The 6 Sports Two-A-Days tour comes to an end with a look at two Jackson-area programs, perennial powerhouse Jackson Lumen Christi and an upstart Jackson Northwest squad.
The Jackson Lumen Christi Titans are the defending Division 7 State Champions this fall, a title they’re used to under 44th year head coach Herb Brogan.
After starting 0-3 last season, the Titans reeled off 11 straight victories en route to the program’s 12th state championship and 10th during Brogan’s tenure.
Lumen Christi’s 12 state championships are tied for the second-most in MHSAA history behind Farmington Hills Harrison’s 13.
Brogan now has 395 career wins, the third-most in MHSAA history and the most among active coaches.
The records and accolades the program has racked up are extremely impressive, but a new test awaits the Titans this fall: the Catholic High School League.
Lumen Christi makes the move from the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference to the Catholic League, where they’ll square off with some of the most storied high school athletic programs in the state (Dearborn Divine Child, U-D Jesuit, Detroit Loyola).
The 2022 state championship run was marked by resiliency in overcoming the slow start. Brogan hopes this year’s team learned a valuable lesson in handling adversity from last year’s seniors.
“I just think mental toughness, the fact that our kids were able to overcome adversity, which is something that every coach talks about, but it’s something that those kids really did,” said Brogan. “So I think if there’s one thing you want to look at in terms of modeling after last year, that would be it.”
“Going 0-3 in the beginning it was like, we could’ve given up, we could’ve just ended the season and been like ‘whatever,'” added senior Ryan Walicki. “But it was sticking through it. It was coming together more, bringing everything together as the season went on and building a great relationship with each other.”
Even after four decades of coaching, Brogan isn’t afraid to try new things. Last season, he started bringing in a yoga instructor for the team once a week in hopes of preventing soft tissue injuries. The team stayed relatively healthy in 2022, so Brogan has continued the practice this fall.
“It helps with our flexibility,” said Brogan. “I’m certainly not an expert in it but there’s some people that are a lot smarter than I am that are doing it, so we felt we were going to try and incorporate it into our program.”
Some of his players were a little tentative about the idea at first but have grown to see the value.
“Yeah, it’s a little weird,” said Walicki. “It’s pretty tough honestly but it’s definitely worth it.
“I thought it was going to be a one time thing and I was like, I don’t really want to do this,” said senior Britton Hampton. “But now that I see it really benefits the team, prevents a lot of injuries and is really crucial to staying healthy. So I appreciate it now.”
Meanwhile, the Jackson Northwest Mounties finished 5-4 in 2022, and while the team missed out on the playoffs, it marked the program’s first winning season since 2013.
2022 was also the first year under head coach Stafford Newsome and that taste of success has raised expectations among the team this fall.
“We do take it day-by-day, but we do also have goals for the year and our guys voted on it and the number one thing we got back… by about 92 percent was [make the] playoffs as a team,” said Newsome.
“[Last season] brought confidence into our guys,” added senior JJ Martin. “It shows what we can do. But 5-4 is not good enough so we’re just striving for better.”
The 2022 team was also able to rally community support for the program. Northwest had a combined record of 9-60 from 2014-2021, and the fan base was quick to show its support for the re-energized Mounties last fall.
“I think people outside of the program are buying in a little bit more,” said senior Carter Fairley. “They’re seeing the success and they’re seeing what we’re doing and they want to be a part of Mountie football.”
“I think people in the Northwest community really want a winning program,” said Newsome. “They really want a program that develops young men and I think we got a small taste of that last year. This [stadium] was a packed house a couple games last year and it was rocking.”
The Mounties hope the 2022 season was just the beginning of a new direction for the program, and their 2023 playoff quest begins Thursday against Tecumseh.
“The past couple years were not quite what we wanted but last year we laid the foundation and we’ve got to build on top of it now,” said Fairley.