(File photo) Nick Hartman of Frankenmuth hauls in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Zach Jacobs in the second quarter of this year's annual rivalry game against Millington, beating the coverage of the Cardinals' Ethan Brady (10).

The Advertiser’s top 2017 sports stories

(File photo) Nick Hartman of Frankenmuth hauls in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Zach Jacobs in the second quarter of this year’s annual rivalry game against Millington, beating the coverage of the Cardinals’ Ethan Brady (10).

Frankenmuth, Millington finish off great two-year football runs

One of the biggest stories for 2017 saw Tri-Valley Conference East Division rivals Frankenmuth and Millington as the last two Advertiser-area football teams standing after making deep playoff runs for the second consecutive season.

The Eagles, ranked first in the state in Division 5 for most of the season, went 12-1 and reached their second consecutive state semifinal game. They also won the Tri-Valley Conference East Division for the sixth consecutive season, either tying for, or winning it outright each year during that stretch.

Frankenmuth’s first and only defeat came to four-time defending Division 5 state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic, in a game in which the Eagles led 21-0 in the first half before yielding 25 unanswered points. Quarterback Zach Jacobs, who had 38 total touchdowns this year, tallied all three Eagles’ scores in the game.

The Falcons proceeded on to win their fifth consecutive state title.

Offensive lineman Evan Geyer was a first team all-state selection for the Eagles this year, while fellow Frankenmuth lineman Ben Schuler along with Jacobs and defensive back Drew Martin earned all-state honorable mention.

Millington followed up on its 2016 semifinals appearance with a trip to the Division 6 quarterfinals this year, where the seventh-ranked Cardinals were knocked off 33-26 by Traverse City St. Francis to finish at 10-2. Their lone regular-season defeat was a 28-22 win for Frankenmuth on Oct. 6.

Rewarding the Cardinals for their successful campaign were honorable mention all-state honors for quarterback Bryce Bearss, linebacker Briar Bearss, defensive back Kohlton Sherman and offensive lineman Lukas Selich.

Stimpfel, Albrecht repeat as cross country state champs

(File photo) Caro’s Yami Albrecht, shown here competing at this year’s Division 3 cross country state finals, won his second straight state title.

Caro’s Yami Albrecht and Cass City’s CarLee Stimpfel gave Tuscola County its first ever set of back-to-back cross country state champions this fall.

Albrecht was the Division 3 race winner in a time of 15:44.7, while Stimpfel was the Division 4 winner with a time of 16:07.1.

Stimpfel capped off his high school career on the highest of notes as a senior, while Albrecht, a junior, has the potential for a rare third straight state title that he’ll enter 2018 as the favorite to win.

Separated by just 17 miles of M-81, Albrecht and Stimpfel went 1-1 against each other during the regular season in what was a fitting end to the friendly geographical rivalry, at least at the high school level.

(File photo) Cass City’s CarLee Stimpfel, shown here competing at this year’s Division 4 cross country state finals, capped off his high school career by winning a second straight state championship.

Former exchange student excels at American brand of football

(Courtesy photo) The Vienna Vikings’ Alex Hertel showing some emotion as his team heads onto the field for a game.

In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that former Vassar foreign exchange student Alex Hertel made such a big splash in his lone season with the Vulcans’ varsity football team in 2015.

He went on to make an even bigger splash globally when he returned to his native Vienna, Austria, and was a key contributor to winning his first Austrian Bowl with the Dacia Vienna Vikings near the end of July, a club he debuted with at the age of 11. Hertel ascended the club’s ranks, advancing from its youth level to earn a place on its second men’s team, and reached the pinnacle of American football overseas as an 18-year old on Vienna’s top club.

The 6-foot, 1-1/2 inch, 205-pound Hertel, a running back, tallied a combined total of 120 carries and receptions for Vienna this year, good for 778 total yards, nine touchdowns and 6.5 yards per carry.

Hertel led Vassar to the playoffs before returning to Vienna, accounting for 1,645 yards of total offense with a better than 10 yards-per carry average. He finished with 15 touchdowns in 10 games and was named All-Greater Thumb Conference West Division First Team.

Some may have thought that his talent just came naturally when he made his mark on Michigan High School football, but his performance that year was actually years in the making. Hertel first discovered American football at the age of six when he began playing flag football after school in Vienna.

Vienna has won five Euro Bowl titles, tied for the most ever by one club.

CMU’s Frost among best rebounders in the country

(File photo) Central Michigan University’s Reyna Frost grabs a rebound during a game against Eastern Michigan her freshman season. The 2015 Reese graduate grabbed 11.3 rebounds per game this season, which was the sixth highest total in NCAA Division I.

