It never fails to amaze me how Lake Linden-Hubbell High football teams always seem to be ready to play.
The Lakes can lose almost an entire roster of seniors ... and still be be more than competitive by the time the next season rolls around.
That's just the way it has been in Lake Linden since the late 1960s when head coach Ron Warner and assistant coach Russ Laurin combined forces to turn the Blue and Gold into a perennial state small school football power.
While most other schools in our area have struggled over the years to maintain any kind of consistency, only Calumet in the past decade or so has managed to come close to duplicating the LL-H success on the gridiron.
Under the guidance of Scott Boddy, and more recently, John Croze, the Copper Kings have become the dominant team in the WestPAC. They're now a perennial playoff team.
I strongly believe that tradition in any sport has to begin in the community itself.
You only have to look at Upper Peninsula football factories like Iron Mountain, Negaunee, Menominee and Crystal Falls to see the importance of fan support.
In Crystal Falls, that factor particularly stands out.
You only have to walk on to the field at Forest Park - and feel the atmosphere - to realize how seriously they take their football down there. The facility would do many small colleges proud and their fans are just plain rabid. And I don't use that term in a derogatory way.
I firmly believe that any visiting team is spotting the Trojans anywhere from six to eight points before the game even starts. The tradition there is that overwhelming.
Perhaps even more important is having a coach who sticks around long enough to establish a winning system.
LL-H had that in a Hall-of-Famer Warner, while CFFP had the legendary Dick Mettlach at the helm for decades.
Andy Crouch has capably taken over the reins from Warner, while Bill Santilli, who's been around a few years longer, did the same after Mettlach left.
Lack of coaching continuity can seriouly hinder a program. You only have to look at Houghton High to see that.
The Gremlins have gone through an inordinately large number of skippers since the middle 1980s, and the results show it.
I recall one former HHS grid standout telling me that he had four different coaches ... in four years.
I don't think it's necessarily a lack of talent that has kept Houghton down in football. After all, the Gremlins do well in just about all other sports.
More than anything else, it's the lack of coaching continuity.
Go to a football game in Lake Linden and you'll quickly notice the enthusiasm and the knowledge of Lakes' fans. They know the game.
And you'll also notice the large number of youngsters playing football in the end zones at halftime. That's all part of the tradition that is required to have success.