By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
We love telling stories of our athletes and coaches showing good sportsmanship, often sacrificing for others especially in moments when victory appears within grasp.
The East Grand Rapids boys soccer and Pellston girls cross country teams provided us examples again earlier this month of how doing the right thing – regardless of the scoreboard – always leaves the lasting impression.
He shoots, both teams score
On Sept. 12, East Grand Rapids’ boys soccer team trailed Grand Rapids Christian 2-1. The victor would gain a significant upper hand in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold race. And these are also two of the best teams in the state; EGR is ranked No. 10 in Division 2 this week, and the Eagles are No. 4.
During the 66th minute, Grand Rapids Christian fired a shot at the East Grand Rapids goal, to the lower corner of the net. The ball continued through and past the goal – apparently missing it completely since the net did not catch the ball.
The two officials closest to the play, unable to rule for certain if the ball traveled inside or outside the goal post, were not going to count a goal. But Pioneers coach A.J. Dufendach saw from his perspective that the Eagles’ shot did indeed score – and he made sure to confirm it to the trailing official, who also believed the ball had crossed inside the post. Only then did the officials award Grand Rapids Christian a goal to make the score 3-1.
With three minutes to play, East Grand Rapids did score a second goal, but the game ended with the Eagles winning 3-2 – although Dufendach and his assistants also showed championship character despite the loss on the scoreboard, as detailed both by the head official in his report to the MHSAA and East Grand Rapids’ opponent.
“In a world where doing whatever it takes to win is the norm, we want to thank EGR for leading with honor and integrity,” Grand Rapids Christian posted as part of its online “Eagle Sport Report.” “Well done coach. You set an unforgettable example of what is most important in educational athletics. Thank you for taking this rivalry to a new level.”
Most memorable finish
The Petoskey News-Review called it “the finish of the day,” and that’s tough to argue.
During Ellsworth’s House on the Hill cross country event Sept. 16, Pellston lead runner Alice Principi gave up a probable top-10 finish in the Class D race to assist Ellsworth freshman Judith Veldbloom, who was struggling to finish and went to the ground during the final stretch.
Principi, who would go on to finish 11th as her team took second, gathered Veldbloom up and then stayed with her across the finish line.
“Alice sacrificed some time and places to help a struggling competitor at the end of the race,” Pellston coach Chelsey Hermann told the News-Review. “It was an incredible demonstration of sportsmanship and shows just the kind of person she is.”
Ellsworth athletic director Brian Certa, in a letter to the MHSAA, echoed the appreciation: “What a tremendous example and witness to all who watched,” he wrote.
PHOTO: Pellston’s Alice Principi, left, assists Ellsworth runner Judith Veldbloom during the House on the Hill Invitational. (Photo courtesy of Ellsworth’s athletic department.)
Baylor Brogan admittedly broke down for a moment or two. Who could blame him? Six months of unpredictable lows and highs to finish his senior year of high school sports had just taken another unexpected dive.
In December, the Lansing Christian senior tore his right ACL playing basketball, ending his hoops season after it had just started. Nine months of anticipated recovery were expected to wipe out his entire golf season too – and after he’d finished eighth in Lower Peninsula Division 4 as a junior in helping the Pilgrims to their first team Finals championship.
But wait. Brogan made it back to the golf course in mid-May after just five months. He played one practice round, and the next day finished fifth individually at his team’s Regional at Ella Sharp Park in Jackson, advancing to the MHSAA Final as the third of three individual qualifiers.
His recovery was remarkable. The story just kept getting better. And if he would have gone on to win the Finals championship two weeks ago, or even place top-10 again, the ending would have been extraordinary.
Instead, he faced another completely unscriptable scenario – but the difficult decision he made launched the latest dip into the highest of notes as he ended his Pilgrims career.
Brogan headed to Battle Creek’s Bedford Valley for the weekend of June 9-10 to finish off his comeback. He thought he’d shot a 79 during Friday’s first round that tied him for 13th – well within range of a potential top-five finish. In golf, playing partners keep track of each other’s scores – and after Brogan’s group finished its 18 holes, he and his partners that round attested to what had been counted on their scorecards, and Brogan figured that was it until Saturday.
But there was a problem.
