JLAS Football

2009 ~ A Great Year to be a Cardinal!

John Bush hired as new J-L football coach
Gaylord Herald Times

John Bush has been hired to be the new Johannesburg-Lewiston football coach.
Bush, who has served the past couple years as defensive coordinator on Fred Davis’ staff,
was announced as the new coach at the Johannesburg-Lewiston Area Schools
Board of Education meeting Monday night.

Bush, a former standout player at J-L, is a physical education teacher at the school.
He previously coached at Gaylord High School before coming to J-L.

Updated 2/9/10

Way to Go Cardinals!

All-league football selections announced

J-L's Koronka named First-Team all-state, Bush, Churches, Davis earn Honorable Mention

Player of the year Dobbyn gets it done with gritty, not pretty style


2009 Herald Times All-Area Football Team

BEN BUSH J-L • Senior Linebacker

Bush dominated at some of the game’s less-flashy positions, linebacker and guard. The leader of the Cardinal defense was a tackling machine during his junior and senior years and finished with 268 career stops. A hard-working player, Bush led the area in tackles, while being the leader of the dominant J-L offensive line.

DARREN DOBBYN J-L • Senior Quarterback

Dobbyn’s guts helped bring the Cardinals glory, as he shined in the Cardinals Ski Valley title push and playoff run. Led the team and the area with 1,026 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Got better as the season went along and became team’s offensive leader. Added 63 tackles and an interception.

JAKE GRAHAM J-L • Senior Fullback

Graham emerged as a dangerous runner and dependable linebacker for the Cardinals. Was second on the team with 961 rushing yards. His two biggest games came when J-L needed him most, in victories against St. Mary and St. Ignace, both which earned the Cardinals trophies.
Third on the team with 86 tackles.

BLAKE HUFF J-L • Sophomore Defensive End

Huff is a star on the J-L defense, but will only get better as he enters his final two years. Dominant defensive lineman had 123 tackles and finished with a team-high 24 tackles for loss. Also played the crucial guard position on the Cardinal offensive. Will have a chance to play college football.

KEITH KORONKA J-L • Senior Nose Tackle

Mountain in the middle for the Cardinals was one of the top nose tackles in the north. Consistently took up blockers and made plays for the Cardinals.  Finished with 10 tackles for loss. Was a hard-hitting tackle on the J-L offensive line, showing strength and surprising quickness.

JOE YESKEY J-L • Senior Defensive Back

Yeskey was injured for half of the season, but proved his worth as J-L’s most valuable defensive back. Also served as a strong running back for the Cardinals and finished with 442 yards on the ground. A three-year varsity starter, Yeskey was a team co-captain.

A field full of memories: Coach of the Year Davis reflects on an impressive career

Frankfort 43, Johannesburg-Lewiston 12

Final Word: 2009 turning out to be the year of the Cardinal

Regional Final Preview: J-L vs. Frankfort

Home cooking once more for Davis, Cardinals

J-L comes back to top Saints, will host Frankfort in Friday regional championship

J-L comes back to win football district

Preview: J-L vs. St. Ignace

Balanced J-L backfield rushes for 3,000 yards

J-L stays hot, throttles Hillman in round one

Playoff preview and fast facts

Cardinals look to stay hot at home

Statement Made: J-L shocks St. Mary to share Ski Valley title

Friday Night Football: J-L stuns St. Mary

Trench Battle: Watch line of scrimmage to find advantage Friday

St. Mary vs. J-L football fast facts

Johannesburg-Lewiston powers past Atlanta in Homecoming win

Week 8 Football Preview

Cardinals survive trip to Forest Area

Week 7 Football Previews

J-L running game blasts Onaway

Week 6 Football previews

Cardinals storm back in shutout

Football Preview: Week 5

Ironmen spoil J-L perfection

Week 4 Football Previews

J-L ranked No. 3, St. Mary No. 7 in Associated Press football poll

J-L wins 3rd straight; has big game Friday

Week 3 Football Preview

Cardinal defense relentless in shutout

J-L shuts out defending league champion Trojans

Football Preview: Strong J-L team looks to get back into playoffs

Are you ready for some Football?


Varsity Football Schedule 2009
W 10-0
W 45-0
W 38-22
Mancelona High School
L 22-6
Bellaire High School
W 39-0
W 56-16
W 14-8
Atlanta High School
W 52-6
Saint Mary's High School
W 42-0

Click to see directions to opponent school facilities including this event.

** All schedules subject to change without advance notice. **

J-L Cardinal Football Roster 2009
Dallas VanDoren
*Darren Dobbyn
Josh Szocinski
Mike Pero
Joe Yeskey
Ricky McLean
Brian VanCoillie
Jonathan Peterson
Nick Michael
*Ben Bush
Sean Aisthorpe
Blake Huff
Ryan Cass
Travis Roberts
Keith Koronka
*Jake Graham
Adam Haskill
*2009 Captains

All-league football selections announced
Gaylord Herald Times

Ski Valley Conference

Johannesburg-Lewiston and St. Mary football players reaped the benefits of a shared Ski Valley Conference championship as the All-SVC teams were announced this week.

J-L put three players on the first team — linebacker Ben Bush, defensive tackle Keith Koronka and fullback Jake Graham.

The Snowbirds placed four on the first team — linebacker Justin Malczyk, defensive tackle Matt Churches, offensive lineman Phil Keck and kicker Clay Becker.

For J-L, linebacker Darren Dobbyn, defensive back Joe Yeskey, defensive end Blake Huff, center Sean Aisthorpe at at-large selection Dallas VanDoren made the second team, while for St. Mary, quarterback Peter Spyhalski, end Phil Spyhalski and offensive lineman Pat Keck made the second team.

Honorable mention honors went to Ryan Cass, Travis Roberts and Nick Michael of J-L, and Joe Payton, Mike Burzynski, Tyler Loshaw and Justin Rutkowski from St. Mary.

2009 All-Ski Valley Football

First Team

QB Nick Lockman, Mancelona; RB Justin Flowers, Inland Lakes; RB Jake Graham, J-L; RB Jan O’Bradovich, Onaway; E Nate Peterson, Central Lake; E Doug; Elliott, Inland Lakes; OL Ryan Hiltunen, Central Lake; OL Matt Park, Forest Area; OL Logan Wilkinson, Onaway; OL Michael Churchill, Mancelona; OL Phil Keck, St. Mary; DL Keith Koronka, J-L; DL Zelllie Dow, Bellaire; DL Dan Schofield, Inland Lakes; DL Matt Churches, St. Mary; LB Ben Bush, J-L; LB Matt Kent, Central Lake; LB Steve Apfel, Bellaire; LB Justin Malczyk, St. Mary; DB Garrett Gahn, Inland Lakes; DB Michael Dalton, Mancelona; DB Nick Freeman, Forest Area ; ST Trevor Hanel, Inland Lakes; K Clay Becker, St. Mary; P Keegan McPhail, Bellaire

Second Team

QB Peter Spyhalski, St. Mary; RB Adam Folsom, Central Lake; RB Victor Woodhams, Forest Area; RB Taylor Borst, Mancelona; E Dustin Allen, Mancelona; E Phil Spyhalski, St. Mary; OL Wilson Nemec, Central Lake; OL Austin Morse, Inland Lakes; OL Sean Aisthorpe, J-L; OL Brandon Antaya, Mancelona; OL Pat Keck, St. Mary; DL Blake Huff, J-L; DL James Gerring, Forest Area; DL Tom Hall, Forest Area; DL Cody Aldrich, Mancelona; LB Darren Dobbyn, J-L; LB Christian Tollini, Onaway; LB Chris Jolette, Pellston; DB Joe Yeskey, J-L; DB Mike King, Central Lake; DB Sam McMurry, Pellston; AL Dallas VanDoren, J-L; AL Scott Cannon, Central Lake; AL Ben Connelly, Inland Lakes

Honorable Mention

Josh Sheneman, Bellaire; Eddie Veenstra, Central Lake; Packard Fettig, Inland Lakes; Ryan Cass, J-L; Travis Roberts, J-L; Nick Michael, J-L; Nate Musselman, Mancelona; Tyler James, Onaway; Bobby Lupu, Onaway; Cory Grossman, Onaway; Trey Leach, Onaway; Ben Huyck, Pellston; Tyler Armantrout, Pellston; Branden Coffell, Pellsto; Joe Payton, St. Mary; Mike Burzynski, St. Mary; Tyler Loshaw, St. Mary; Justin Rutkowski, St. Mary

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J-L's Koronka named First-Team all-state, Bush, Churches, Davis earn Honorable Mention
Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — The were a number of Johannesburg-Lewiston players who got more headlines, but senior Keith Koronka is the one who earned all-state honors.

Koronka, a dominant nose guard, was recently named First Team All-State for Divisions 7 and 8 by the Associated Press. The 6-foot-4, 268 pound Koronka plugged up the middle for the Cardinals, allowing the Cardinal linebackers to make a number of tacklers.

One of those linebackers, senior Ben Bush, was named Honorable Mention all-state, while coach Fred Davis was named Honorable Mention Coach of the Year. St. Mary senior defensive tackle Matt Churches earned his second all-state nod, taking home the Honorable Mention award.

Bush recorded 132 tackles on the season and ranks among the top tacklers in J-L history. Davis, who retired following J-L’s quarterfinal loss to Frankfort, won 167 games in his storied coaching career.

Churches, who was an Honorable Mention pick in 2008, had 103 tackles, including 28 for loss. He’ll graduate among the Snowbirds’ leading tacklers in history.

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Player of the year Dobbyn gets it done with gritty, not pretty style
By Jeremy Speer, Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG -- Darren Dobbyn was a Second Team All-Ski Valley
Conference player, as a linebacker.

A nice accomplishment, sure -- but certainly it only begins to tell the story of what Dobbyn meant to the Cardinals. With a big heart and the tough skin to match, Dobbyn more or less carried the J-L team on his back through their impressive run to the regional final.

A natural leader who will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in school history despite throwing for just 200 yards, Dobbyn is the 2009 Herald Times Player of the Year. He may have been snubbed by some of the league coaches, but his success certainly wasn’t lost on J-L coach Fred Davis.

“We’ve had kids who could throw the ball better and we’ve had great runners at quarterback,” Davis said. “But there isn’t a player who had more leadership or determination.”

Matt Stapleton is the coach of Frankfort, who will face Crystal Falls Forest Park in today’s Division 8 semifinal. Stapleton doesn’t have a vote on the All-Ski Valley team, but if he did, you know where it would go.

“He told me that there isn’t a better player who could play in our situation,” Davis said. “He told me he was getting his vote for all-state.”

In J-L’s 12-game season, Dobbyn was the team leader in rushing yards with 1,026 and rushing touchdowns with 20.

Dobbyn was the backup quarterback as a junior, and went into the off season knowing he was going to be the guy this fall. Even he admitted he wasn’t sure about his ability.

“I was really nervous,” Dobbyn said. “I didn’t know how it would go.”

After fumbling the ball a number of times in a rainy season opener at Central Lake, his confidence still hadn’t peaked. By soaking footballs in water prior to practice, Davis remedied the fumbling problem and Dobbyn began to pick up steam. A win against a solid Inland Lakes squad helped.

Dobbyn and the team’s focus increased greatly prior to the week eight Homecoming game against Atlanta. Dobbyn, having attended Atlanta schools until seventh grade, responded with the best game of his career to date. He remembers breaking down the sideline and faking out one of his best friends, Atlanta’s Dylan Mowery.

