3 Michigan Leaders Earn NFHS National 'Coach of the Year' Honors

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

January 18, 2022

Three Michigan high school varsity coaches have been recognized among 23 National Coaches of the Year for 2020-21 by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NHFS) Coaches Association.

Ann Arbor Pioneer girls swimming & diving coach Stefanie Kerska, Bronson volleyball coach Jean LaClair and DeWitt football coach Rob Zimmerman were selected by a committee including representatives from all eight NFHS sections – Michigan is part of Section 4 with Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The following brief bios includes an excerpt from each honoree’s coaching philosophy, which nominees were asked to submit after being identified as candidates for the awards.

Stefanie KerskaStefanie Kerska took over both the Ann Arbor Pioneer girls and boys swimming & diving programs during the 2014-15 school year, and she has led the girls to the last two Lower Peninsula Division 1 Finals championships; her 2020 team doubled up the runner-up’s score with 368 points, and this fall’s team climbed even higher with 405.5 points at the season-ending meet. She also led the girls team to a runner-up Finals finish in 2019 and the boys team to last season’s LPD1 Finals championship. Kerska previously served as an assistant coach at University of Michigan from 1997-2012 and on the USA Swimming national team staff from 2008-16. She remains active with USA Swimming, the FINA Swimming Development Team and as a presenter for the Summit for Empowering Women in Swim. She was named the Michigan Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association Coach of the Year for both Division 1 girls and boys during the 2020-21 school year.

“Athletics starts with a belief in belonging and making every team member feel safe and valued. Teammates should depend on coaches and each other for support, guidance and motivation to be the best they can be. Athletics should create an environment where effort, attitude and dependability are valued and required for success. It is often said that athletics builds character. I, however, believe it reveals it.”

Jean LaClairJean LaClair ranks fourth in Michigan high school volleyball coaching history for varsity victories with a record of 1,289-398-99 having led Midland Dow from 1988-90, Pinconning from 1997-99 and Bronson beginning with the 2000-01 winter season. She’s coached Bronson to five MHSAA Finals championships – including four straight in Class C/Division 3 from 2015-18 – and her last two teams have reached the Division 3 Quarterfinals and Regional Semifinals, respectively. She is a longtime executive board member of the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association and has served as president, and was a 2017 inductee to the Michigan High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame. She also serves as Bronson’s athletic director and has received both the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award and Allen W. Bush Award.

“High school athletics should be a lifelong, fun experience for our student-athletes where they learn what it takes to be a part of a team, what it means to work hard for the team. Those who play competitive spots in high school demonstrate more confidence, leadership and self-respect. They learn to set goals and manage their time! They have a better appreciation for diversity and a more developed sense of morality. These are all reasons why athletics are important, and I love working with our kids to make them better leaders for the community and world.”

Rob ZimmermanRob Zimmerman led DeWitt to the last two Division 3 championship games and the Panthers’ first MHSAA Finals title to cap the 2020 season with a 12-0 record. He’s built a 241-67 record coaching DeWitt’s varsity since 1999 after previously coaching the varsity at Cedar Springs from 1996-98. He also has served as a head varsity track & field coach and middle school wrestling coach during his tenure in school sports, and he has served as both a regional director and on the executive board for the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association. His teams total have played in six MHSAA Finals, to go with 19 league, 14 District and 12 Regional titles during his 23 seasons at DeWitt. He has five times received statewide Coach of the Year recognition from The Associated Press, and in 2020 was named the state Dream Team Coach of the Year by both the Detroit Free Press and MHSFCA and state Coach of the Year by the MHSCA and Detroit Lions.

“In an ever-changing world that poses more social and emotional challenges for young people than ever before, systems that can provide a foundational support and teach high levels of collaboration, discipline, accountability and relationships are more important that ever. Athletics provides young people the opportunity to foster and cultivate these key traits that are crucial for their development. For future success, students need to be equipped to handle a variety of diverse situations and work with a variety of diverse people. This is sports at its core.”

Rockford wrestling coach Brian Richardson was honored in Section 4 after leading the Rams to the Division 1 Semifinals and a 20-4 record.

The NFHS has been recognizing coaches through an awards program since 1982.

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.