REDFORD UNION PANTHERS: Mega Blue League Champions
Unbelievable as it may sound, within two years of having a clinic and implementing the BFS Program the Panthers had shattered their losing 0-9 season and finished the season undefeated, a perfect 9-0!
By Reed Sainsbury
Published: Summer 1999
The Redford Union Panthers had a tradition of losing. No matter how hard the coaches and players worked they just couldn't seem to win. The Panthers had never made the playoffs and ended this football season with an dismal 0-9 record. Athletic Director, Jim Gibbons, decided something needed to be done to help turn around the losing tradition at his school, not only in football but all sports. He called Bigger Faster Stronger and set up a clinic. BFS Clinician Doug Ekmark came and taught Redford Union High School the BFS System. Since many athletes are involved in two or three sports, the school has adopted the unified program, so that all athletes, regardless of what sports they play, are on the same lifting, stretching, running and plyometric program. After one year of being on the BFS Program, Head Football Coach Glen Scala led his team to a 3 - 6 season; quite an improvement over last year.
In 1998, the Redford Union Panthers were going strong on the BFS Program and getting ready for the football season. Unbelievable as it may sound, within two years of having a clinic and implementing the Bigger Faster Stronger Program the Panthers had shattered their losing tradition. They no longer found themselves ranked among the bottom. This time it was the Panthers turn to be labeled Mega Blue League Champions! They finished the season undefeated at 9-0, and made the playoffs for the first time in school history.
The Redford Union Panthers ruled the Mega Blue League division with an iron fist during the 1998 fall football season. The offense was led by Senior Quarterback Matt Rigley and Junior Running Back Mike Macek as they proved to be a defense's worse nightmare. Unlike previous years, the Panther's offense swept through the season outscoring its opponents by a 326-87 margin. Rigley proved himself a noteworthy quarterback this last year when he unleashed his lethal passing tactics to throw 14 touchdowns, with a total of 932 yards. Senior Receiver Eric Carmichel, one of Rigley's faithful receivers, led the Panther's offense with 16 receptions for 262 total yards. Another great attribute to the Panther's unstoppable passing crew was Junior D.J. Brown. Showing his team and fans what his heart was made of, Brown caught many tough passes across the middle and racked up a total of 259 yards with only 13 receptions, thus giving him a 19.9 yard average! The Panther's ground attack left opponents devastated when Mike Macek carried the ball and barreled his way down field for 1389 total yards with 147 attempts, giving him a 9.4 yard average per carry. This hard-nosed runner did an outstanding job by scoring 18 touchdowns and putting 108 points on the scoreboard for the Panthers. He set a new school record for the most touchdowns in a season. In the last two years, he has scored over 40 touchdowns.
Indeed the Panther's offense was on fire this last season, but the defense was also a key part in their success. In their opening game of the season against the Livonia Churchill Chargers, the mighty Panther's defense held the Chargers to just 91 yards of total offense. A big play that helped fire up the Panthers was when defensive tackle, Rob Alderton, capitalized on a Charger's fumble in their own end zone. Alderton experienced every lineman's dream in scoring a touchdown for his team. From that moment, the Panthers kept gaining momentum as the season progressed.
When the time ticked down for the Panthers to battle the Ypsilanti Braves, a team who crushed them the previous year, the Panthers had their game faces on and were ready to take care of business the old-fashioned way. Mike Macek gave a superb effort as he went on the warpath racking up 223 yards rushing and scoring four touchdowns! The Panthers defense stood as an iron curtain and held the Braves to only 61 yards in total offense and came home satisfied avengers with a 41-6 final score, a complete turn around from last year. “That was the game we waited for all year. We knew that we owed them something for what they did to us last year,” a satisfied Mike Macek commented.
However, things didn't continue to go as smoothly as the Panthers had planned. Quarterback, Matt Rigley sustained a shoulder injury that kept him out a game. What would the undefeated Panthers do without their starting quarterback? Were their team goals going to fall apart all because of one player's injury? The Panthers rallied together as a unified family, they simply accepted the conditions that they had been dealt, made the proper adjustments, and adapted. They had come a long way and were not about to begin losing now. Coach Scala exhorted, “You have to overcome injuries and you have to capitalize on other people's mistakes.” That is exactly what the Panthers did. Coaches put running back, Mike Macek in to fill Rigley's quarterback spot. With such a big change, the Panthers played their hearts out against Dearborn Heights and came shining through once again. Macek threw some beautiful touchdown passes to D.J. Brown and Clint Stoble. Despite the adjustments the Panthers were forced to make, they came out with a spectacular victory over Dearborn Heights 28-6. Assistant Coach Pete Mazzoni reported, “Macek did a nice job of filling in as Quarterback. He is an outstanding athlete. He did what the team needed for the win, that is all that we could ask for.” Rob Alderton was the usual, wreckin' machine on defense as he recovered three fumbles.
After missing one game, Quarterback Matt Rigley was back and the team was on their way to an undefeated season. They had fought hard all year long and there was only one game left in the regular season against the Taylor Kennedy Eagles. When the kickoff whistle blew it was another exciting game for the Panthers. Adrian Beaver wanted to get in the lime light of things so in the second half kickoff, he caught the ball and returned it for an 85 yard touchdown. On defense, Clint Stroble got in on the action when he scooped up a fumble and ran it in for a 37 yard touchdown. Of course, Superman Macek had the best game of the season, scoring four touchdowns, with 249 yards rushing. “Macek did everything but carry the water and drive the bus. He is very fun to watch. He has established himself as one of the best Running Backs in the state, and I am sure that a lot of schools will be out to see him next year,” informs Coach Mazzoni.
They had done it. The Redford Union Panthers reached their goals and finished the season undefeated! Misty-eyed Matt Rigley recalls, “Finishing undefeated is something that the seniors have talked about for a long time. The effort that goes into achieving something like this is amazing. The coaches, the team and the fans have all endured so much during the past few years, I am just glad that we could give them all something to cheer about.” It is a very rewarding and worthwhile experience to work hard, overcome obstacles and be crowned winners in the end. Six Panther football players were proud recipients of All-Conference status. These include: Matt Rigley, Mike Macek, Eric Newton, Rob Alderton, Adrian Beaver and Eric Charmichel. Mike Macek was named All Metro West. Honorable Mention winners were: Doug Chimel, D.J. Brown, Clint Stroble and Jeff Stewart. “The senior leadership that we had was phenomenal, our captains set their sights on a conference championship and made sure that the team stayed focused on that goal. The kids understood what it took to win and they played as a unit, there were very few individuals,” responded Head Coach Glen Scala, when discussing the team's success. The BFS program helped unify the Panthers as a team and gave them self-confidence and a winning attitude. These simple but key ingredients were what gave the Panthers that winning edge to be labeled undefeated League Champions.
The Panthers advanced on to the state playoffs but much to their misfortune they lost a close game by seven points. A shot at the State Championship title