“That was the biggest game for me,” Dobbyn said. “That was the point we really came together as a team. We really looked to the (regional champion) 1998 team for inspiration.”

Dobbyn was near-perfect through the team’s next three games, a memorable stretch that included a victory against then-undefeated St. Mary and playoff wins against Hillman and St. Ignace. Against the Saints in the district championship, Dobbyn carried the team on his back with 196 rushing yards.

His style is more gritty than pretty. Big (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and not exceptionally fast, Dobbyn would rather run through defenders than around them. That explains when his eyes light up when talking about playing linebacker.

“I love to hit people,” Dobbyn said. “And playing both offense and defense, I get to do both. It’s a great feeling.”

With his physical style also comes a more cerebral side. In J-L’s offense, he is asked to make reads at the line of scrimmage defending on how the defense lines up. The biggest of the season came against St. Ignace, when the Cardinals were trying to close out a win against the hard-charging Saints. Needing to get a first down to keep the clock running, J-L was faced with a third and six. Dobbyn calmly saw a huge hole up the middle and called a fullback trap for senior Jake Graham, who responded with a seven-yard run.

Dobbyn spent the summer studying the playbook and spent many moments (sometimes heated) with Davis hashing out the intricacies of playing quarterback.

A naturally fiery competitor, Dobbyn also learned to control his emotions after becoming one of the team’s unquestioned leaders.

“I noticed that when I hung my head, my teammates would hang theirs,” Dobbyn said. “I wanted to show a little heart.”

Dobbyn showed more than a little bit, leading the Cardinals through a month-long stretch that won’t soon be forgotten.

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A field full of memories: Coach of the Year Davis reflects on an impressive career
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — After the fans had left and the players went to the locker room following a playoff victory against Hillman, Johannesburg-Lewiston football coach Fred Davis gazed across the empty field.

What he saw was a career full of memories. He visualized a key interception on this sideline, an important touchdown run in that end zone. And then he walked away, always the last person to leave the stadium. Davis was a man leaving his field.

Two games later, following a captivating month-long run that boosted the spirits of the entire Johannesburg-Lewiston community, Davis left for good. The man who brought consistent, winning football to this small school had coached his last game, retiring after 33 years in the program
and 26 as head coach.

“I just thought it was the right time,” Davis said. “I think there is a time when everybody needs to be done and it wasn’t something I’d change my mind on.”

One couldn’t have drawn up a more fitting ending to a Hall of Fame career. Davis admits his 2009 Cardinals were one of his favorite teams as they succeeded with hard work, surprising everybody except for those in the J-L locker room.

J-L played five-straight home games down the stretch, allowing Davis to soak in the final moments of his brilliant time as coach. It is this final excellent coaching job that earned Davis the distinction of 2009 Herald Times Coach of the Year.

“Not many people gave us a chance before the season,” Davis said. “We overachieved and improved so much from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
They were as coachable as any group I’ve ever had.”

Davis came to J-L in 1976, when he took the tip of Harvey Miller, then-superintendent of Pine River Schools, where Davis had graduated from. Miller spent time at J-L and told Davis that he’d love it.

He spent time serving under head coaches Tom Atkinson, Gary Tuz and Bob Neff before becoming head coach in 1983. His first move — changing the color of the team’s uniforms from maroon to red. It wasn’t cosmetic, it was out of necessity.

“I am colorblind and I had trouble seeing our players,” Davis said. “We were playing a game against Ellsworth, who had black jerseys, and I yelled at our quarterback for not throwing the ball to an open player. Later on, I found out it was an Ellsworth kid.”

Through the 1980s, J-L competed as an independent, playing some of the best teams in the state on a year-to-year basis. The Cardinals more than held their own, even falling just three points short of an undefeated season in 1984. In 1990, J-L joined the newly-formed Ski Valley Conference and in 1992, Davis made another huge change in the program — switching to the T offense.

“Before, we used the I-formation and a pro set and we had guys who could throw the ball,” Davis said. “We didn’t have any of those kind of players coming through the program, so we went to an offense we could build around two or three good players. When we had good kids, we could be very good and when we had average kids, we could still be competitive.”

J-L made its first-ever trip to the playoffs in 1991, and equaled the feat in 1993, 1996 and 1997. It was about that time when the Cardinal program really started to take off.

In 1998, the Cardinals advanced all the way to the state semifinal, where they lost to eventual state champion Fulton-Middleton. Davis remembers the electric atmosphere at the Superior Dome in Marquette just before the regional final game.
“We left the tunnel and our fans were so excited,” Davis said. “We just floated out to the field. There was no way we were going to lose. It was electrifying.”

Among Davis’ other most-memorable teams were the 1997 squad, which he thinks might have been even better than the 1998 team and the 2005 team, which lost two out of its first three games but rebounded to win the Ski Valley title and avenge an earlier loss to Central Lake in the playoffs.

Perhaps the most memorable game came on Homecoming in 2003, when the Cardinals were down big to Bellaire in the second half. They pulled off an improbable comeback and won 44-36.

“A lot of fans left,” Davis said. “I went down to Paul’s (Pub) after the game,
and people had thought we lost.”

In all, Davis won 167 games in his career, was elected to the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame and was named the head coach of the East-West All-Star game in 2005. Through football, he has been able to foster relationships with some of the greatest football coaches in the state, like Lloyd Carr, Mark Dantonio and Herb Deromedi.

The greatest relationship he formed is that with longtime J-L assistant coach Jim Hilgendorf, also the superintendent of J-L schools. Hilgendorf and Davis, who was a past union president, had plenty of heated moments on the bargaining table, but it never left closed doors. Hilgendorf, who joined the staff after Pat “Killer” Kearney died in the early 1990s, also is retiring this season.

“I admired the fact that he could just forget about it on the field,” Davis said.
“And I was the same way. We’d hang out and it was like nothing ever happened.”

Davis will continue his role as athletic director through the end of 2010. He and his wife, Linda, plan on doing some traveling with the extra time they’ll have off.

Although he won’t be back on the sidelines for J-L, Davis wouldn’t rule out coaching again
in some form. “I don’t know if I can leave the game totally,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule out coaching somewhere.”

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Thank you Cardinal Football for a Great Season!

Frankfort 43, Johannesburg-Lewiston 12
Gaylord Herald Times

A close game in the second half was blown open by the Panthers, who cruised to the Division 8 regional championship Friday night in Johannesburg.

Frankfort held a 14-6 advantage at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but a string of big plays pushed ahead the margin.

J-L (10-2) struggled to gain yards on the stout Panther defense. Senior Joe Yeskey led the way with 94 yards on the ground, while senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn added 75 yards. Dobbyn had both of the Cardinals' scores.

Quarterback Dan Nugent threw for 182 yards and ran for 143 yards to lead the Frankfort attack. He had four total touchdowns.

Frankfort advances to next week's semifinal, against either Crystal Falls Forest Park or Stephenson.

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It's a GREAT year to be a Cardinal!

Final Word: 2009 turning out to be the year of the Cardinal
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston athletic director Fred Davis
thinks there is an extra air of excitement in the halls of JLHS right now.

“It’s great to see the kids so excited,” Davis said. “People seem happier. It’s a better environment.”

The reason for this atmosphere — the unparalleled success of the Cardinals’ athletic programs.

J-L has had a tremendous 2008 in sports and is currently in the midst of its best multi-sport run in school history. It all kicked off this March, when the J-L girls basketball team began its tournament run following an undefeated regular season.

The Lady Cardinals buzzed through district, regional and quarterfinal competition before falling in a hard-fought semifinal game at Eastern Michigan University.

It was an amazing performance, but it turns out it was just the start of an exceptional calendar year.

Both the J-L football and volleyball teams have followed it up with historic seasons.

The football team came out of the gates strong this season and a 42-0 victory against rival St. Mary gave the Cardinals the Ski Valley Conference title. It didn’t stop there, as the “Mohawk Nation” racked up two-straight home playoff wins, giving the Cardinals just their second-ever district title.

The Cardinals battled Frankfort last night for the regional title and a win would have propelled J-L to the Division 8 semifinals.

Just as impressive has been the run of the Cardinal volleyball team. Under rookie coach Kristine Peppin, the team showed great improvements throughout the season and had the best regular-season in recent memory.

That carried over into district competition, where J-L defeated rivals Onaway and St. Mary to capture just its second district title in school history. The Cardinals followed it up with a win in the regional semifinal against Brimley, before falling to powerhouse Pellston in the regional final.

The Cardinal teams are adding trophies at an impressive rate this season, something that could continue into the winter. The girls basketball team is still the team to beat in Northern Michigan, while big improvements are anticipated with the boys basketball team, who could be a sleeper in the SVC race.

Joe Smokevitch, J-L’s junior varsity football coach, addresses each e-mail with the words “It’s a great day to be a Cardinal.”

Those words were never more true than right now.

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Regional Final Preview: J-L vs. Frankfort
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor Gaylord Herald Times

Frankfort Panthers (9-2) at Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals (10-1)


RECORD: 9-2 overall, 4-1 Northwest (Second place)

COLORS: Purple and gold


SCORING AVERAGE: 33.6 points

DEFENSIVE AVERAGE: 19.7 points allowed




Frankfort 59, Marion 7

Muskegon Catholic Central 35, Frankfort 0

Frankfort 41, Maple City Glen Lake 25

Frankfort 35,  Benzie Central 20

Frankfort 36, Mesick 20

Frankfort 34, Kingsley 12

Suttons Bay 28, Frankfort 27

Frankfort 48, Webberville 26

Frankfort 27, Onekama 0

Frankfort 21, Mio 14 (District Seminal)

Frankfort 42, Manistee Catholic Central 30 (District Final)


Finished 11-2, advancing all the way to the Division 8 state semifinal,
where they lost to Crystal Falls Forest Park, 8-6.

The Panthers have now won seven-straight district titles. In six of those seven years,
Frankfort lost in the regional championship.

LEADING PASSER: Dan Nugent: 976 yards, 16 TD

LEADING RUSHERS: Poom Hang; Dan Nugent; Nick Tondu; Jordan Lentz

LEADING RECEIVER: Andrew Newbold: 12 touchdowns


RECORD: 10-1 overall, 7-1 Ski Valley (SVC Co-Champs)

COLORS: Red and white



SCORING AVERAGE: 33.6 points
DEFENSIVE AVERAGE: 9.2 points allowed




J-L 10, Central Lake 0

J-L 45, Pellston 0

J-L 38, Inland Lakes 22

Mancelona 22, J-L 6

J-L 39, Bellaire 0

J-L 56, Onaway 16

J-L 14, Forest Area 8

J-L 52, Atlanta 6

J-L 42, St. Mary 0

J-L 38, Hillman 0 (District Semifinal)

J-L 30, St. Ignace 27 (District Final)


LAST YEAR: Finished 5-4, missed playoffs

HISTORY: A win against Frankfort would match the farthest J-l has ever advanced in the playoffs. In 2008, the Cardinals advanced to the Class D semifinal, where they lost to eventual state-champion Fulton-Middleton.
LEADING PASSER: Darren Dobbyn: 200 yards, 1 TD

LEADING RUSHERS: Jake Graham: 947 yards, 5TD; Darren Dobbyn: 925 yards, 18 TD; Brian VanCoillie: 509 yards, 7 TD

LEADING RECEIVER: Jake Graham: 7 catches, 102 yards

LEADING TACKLERS: Ben Bush: 120 tackles; Blake Huff: 115 tackles.


