Peterson: Chip Hilton once lived in Crystal Falls

In these troubled times we find ourselves in today, there’s a tendency to look in the past as far as sports goes.

There’s no baseball to watch on television … or even on the radio. And there’s no guarantee there will even be a shortened 60-game MLB season.

Football would have been a nice second choice. But again that sport, like hockey and basketball, are all threatened by the pandemic.

So, I did the next best thing: I dusted off my old Chip Hilton books.

Written by former college basketball Hall of Fame coach Clair Bee in the 1930s, the books were centered around a prolific athlete by the name of William “Chip” Hilton.

Chip did everything well, especially in sports for Valley Falls High.

At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, he was fast and could jump to the sky. There was no sport he didn’t excel in. He was, of course, a straight A student with a cute blonde girlfriend.

Hilton’s friends, “Biggie” Cohen, “Soapy” Smith, “Taps” Browning and “Red” Schwartz, were all athletes and they complemented his many skills, which he never boasted about.

His coach was a tough, hard-nosed guy by the name of Henry “Rock’ Rockwell, who gave no quarter and never asked for one.

As I read these books in high school, it struck me that we had our own Valley Falls High in the Upper Peninsula at Crystal Falls.

If there was never a Chip Hilton at CFFP, there were plenty of athletes who filled the bill.

There were names like Flood, Santili, Lato, LaChapelle and many others who have led the Trojans to regional and state championships over the decades.

There was even a coach who could have filled the shoes of Henry Rockwell in Dick Mettlach.

Now, Mettlach was one of those coaches who didn’t spare the rod. I remember a rival coach talking about the CF coach.

“If you don’t tie up your shoelaces before you play them (Trojans) you’re going to get your a** kicked in,” the coach, who will remain unnamed, said.

Mettlach’s son, Dick, went on to have a nice coaching career at Gwinn High. His grandson, Dan, starred as a running back at Michigan Tech and is currently an assistant coach there.

I admit to being shocked when Crystal Falls dropped to 8-man football a couple of years ago because of dwindling enrollment.

But I was not at all surprised when the Trojans won a state title a year ago in the lower division.

Like Valley Falls of literary fame, there is no rebuilding at Crystal Falls.


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