Happy birthday, Mr. Wilson!
Early happy birthday greetings to Ted Wilson, one of the state's all-time best football and basketball officials, who is enjoying retirement splitting time between Michigan and Florida.
Not only did he know the rules, he could interpret them, too, and understood the spirit of the rules. It isn't as easy as you think. After watching him officiate for decades, we got the feeling that if Wilson walked onto a soccer pitch he would be one of the best soccer officials, just because he understood officiating.
The surprise is that Monday Gramps will celebrate his 80th birthday. We thought he was 80 when he retired 15 years ago.
Smith turns around Eaton Rapids
Eaton Rapids coach Mike Smith is making the Son of Swami look like a genius, no small accomplishment.
In August, SOS was on Tim Staudt's radio show in Lansing. Staudt mentioned that Smith, the former Holt coach, was the new coach at Eaton Rapids, which had never made the state playoffs, had not had a winning season since 1993, was 1-8 last season, totaled 13 wins in the previous 13 seasons combined and had not won more than two games in a season since 1997.
Staudt's question was: How long will it take Smith to turn around the Eaton Rapids program?
SOS's answer: 45 minutes.
So entering the second round of the state playoffs, Eaton Rapids is playing tonight at Tecumseh.
In last week's 59-21 victory over Charlotte, a team it beat, 17-12, in Week 3, Jared McDaniel completed 12 of 25 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns.
"I knew when I first took the job that nobody could be that bad," Smith said. "I knew we had a quarterback, and we have two kids who can fly -- James Cruz and Kyle Sawyer -- and they're our wideouts and they're also our lock-down corners, so we can go man-up and have nine in the box."
This is another example that coaching matters more in high school than anywhere else. Smith says you have to have players to win, but these are the same players who were 1-8 last season.
Smith always has been a terrific coach, and it didn't hurt that his defensive coordinator is former Dream Team all-stater and Free Press top-10 sholar-athlete Mitch Zajac, who played at Western Michigan.
"Our naiveté is so great, on the bus ride home one of the players asks how many games do you have to win to win a state title," Smith said. "I told him five, and he said: 'Well, we've won one, we can win four more.'
"I'm not telling them that Muskegon's on the other side, and it really doesn't matter. We're just playing football, and it's almost like when their parents drop them off in rocket football. They show up and have fun."
District final rematches
Because the football playoff regions and districts are geographic by nature, it isn't unusual for a team to play an opponent it played in the regular season, which can be a predicament for the team that won the first game.
For instance, Wyandotte hosts Taylor Truman, a team it beat, 41-30, in Week 8. But Wyandotte trailed at halftime so it shouldn't be a problem for Wyandotte coach Ron Adams to convince his players that Truman is more than capable of beating them.
But what do you do if you are Macomb Dakota coach Mike Giannone trying to prepare your team to play archrival Chippewa Valley? In Week 8, Dakota destroyed Chippewa Valley, 52-7. Dakota led, 20-0, in the first quarter and scored on its first six possessions.
The question is what part of the game plan does Giannone change? Do you want to change anything, especially when the starters were on the bench for nearly the entire second half?
"They expect to play a full game this time, and they're ready because they played a full game against De La Salle and I thought our kids did a nice job," Giannone said. "We've had a good week of practice.
"I think l we've gotten better each and every week, and that's great because sometimes when you go into the playoffs maybe your best games have been behind you. But we've been improving."