LAST WEEK: Frankfort 42, Manistee Catholic Central 30; J-L 30, St. Ignace 27

SERIES: Frankfort leads 5-0

OUTLOOK: Two of Michigan’s best coaches will dual in Frankfort’s Matt Stapleton and Johannesburg-Lewiston’s Fred Davis. Both of these teams are solid, with plenty of similar characteristics.

ABOUT FRANKFORT: It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Panthers, but a rebuilding year means another district championship, which was Frankfort’s seventh straight. The Panthers lost almost all of their key players from last season’s state semifinalist team, but the new guys have filled in more than admirably.

    Frankfort runs its traditional veer offense, from which it has been successful running and passing out of. The Panthers attempted only three passes in last week’s win against Manistee Catholic Central, but quarterback Dan Nugent has 16 touchdown passes on the season. Nugent is also one of the team’s top rushers. Other top running backs include Poom Hang, Nick Tondu and Jordan Lentz. Receiver Andrew Newbold has been a big-play machine, reeling in 12 touchdown receptions on the season.

ABOUT J-L: Simple is better for the Cardinals, who have used basically the same plays to run all over opponents in their Wing-T offense. In 11 games this season, J-L has rushed for an impressive 3,500 yards. Of late, quarterback Darren Dobbyn has been unstoppable. Both he and fullback Jake Graham could go over the 1,000-yard plateau with solid games this week. J-L may have lost a good back in junior Dallas VanDoren, who had a severe ankle injury against St. Ignace. But, it could get another back in sophomore Brian VanCoillie, who is poised to return from a broken leg. Before his injury, VanCoillie was leading the team in rushing. The defensive front of the Cardinals made some big plays against St. Ignace. Some of the stalwarts on that unit are Blake Huff, Travis Roberts, Keith Koronka, Ryan Cass,  Gavin Koronka and Sean Aisthorpe.

THE LAST WORD: Fans of J-L are starting to get used to this home thing, as this will be the fifth-straight game at home. The home crowd could provide the difference in a close game.

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Home cooking once more for Davis, Cardinals
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — Each of the last four weeks, there was a possibility it would be the last-ever home game for Johannesburg-Lewiston football coach Fred Davis.

But each week, the Cardinals have kept winning and thus have allowed them to make their playoff run from the friendly confines of the J-L field.

As the team heads into its regional championship battle against Frankfort Friday, there is one certainty. This will be the last-ever game Davis coaches in front of the home crowd.

“I’m not ready to be done yet,” Davis said. “It’s great to beat at home. This is great for our community and great for the community’s spirit. Nothing beats small town football.”

If J-L can win Friday, the Cardinal Nation will likely have to make the trek to the Upper Peninsula for the Division 8 semifinal, either against Crystal Falls Forest Park or Stephenson.

But first things first and J-L must take care of a Frankfort team that has had its number over the years (5-0 all-time against J-L). Actually, the Northwest Conference as a whole has dominated Ski Valley Conference teams, so Davis will look to make a statement against the Panthers.

“There haven’t been many Ski Valley schools that have beaten schools from that conference,” Davis said. “But I think we match up much more favorably with this Frankfort team than in the past.”

The Panthers (9-2), who lost a bunch of players from last year’s state-semifinalist team, started the season in a rebuilding mode but won their seventh-straight district championship with a 42-30 victory against Manistee Catholic Central last week.

They’re coached by one of the most successful coaches in the state, Matt Stapleton. There won’t be any tricks Friday that Davis or Stapleton haven’t seen.

Frankfort is led by senior quarterback Dan Nugent, the 2009 Northwest Conference Player of the Year.

Nugent is a dual-threat out of Frankfort’s traditional veer offense, rushing for 742 yards and six touchdowns and passing for 976 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Panthers’ other top offensive player is receiver Andrew Newbold, who has caught a school-record 12 touchdown passes.

Poom Hang and Nick Tondu are the top backs.

“With the veer, we have to control and hit him at the mesh point,” Davis said. “We have to be aggressive with our attack. They’ve also had the tendency to turn the ball over and we don’t turn it over that much.”

Last week, J-L junior back Dallas VanDoren left the game with a knee injury. He’s not expected back, but the Cardinals welcome back sophomore back Brian VanCoillie, who practiced for the first time in a month Monday.

VanCoillie is by far the team’s fastest back and was its leading rusher before breaking his leg midway through the season. Behind him, the Cardinals are thin at the halfback position.

“We need him to play as much as he can,” Davis said.

While this is Davis’ final home game, he’s more excited for what the playoff run has meant to his players and the school.

A win Friday would equal the Cardinals’ furthest advancement ever in the state playoffs. In 1998, J-L lost to eventual state champion Fulton-Middleton in the state semifinals.

“It’s always fun to win, but I’m most happy to see the kids having a good time,” he said. “It’s been a happier, better environment at school.”

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J-L comes back to top Saints, will host Frankfort in Friday regional championship
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — It was the kind of drive that makes district champions.

Faced with the rising surge of the quick strike St. Ignace attack, Johannesburg-Lewiston got the ball back Friday night up three, with 5:38 on the clock.

The Cardinals proceeded to do what J-L fans have seen many times. Getting three straight first downs through hard-nosed running, J-L killed the clock and capped off a 30-27 victory that provided a district title.

“I told them that we needed three first downs to ice the game,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “With the season on the line, we executed J-L football.”

The biggest play of the season was a simple seven-yard gain. Right after the Cardinals took the ball on that drive, they were faced with a third down-and six situation. Heady senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn calmly surveyed the Saints defense and called the number of senior Jake Graham, who gained the first down on a fullback trap.

It was the type of play that won’t win Dobbyn any all-state, or even all-conference, recognition, but Davis said he wouldn’t change his quarterback for anybody.

“He’s a tough kid,” Davis said. “He does exactly what we need to be done as good as anybody we’ve asked to do it. He deserves a lot of recognition.”

The Saints couldn’t stop Dobbyn’s ground attack all night long. He had a career-high 193 yards on 26 carries, to go with three touchdowns and three two-point conversions.

He was the linchpin of a J-L rushing attack that grinded out 436 yards on the ground. Graham added 186 yards and a touchdown in the victory, while senior Joe Yeskey added 53 yards.

The victory took a major comeback from the Cardinals. St. Ignace senior quarterback Gerrit Mortensen stole the show in the first half, eluding rushers and chucking the ball down field like a magician with a cannon arm. He finished going 16-for-22 passing for 273 yards and two touchdowns, and his passing helped give the Saints a 20-6 lead midway through the second quarter.

But the well-coached Cardinals didn’t give up, they simply stuck to their game plan. On the very next drive, they marched down field and Dobbyn scored to cut the lead to 20-14. J-L’s defense came up huge on the ensuing possession as a big sack by sophomore Blake Huff forced a Saints punt.  Knowing they’d get the ball to start the second half, the Cardinals were in a good position.

Chewing up five minutes on the clock, J-L took the lead on the first drive of the second half, as Dobbyn scored and ran in the conversion to take a 22-20 lead.

Huff and seniors Gavin Koronka and Keith Koronka teamed up for another sack on the next possession, forcing another rare punt. The Cardinals took advantage, as Graham busted loose on a 32-yard fullback trap. Dobbyn’s pass to Gavin Koronka provided a 30-20 advantage.

“Our kids played hard and never quit,” Davis said. “It would have been easy for the kids to put their heads down, but they showed a lot of resilience and fortitude.”

After senior Travis Roberts came up with a huge fumble recovery, it looked as if J-L was well on its way to victory. The Cardinals took off on another drive and got to the five-yard line before a fumble gave the Saints the ball back.

Mortensen and his crew immediately went to work, driving 93 yards down field and scoring on a nifty five-yard shovel pass to Austin St. Louis, who had nine catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns.

That play set up J-L’s season-defining drive, one which guaranteed one more home game for the Cardinals, this Friday against Frankfort. A win Friday would equal J-L’s farthest advancement in school history. In 1998, the Cardinals advanced to the Class D semifinal, where they lost to Fulton-Middleton.
The winner of Friday’s game will face the winner of the Crystal Falls Forest Park-Stephenson regional.

“This is great for our community,” Davis said. “We’ve showed a lot of community spirit. There’s nothing better than small town football.”

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J-L comes back to win football district
Gaylord Herald Times

Johannesburg-Lewiston 30, St. Ignace 27

The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team continued its impressive run Friday, coming back from 14 points down to win the district title against St. Ignace.

The Cardinals will host Frankfort in the regional final either next Friday or Saturday. The Panthers were 42-30 winners against Manistee Catholic Central.

J-L didn't panic when St. Ignace senior quarterback Gerrit Mortensen led his team to a first-half lead.

The Cardinals scored on their final drive of the first half on a one-yard run by Darren Dobbyn and took the lead on the first drive of the second half, on another one-yard run by Dobbyn.

J-L pushed the lead to 30-20 on a 32-yard run by Jake Graham before the Saints scored in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to three.

The Cardinals closed out the game in typical J-L fashion, getting three first downs while running out the remaining 5:38 on the clock.

Dobbyn had another tremendous day for the Cardinals, rushing for 196 yards and three touchdowns. Graham added 187 yards on the ground, while Joe Yeskey added 70 yards.

Mortensen was 16-for-23 passing for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Austin St. Louis had 169 receiving yards and two touchdowns, and also had a team-high 37 rushing yards and one touchdown.

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Preview: J-L vs. St. Ignace
Gaylord Herald Times 11/3/09


RECORD: 6-4 overall, 3-1 Straits (SFL Co-Champs)

COLORS: Black and Gold



SCORING AVERAGE: 28.1 points

DEFENSIVE AVERAGE: 24.4 points allowed




Charlevoix 28, St. Ignace 14

St. Ignace 28, East Jordan 6

McBain 44, St. Ignace 42

St. Ignace 46, Rogers City 22

St. Ignace 34, Rudyard 28

Cedarville 28, St. Ignace 20

Newberry 28, St. Ignace 14

St. Ignace 32, Maple City-Glen Lake 20

St. Ignace 22, Manistique 12

St. Ignace 29, St. Mary 28 (OT) (District Semifinal)


LAST YEAR: Finished 9-3, after advancing to Division 8 regional final (loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park). Defeated Bark River-Harris and Cedarville to get there.

HISTORY: This is the Saints’ third-straight trip to the playoffs.  Up until 1996, St. Ignace competed alongside Gaylord High in the Michigan-Huron Shores Conference.

LEADING PASSER: Gerrit Mortensen: 1,306 yards, 16 TD

LEADING RUSHERS: Austin St. Louis: 690 yards, 7 TD; Caleb Liztner: 642 yards; Gerrit Mortensen: 492 yards, 5 TD

LEADING RECEIVER: Austin St. Louis: 672 yards, 8 TD

LEADING TACKLER: Austin St. Louis: 120 tackles


RECORD: 9-1 overall, 7-1 Ski Valley (SVC Co-Champs)

COLORS: Red and white



SCORING AVERAGE: 34.0 points

DEFENSIVE AVERAGE: 7.4 points allowed




J-L 10, Central Lake 0

J-L 45, Pellston 0

J-L 38, Inland Lakes 22

Mancelona 22, J-L 6

J-L 39, Bellaire 0

J-L 56, Onaway 16

J-L 14, Forest Area 8

J-L 52, Atlanta 6

J-L 42, St. Mary 0

J-L 38, Hillman 0 (District Semifinal)


LAST YEAR: Finished 5-4, missed playoffs

HISTORY: This is J-L’s first trip to the playoffs since 2005. That season the Cardinals defeated Central Lake in the first round before falling to Frankfort in the second. Before 2006, they qualified in nine out of 10 years.

