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Filpus, Crawford in elite group

March 16, 2011
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette

Coaches like Julie Filpus of Houghton and Jim Crawford of Calumet belong in an elite group.

Make no mistake, you won't see their like for a long time, if ever.

In the nearly half-century I've been watching and writing about sports, only a small group of other coaches come to mind as being close to them.

The late Ed Helakoski, who guided Chassell High basketball teams to three straight Class D basketball championships and a still record 65 consecutive victories in the middle 1950s, probably stands at the top of the list among local skippers.

Helakoski's achievements were so towering that they probably will never be matched.

And you certainly have to place Lake Linden-Hubbell football coach Ron Warner and Ewen-Trout Creek boys and girls basketball skippers Tom Caudill and Nancy Osier in the same category.

Warner's career record (229-58-1) at Lake Linden was so impressive that the usually reserved Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame voted him in before he ended his career at LL-H.

All Caudill and Osier did at Ewen-TC was establish new records for wins in the U.P. in their respective sports. They were numbingly consistent year after year in setting the standard.

In their final seasons, a 12-8 record was considered a bad year.

Filpus and Crawford have put together even more amazing statistical seasons.

Filpus has assembled a juggernaut at HHS, winning 89 percent (261-32) of her games in the past 12 seaons. Her teams have won an amazing 12 straight district tournament crowns, several regional titles and a state championship a few years ago.

No one can even remember that last time Houghton lost a game to a Class D opponent - it happened in the last century (Lake Linden-Hubbell in 1999).

Crawford's record (483-219-17) at Calumet is equally stellar and his teams have brought home six state championship trophies over the past two decades.

In the process, the CHS mentor has passed such local legends as the late Don Miller of Houghton and Rick Miller of Hancock in victories. He ranks third in all-time wins among Michigan prep coaches.

In addition to winning, Filpus and Crawford have a couple of other things in common.

One, they've worked long and hard to attain the results they've achieved.

By that, I mean putting in the time at practice and the off-season. That's absolutely vital to any successful sports program.

Secondly, they're not afraid to add tough teams to their schedules.

Filpus long ago began scheduling larger schools like Marquette, Escanaba, Kingsford, etc. to get her teams ready.

And Crawford has made sure his squads get the competition they need by playing such powerhouses as Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, Novi and Brighton. This season, the Copper Kings played at the prestigious Trenton Showcase Tourney.

New coaches just starting out need look only as far as Houghton and Calumet for a formula for success.

I firmly believe that their success warrants both coaches being elected - as Warner was - to the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame before they end their coaching careers.



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