and their general love for sports wore off on me," CJ Nightingale said.

Once CJ reached high school, his interest in athletics only intensified thanks to several people who made a big impact on him.

"I had the most wonderful experience attending school and participating in Mendon athletics,” Nightingale said. “We didn't always have the better athletes, but we were successful because of all the time and commitment put in by our coaches, teachers, administration along with parental and community support. Success is the result of many people who focus on the same cause."

Nightingale lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Mendon, earning four varsity letters in all three sports. He was named the St. Joseph Valley League's MVP in all three sports his senior year, and Mendon earned league titles in all three during Nightingale's senior year as well.

As a starting quarterback and defensive back his sophomore year, Nightingale led Mendon to the 2007 Division 7 football championship with the Hornets' 20-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis. Nightingale still holds the state record for career interceptions with 27.

Mendon had finished the 2006 season 3-6. A losing season remains rare in Mendon, and Nightingale stated it fueled the Hornets' title run the following season.

"I think losing is more difficult in football than in any other sport because of how much work goes into preparing for a season,” Nightingale recalled. “We were a very young team in 2006 and got punched in the mouth. It wasn't the best feeling, but it was a real learning experience and served as a big driving force that next season.

"All the hard times we endured the previous year served as a byproduct for our success in 2007. That team was unselfish, and not one player on the team cared who got the stats or accolades."

At Mendon, Nightingale played for legendary coach John Schwartz in football, David Swanwick in basketball and Glen Samson in baseball.

Lessons from Schwartz – a member of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame – and Samson have especially stuck with Nightingale into adult life and his own coaching career.

"Coach Schwartz had a way of getting everyone on the same page not just on the field, but he taught you how to be the best version of yourself off the field in every-day life. Coach Samson knew how to get his players in the right positions on the diamond to make us successful," Nightingale said.

"The environment at Mendon solidified my desire to become a coach and teacher. The best leaders are also the best teachers, and when you are surrounded by people like that it makes a big difference."

Nightingale attended Wheaton College in Illinois, where he lettered in football four years as a defensive back and return specialist. During Nightingale's career, the Thunder posted a combined record of 34-8 and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs when he was a freshman.

After graduating college, Nightingale taught history and spent two years as the varsity football coach at Richmond High School in Indiana. In 2016 he secured his first collegiate coaching job at Greenville University (Ill.) as a defensive backs coach, where he spent one season. He then served as special teams coordinator and linebackers coach at Indiana Wesleyan University beginning in 2017 before returning to his alma mater Wheaton in 2019 as the Thunder's defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. Nightingale coached 24 all-conference players, 10 all-region performers and seven All-Americans over his four seasons at Wheaton, and the Thunder made the Division III playoffs all four years.

The head football coaching position at Belhaven became available in December 2023 when previous coach Blaine McCorkle moved on to Division 1 Northwestern State (La.). Nightingale applied and went through a three-week interview process before being selected as the program’s next head coach.

"I truly feel like God has called my wife Shanel and I and our family here for a reason. We are going to pour into Belhaven as deeply as we can and see what life brings us,” CJ Nightingale said. “As a college football coach, you have the unique chance to pour into your players spiritually, academically, athletically and socially. That's what is really special about this profession."

Belhaven's program has enjoyed a lot of success, especially the past three seasons with a combined 24-7 record, including a 9-2 finish last fall.

"I am very fortunate to be taking over a strong program here at Belhaven. You don't sustain success, but rather you must be able to build on it," Nightingale said. "We are excited about this season after a great spring. This group of coaches and players got a lot done these past six months. We have had a lot of guys here on campus all summer working to get better. There are lot of goals in front of us that haven't been achieved yet. Two of those goals are to go undefeated in conference play and host a playoff game.”

CJ and Shanel have three children, including 5-year old daughter Charlotte, 3-year old son Trey and 14-month old daughter Coco. They are expecting a fourth child in mid-September.

2024 Made In Michigan

June 28: E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage - Read

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Mendon’s CJ Nightingale (2) celebrates during his team’s 2007 championship win over Traverse City St. Francis at Ford Field; at right Nightingale is pictured with his wife Shanel and children Charlotte, Trey and Coco. (Middle) Nightingale makes an open-field tackle against the Gladiators in the 2007 Division 7 Final. (Family photo courtesy of CJ Nightingale.)