LEADING PASSER: Darren Dobbyn: 190 yards, 1 TD

LEADING RUSHERS: Jake Graham: 761 yards, 4 TD; Darren Dobbyn: 722 yards, 15 TD; Brian VanCoillie: 509 yards, 7 TD

LEADING RECEIVER: Jake Graham: 6 catches, 92 yards

LEADING TACKLERS: Ben Bush: 111 tackles; Blake Huff: 108 tackles.



LAST WEEK: St. Ignace 29, St. Mary 28 (OT); J-L 38, Hillman 0

SERIES: First Meeting

OUTLOOK: This is the classic match up of size vs. speed. The Cardinals will have the superior advantage on the line, but St. Ignace is a speedy team with game-breaking skill position players.

ABOUT ST. IGNACE: Saints quarterback Gerrit Mortensen was the difference-maker in the team’s comeback victory against St. Mary last week. He is a nifty runner who completed some huge passes over the course of the game. He appeared to be much healthier after missing nearly two games this season with a shoulder injury. Back Austin St. Louis is also a big-time play maker. He scored three total touchdowns —two on runs and one on a nice interception return ­— against the Snowbirds. Mortensen, St. Louis and fullback Caleb Litzner get the majority of the carries. Litzner also came up with a big play on a touchdown pass off a broken play by Mortensen. The Saints are not big by any stretch of the imagination — the St. Mary offensive and defensive fronts pushed them around at times.

ABOUT J-L: It has been carries by committee in the backfield for the Cardinals this season. It’s a formula that works as no matter who gets the ball, they’re going to have one of Northern Michigan’s best lines to run around. Against Hillman, senior back Joe Yeskey was the standout, with 150 yards and two touchdowns. Yeskey had missed much of the season with an injury, but appears to be running hard. Another player who may return this week is sophomore Brian VanCoillie, the team’s fastest player. He’s missed the past three games with a broken leg, but could see action. Senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn also was injured last week but will suit up in Friday night’s game.

THE LAST WORD: This could be another great game, but J-L is absolutely on fire. In their past three games, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents 132-6.

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Go Cardinals Go!

J-L stays hot, throttles Hillman in round one
By Jim Ryan • Sports Assistant ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG —  The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team once again rolled to victory in a convincing fashion, knocking off North Star League champion Hillman, 38-0 Friday in the first game of the Division 8 playoffs.

J-L pounded the Tigers a game of thoroughly convincing Cardinal domination, as they racked up 335 yards on the ground.

The Cardinals started out the contest by making a statement defensively. On Hillman’s first drive J-L’s defensive line put immense pressure on the Hillman offense, producing two sacks in the process.

Offensively, the Cardinals sputtered a bit on their first drive. One their first play from scrimmage the wet conditions caused a fumble on an inside run. This, however, was the only real problem the Cardinals faced on offense throughout the entire night.

“We fumbled on first down, but we turned it around and got a couple scores in the first half,” said J-L coach Fred Davis.

From that point on the momentum fell completely into the hands of the Cardinals. On their next drive the ‘Cards marched 57 yards over a nine-play span ending with a two-yard quarterback sneak from injured senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn. Dobbyn, the team leader, injured his ankle earlier in the week and was a game-time decision. Senior Joe Yeskey ran in the two-point conversion to make it 8-0 in favor of the Cardinals.

“I was real happy with how our kids played,” Davis said. “We had some banged up kids, we weren’t sure if Dobbyn was even going to play. He got hurt in practice on Wednesday — we were planning to start (freshman) Alex Payne at quarterback.”

J-L continued to shut the Tigers offense down on the ensuing possession. Senior Gavin Koronka recorded a tackle for a five-yard loss on the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage, and then later in the drive, sophomore Nick Michael got a crucial tackle on a fake punt situation.

J-L’s next touchdown drive was eerily similar to their first, another nine-play drive ending with a Dobbyn sneak followed with a Yeskey two-point conversion. This took the Cardinals into the dressing room with a commanding 16-0 lead at halftime.

After the break, J-L picked up right where they left off with another pair of substantial touchdown drives led by Yeskey. He gained approximately 100 yards on the back-to-back drives that both resulted in good payoffs for his hard work — rushing touchdowns of 10 and 2 yards.

Once the 22-0 lead was posted, though, Payne came in and made his first varsity appearance.

“He had taken all the reps the last two days so I thought he was ready,” Davis said.  “He led a drive right down the field. Once again I had a freshman quarterback calling the plays at the line of scrimmage.”

The J-L faithful were abundant and plenty encouraged as the game proceeded on — the monsoon-like conditions did not ward any Cardinal fans away from the gridiron action.

“Boy, we love to play at home,” Davis said. “If things work out really well for us we could play at home this week and next week too. We’re looking at two possible games here at the ‘Burg — that would be great for our town and our kids.”

The Cardinals’ final score came on a 16-play drive that ended with a five-yard touchdown scamper by junior Dallas Vandoren. The drive was set up by senior Travis Roberts who recovered a Hillman fumble to grant the offense good field position.

Yeskey was named player of the game for his work out of the backfield, he gained 150 yards on 19 carries. VanDoren added 63 yards, while Dobbyn had 49 yards and Jake Graham had 39 yards.

J-L will now compete in the district final Friday against St. Ignace. The winner will face the winner of the Frankfort-Manistee Catholic Central district championship. If the Cardinals win this week, they would host next week, as well.
“You can always play better, but we’re playing to as much potential as we have,” Davis said. “We control our own destiny.”

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Go Cardinals Go!

Balanced J-L backfield rushes for 3,000 yards
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — The old adage goes, “It’s doesn’t matter what the name is on the back of the jersey, all that matters is the name on the front.”

In the case of the Johannesburg-Lewiston football team, this is especially true. First, the Cardinals have no names on the back of their jerseys. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter, as the team uses a carry-by-committee approach to execute their rushing success.

“We’re going to run to whatever hole you give us,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “And it doesn’t matter who is carrying the ball. All of our backs are pretty similar. There aren’t many teams that can have five different guys rush for 100 yards.”

That is exactly what the Cardinals have. No back on the team has more than 800 yards on the season, but a quintet has rushed for 100 yards in a game. That group includes seniors Darren Dobbyn, Joe Yeskey and Jake Graham, junior Dallas VanDoren and sophomore Brian VanCoillie.

Together, they form a group that has rushed for a mind-boggling 3,101 yards on the season in just 10 games.

On Friday it was Yeskey who took his turn at the glory, as he rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns. The week before that it was Graham. Before that it was Dobbyn. And so on...

“They’re not speed demons other than VanCoillie,” Davis said. “They are just tough kids who stick their nose in there.”

The secret to the Cardinals’ rushing success is definitely its dominating offensive line. The group of tackles Keith Koronka and Ryan Cass, guards Ben Bush and Blake Huff and center Sean Aisthorpe could be one of the best in the state.

“Our offensive and defensive lines are the strength  of our team,” Davis said. “We’re a hard team to stop when we get off the line.”

The Cardinals will look to continue these dominating trends Friday in the district championship against St. Ignace (6-4). The Saints feature a couple of strong skill position players, but are small up front.

“Nobody of late has been able to stand up to our line’s pounding,” Davis said. “We’ve been able to get off the ball and knock people around.”

Shifty quarterback Gerrit Mortensen is a dual threat,
while 6-foot-3 back Austin St. Louis is also an exceptional athlete.
Both made big plays in the Saints’ 29-28 overtime victory against St. Mary last week.

“They have some good skill kids, but we’ve played a bunch of teams with good skill kids,” Davis said. “We have to bottle Mortensen up and keep him between the tackles. Our defense hasn’t given up big plays this season and that’s exactly what we have to do.”

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Playoff preview and fast facts
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times
Hillman Tigers (7-2) at Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals (8-1)


RECORD: 7-2 overall, 6-0 North Star League (NSL Champs)

COLORS: Orange and Black



SCORING AVERAGE: 29.3 points

DEFENSIVE AVERAGE: 15.4 points allowed

OFFENSE: I-Formation



Rogers City 26, Hillman 20

Rudyard 43, Hillman 14

Hillman 39, AuGres-Sims 0

Hillman 34, Arenac Eastern 14

Hillman 34, Mio 16

Hillman 26, Lincoln Alcona 6

Hillman 34, Atlanta 18

Hillman win over Posen (forfeit)

Hillman 37, Hale 0


LAST YEAR: Finished 5-5. Lost to Bay City All Saints 49-0 in the first round of the Division 8 playoffs.

HISTORY: This is the Tigers’ fourth-straight trip to the playoffs. Their last victory came in 2007, when they defeated Mio before falling to Frankfort in the second round.

LEADING PASSER: Andy Smith: 531 yards, 8 TD

LEADING RUSHERS: Devon Shumaker: 795 yards, 9 TD; Lance Safford: 605 yards, 8 TD

LEADING RECEIVER: Kevin Tracey: 141 yards, 3 TD



RECORD: 8-1 overall, 7-1 Ski Valley (SVC Co-Champs)

COLORS: Red and white



SCORING AVERAGE: 33.8 points

DEFENSIVE AVERAGE: 8.2 points allowed




J-L 10, Central Lake 0

J-L 45, Pellston 0

J-L 38, Inland Lakes 22

Mancelona 22, J-L 6

J-L 39, Bellaire 0

J-L 56, Onaway 16

J-L 14, Forest Area 8

J-L 52, Atlanta 6

J-L 42, St. Mary 0


LAST YEAR: Finished 5-4, missed playoffs

HISTORY: This is J-L’s first trip to the playoffs since 2005. That season the Cardinals defeated Central Lake in the first round before falling to Frankfort in the second. Before 2006, they qualified in nine out of 10 years.

LEADING PASSER: Darren Dobbyn: 190 yards, 1 TD

LEADING RUSHERS: Jake Graham: 722 yards, 4 TD; Darren Dobbyn: 673 yards, 13 TD

LEADING RECEIVER: Jake Graham: 6 catches, 92 yards

LEADING TACKLER: Ben Bush: 105 tackles


LAST WEEK: Hillman 37, Hale 0; Johannesburg-Lewiston 42, St. Mary 0

SERIES: J-L leads 15-7

OUTLOOK: This is a renewal of an old rivalry between these two M-32 competitors. They haven’t played since 2000, but there has been some good games in these schools’ history. Both teams are hot, as Hillman has won seven in a row and J-L has won five in a row.

ABOUT HILLMAN: Coach Bill Koenig has done a tremendous job with the Tigers’ program. In his first year in 2005, the team went 0-9, but since, they have been money in the bank, making the playoffs the past four seasons. At the helm in each of those season has been quarterback Andy Smith, a four-year starter. Smith is part of a strong senior class that also includes running backs Devon Shumaker and Lance Safford, who have combined for 17 rushing touchdowns on the season. Kevin Tracey is the team’s top receiver (141 yards), while Caleb Zimmer is the leading tackler.

