Edson: Excitement Builds For Football Playoffs
Back in 1975, during the first high school football finals, Hudson High School saw its national record-setting win streak stopped at 72 games.
The Class C final was played at Central Michigan University that year and Ishpeming from the Upper Peninsula pulled off the upset.
I was working in the press box that day for CMU Information Services. My job was to go interview the coaches after the game and file a story for the Associated Press.
It was no problem finding the Ishpeming coaches and players. They were out on the field at Perry Shorts Stadium celebrating the win. But when I walked into Hudson’s locker room, the only noise were of players taking off their equipment and muffled crying.
After 5-10 minutes of looking for the coach, I finally found him. He was standing in one of the bathroom stalls, trying to reflect on how his team lost.
I didn’t want to disturb him, but I did have a deadline to meet. So I gave him another few minutes, before gently tapping on the door, identifying myself and asking if I could talk to him.
He was very gracious under such circumstances and I remember that after I interviewed him, he started making the rounds consoling his players.
To this day, when I talk to anyone from Hudson or Ishpeming who is older than 50-years-old, they remember that game. They all claim to have been there. And they all have stories about how that single game affected their schools and their communities for many years.
That’s the power that these upcoming high school football playoffs can have.
They can unite a school and town. I remember covering Traverse City Central’s championship wins at the Silverdome in 1978, 1985 and 1988. I remember both sides of the coin for Traverse City St. Francis, losing a heartbreaker to Detroit St. Martin de Porres in the early 80s, but coming back to claim championships later.
This week several schools in our region are entering the playoffs with high hopes. Some have set their sights on Ford Field. Some are more realistic, hoping to win one game or a regional title. And some, if they were honest, would tell you they are just happy to be in the playoffs.
There will be some upsets along the way. There always are. The key for fans is to not point fingers after losses. Sometimes the players don’t perform well and their fans blame the coaches or the referees.
As someone who made a career out of covering these kinds of games, I don’t understand why some fans always have to place blame on a loss. Usually, the best team wins and life goes on.
Try to remember that this week if you are going out to root for your high school team or simply watch a game as an impartial fan.
Here is one thing you can take to the bank. Long after the fans have forgotten about these playoff games, the players and coaches somehow never will – for better or for worse.
Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.