Central Michigan University’s Reyna Frost, a former Reese standout, is beginning her 2017-18 season with the Chippewas the way her 2016-17 season left off.

The 6-foot junior forward is currently third in the country for NCAA Division I women’s basketball with her average of 13 rebounds per game. CMU is off to an 8-3 start, with Frost also contributing 11.9 points per game.

There are 347 Division I programs, and Frost had the sixth best total among them as a sophomore with her average of 11.3 rebounds per game.

Frost was the top rebounder in the Mid-American Conference last season, and her play in the paint helped the Chippewas to their first league title since 1985. She also was fifth on the team with a scoring average of 9.4 points per game, and was second on the team in blocks and steals on her way to earning Third Team All-MAC recognition.

Frost finished the 2016-17 campaign with 363 total rebounds, giving her 671 over the course of her first two seasons. She has stated that she wants to be CMU’s all-time leading rebounder, and is on pace to best the current record of 1,140 set by Crystal Bradford.

At Reese, Frost was a four-time all-stater and finished as the school’s all-time leader in points (1,475) and rebounds (1,110.) The Rockets won four straight Greater Thumb Conference West Division titles with her in the linup.

He’s in ‘The Show’: Mayville native umping in Major Leagues

(Courtesy photo) Umpire John Libka, a native of Tuscola County’s Fremont Township and graduate of Juniata Christian School, focuses on a pitch while the catcher for the New York Yankees and the batter for the Chicago White Sox do the same in a game last season at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. Before umpiring a Major League Baseball game, an ump receives a sleeve number – Libka’s is No. 84, shown here – identifying that person as a Major League ump.

John Libka umpired his first Major League Baseball game this year, breaking into the big leagues to call a game between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox on May 27 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.

The promotion came on the heels of Libka being chosen to umpire Major League Baseball spring training games.

Assigned No. 84 this spring as his sleeve number designating him as a Major League umpire — not full-time but on a call-up basis — Libka went on to umpire 18 major league games last season.

The 30-year old Mayville native, a graduate of Juniata Christian who currently resides in Port Huron, made the leap from minors to majors after serving as a minor-league umpire for seven years.

As an umpire in the 16-team Pacific Coast League this year, Libka traveled plenty around America — to cities such as Albuquerque, Portland, El Paso, Reno, Des Moines, Colorado Springs, and other places. The league is a triple-A level of professional baseball one step below the major leagues.

After graduating from Pensacola Christian College in 2009, Libka enrolled in early 2010 in the Wendelstedt Umpire School in Florida, and impressed instructors to receive an assignment umpiring his first professional baseball games in the Gulf Coast League for rookie professional players in the lowest level of single-A pro baseball.

In the fall of 2016, John Libka was assigned to umpire in the Arizona Fall League, which attracts many of the top prospects in minor league professional baseball.

Frankenmuth’s Stone wins shot put, discus state titles

(Courtesy photo) Frankenmuth’s Dan Stone was the 2017 TCA Male Track and Field Athlete of the Year. The senior won state championships in both shot put and discus during the Division 3 state finals, and is currently on the Michigan State University track and field team as a thrower.

Frankenmuth’s Dan Stone finished his high school track and field career in style, winning Division 3 state titles in both the shot put and discus.

In the shot put, Stone had the best performance in the entire state across all divisions, finishing with a season-best throw of 60-feet, 9.75-inches. In the discus, his throw of 171-0 was also a title-winning distance.

A year after coming in second in the shot put and fourth in the discus at the Division 3 state finals, Stone pushed himself to get better, not being satisfied with finishes most athletes would give anything for.

As a junior, Stone set a school record with a shot put throw of 57-6.5 during the state finals, which led to his second-place finish. He also ended up fourth in the discus with a distance of 156-7.

He set a personal best in the discus at 183-10 at the Bad Axe Hatchet Invitational in mid-May, which rests as the second-best throw in Michigan this year.

He set records at four different meets, including the Thumb Area Meet of Champs (59-11 in the shot put and 180-10 in the discus), the Hatchet Invite (59-5 in the shot put and his personal-best discus throw), the Clare Invitational (166-9 in the discus), and the Eagles’ own Marco Marcet Invitational (58-1.5 in the shot put, 168-8 in the discus)

Millington’s Roehl wins second Division 3 wrestling state title

(File photo) Millington senior Jared Roehl (red singlet) gets the upper hand on Lake Fenton’s Ryan Franks during the first round of the 2017 MHSAA individual wrestling state finals. Roehl won all four of his matches on his way to the Division 3 215 pound state championship.

Millington’s Jared Roehl ended his four-year standout wrestling career with a 42-0 record and 215-pound Division 3 state championship.