ABOUT J-L: The Cardinals have played near-perfect ball the past two weeks. The big reason has been the offensive line — a unit that features seniors Ben Bush, Ryan Cass and Keith Koronka and sophomores Sean Aisthorpe and Ben Bush. They dominated St. Mary at the line of scrimmage last week. Runners Jake Graham and Darren Dobbyn have shown toughness behind that line.

THE LAST WORD: Few have been able to stop the J-L Wing-T this season. Hillman is the next team to take a swing at it.


Cardinals look to stay hot at home
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston football coach Fred Davis thinks the philosophy behind stopping his team is rather simple.

It’s the execution part that gives the opposition fits.

“The Wing T is what we do,” Davis said. “We run the football. If you can stop our running game, you’re probably going to win. If you can’t, you probably won’t.”

That will be Hillman’s biggest challenge Friday. The Tigers have won their last seven games on the way to claiming the North Star League championship, but they surely haven’t seen a team of J-L’s caliber during that stretch.

The Cardinals have dominated on the ground during the past couple weeks, spearheaded by a dominant offensive line. The unit of seniors Ben Bush, Ryan Cass and Keith Koronka and sophomores Sean Aisthorpe and Blake Huff have continued to gel throughout the season.
“I can’t say enough good things about them,” Davis said. “We’ve had a lot of question marks in our backfield, but our line has played really well. We dominated (St. Mary).”

It’s a good thing J-L’s line has performed so well because the team’s speed factor has been dialed down the past couple weeks with the injury to sophomore Brian VanCoillie, who broke his leg in week seven. VanCoillie isn’t expect back until week two, meaning the Cardinals have chugged along five yards at a time. Quarterback Darren Dobbyn and fullback Jake Graham have exhibited hard running, while junior Dallas VanDoren has provided the occasional burst at tailback.

“We don’t have a ton of big plays, but we’re really hard to stop on third and four,” Davis said.

The Tigers (7-2) also feature a strong rushing attack, spearheaded by the dynamic duo of seniors Devon Shumaker (795 yards) and Lance Safford (605 yards). Teamed up with four-year starting quarterback Andy Smith (531 passing yards), and the Tigers have a prolific backfield.

Defensively, Davis expects the Tigers to load up the box in an attempt to slow the Cardinals’ running game.

“They’re probably going to do what a lot of teams have done against us,” Davis said. “We can’t make mistakes them.”

The team’s have one common opponent this season — Atlanta. J-L defeated the Huskies 52-6, while Hillman topped them 34-18.

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Statement Made: J-L shocks St. Mary to share Ski Valley title
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — Fifteen minutes before game time Friday, a pin drop could have been heard inside the Johannesburg-Lewiston football locker room.

Coach Fred Davis said it was the most focused he’s ever seen a team before a game. That focus translated into flat-out domination, as the Cardinals stunned Otsego County rival St. Mary 42-0.

As the game ended, a pair of Ski Valley Conference championship trophies were presented at midfield. One went to the Snowbirds, who had clinched a share the week before. The other went to J-L, who had just finished one of the most impressive home performances in school history.

It truly was a great day to be a Cardinal.

“Before the game, the kids were sitting on the benches in dead silence,” Davis said. “I knew I didn’t need to say anything to get the kids fired up.”

It was an emotional night for J-L, who honored longtime coaches Davis and Jim Hilgendorf before the game. It was recently announced that both would retire following their season. It may have looked like the J-L players went out and “won one for the Gipper,” but don’t tell Davis that.

“I told them that they won this game for themselves,” he said. “You can’t tell me the seniors didn’t win that game for themselves.”

It was the first time the Cardinals had beaten St. Mary since 2005, the last time the two tied for the Ski Valley crown.

For the Snowbirds, after eight straight wins, it was a night of disaster. A number of players missed the game with illness and they were slowed by a messy, rainy field.

“It was one of those nights where everything we could have done, we didn’t do,” said St. Mary coach Bob Cherwinski. “But Joburg played an outstanding game.”

That was evident right away, when the hard-charging Cardinal defense stuffed the Snowbirds on four plays in the opening drive. Then came one of those drives Davis has seen hundreds of times during his lengthy tenure. The Cardinals marched down the field behind an offensive line that was simply dominating all game long. The unit of tackles Ryan Cass and Keith Koronka, guards Ben Bush and Blake Huff, center Sean Aisthorpe and tight ends Gavin Koronka, Nick Michael and Ricky McLean outplayed the Snowbirds’ vaunted defense throughout the game.

“We went back to the beginning last week and went over all of our blocking rules,” Davis said. “Our offensive line executed very well.”

On that first drive, hard-running senior fullback Jake Graham scored a 25-yard touchdown, followed by a two-point conversion by gusty senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn.

Later in the first quarter, disaster struck for the Snowbirds, as senior Travis Roberts recovered a fumble. The Cardinals made good on it, as Dobbyn scampered in from six yards out.

Midway through the second quarter, Dobbyn capped a brilliant 14-play, seven-minute drive with a four-yard touchdown and two-point conversion to make the score 22-0 at halftime. After the game, Davis showered his quarterback with praise.

“He probably won’t make the all-league team because he doesn’t pass that much, but nobody in the Ski Valley runs their offense better than him. He makes a lot of the calls at the line of scrimmage. He does so much for our team.”
The Snowbirds came out of the halftime gates with some momentum, stopping J-L on its first possession. But after their drive stalled out, the Cardinals again marched down and scored on a drive capped by a two-yard run by Dobbyn.

The game was sealed late in the third quarter, when Graham intercepted a pass and returned it to midfield, setting up his own 21-yard run on a fullback trap. As the running clock ensued, junior Jonathan Peterson scored J-L’s final touchdown on a 16-yard run.

For the game, the Cardinals pounded out 343 yards of total offense without even attempting a pass. J-L’s defense also had its best performance of the season, holding the high-powered Snowbirds to under 100 yards.

Graham led the Cardinals with 168 yards on the ground, while Dobbyn added 93 yards. Huff had 10 tackles to lead the defense, while Bush had eight.

For St. Mary, senior Clay Becker had 67 yards rushing. The Snowbird passing attack, usually a key part of the team’s success, only completed one pass. Senior Peter Spyhalski had 14 tackles for the Snowbirds, while Becker had 12 and senior Phil Keck had nine. The team was forced to again move players around as a handful of key contributors were unable to play.

“That eventually caught up to us,” Cherwinski said. “You can’t have somebody spend just two days practicing at a position and expect to have success.”

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Friday Night Football: J-L stuns St. Mary to share Ski Valley title
Gaylord Herald Times

Johannesburg-Lewiston 42, St. Mary 0

Few could have expected this. The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team played near-perfect through four quarters Friday, defeating rival St. Mary 42-0 at home.

Both J-L and St. Mary finished the regular season with 8-1 records and tied for first place in the Ski Valley Conference. They both will likely host playoff games. Pairings will be announced at 7 p.m. Sunday on Fox Sports Detroit.

Fullback Jake Graham had 166 yards and three touchdowns for J-L, while adding an interception. Quarterback Darren Dobbyn played iron-solid, with 93 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Jonathan Peterson scored the other touchdown for the Cardinals, who attempted just one pass.

Clay Becker had 67 yards rushing to lead the Snowbirds.

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Trench Battle: Watch line of scrimmage to find advantage Friday
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

GAYLORD — The guys in the trenches. The unsung heroes. The big uglies.

Over the years, plenty of names have been to the least glorifying position in American sports — that of football linemen.

But in the case of Friday’s Otsego County clash between St. Mary and Johannesburg-Lewiston another moniker can be given to the guys up front — the difference makers.

This game, and the Ski Valley title, will not be won with speedy backs, strong-willed quarterbacks or hard-hitting linebackers. Sure, both teams have all of the above, but their strengths lies in the ability to physically dominate their opponent at the line of scrimmage.

To put it more specific, the most intriguing battle of the night will be between J-L’s talented offensive line and St. Mary’s disruptive defensive line. Follow the ball if you want, but if you want some real enjoyment, watch this game within the game.
“It is the strength of both teams,” said J-L coach Fred Davis.

St. Mary senior Matt Churches, simply put, is a man among boys. There are players who are bigger than him, and those who are quicker than him, but nobody is smarter or plays harder than him. The returning all-stater is certainly among the best defensive tackles in Division 8. In just eight games this season, he has 88 total tackles, including 26 tackles for loss.

“He’s just unbelievable,” said St. Mary coach Bob Cherwinski. “He has football smarts, so he knows where to be at all times to get in there.”

The Snowbird defensive line is far from a one-trick pony, however. The “Twins of Destruction,” seniors Phil Keck and Pat Keck hold down the end positions. They have made big play after big play this season, often camping out in the backfield.

And then there’s senior nose tackle Tyler Loshaw, who at 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, is the Snowbirds biggest player. He is the team’s most improved player over the past few seasons.

“They’ve done a great job this season,” Cherwinski said. “They’ve really taken care of business.

Formidable, yes, but so is J-L’s offensive line. The Ski Valley Conference’s biggest unit is the main reason the Cardinals have rushed for well over 2,300 yards this season.

“They’re the best we’ve seen,” Cherwinski said. “They’re big and the push people around.”

Just like St. Mary, J-L’s best player could very well be a lineman. Senior Ben Bush plays the all-important pulling guard position for the Cardinals and his intelligence makes him one of the best around.

The other guard, sophomore Blake Huff, has a world of skill and is already the area’s biggest player.

The size of the Cardinal offensive line comes from a pair of mammoth maulers — senior tackle Keith Koronka (6-foot-2, 265 pounds) and sophomore center Sean Aisthorpe (6-foot-7, 268 pounds). Hard-working tackle Travis Roberts is the fifth member of this talented unit.

The secret of success of the Cardinal offensive front lies in unity.

“They all get along well together,” Davis said. “Most of these guys have played together for a couple of years. They’ve taken their lumps and have become a very strong unit.”

When two boulders collide against one another, something has to give.
That will be the case Friday when the course of the season will be determined
in a space a couple of inches on either side of the football.
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St. Mary vs. J-L football fast facts

• In the schools’ all-time series, St. Mary has won 26 times and J-L has won 13 times.

• St. Mary has won 10 of the last 11 battles with J-L

• St. Mary’s longest winning streak was seven, from 1999 through 2004

• J-L’s longest winning streak was six, from 1993 through 1998

• The teams have met only once in the postseason, with St. Mary winning 36-6 in 1999 after beating them 30-15 in the regular season finale the week before.

• Week nine was a showdown of undefeated teams in 2000, when St. Mary came into the game outscoring its opponents 307-7 and J-L came in outscoring its opponents 294-29.
The Snowbirds won a hard-fought 20-9 battle.

• St. Mary has shut out the Cardinals four times, while J-L has shut out the Snowbirds three times.

• The highest scoring  game was in 2006, when St. Mary won 47-34.
The lowest scoring game was in 1984, when J-L won 7-6.

• Since 2000, St. Mary has won 82 percent of its games (86-19). In that same stretch, J-L has won 60 percent of its games (56-38) when St. Mary came into the game outscoring its opponents 307-7 and J-L came in outscoring its opponents 294-29. The Snowbirds won a hard-fought 20-9 battle.

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Week 9 football previews
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

St. Mary Snowbirds (8-0) at Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals (7-1)

RADIO: 101. 5 FM (live)

LAST WEEK: St. Mary 58, Bellaire 14; J-L 52, Atlanta 6

LAST YEAR: St. Mary 27, J-L 20

SERIES: St. Mary leads 27-13

OUTLOOK: There is no bigger game than this one, as the Ski Valley Conference title is on the line, along with old-fashioned bragging rights. St. Mary clinched a share of the title with last week’s win against Bellaire. They’ll either have it all to itself, or they’ll share it with J-L, who can clinch a share of the title with a victory.

