By Jef Rietsma
Coach Terry Haas said as time passes, members of Schoolcraft’s 2013 varsity football team will recover from a season-ending, playoff loss and recognize the upside to an otherwise successful season.
“A district championship and co-champions of the (Kalamazoo Valley Athletic Association) league … if anybody told us back in August we’d reach those accomplishments this season, I think we would have been pretty happy,” Haas said. “Yeah, it was a tough ending but they understand that’s part of the game and they certainly don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”
The Eagles ended their 10-2 season Nov. 16, after bowing out of the playoffs in a 33-7 loss to the Shelby Tigers. Haas said his counterpart said after the game it was the toughest 48 minutes he’s seen his team play all season.
Haas said that was evident early on, when the Tigers got on the board quickly and forced Schoolcraft to play catch-up all day. Shelby would go on to lose the following week in a 49-3 shellacking at the hands of the Clinton Redskins.
Addressing the 35-man team after the season-ending defeat was tough for Haas, he said. The squad’s roster featured 19 seniors.
“You try to be positive, point out what we did this year and if they haven’t already, someday they’ll understand what a special season this was,” Haas said. “It just wasn’t our day that day.”
The three post-season games marked the deepest playoff run Schoolcraft had made since its 14-0, state-championship team of 2001.
Haas said the 2013 squad has its own place in history, and that success started right away with a pair of wins over two big-time conference squads. Schoolcraft’s season-opening, 41-14 victory over a tough Parchment team was a good primer for its Week 2 showdown against rival Constantine.
Haas said he told his players before the season started that having Parchment and Constantine to open the year – followed by a Week 3 contest against Olivet – would provide a strong measuring stick to see where the Eagles stood three weeks into the season.
“That win against Parchment was big, they play tough and they showed in their opening playoff win (against perennial football juggernaut Jackson Lumen Christi) that they were for real,” Haas said. “To come home a week later and stop Constantine was big. That was a start we needed.”
Constantine would go on to a 5-4 regular season but still have the league’s most productive offense – scoring 366 points.
The Eagles’ lone blemish occurred a week later against Olivet, a team that Haas said has always had Schoolcraft’s number. This year was no exception, as Olivet dealt Schoolcraft its only regular-season loss, a 28-14 setback.
Olivet and Battle Creek Pennfield would go on to share the league title with Schoolcraft as a trio of one-loss teams.
Schoolcraft bounced back after the Olivet loss and won a pair of one-sided affairs against Galesburg-Augusta and Kalamazoo Hackett to up its record to 4-1 going into a huge came against Pennfield.
Haas said he knew the league title was on the line and a loss to Pennfield would set Schoolcraft a game behind Olivet and Pennfield for the league crown.
“The Pennfield game, in my opinion, might have been our biggest game of the season … we went over there as underdogs and played a mistake-free game,” Haas said, of the 28-22 victory. “I don’t know if we would have beat them any other way because teams like Pennfield will make you pay for your mistakes.”
At 5-1, the Eagles won the final three regular-season games they were supposed to win against the league’s lower-tier squads before starting its fifth-consecutive year of participating in the playoffs.
Schoolcraft won a district title with a pair of nail-biters: 28-21 over Niles Brandywine and 28-26 against Watervliet.
“Those were a couple of close games that really gave the fans their money’s worth,” Haas said. “There’s nothing easy about the playoffs so even though it would have been nice to be playing at Ford Field, we have a district title and there are a lot of schools out there that would love to have a 10-2-season.”
Haas, who has 32 years in the books as Schoolcraft’s head coach, said a trademark of his 2013 team was a game-day work ethic. They weren’t unique that practices were never any fun, Haas said, but on game day, he never once had to get his players fired up.
The school’s fall sports banquet was November 25, when recipients of the “Coaches’ Choice” team awards were issued.
With a 10-team league, Schoolcraft will face the same group of opponents in 2014. He will do so with a roster of young players who gained critical playoff experience this year.
“We’re losing a lot of seniors, a group of guys who worked hard and really made a name for themselves out there on the field,” Haas said. “They ended the season 10-2 as seniors, 10-1 as juniors, so they had a great run at Schoolcraft and I wish them well.”