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Spring Lake High School Football 50 years

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2 BY MATT DEYOUNG and his classmates at Spring Lake High School were in a unique position back in the early 1960s. His class was the first to attend mdeyoung@grandhaventribune.com SPRING LAKE — Jim Keating The rich tradition of SL football dates back to '62 GRAND HAVEN TRIBUNE Thursday, September 13, 2012 the new high school in the fall of 1962, as opposed to going down to Grand Haven High School, like all the Spring Lake students before him. The following three years, having outscored its opponents by a count of 513-239 — which averages out to scoring 37 points and allowing 17 points per game. A majority of those points allowed came in the team's two losses — a 34-20 setback against Fruitport and a 42-15 loss to Jackson Lumen Christi in the Division 4 state championship game. The team that holds claim to Keating's class moved up to sophomore, junior, then senior status while other classes filtered in beneath his. In his four years at SLHS, Keating and his classmates were top dogs every year. That also held true on the football field, where Keating was a member of the first-ever Lakers' varsity football team that took the field in the fall of 1962. "There was a sense of pride," The 1960 Spring Lake Junior High football team. Front row from left: Mike Keenan, Dan Smith, Rod TenBrink, Al Beekman, Dave Vink, Randy Beebe, Terry Stein. Middle row: Larry Lemke, manager Bob Bloomquist, Bib Tighe, Jim Snyder, John Fightmaster, Tom Jobin, Wayne Merz, Coach Bob Brading. Back row: Kerry Serven, Pete DeGraff, Doug Cook, Ross Miser, John Schepers, Bruce Kintworth, Sam Young, Charles Bail and Dick Baker. Courtesy photo Keating said of being on that first team ever to wear the Scarlet and Gray on the varsity level. "We set some goals, and we wanted to have some fun times. It was tough because we never had seniors on the team until my last year. I think we ended up with a pretty good team that first year. "It was just a lot of fun kids to be with. We spent four years together, and we were seniors for those four years. That really set a trend. Whatever we did, nobody had done before." Under the guidance of coach Len Fase, that inaugural Lakers' squad won its first-ever game, a 13-6 victory over Shelby on Sept. 14. They followed that win with conquests over Saugatuck and Hamilton before suffering a 27-13 loss to what has become their fiercest rival, Fruitport, on Nov. 2. Face coached for just two years hit head-on by an approaching car — driven by his mother. "It was a pretty tragic death," Keating said. "I have good memories of him as a coach. He was great, demanding. I remember we all went to the funeral. That was my very first funeral. It was horrible." Charles Everback was the next Jerry Rabideau took the reins of the program in 2000 and remains the head varsity coach today. That first year of football back in coach of the Lakers. He led the team from 1964-66, then Tom Hickman took over in '67 and remained varsity football coach until 1975. Hickman went on to serve as athletic director at Spring Lake until 2003. Legendary coach Thomas 1962 saw Spring Lake playing on the field located to the northwest of the old high school — the spot currently used by the Lakers' boys lacrosse team. "We had bleachers set up out go to Grand Haven to practice." When Hickman came to Spring before his untimely death. He was driving his Corvette to his parents' house on Mother's Day when he was a single season — 1985 — before returning to his native Texas. Leo Rosencrants, who still serves on the Lakers' coaching staff, took over as head coach in 1987 and remained coach until 1999. Current coach Grabinski followed Hickman and guided the Lakers to some of their best seasons in program history before he too suffered a tragic death. He succumbed to a heart attack in 1986 at the age of 39. John Walksmith coached just there, but no lights. We only played there that year, then we played in Grand Haven until 1970," said Hickman, who came to Spring Lake as a teacher and coach in 1963. "Most of our home games were on Saturday nights, which was tough. You never got a break. Basically, you coached for six days, then prepared on Sunday for the next week." In 1970, the current football stadium was built on property that was nothing but swampland before the construction. "The whole community was behind it," Hickman said. "They built the track then as well. We used to practice track in the parking lot. Once in a while, the coaches would Lake, the Lakers offered several sports, including football, basketball, golf, tennis, wrestling, track and field and cross country. Those sports were available only for boys, of course — girls sports weren't offered until the early 1970s. The current 2012-13 school year marks the 50th anniversary for varsity sports at Spring Lake, considering the high school opened in the fall of 1962, and of the football team in particular. Over the years, the Lakers' the most dominant in school history is the 1982 team under Grabinski. That team outscored its opponents by an astounding margin of 266-6. The Lakers shut out eight teams that season, allowing all six points in a 31-6 thrashing of Whitehall. Unfortunately, at that time, the state playoffs featured just four classes — A, B, C and D — as opposed to the current setup of eight divisions. Only a handful of teams from each class made the playoffs each year, and the Lakers always came up short because of the way playoff points were awarded. Joel Westhoff was a senior offensive and defensive end on the '82 team that dominated the competition but failed to make the playoffs. "A few years back, whle football team boasts a winning percentage of .568 with an overall record of 257-195-4 (prior to this fall). That winning percentage is due working a game in the press box, I was commenting how unfair the old playoff system was," Westhoff said recently. "How could a team go undefeated, give up one score all season, and STILL not qualify for the playoffs? And then Tom Hickman made a good point. He said we could always be known as the last undefeated team in Spring Lake history. The only way another team could improve on it is to go 14-0 and win a state championship. "I hope that happens some day, in part to the three undefeated teams in program history — 1966, 1980, 1982. In addition, the 2000 team racked up 12 of those 257 victories on its way to the state championship game. That 2000 squad will go down as one of the best in school history, but until it does, Mr. Hickman is right." In 1993, the Lakers qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in school history. After an 8-1 regular season, Spring Lake met up with Belding and suffered a 45-16 loss in the Class B pre-regional round. Spring Lake Football on 50 Years! Spring Lake www.theorchardmarkets.com 17026 Lloyd's Bayou Dr. 616-844-6662 Fruitport 6530 Airline Rd. 231-865-3435

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