Roehl went 4-0 at this year’s individual finals, held at The Palace of Auburn Hills, to come away with the second individual state title of his career.

After winning by first-round pin in his first two matches, Roehl won his match in the tournament semifinals by technical fall (16-1) in the second round against Corunna’s Luke Cortez. In the finals, Roehl got on the board with a takedown with 10 seconds remaining in the first round of his bout with Richmond’s Tyler Marino. He extended the lead to 6-1 in the second period and then kept Cortez at bay in the third round.

Roehl won a 189-pound state title as a sophomore, but was the runner-up at the same weight class as a junior.

Caro, USA reach baseball state semifinals

(File photo) The Caro baseball team celebrates on the field after beating Hemlock 2-0 in a Division 3 quarterfinal game at Saginaw Valley State University. It marked the first-ever quarterfinals appearance for the Tigers, who advanced to the state semifinals before falling 3-2 to Madison Heights Bishop Foley.

Both the Caro and Unionville-Sebewaing Area baseball teams reached the state semifinals this past spring, taking markedly different paths to do so.

The Tigers and Patriots were both beaten by teams that went on to win state championships, with Caro falling 3-2 to Madison Heights Bishop Foley in Division 3, and USA falling 12-8 to Portland St. Patrick.

USA finished with a record of 30-8-1. The semifinal appearance was its first in school history.

Holding an 8-4 lead over the Shamrocks through the first four innings, the Patriots couldn’t prevent a momentum swing that saw them allow eight unanswered runs the rest of the way.

Caro began its season at 0-7, but peaked at precisely the right time to make a huge impact on the postseason landscape. The Tigers went on to a 15-22 final record.

Caro coach Victor Gomez, who took over for Game No. 8, rallied his team time after time, getting the program deeper into the history books with each win, rallying the community more with every victory.

(Courtesy photo) The Unionville-Sebewaing Area baseball team races onto the field at Mayville as coach Tyler Bader (red shirt, near left) holds up its Division 4 regional championship trophy.

Change of conference scenery on deck for Caro, North Branch

(File photo) Reese quarterback Adam Fisher is pursued by Caro’s Peyton Wyckoff (58) in this year’s season-opening nonleague football game between the schools. The meeting between the Rockets and Tigers will be an annual affair starting with the 2018-19 school year, when Caro leaves the Tri-Valley Conference East Division to join Reese as Greater Thumb West members.

Long-time Tri-Valley Conference East Division programs Caro and North Branch announced this year they’ll be leaving the conference to join new ones starting with the 2018-19 school year.

Caro made the decision to join the Greater Thumb Conference West Division, while North Branch will move on to the Blue Water Area Conference.

Losing Otisville-LakeVille from the TVC East to the Genesee Area Conference this year gave the rest of the conference a preview of what some of the turnover will look like after the Tigers and Broncos transition into their new conference homes.

The former 24-team, three-division TVC will look a whole lot different across the board next year, with the exits of Chesaning from the Central Division, and Ovid-Elsie from the West, following the 2017-18 school year. Offsetting one of the schools leaving will be the addition of Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central.

Caro schools receive expensive makeover

(File photo) Laborers work on the new Caro High School outdoor bleachers. R.C. Hendrick & Son, of Saginaw, was in charge of construction.

Among the renovations and improvements that took place leading into the current school year at Caro were new bleachers being installed both indoors and outdoors at the high school gymnasium and football field, respectively. The Stamats Field press box and outlining fence were also replaced, as well as the track surrounding the field.

The new outdoor bleacher design puts the sun at the backs of the fans in attendance, as opposed to in their face.

Before the reconstruction, the home bleachers and press box faced west. Now, they will face east, like most high school football stadium designs.

A new entrance/exit was also implemented to the south end of the stadium, while new light poles were also installed.

The funding for the project became available thanks to a millage that was passed in February of 2015. The two-mill bond proposal gave Caro Community Schools approximately $12.5 million for improvements.

Construction that also consisted of new playground equipment and fencing, new classroom floor tile and new locker installation took place at all four Caro schools — Caro High and Middle Schools, and McComb Elementary and Schall Elementary. The new lockers were put in at McComb and Schall.

The gyms at each of the Caro schools were all approved to receive new floors that have been installed, with the exception of the middle school project on track for completion in time for next school year. New lights are also being installed in the high school and middle school gymnasiums, and some of the outside wall of the Caro gym is being re-bricked.

In addition to the athletic department improvements, additional construction efforts are being made on the high school auditorium. All of the district’s major parking lots are being re-coated as well, and Shall’s parking lot is being completely redone.

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