Papa Bill’s Friday Night Report: Blue Collar on the Border

Our friends Bob and Leslie have been touting the Dowagiac High School football team and school since I’ve know them. This week we loaded up the van with my son, his fiancé, all the grandkids and one teenage friend and headed to Dowagiac. It isn’t the longest road trip of my career. I played high school ball in Traverse City when there was only one public school team there and the shortest road trip was 150 miles. Uh, that was one way! A trip to Dowagiac is a small jaunt to watch good football. And this night there was some good football. Actually a lot more good defensive than offensive football, but it was still a great game.

Dowagiac is a Blue Collar town. I mean that with sincere respect. The community’s heyday may have been years ago when there was the stove plant and several other industries there but it has hung on with modern industries and strong agriculture. The combines were lit up and churning in the soybean fields as we drove to the game from Holland. The town has hung on through the lean times. It’s history is one of first, second and third-shift families and high school football lore. Times when having your son or grandson, or nephew or distant cousin’s boy starring on the Chieftains meant extra swagger. A time when Fall’s Blue Shirt was a size bigger. Dowagiac is a big-boned town. Nor was I surprised to see this Division 5 team with a couple of large lineman. But I mean, even if the program is embellishing the number of points on these guys racks, 6-1, 285 and 6-3, 315  will still cause people to stop and gawk at the buck pole.

Nor were the Three Rivers Wildcats to stand in awe of the perennial strong Chieftains. These folks brought a 4-2 record into Historic Chris Taylor Alumni Field. I expect that Three Rivers is a lot like Dowagiac as they are separated by less than 40 miles; alike, that is, except, of course, for the extra two rivers. So, it was not surprising that these two teams played the first quarter even up … Three Rivers (WE ARE … TR) 0 Dowagiac 0. It wasn’t exciting football, three downs and punt, three downs and punt, three downs and punt. But, the first quarter featured a battle of solid defenses and ineffective offenses. Later I learned from the visiting fans that the Dowagiac QB was on the sidelines in a lower leg cast. Oooch. I am sure that accounted for some of the offensive unsteadiness.

After more three and outs, TR ( with two first downs to that point) completed a nice pass from Alex Cunningham to Johnell Stewart who then ripped the Chieftains secondary for a 60 yard score and, at 4:59 of the second quarter, the score was Wildcats 7 Chieftains 0 . You could tell that Dowagiac was not used to being behind. The local crowd was as silent as a plant meeting before a layoff. But, resilient as the community, the Dowagiac team immediately responded with a 64 yard scoring drive which finished with a nice little 11 yard sweep by Jared Hatch. Three Rivers 7 and Dowagiac 7

Halftime was a delight as the Dowagiac 7th and 8th grade bands (100 strong ) performed. As son of a high school and junior high music teacher and musician, I pay special attention to the students who don’t play on the field and who do participate in extra-curricular activities. It is worth noticing that this band program put 100 students from two classes on the field and the school has classes just over 100 each. BIG WIN Dowagiac Bands!

Second Half: As I was exiting the visitor’s stands after the game, a local, seeing the clip board and binoculars, tugged my elbow and said, “The ‘D’ in Dowagiac stands for defense” . INDEED! And again the second half bore this out as D shut out ‘TR’ the remaining two quarters. Oh, TR move the ball and accumulated some yardage for the game . But, especially after ‘D’ scored on O with a long touchdown in the third quarter and a last minute drive in the fourth ended when QB Cottingham was stripped on another stellar defensive play , was the issue decided .

I want to acknowledge our hosts for the night Bob and Leslie. All those folks from Dowagiac know who they are as Leslie taught all of their kids and grand kids. They don’t call them children here in Dowagiac… they call them kids and mean it. As I stated, when I say Blue Collar , it is with the utmost respect. I may live in a lot bigger city now, but I was born in Petoskey, another small hard-working town. I can say without impunity that the two towns were both “hard scrabble,” the people equally hard working and tough. It may well be in these challenging times that this community will continue to struggle to provide jobs, but when you sit in the stands in an unfamiliar town, you can get a sense of the spirit of that town. Like many small towns, Dowagiac has a lot of history but a real sense of destiny. I hope the mall has good supply of size L and XL shirts!

Shout Outs
1. This is a new feature on Papa Bill Friday Night Football report
2. I am not sure of the term “SHOUT OUT” because where I come from that is something you do when you go over your waders putting out the duck decoys !

Three Rivers Wildcats
You played a solid game against a good team . Good luck in the last two games and hope you join the Chieftains in the playoffs.

SHOUT OUTS Defense especially corner … great job … you didn’t let them beat you wide

Keyle Welzak good smart play – way to hit-solid athleticism – good fundamentals

Johnell Stewart – impressive TD catch and run – great coverage on the corner

Defensive line – solid play – kept them from exploiting the middle

Alex Cottingham – excellent job outside on the corner – great TD pass

Dowagiac Chieftains
SHOUT OUTS   Austin Broda: well done young man. So, you won the game and you didn’t break a leg Kudos. But, in the highly unlikely circumstance that you didn’t hear this from all your coaches, you might want to watch those late game floaters. It IS duck season but, wow, that one pass Quack! Quack! BLAM !!!

Middle school push up crew … your enthusiasm is impressive … hopefully, you’ll get more reps.

Offense: work on the snap count and every play with the new QB is HUGE!

The two players that made that hit on the third quarter kickoff. I apologize but I can’ t find my notes on your names . Anyway , GREAT HIT … WHACK EM AND STACK EM !

Bryce Dodd… heal up ! Hope you can make it back for the playoffs. I didn’t see you in previous games but your finger prints are all over this very solid team.

Tristan and Conner, I understand Edwardsburg is going to be a battle. You guys can handle it.PS: Sign at Mr. Wahoos ! The Howard Plate … western omelet with a side of PANCAKE!

Good luck Chieftains… maybe I can catch you in a playoff game 6 – 1 is very cool right now!


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