As he and his two coaches talked through the round after, they realized what had been reported for hole No. 15 was incorrect. It should have included another stroke. His total score should have been 80.
And yet, no one would have known except for those three. But that wouldn’t have sat well with Brogan or his coaches. As soon as they realized the mistake, they contacted the tournament director and rules official.
“For him to say, ‘Hey Coach, I just want to do the right thing,’ and knowing the right thing would potentially DQ you,” Pilgrims head coach Jason Block explained, “I just said, ‘Hey, we’re a Christian school. We have Jesus to answer to.’ I just think putting our heads on the pillow at night knowing we made the right decision for us felt good, and he agreed with that.”
Brogan figured they would just put in the lower score – after all, it was a stroke worse, and the other competitors couldn’t be mad about that. But because Brogan had already attested to the 79 – and by his own admission should have been monitoring his card after every hole while his round was being played – by rule he was disqualified and would have no score for the first round of play.
“When my head coach called me and told me, that’s when the sadness … I definitely cried a little bit,” Brogan said.
But here’s why his weekend will be recalled down the road as the games go on and others every once in a long while find themselves in a similar spot.
Brogan could have gotten angry. He could have blamed his coaches, or his partners, or anyone else supporting him on the course that day for not catching the mistake. He could have questioned the rule, called the disqualification unfair. He could have thrown a fit, made a scene. This was the last event of his high school career, and after he’d already battled back just to get here.
Instead, he chose grace. He just went back out and played. He would no longer have a chance to place with a two-round score, but also by rule he could still finish the weekend with Saturday’s 18 holes.
“To get DQ’d senior year was kind of a bummer. But in the end it didn’t really matter that much, because they let me play, and my name was still on the leaderboard,” Brogan said. “That’s really all I cared about, is that I could go out and even though it wouldn’t count if I did well, I still wanted to go out and compete. Because that’s what I missed so much from being injured, and that’s all I wanted to do – is still play.
“I just went back out to the range that night. They said I could still play. That was the one thing I could be grateful for. I just went back out and practiced again, and woke up at 6 a.m. the next morning to go play.”
It’s guaranteed Brogan will be sure to monitor every hole on his scorecard as his golf career continues at Wheaton College (Ill.) these next few years. But like his coach, Brogan credited his faith for guiding how he managed this situation. There was an unintentional mishap, and it happens. He needed to accept it and report it, and that’s how he approached it.
Still, Brogan now would have to fill people in on what happened – and that seemed worst of all.
So he sent a group text to his team. Then he waited for his parents to get home from a date night – and they definitely were curious because Block had texted them how sorry he was about the tough news. They had no idea what that meant until Baylor explained – and they told him how proud they were of him for making the right decision.
Brogan’s dad Eric then texted the rest of the family – Baylor is eighth oldest of 10 siblings – and others who had been supporting him. That helped a lot. And the next day, Brogan went out and shot an 80 – a pretty big personal win after missing all but a few weeks of a season, and after the disappointment of the evening before.
“As a coach, he missed the whole season, he comes back like he comes back, and then to have this happen, it would have been very easy to go, ‘Man, can we just forget about it? Can we just not say anything?’” Block said.
But that was never a conversation.
Now, about the hat.
During a spring break trip to Florida six years ago, Brogan and his grandfather Dr. George Bettman were on the golf course. Brogan hadn’t really started playing golf at that point, but he accompanied his grandpa as Bettman shot below his age – 90.
A week later, Dr. Bettman died. Sometime after that, as the family was looking through some of his things, Brogan found the hat. It was way too big for Brogan at that point, but by junior year he was able to wear it with a washcloth lining the inside to make it fit more snugly.
There aren’t a lot of straw hats to be found at Michigan high school golf events, so it’s definitely been something of a Brogan signature as well as a reminder of his grandpa.
“It’s his hat, and I feel like he would love seeing me have some success in golf,” Brogan said, “and probably love even more that I would turn myself in for a mistake.”
Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He is a senior editor of MHSAA.com's editorial content and has served as MHSAA Communications Director since January 2021. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Christian's Baylor Brogan follows an approach shot during the LPD4 Final at Bedford Valley. (Middle) Brogan, in the straw hat, celebrates his team's 2022 championship. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)