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Spring Lake High School Football 50 years

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BY NATE THOMPSON nthompson@grandhaventribune.com 2000 season is one Lakers' fans won't soon forget GRAND HAVEN TRIBUNE Thursday, September 13, 2012 varsity football team had a valid excuse that it was being robbed of postseason glory. During both the 1980 and 1982 seasons, the Lakers finished with perfect 9-0 records, only to be excluded from the Class B playoff field. Most claim that 1982 was the In the early 1980s, Spring Lake's their postseason drought. They had tallied just a 3-6 record under first-year coach Jerry Rabideau the year before, but a promising class of up-and-coming juniors mixed with a strong returning cast of seniors set the Lakers sailing. "The first game of the year stands biggest case of gridiron injustice, as the squad that some label as the best in program history — which outscored opponents 266-6 — had its season complete after just nine victories. Unfortunately, we'll never know out as a key game because we really figured out what we were and how good we really could be if we kept on working at it," said tailback Art Anderson, one of the senior leaders on the 2000 squad. Spring Lake opened some eyes if those Spring Lake squads were state championship worthy. The Michigan High School Athletic Association began its inaugural playoff system in football during the 1975 season, but the bracket was limited to just eight schools in four divisions — A, B, C, and D. Unfortunately, only one selection was made from schools on the Lakeshore in Class B, and Spring Lake was passed over in both seasons in favor of powerhouse teams from Muskegon Catholic Central. "It was unfortunate because Catholic Central was so good back then," said former Spring Lake athletic director and football coach Tom Hickman. "We were overlooked." The Crusaders were no slouch. They won state titles in both seasons, and later added championships in Division 8 in 2000 and 2008. The playoff format was expanded through its opening six games of the 2000 campaign, outscoring opponents 261-67 during its undefeated start, including a 67-14 thrashing of Manistee. Spring Lake's only hiccup was a meltdown against neighboring rival Fruitport, where it coughed up a 13-0 first-quarter lead and couldn't slow down the host Trojans' ground game in a 34-20 setback. Spring Lake bounced back by 3 a second-half comeback. His third touchdown of the half came with just 9 seconds remaining, and the ensuing two-point conversion forced a tie at 21-all and sent the game to overtime. Ford's fourth touchdown pass on enemy turf gave Byron Center its first lead at 28-21, but Spring Lake had some late magic of its own. The Lakers scored on an 8-yard touchdown run by Smith, but instead of sending the game to double overtime with an extra point try, Spring Lake decided to go for two — the ultimate do-or-die decision. "After (Smith) scored, the Spring Lake players exchange high-fives with their fans following their loss in the 2000 Div. 5 state championship game. pounding a pair of non-conference opponents in Reed City and Newaygo, which clinched home- field advantage for the Lakers in the Division 5 playoffs. The Grand Haven Tribune was calling Spring Lake's success a "rags to riches" story, but the talent to observers of the Lakers was obvious. Leo Rosencrants, who was Spring Lake's varsity coach through the 1998 season, was familiar with many of the players from following their youth league games. He spent the 2000 season calling many of their games with WGHN radio. "Those kids were very close all from four classes to eight in 1990, but it wasn't until 1999 that the MHSAA doubled the participation in the playoffs to 256 teams, allowing squads that reach at least six wins in a nine-game schedule to qualify for the postseason. To outsiders not familiar with Spring Lake, 2000 didn't seem like a year that the Lakers would end the way through high school," he said. "Almost all of them played on the same team for quite a few years, down through their middle school years. They all loved the game of football. "They had tremendous team speed," Rosencrants recalled. "Art, he was just very deceptive. He was tall, lanky kid, so he didn't look fast, but he proved it otherwise on the field. I moved him up to varsity as a sophomore and he made big plays at the end of his sophomore season. They had a lot of weapons though, with David Morgan and Kyle Smith, and their quarterback, Carey Pohlman." Anderson broke Spring Lake's single-season record with 1,963 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, but he was far from a one-man show. "It was definitely balanced between the offense and defense," Anderson said. "For an offense that has put up the most points in Spring Lake's history, and a defense that stopped anything that teams threw at it, we could rely on either one when it was needed to do its job." "It wasn't just Anderson. That backfield was loaded, and teams couldn't key on just one player," said Hickman. The Lakers had a veteran Tribune file photo defense as a hard-hitting linebacker, while Anderson, Smith and Morgan locked up defenders in the secondary. Despite their regular season only thing I remember was Carey Pohlman waiving his arms that he didn't want to kick the extra point," said Lakers' head coach Jerry Rabideau. "When we made the decision to go for two, I swear you could hear a pin drop because of the nervousness in the crowd." "Can you imagine if they didn't success, Lakers' coaches had some pre-playoff nerves before their match-up with Grand Rapids West Catholic. "We watched their tape and they looked like a Big Ten team. They were huge," said then Lakers' defensive coordinator Brian Sabo. "Our coaches were looking at each other like 'What are we getting ourselves into?'" There would be no worries on game day, however, as West Catholic had trouble locating the ball in the Lakers' Wing-T rushing attack and Spring Lake's 'D' was dominant in a 52-13 beat down. Oakridge was Spring Lake's next offensive line, which included center Jay Blanchard, right tackle Matt Schumacher, right guard Travis Welling, left tackle Adam Hill, left guard Jon Ditmar, and ends Rudi Schmidt and KC Conroy. Ditmar was the star of the little luck. Byron Center coaches said afterward that they were ready for the play; however, for an unknown reason, Spring Lake's guard didn't pull on the pass, keeping the Bulldogs' linebacker at home. Otherwise, the play — 26 Key Pass — might have been snuffed out. Instead, Pohlman looked off make it?" mused Hickman. "The Spring Lake fans may have run Rabideau out of town that night for making that call." But the call worked, due to a the defense until tight end Schmidt snuck open in the end zone, where Pohlman lofted a perfect pass into his waiting grasp. "Once he caught it for the winning victim in the district final, a 40-29 shootout win. The regional final against Byron Center is a contest that Lakers' fans young and old still reminisce about to this day. Spring Lake built a 21-0 halftime lead on the Bulldogs, only to see quarterback Jared Ford orchestrate Spring Lake (616) 935-3500 326 N. Beacon Blvd. Grand Haven, MI Denny VanHall (616) 638-1090 Spring Lake DON't MISS tHIS ONE! 18670 148tH Newly updated 1-½ story home in SL Twp, beautiful wood floors, stainless steel appliances, total- ly fenced in backyard, 2 stall at- tached garage & 8x14 sunroom. 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