Paul Peterson: Tradition can only be earned

This past Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to cover the Ishpeming vs. Lake Linden-Hubbell football game.

The meeting of the two schools — only the second time they have ever clashed — served as a clear example of what tradition is all about.

The Hematites and Lakes battled each other right until the very end (only 6.9 seconds remained) before Ishpeming squeezed out a two-point win.

It was a game of clutch plays on both sides, but a contrast in styles.

LL-Hubbell scored on three plays longer than 80 yards, while a bigger Ishpeming squad used a grind-it-out attack for most of their points.

The game matched two of the very best football traditions in the Upper Peninsula.

If you doubt that statement, consider this: The Hematites and Lakes have combined for six state championships — four of those by Ishpeming.

That includes the first year of the playoff system in the state when Ishpeming ended Hudson’s 75-game win streak in the 1976 finals.

Under former coach Jeff Olson, the Blue and White also gained state crowns three times against powerhouse Detroit teams since 2010.

In doing that, they gained the lasting respect of every sports fan in the U.P.

The Lakes captured state titles in 1992 and 1997 under legendary coach Ron Warner, one of the best ever.

But I can think of least two other times when the Lakes could have won titles during his 29-year tenure.

One came in a state semifinal game versus Beal City in a game played in the Superior Dome.

The narrow loss to the eventual state champs was the only loss in the Dome for Warner, who posted an incredible 16-1 record there.

Andy Crouch, a quarterback under Warner, has continued the gridiron excellence in Lake Linden since taking over the reins.

But this year’s coaching job has so far been his best. Playing without his best player (son Carter) Crouch’s team spilled a strong Norway team in the opener before nearly taking down Ishpeming.

Only a strong tradition could have accomplished those feats.

Late Dollar Bay High boys basketball coach Jim Bronczyk started a strong tradition in the mid-1970s. When asked once to explain how it all started, he had a simple answer.

“The kids have to believe it can be done, and the tradition has to be in place. You can’t buy it or steal it. It has to be earned.”

Very true words.

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