ABOUT J-L: The Cardinals could be as healthy as they’ve been since the beginning of the season Friday night. Sophomore running back Brian VanCoillie sat out the Atlanta game while nursing an ankle injury, but he will play. A couple of starters, Joe Yeskey and Gavin Koronka, returned from injuries to play against the Huskies.

    J-L will grind out yards with its methodical, effective Wing-T offense. The Cardinals don’t connect on a ton of big plays, but for the first time all-year, they should the ability to pass effectively last week. Quarterback Darren Dobbyn had a great game, scoring three times on the ground, while connecting on four passes. He’s a gutsy player who shows deceiving speed. Junior back Dallas VanDoren has come on strong this season and has developed into a true weapon for the Cardinals.          
   Nobody has been able to stop the fullback trap with senior Jake Graham all season long.
It’s why he’s averaging nearly nine yards per carry.

ABOUT ST. MARY:  The Snowbirds found a potential difference-maker last week, when speedy senior Clay Becker was moved to tailback and senior Justin Malczyk was moved to fullback. Becker responded with 170 yards, while Malczyk had 128 yards. This could make a team who has beneficed all season from big plays, even more explosive.

    Senior quarterback Peter Spyhalski had another three touchdown passes last week, upping his total to 12 on the season. This is the best passing game the Snowbirds have had in years.

    Defensively, St. Mary took advantage of Bellaire’s spread offense to snag five interceptions. Spyhalski, who has an area-high five on the season, had another pair, while Patrick Switalski, Mike Burzynski and Becker all had picks.
The Snowbird defensive unit as a whole has been special this season.

THE LAST WORD: The field in Johannesburg will be rocking Friday night, as the Ski Valley’s two best collide in their annual grudge match. Most games between the two schools are close and that will likely be the case again. Come early if you want a good seat — this is going to be a great one.

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Homecoming 2009

Johannesburg-Lewiston powers past Atlanta in Homecoming win
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — Just 19 miles but a world of talent and execution separated the Johannesburg-Lewiston football team from its Homecoming opponent Friday.

The Cardinals continued to manhandle rival Atlanta, defeating the Huskies for the
16th consecutive season in a 52-6 thumping.

“I didn’t think we were focused the week before the game, and I was worried we might take Atlanta for granted,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “But the kids came out focused and we weren’t flat tonight.”

The Cardinals took whatever they wanted on the ground, churning out 348 rushing yards. Many of those came in the first half, when the running clock had yet to be engaged.

“We came off the ball really well,” Davis said. “We called our of our plays at the line of scrimmage and the kids did a good job executing.” Senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn had perhaps his best game of the season, directing the offense brilliantly. He had 95 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while completing 4-of-5 passes for 76 yards.

Senior fullback Jake Graham continued his excellent season, pounding out 91 yards and a touchdown rushing, while catching a pair of passes for 60 total yards.

Juniors Dallas VanDoren and Jonathan Peterson added 80 and 61 yards, respectively, on the ground. VanDoren scored twice, while Peterson scored once.

Sophomore Brian VanCoillie, one of the team’s top rushers, did not play as he rested his injured ankle for next week’s battle against St. Mary.

For as well as the Cardinal offense did, Davis was more impressed with his defense, which held the Huskies to 112 yards of total offense.

“Our defensive kids are really playing well,” Davis said. “They have far and away exceeded any expectations we had at the beginning of the year.”

Sophomore Blake Huff led the defense with 12 tackles, while senior Travis Roberts added 10 tackles and steady senior Ben Bush added eight. Dobbyn had an interception, which he returned all the way to the four-yard line. Seniors Ryan Cass and Keith Koronka each had fumble recoveries in the victory.

Davis especially praised the play of sophomore corner back Nick Michael, as well as linebackers Bush, Graham and Dobbyn.

The Cardinals can clinch a share of the Ski Valley title Friday with a victory
against undefeated rival St. Mary.

“They want to be at home in the playoffs and so do we,” Davis said. “It’s a huge game. Everybody is going to be here. It’s really going to be something to talk about.”

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Week 8 Football Preview
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

Atlanta Huskies (1-6) at Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals (6-1)

RADIO: 101. 5 FM (Monday 7 p.m. tape delay)

LAST WEEK: Hillman 34, Atlanta 18; Johannesburg-Lewiston 14, Forest Area 8

LAST YEAR: J-L 31, Atlanta 28

SERIES: J-L leads 24-13-1

OUTLOOK: The Wing-T offense won’t be dead in Johannesburg Friday, as both the Cardinals and Huskies swear by it. That means there will be lots of running, little tackling and a quick-moving clock.

ABOUT ATLANTA: As far as 1-6 teams go, the Huskies have scored a lot of points. They scored 22 points in losses to Mio and Arenac Eastern and scored 18 last week against Hillman. Moving the football clearly isn’t an issue for Atlanta. Leading the way is quarterback Nick Gross, who had 129 yards last week and back Justin Klein, who had 125 yards.

    Defense has been Atlanta’s crutch this year, as the Huskies have surrendered nearly 30 points a game. And that doesn’t bode well, considering they have traditionally struggled to stop the Johannesburg-Lewiston rushing attack.

    Overall, the Huskies are a very young team, with many freshmen and sophomores seeing extended playing time.

    “We need our freshmen and sophomores to become juniors and seniors,” said second-year coach Dave Schneider to the Alpena News. “We’re really young. I know I’ve used it as an excuse, but we are.”

ABOUT J-L: The Cardinals weren’t the offensive juggernaut they usually are last week against Forest Area, but the defense made up for it. The unheralded part of that unit is the interior line —a lunch-pail group that includes Keith Koronka, Travis Roberts and Ryan Cass. Sophomore Nick Michael also played a strong game, defending both the run and pass well.

    J-L is poised to have a big rushing game this week. Look for fullback Jake Graham to continue to gash defenses. The hope is that tailback Brian VanCoillie returns from an ankle injury. If not, junior Dallas VanDoren is more than able to step in.

THE LAST WORD: Avoiding the distraction of Homecoming is always a concern, but look for the Cardinals to return to their offensive power. These two similar teams will be fun to watch, but J-L should continue to hold the upper hand.

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Cardinals survive trip to Forest Area
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

FIFE LAKE — In a game that lacked any sort of an offensive flow because of an abundance of penalties, the Johannesburg-Lewiston football team escaped Forest Area Friday with a 14-8 victory.

With the win, the Cardinals (6-1) clinched a spot in the playoffs and guaranteed that the regular season finale Oct. 23 against St. Mary would be for a piece of the Ski Valley Conference title.

“It wasn’t a pretty victory, but they all count the same no matter what the score is,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “There was no flow to the game. We usually don’t get that many penalties, but we had a handful of 15-20 yard plays called back. That’s a tough place to play at.”

It looked as if it would be vintage J-L early in the game when the Cardinals marched down field and scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper by Darren Dobbyn on the game’s first drive. Gavin Koronka then scored the two-point conversion to make the score 8-0. After stopping the Warriors (3-4) on their first possession, J-L appeared poised for another drive, before penalties got in the way.

That’s the way it went for the rest of the half, as J-L took an 8-0 lead into the locker room.
The Cardinals added a breathing-room score midway through the third quarter when Dallas VanDoren scampered in from 12 yards out.

Forest Area completed its only substantial drive of the night early in the third quarter, when Roger Steile hit Wolfgang Carver on a 5-yard pass. Victor Woodhams’ conversion tightened the J-L lead to 14-8.

In the end, the Cardinal Crush defense stood tall, as it has done for much of the season. Overall, J-L allowed just 117 yards of total offense. Sophomore Nick Michael was a standout for the Cardinals, recording eight tackles and breaking up a couple of passes. Senior standout Ben Bush led the way with 10 tackles, while senior Jake Graham added eight. Dobbyn added seven tackles, three of which were for loss. Interior linemen Ryan Cass, Travis Roberts and Keith Koronka were also credited with a strong performance.

“Our defense played very well,” Davis said.

Davis wasn’t as happy with his offense, which uncharacteristically struggled to sustain drives.

Still, the Cardinals pounded out 259 yards on the ground.

Graham had another big game for J-L with 101 yards, continuing to prove why he leads the area in rushing yards (563) and rushing average (9.1). Dobbyn added 61 yards on the ground, while VanDoren had 38 yards. Gavin Koronka and sophomore Brian VanCoillie both saw limited time in the backfield because of injury.

Dobbyn completed 3-of-8 passes for 30 yards. All three passes were to Graham.

The Cardinals take a break from the Ski Valley slate Friday when they host Atlanta in their Homecoming game. The Huskies (1-6) run a familiar Wing-T offense.

“You’ll see a mirror image of us,” Davis said. “They haven’t won a lot of games, but they sure have scored a lot of points. They run the ball well against us last year, but we also haven’t had any trouble running against them.”

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J-L running game blasts Onaway
Jeremy Speer Sports Editor Gaylord Herald Times

ONAWAY — The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team knows it controls its own destiny for at least a share of the Ski Valley Conference title.

The Cardinals took another step toward deciding that in a week nine showdown with St. Mary Friday, with a convincing 56-16 win against Onaway.

“Besides two long plays, we played very well,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “We don’t want to take anything for granted, but we know we’ll have a chance to tie for it.”

J-L improved to 5-1 overall and in the SVC with the victory and has just one conference game — this Friday at Forest Area — before the all-important showdown with the Snowbirds.

“Forest Area is never an easy place to play at,” Davis said. “We need to go down there and take care of business.” That’s exactly what the Cardinals did against Onaway, as J-L racked up 445 yards of total offense. While the team’s skill players have put up gaudy numbers all season, a lot of that can be attributed to J-L’s outstanding offensive line. Davis said he was very proud of the unit that includes Ben Bush, Gavin Koronka, Ryan Cass, Sean Aisthorpe and Blake Huff, as well as tight ends Nick Michael and Ricky McLean. “They’ve played very well and opened some big holes,” Davis said.

Despite not scoring on their first possession, J-L wasted little time scoring on its second, when sophomore Brian VanCoillie scored on a 75-yard run.

Less than 20 seconds later, senior Travis Roberts picked up a fumble
and returned in another six yards for the score.

On the ensuing kickoff, Onaway’s Jan O’Bradovich scored from 80 yards out, but J-L would score the next five touchdowns of the game to push the score to 48-8.

Senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn scored two of those on runs of six and 10 yards and added an 11-yard scoring pass to McLean. VanCoillie scored again on a four-yard run, while junior Dallas VanDoren scooted in from 32 yards out.

After Onaway’s Chae Whitsitt scored on a 64-yard run, J-L’s VanDoren closed the scoring on a 17-yard scamper.

For as happy he was with the efficiency of his offense, Davis said he was upset about the team’s inability to make good on two-point conversions. A strong point earlier in the year, the Cardinals were just 4-of-8, and missed their first three.

VanCoillie led the way with 135 yards on the ground, while senior Jake Graham added 101 yards. Dobbyn chipped in 78 rushing yards, while VanDoren had 69 yards and junior Jonathan Peterson had 45 yards. Dobbyn completed 2-of-4 passes for 36 yards.

The consistent Bush again led the defense with 11 tackles, while Huff added 10. Roberts and VanDoren each had fumble recoveries, while Michael had an interception.

