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Historic fields host 2012 playoff ball

October 24, 2012
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

The news this past weekend from Michigan High School Athletic Association was surprising to a lot of folks.

When the computers in East Lansing finally spit out their final numbers, the Calumet Copper Kings and L'Anse Purple Hornets had deservedly landed home playoff berths in the annual football postseason tournament.

Aggasiz Field in Calumet and Meadowbrook Field in L'Anse have served as gridirons longer than any facilities in the Copper Country.

Fields used in Ontonagon and Baraga were replaced many years ago. Houghton's Hubbell Field disappeared in the early 1980s, while Lake Linden-Hubbell's Benedict Field followed not long after that.

Condon Field in Hancock -- one of the real throwbacks to the old days -- was torn down a couple of years ago and a glittering McAfee Field took its place.

In the case of Aggasiz Field, football goes all the way back to the turn of the last century. As far as I can determine, prep football was first played there around 1905.

And even though the immortal George Gipp never played a down of football for the Copper Kings, there have been many outstanding teams and players over the years. Athletes like Fred Barry, Wayne Sickler, George Oikarinen, Mike Usitalo and Matt Helminen and many others have starred for the Blue and Grey over the decades. Aggasiz Field has been the site of those heroics, and will continue to be for the forseeable future.

Meadowbrook Field hasn't been around as long as Aggasiz, I believe it dates back to the early 1960s.

And because of its location to nearby Linden Creek, the field has sometimes sustained some severe flooding damage. A mid-summer rainstorm in 1968 washed out a good part of downtown L'Anse. The football field was entirely destroyed and the Purple Hornets had to use a hayfield near Pequaming that fall as its home gridiron. Another flood a few years back put water at the level of the goalposts. In 2007, heavy rains made Meadowbrook Field nearly unplayable in the second half of the campaign, In fact, the Hornets had to move an opening round playoff game that season to Baraga because of the muddy conditions.

A number of outstanding players have done their thing for the Purple and White over the decades. Bruce Elmblad, Bill "Hurricane" Herrala, Don Michaelson, Steve Tollefson and Jerry Cleary were just a few of those stars.

By all accounts, L'Anse will open a new field (behind the high school) by the time next season rolls around. It will be a modern field, with all the amenities. And flooding will not be a concern.

But when the Hornets host Forest Park this coming Friday evening, old Meadowbrook will, at long last, be the site of a playoff game.

And there's something reassuring about that for longtime football followers.



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