Julie Galloway and Erica Johnson have been yelling themselves hoarse, and for good reason – their favorite football teams can make their first trips to the state high school football finals at Detroit’s Ford Field by winning games on Saturday.
“They gave us cowbells last Friday night and we used them – best comeback I’ve ever seen in person,” said Galloway, a hairstylist at Sweet Northern Cuts in Millington, whose Millington High School Cardinals came from 20 points down Friday to defeat Detroit Collegiate Central and advance to the state Division 6 semifinal game Saturday against Jackson Lumen Christi High School.
“Our game Saturday was a nail-biter and I was nervous – everybody was standing the whole time in the bleachers,” said Johnson, 33, owner of Exist clothing store in Frankenmuth, whose Frankenmuth High School Eagles upset Ithaca to face Menominee High School on Saturday in a state Division 5 semifinal game. Millington’s matchup with Jackson Lumen Christi takes place at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lansing Catholic High School. Frankenmuth’s battle against Menominee is at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Superior Dome at Northern Michigan University in Marquette.
Both schools have seen their football teams reach the state semifinals four times, but never has one of their squads reached the state finals.
“It’s gonna be a quiet town Saturday,” said Mike Derscha, 48, owner of Millington Pizza, 4736 Main St.
“But if they make Ford Field (in the Nov. 25 state final game), we’ll shut it down that day,” Derscha said.
Galloway – cowbell in tote – said she’ll ride with a “carload” of folks to the Millington game at Lansing Catholic High School, including her brother, Gunnar Isaac, and her daughter, Lindsay Roggentine.
“For the last game Lindsay brought a tambourine drum to pound on with a stick,” Galloway said.
Frankenmuth fans, likewise, plan to make plenty of racket at their 1 p.m. Saturday game in Marquette’s Superior Dome.
After all, the Eagles just toppled Ithaca, which had reached six consecutive state final games, winning five of them. Ithaca had won 95 of its last 96 games before losing to Frankenmuth.
“I was at the Ithaca game; that was lit. That was an extreme game,” said Gavin Smith, 12, a sixth-grade student at Frankenmuth’s E.F. Rittmueller Middle School whose brother, Logan Smith, is on the Frankenmuth varsity team for Saturday’s game.
“Even some of my teachers didn’t think it was possible to beat Ithaca, but I said ‘It’s happenin’,’” Gavin Smith said. “This team has a lot of courage.”
Erica Johnson, whose sons, Joseph Germain and Ronald Mandeville, are on the Frankenmuth varsity squad, plans to pack plenty of fans in her GMC Yukon Denali for the six-hour drive to Marquette. The gang includes Johnson’s husband, Alex, and her parents, Ron and Rose Germain, along with her brother, Jacob Shepherd, and his girlfriend. Rounding out the group are Vicky Brownell and Gera Bar owner Sonny Minar.
“Most kids aren’t going to go to school Friday – all the teachers have planned for it,” said Dakota Smith, 13, brother of Logan Smith and Gavin Smith.
Frankenmuth fans have organized “Spirit Sendoff Friday” at 8:15 a.m. Friday, when students will line Genesee Street from the high school toward the intersection of Main and Genesee streets. Community members are invited to extend the gauntlet of well-wishers west, from that intersection, along Genesee Street.
“They have a lot of good players, a lot of talent,” said Cameron West, who played quarterback for the Eagles in the fall of 2014, and now works for the Schaefer & Bierlein Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership in Frankenmuth.
“I played with a few of them that got moved up to varsity my senior year when they were sophomores – Jared Davis and Jack Gilmour and Grant Bronner,” said West, who plans to take Saturday off and make the drive to the Upper Peninsula with a few friends on Friday night.
“I think the town, as a whole, is very excited, and it was amazing to (beat Ithaca),” said Patti Ostermiller, manager of the Cobbler’s Bench Foot Health Center, 995 S. Main St., in Frankenmuth.
Erica Johnson plans to have her sister, Exist clothing store manager Denise Zwerican, run the business Saturday while Johnson journeys to the Superior Dome to watch her Eagles.
Larry Buckley, 64, of Tuscola County’s Arbela Township, said he and his wife have baby-sat their 2-year-old granddaughter, Maddy Wright, while Maddy’s parents, Aaron and Rachel (Buckley) Wright of Clio, have followed Frankenmuth’s team this season. Rachel Wright graduated from Frankenmuth High School and Aaron Wright works at the Frankenmuth Kroger store.
“We’d rather babysit than go to the football games,” Larry Buckley said. “It’s a lot warmer.”
Tiffany Kozma, 41, worker at McKatm’s Pub at 8507 State Road in Millington, said she’ll try to attend Millington’s semifinal game regardless of weather.
Cami Polzin, 49, employee at Millington Pizza, said she plans to travel to Lansing, too, for the state semifinal game, noting her daughters – Courtney, Heidi and Lindsey Derscha – all were cheerleaders for Millington High School in the past.
“Most of us go,” said Kozma, a former Millington High School cheerleader who recalled rooting for the Cardinal team of 1992 that included Matt Hoard, Cory Cobanovich and the late Pete Schwab.
“In this town? You have a lot of alumni that go even though their kids have been graduated for years, but the town rallies around their sports,” Kozma said. “If you don’t have a child in school, your child went to school with somebody that’s still in school. The town is like a big family in a way.”
McKatm’s Pub – about 15 feet wide and with 57 seats – is a gathering spot for Millington fans. The bar will feature special prices on cans of beer and mixed drinks on Saturday, Kozma said.
Nearby at Sweet Southern Spice, 4724 Main St. in Millington, owner Pam Quirk will offer “cupcakes on the go” in commemorative plastic containers noting the date of Saturday’s semifinal game. The treats are available Friday and Saturday, and will come in Millington school colors of red and white – featuring vanilla cake and red butter cream – and sell at a special price of $5.25 for four of them.
While Quirk offers special food for Millington fans, Jeremy Smith of Frankenmuth – father of Eagle player Logan Smith – plans to make the journey to Marquette a special trip for himself and his wife, Paula, and their five children.
The group plans to leave Friday during the day to journey to a family hunting cabin near the Upper Peninsula town of Germfask, and stay there until Monday, after viewing Saturday’s semifinal game.
“After we win, we’re gonna stay and hunt for a couple days,” Jeremy Smith said. “I took Friday off and I took Monday off. We’ll see if we can bag a win, and a deer.”
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org