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Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals (5-1) at Forest Area Warriors (3-3)
Jeremy Speer Sports Editor Gaylord Herald Times

RADIO: 101. 5 FM (Monday 7 p.m. tape delay)

LAST WEEK: Forest Area 22, Pellston 0; J-L 56, Onaway 16

LAST YEAR: Forest Area 30, J-L 22

SERIES: J-L leads 4-1

OUTLOOK: Johannesburg-Lewiston has sights on a Ski Valley Conference championship, but must first get through what is a tough place to play in Fife Lake.

ABOUT FOREST AREA: The Warriors have done a nice job of beating the teams they’re supposed to this season, but have yet to spring a win against a team with a winning record. Forest Area has churned out some solid running backs over the past couple of years and the latest is Nick Freeman, who is among the SVC’s leading rushers. Freeman and fellow rusher Tom Hall each had more than 100 yards rushing in last week’s victory against Pellston. Kevin Adams led the Forest Area defense last week with three sacks.

ABOUT J-L: The Cardinals have moved the ball at will in every game this season with the exception of the Mancelona game, and J-L’s sizeable offensive line has been a big reason why. That group includes Ben Bush, Keith Koronka, Ryan Cass, Blake Huff and Sean Aisthorpe. They’ve opened up big holes for a healthy stable of backs. Quietly, fullback Jake Graham is having a great year. He’s averaging almost 10 yards a carry, making the most of his opportunities.

THE LAST WORD: There are no easy trips to Forest Area, but J-L has been playing very well the last couple weeks and won’t lack for motivation.

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Week 6 football previews
By Jeremy Speer Sports Editor Gaylord Herald Times

Johannesburg-Lewiston Cardinals (4-1) at Onaway Cardinals (2-3)

RADIO: 101. 5 FM (Monday 7 p.m. tape delay)

LAST WEEK: Forest Area 30, Onaway 16; J-L 39, Bellaire 0

LAST YEAR: J-L 40, Onaway 12

SERIES: J-L leads 8-6

OUTLOOK: Johannesburg-Lewiston looks to take a step closer toward the playoffs in the annual battle of the Cardinals. J-L played very well last week against Bellaire.

ABOUT ONAWAY: At 2-3, the Cardinals are an improved team from last season. Onaway has still struggled against good teams, however. The Cardinals do have a pair of very good skill position players in back Jan O’Bradovich and quarterback Cory Grossman. O’Bradovich is definitely one of the Ski Valley’s best running backs.

ABOUT J-L: The Cardinals bounced back from a tough game against Mancelona with the blowout of Bellaire. The J-L defensive line dominated the Eagles in the game as Blake Huff, Ryan Cass and Travis Roberts all had outstanding games. On the tackling side of things, Ben Bush and Jake Graham have formed quite a duo, combining for 121 stops in five games this year.

    Offensively, sophomore Brian VanCoillie played more than half of the game at quarterback, giving the J-L fans a glimpse into the future. He had a pair of touchdowns in the game, including a 90-yard kickoff return. Senior Darren Dobbyn continues to play solid, while backs Dallas VanDoren, Jonathan Peterson and Ricky McLean made the most of the opportunities they were given.

    The Cardinals hope injured seniors Joe Yeskey and Gavin Koronka return to action this week.

THE LAST WORD: J-L will likely keep its momentum rolling and keep its chances alive for a Ski Valley Conference title. If J-L can win the next two games, it could play St. Mary at home for a shot at the conference championship.

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Cardinals storm back in shutout
By Jeremy Speer Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team bounced back in a big way Friday, blanking Bellaire 39-0 in front of the home crowd.

The victory came on the heels of last Friday’s 22-6 loss to Mancelona, which marked the Cardinals’ only loss of the season.

“It wasn’t the same quality of opponent,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “But we played well and did what we wanted to do.”

The Cardinals (4-1) got going early, when sophomore Brian VanCoillie returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Senior Ricky McLean’s two-point conversion made it 8-0.

Steady senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn scored a pair of rushing touchdowns as J-L garnered a 22-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
VanCoillie moved from running back to quarterback in the second quarter and gained valuable experience for the future. He led the team down field on another second-quarter drive and scored on a 5-yard keeper. Junior Jonathan Peterson’s conversion made it 30-0 at halftime.

Junior Dallas VanDoren added a 35-yard touchdown run and Dobbyn tacked on the conversion to account for J-L’s final score.

“We played a well-balanced football game,” Davis said. “Bellaire came out and played hard and came out throwing and we did a much-better job of defending the pass and our line blocked a lot better.”

VanCoillie led the Cardinals with 89 yards on the ground, while rugged senior Jake Graham piled up 63 rushing yards. Peterson and McLean both saw extended time at running back and played well.

Dobbyn completed his only pass of the night — a 25-yard strike to McLean.

Davis said linemen Blake Huff, Travis Roberts and Ryan Cass played strong games on both sides of the ball.

Senior linebacker Ben Bush continued to rack up the tackles with 13, while Graham added 12 and Roberts 10. Huff and Cass each had sacks, while Cass and senior Keith Koronka had fumble recoveries.

J-L held Bellaire (0-5) to 93 yards of total offense.

Davis said he hopes to get a couple of key players felled with knee injuries — seniors Gavin Koronka and Joe Yeskey — back for this week’s game at Onaway (2-3).

Onaway is led by Jan O’Bradovich, one of the league’s most talented backs and quarterback Cory Grossman. The Cardinals are coming off a 30-16 loss to Forest Area last week.

“It’s nice because we’re finally starting to get healthy,” Davis said. “Onaway is an improved team.”

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Football Preview: Week 5 ~ Gaylord Herald Times
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor

Bellaire (0-4) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (3-1)

RADIO: 101. 5 FM (Monday 7 p.m. tape delay)

LAST YEAR: J-L 37, Bellaire 0

LAST WEEK: Bellaire lost to Mio (forfeit); J-L 22, Mancelona 6

SERIES: J-L leads 15-4

OUTLOOK: Bellaire couldn’t field enough players last week to play against Mio, and thus the game was forfeited. J-L coach Fred Davis is hoping it is still on this week as he said the Cardinals need to improve.

ABOUT BELLAIRE: The talented and successful teams of Bellaire’s recent past are a distant memory at this point. This Eagles program has been decimated over the past few seasons and the team is struggling to find enough players to field a team.

    When they are on the field, Bellaire bases its offense out of the veer, which means a lot of running.

    The Eagles’ best game this season came against Forest Area, where they scored three touchdowns on big plays. James Sheneman, Zellie Dow, Jeff Carpenter and Christian Ordway all got in the act. Defensively, Steve Apsel is Bellaire’s top tackler.

ABOUT J-L: The Cardinals couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities against Mancelona and thus they dropped their first game of the season.

    The team needs to get its passing game going. Quarterback Darren Dobbyn had some nice throws dropped on Friday night. Running-wise, the Cardinals are in good hands. Dobbyn, Jake Graham and Brian VanCoillie all have more than 250 yards on the ground this season.

    Ben Bush continues to rack up tackles at an incredible pace. He leads the area with 55 stops in four games.

THE LAST WORD: J-L hopes it can line up and play some football Friday. If it does, the Cardinals will not concentrate on the score, but rather the progress they are making.

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Photo Courtesy of Gaylord Herald Times

Ironmen spoil J-L perfection
By Jim Ryan • Sports Assistant - Gaylord Herald Times

The opportunities were there for both teams. But on Friday, it was Mancelona who seized them.

The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team fell to their conference rival in a 22-6 loss that marked the Cardinals’ home opener and first loss of the season.

“Football is a game of momentum and big plays,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “We just didn’t make the big plays and they did. They had a couple of good pass plays.”

The night started off slowly for the Cardinals (3-1), as none off the offensive firepower they threw at Mancelona seemed to work. An early three-and-out followed by an interception threw the Cardinals’ offense into a funk early on.

On the opposite side of the ball the Ironmen began the game strong and never looked back. Thanks to a pair of touchdown catches by Nick Grody and Michael Dalton thrown by quarterback Nick Lockman, Mancelona (2-2) led at halftime by a score of 14-0.

“I will give Mancelona credit,” Davis said. “They had their backs against the wall. They know they have to win out to pretty much do anything.”

J-L began the second half on a mission for success. Their first drive was highly successful — senior Jake Graham plowed ahead for back-to-back 35 and 15 yard runs to begin the drive. But the Cardinals couldn’t convert their ground game into points, their fourth-down passing play was knocked down in the back of the end zone on a pass intended for senior Gavin Koronka.

“We just changed a couple personnel and changed some kids around,” Davis said. “We just executed better in the second half.”

After an unsuccessful drive by both squads the Cardinals saw their first opening of the night. Following a huge hit on the Ironmen quarterback by senior defensive lineman Gavin Koronka, J-L recovered a blocked punt within 15 yards of the end zone. Two plays late0,r senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn capitalized on the advantage with a 14-yard quarterback keeper to close the margin to 14-6.

However, the third quarter momentum did not carry over into the final quarter. The Ironmen controlled the play for the most part, as Dalton scored his second touchdown of the night on a 16-yard rushing play down the far sideline about halfway through the quarter to cushion Mancelona’s lead.

In a last-ditch efforts to even the game the Cardinals turned to the air, but the luck was not on their side. Ironmen Dustin Allen and Taylor Borst both picked off Dobbyn passing attempts in the final minutes to seal the deal for Mancelona.

“We are not really a throwing football team and they put us out of our element and made us throw the football,” Davis said. “It is a part of our game that we need to get better at.”

Graham led the Cardinals with 93 yards rushing, while Dobbyn added 43 yards. The Cardinals were held to a season-low 164 yards on the ground.

Ben Bush led the defense with 17 total tackles, while Graham added 15 tackles. Dobbyn had 11, while Dallas VanDoren chipped in 10. Blake Huff had eight tackles, two tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries, while Keith Koronka also had a fumble recovery.

Lockman had a great game for Mancelona, completing 15-of-24 passes for 263 yards. Dalton was the leading rusher with 49 yards, while Lockman added 38 yards.

J-L is set to face off against Bellaire this coming Friday. Bellaire forfeited their last game and is said to have only eleven eligible players. Davis said Monday that at this point, the game is still on.

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Week 4 Football Previews
By Jeremy Speer - Sports Editor - Gaylord Herald Times

SERIES: J-L leads 11-6

OUTLOOK: This is a game that will have Ski Valley Conference title implications. After the first three weeks it appears that four teams have a shot at the title: J-L, St. Mary, Mancelona and Central Lake, with J-L and St. Mary currently having the upper hand. Mancelona needs this win bad, but the Cardinals would love to use it to make a statement in their home opener.

ABOUT MANCELONA: The Ironmen are much better than their 1-2 record might indicate.
They lost in overtime to a good Elk Rapids team in week one and controlled the line of scrimmage against St. Mary, but gave up too many big plays in a loss last week.

    The team features hard running out of their double wing set. Fullback Taylor Borst is a load to bring down and had a 100-yard day against St. Mary. Quarterback Nick Lockman has shown the ability to pass and does a nice job running the offense. Backs Michael Dalton and Andy Lee
will also see plenty of carries.

ABOUT J-L: The Cardinals gave up their first points of the season in week three, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a feared unit. Blake Huff and Gavin Koronka have provided pressure in the pass rush, while linebackers Ben Bush and Jake Graham have cleaned up the running game with solid tackling. Offensively, this team doesn’t have a star, but rather a number of players who can hurt you. After fumbling a lot in the bad weather in Central Lake in the opener, J-L has turned the
ball over just once in the last two games.

These teams like to grind it out and control the clock.
Whoever turns the ball over less will likely win.

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J-L ranked No. 3, St. Mary No. 7 in Associated Press football poll
Gaylord Herald Times

It didn’t take Johannesburg-Lewiston long to get back to being considered among Northern Michigan’s elite football teams.

The Cardinals, who have missed the state playoffs a rare two seasons in a row, are back in the spotlight with an impressive 3-0 start. And they are highly thought of in the recent Associated Press Division 8 football poll, where they are ranked No. 3.

Fellow Otsego County powerhouse St. Mary is also 3-0, and the Snowbirds are ranked No. 7 in the poll.

Detroit Free Press prep editor Mick McCabe also puts out a weekly ranking and heading into week three, he has St. Mary at No. 8 and J-L at No. 10.

J-L has a huge game this Friday when it hosts a very talented Mancelona squad. The Snowbirds are on the road at Forest Area.

Here is the rest of the Associated Press poll:

1. Climax-Scotts (45 votes)

2. Lake Linden-Hubbell (31)

3. Johannesburg-Lewiston (30)

4. Manistee Catholic Central (24)

4. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (24)

6. Muskegon Catholic Central (20)

7. St. Mary (19)

8. Cedarville (18)

9. Fulton-Middleton (16)

9. Iron Mountain North Dickinson (16)

Others Receiving Votes: Crystal Falls Forest Park (13), Beal City (6), Ontonagon (6), Ashley (3), Frankfort (3), Deckerville (1).
Here is the rest of the Free Press poll:

1. Muskegon Catholic Central

2. Climax-Scotts

3. Crystal Falls Forest Park

4. Lake Linden-Hubbell

5. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes

6. Fulton-Middleton

7. Manistee Catholic Central

8. St. Mary

9. Iron Mountain North Dickinson

10. Johannesburg-Lewiston

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J-L wins 3rd straight; has big game Friday
Gaylord Herald Times ~ Jeremy Speer Sports Editor

JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team is heading home for its first big test of the season.

After winning their first three games on the road, the Cardinals host Mancelona Friday night in a game that could go a long way toward determining the Ski Valley Conference champion.

“Mancelona is a similar type of team to us — they’re going to drive it down our throat,” said J-L coach Fred Davis We’ve have control of the line of scrimmage in our first three games, but this will be a chance to see how good our line really is. If we play well and live up to our expectations, we’ll do fine.”

J-L (3-0) comes into the game riding high after a  38-22 victory against Inland Lakes Friday. In that game, the Bulldogs scored first on a 76-yard pass from Ben Connelly to Garrett Gahn just 18 seconds into the game. Those points were the first scored on the Cardinals’ defense all season.

From that point, the Cardinals dominated the game, scoring four-straight first-half touchdowns to take a 32-8 lead into the locker room.

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A look ahead....

Johannesburg-Lewiston 2-0 at Inland Lakes 1-1

RADIO: 101. 5 FM (Monday 7 p.m. tape delay)

LAST YEAR: J-L 26, Inland Lakes 6

LAST WEEK: St. Mary 47, Inland Lakes 16; J-L 45, Pellston 0

SERIES: J-L leads 11-9

OUTLOOK: The Johannesburg-Lewiston road warriors will play their third-straight game away from home. Inland Lakes is looking for a bounce back after a tough game against St. Mary, but it will be attempting it against the Ski Valley’s stingiest defense.


There was a lot of excitement about this team after the Bulldogs blew out Forest Area in week one. That has been tempered a bit after St. Mary picked them apart last week. Still, Inland Lakes is a dangerous team. Running back Justin Flowers struggled to get on track against the Snowbirds, but he might be the fastest player in the league. Quarterback Doug Elliott has hooked up with a couple of dangerous targets in Garrett Gahn and Trevor Hanel the past couple weeks. The Inland Lakes defense has proven to be susceptible to big plays.

ABOUT J-L: Two games in and the Cardinals have still yet to give up an 100-yard game on defense. J-L hasn’t allowed a point this season, shutting out Central Lake and Pellston. Senior Ben Bush had an eye-popping 19 tackles last week against Pellston. He’s the leader of a group that has a lot of good football players. On offense, the name of the game for J-L is balanced. Three players have between 130-140 yards rushing on the season — Brian VanCoillie, Jake Graham and Darren Dobbyn. There are legitimately five or six players who could score at any time.

It’s tough to win three straight games on the road, but the Cardinals
have already proven they are for real this season.

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Cardinal defense relentless in shutout
Gaylord Herald Times ~ Jeremy Speer ~ Sports Editor 9/8/09

PELLSTON — Two games into the season, and the Johannesburg-Lewiston defense has yet to allow a point. The Cardinals again held their opponents to under 100 yards and only allowed them into their territory once in a dominating 45-0 victory against Pellston Friday.

“Our defense has played really well,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “We dominated the line of scrimmage and it’s nice because we haven’t had to do a lot of things. We’re beating people with our base defense.”

The Cardinals dominated the game on both lines, as their talented offensive line helped grind out 369 rushing yards. The group of center Sean Aisthorpe, guards Ben Bush and Blake Huff, tackles Keith Koronka and Ryan Cass and tight ends Gavin Koronka, Nick Michael and Ricky McLean, opened holes all night long.
“It was a lot better than the first week because we didn’t put the ball on the ground,” Davis said. “Everyone got to play and we had a lot of different players get to carry the ball.”

J-L will look to win its third-consecutive road game Friday when it plays at an Inland Lakes team still smarting from a disappointing performance against St. Mary last week.

“Their coaches were disappointed with how they played,” Davis said. “They always seem to struggle against them. In the past, they’ve struggled against them and next next week, they’ve looked tremendous. They have a lot of speed.”

Key players for the Bulldogs

include speedy running back Justin Flowers and shifty quarterback Doug Elliott. “I think they’ll try to throw the ball on us,” Davis said. “We’ll have the quarterback running for his life if they try it too much.”

Leading the Cardinal defense against Pellston was Bush, who had an impressive 19 tackles, including two for loss. Huff added two tackles for loss, while Brian VanCoillie and Jake Graham had one apiece. Huff and Graham each added fumble recoveries.

Offensively, Graham led a balanced attack with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown. VanCoillie added 82 yards and a touchdown, while Dallas VanDoren had 64 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Darren Dobbyn added 63 yards, while Joe Yeskey and Jonathan Peterson both added rushing scores. The Cardinals were up 32-0 at halftime, as they made good on all four two-point conversion attempts. Dobbyn accounted for three of those, while Gavin Koronka had the other.

Dobbyn was 2-of-3 passing for 19 yards. Pellston managed just 60 yards of total offense on the game. Chris Jolette led the way with 27 yards on the ground.

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J-L shuts out defending league champion Trojans
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor - Gaylord Herald Times

CENTRAL LAKE — A changing of the guard in the Ski Valley Conference?

The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team made an early-season statement Friday, shutting out two-time defending SVC champion Central Lake 10-0 on the road.

Both teams put the ball on the ground frequently amid a game-long downpour, but the Cardinals’ defense and dominance on the line were the biggest factors for the win.

“This is a good win for us — it shows we can play football,” said J-L coach Fred Davis. “We really shut them down on defense and we dominated them on the line of scrimmage.”

The Trojans are still smarting from the loss of Jared Danbert, who would have been the conference’s best returning player. Danbert suffered an off-season hip injury and will miss the season.

Still, Davis knew his Cardinals beat a good team who has dominated them the past couple seasons.

“They still are a good team,” he said. “But we had chances to score 25 or 30 points, but we just couldn’t go a possession without putting the ball on the ground. We couldn’t do any of our spread stuff because the weather was so miserable.”

J-L broke a scoreless tie early in the second quarter when sophomore Brian VanCoillie scored on a 13-yard run. Senior quarterback Darren Dobbyn ran in the two-point conversion.

Sophomore Blake Huff, who raised havoc all night on the defense, recorded a second-quarter safety to make it 10-0. Huff finished the game with a team-high 10 tackles, including five tackles for loss and three sacks.

Central Lake was held to just 82 yards of total offense. Jake Graham added nine stops for J-L, while Ben Bush had eight and Dobbyn had seven. Graham and Bush both added fumble recoveries.

The J-L rushing game was very balanced. Dobbyn led the way with 67 yards, while VanCoillie added 57 yards, Joe Yeskey had 44 yards and Graham had 40 yards.

The Cardinals return to the road Friday at Pellston, who scored late to beat Bellaire 16-14 in the opener. “They’re small on numbers but they’re a much-improved team from last year,” Davis said. “We’re a lot bigger team and if we can control the line of scrimmage, we’ll be just fine.”

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Football Preview: Strong J-L team looks to get back into playoffs
By Jeremy Speer • Sports Editor ~ Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — Johannesburg-Lewiston’s brief, two-year hiatus from the playoffs may be close to ending. This year’s Cardinals squad promises to be a good one, and one that continued to improve throughout last season’s 5-4 campaign.

“I think they got some confidence from last year,” said longtime J-L coach Fred Davis. “The kids seem to be playing with a chip on their shoulder, which automatically gives you an advantage.”

Where many of last year’s top teams in the Ski Valley Conference are dealing with graduation losses or injuries to their key players, J-L returns experience all over the field.

Nowhere is that more evident than on the offensive line, where rock-solid center Steve Young is the team’s only loss. Returning starters on the line include seniors Ben Bush (6-0, 193), Keith Koronka (6-2, 265), Travis Roberts (5-9, 207) and Jake Graham (5-8, 188). Senior tight end Gavin Koronka (6-3, 191) also returns, as does promising sophomore Blake Huff (5-11, 194), who started the final game of the season. Sizeable sophomore Sean Aisthorpe (6-7, 268) has been moved up to start at center.

“Our line should be real good,” Davis said. “We won’t lack size there. They say if you can open the hole, anybody can run through. We just need to take care of the small things and winning will happen.”

The team also brings back plenty of experience at the skill positions. Athletic senior Darren Dobbyn slides into the quarterback role, where he will be joined by three-year varsity senior back Joe Yeskey. Sophomore Brian VanCoillie will start at halfback, while senior Ricky McLean also returns to the mix.

Many of the same faces on offense will be defensive standouts. Bush returns as the heart and soul of the defense after leading the area in tackles last season. He’ll play a linebacker, along with Dobbyn and Graham. Yeskey and VanCoillie will be the team’s safeties, while the line should be strong. In addition to the previously-mentioned players, senior tackle Ryan Cass also returns.

Davis said he’s been pleased with his team’s fall camp and that J-L’s biggest hurdle will be getting over a handful of pesky injuries.

The team opens the season Friday at Central Lake, who has dominated the conference the past couple seasons. The Trojans were set to return the league’s best player in Jared Danbert, but he suffered an off season injury and likely will not play.

That could open up the league race, with an experienced Mancelona team likely now the team to beat.

“If we stay healthy, we’ll be O.K.,” Davis said. “I think that the best teams in the league are us and Mancelona.”

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J-L Sporting Event Ticket Prices

Adults ~ $4.00
Students ~ $3.00
Family ~$10.00

Family Season Pass $150.00
(Includes all Home Games ~ Excludes Tournaments)

 Updated 11/28/09
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