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L'Anse Creuse North quarterback Sean Koski will be searching for receivers Friday night in the Crusaders' annual rivalry game against L'Anse Creuse. (Macomb Daily staff photo by Ray J. Skowronek)
FOOTBALL: L'Anse Creuse and L'Anse Creuse North renew rivalry Friday
Will L'Anse Creuse running back Eilijah Richardson and his teammates be celebrating after Friday night's game against L'Anse Creuse North? (Macomb Daily staff photo by David Dalton)
Don Roda, L’Anse Creuse High School Class of 1984.
Don Roda, L’Anse Creuse varsity football coach circa 2012.
Even though the years have passed, it is tough to separate one from the other.
Roda was a senior on the Lancers’ football team that started the 1983 season 8-0. They were favored in their final regular season game against L’Anse Creuse North. A victory or a tie would’ve put them into the state playoffs, an extraordinarily difficult feat in those days.
Only the Lancers fell 28-27 to the Crusaders from L’Anse Creuse North to finish 8-1. The Crusaders, also a good team, finished the season 7-2.
Neither went to the playoffs.
The euphoric Crusaders took home the John Denny Armstrong Jug from the field that night. The Lancers left with the Thunder Pot, which for lack of a better description, is a vintage bed pan handed to the losing team.
John Denny Armstrong was the first varsity football coach at L’Anse Creuse.
“Let’s just say there were a lot of tears in the locker room that night,” recalled Roda.
Roda was not the only member of the L’Anse Creuse coaching staff on the field for the Lancers in the fall of 1983. Willy Reed, his defensive coordinator, was also on the team, as was Brian Batkins, a defensive consultant.
“A lot of people had us as the team to beat in Class B,” said Roda. “Back then, you had to be almost perfect to make it in the playoffs. It was a tremendous game and it always is. L’Anse Creuse and L’Anse Creuse North has always been a huge rivalry dating back to the early days. “
Those teams meet at L’Anse Creuse Friday night.
It will be a big game this year with both teams entering the contest with 3-2 records. Both have a legitimate chance to get into the playoffs, and both are coming off victories. Roda’s squad dispatched Utica 13-7 last week, while coach Anthony Kiner’s L’Anse Creuse North team beat Anchor Bay 28-14.
The early success of L’Anse Creuse North does not surprise Roda, even though the Crusaders are coming off two consecutive winless seasons.
“They are winning games, and I think everybody expected it this year. We knew L’Anse Creuse North had all of these kids coming up from the lower levels. They have a heckuva crop of athletes. Plus, the players have been coached up well. The kids seem excited to be playing, and the coaches have done a nice job,” said Roda.
Kiner is in his first year as the head coach at L’Anse Creuse North.
“It is definitely a rivalry,” he said. “All of the kids know one another. The schools are in the same district. It’s been a great season so far for us. We are four points away from being undefeated.”
His Crusaders have fallen to Grosse Pointe North 7-6, and Romeo 24-21.
“The whole front half of the schedule has been very tough,” continued the L’Anse Creuse North coach. “The kids have really come out and played.”
L’Anse Creuse North’s goals for the season include winning all of its home games, winning the MAC Blue Division, beating L’Anse Creuse and making it to the playoffs.
Roda, his coaching staff and the players, will do their best to make sure the Crusaders do not reach at least one of those goals Friday night.
While his own squad is above the .500 mark, Roda is still waiting for the offense to start clicking.
“I don’t think we’ve hit our stride with this group yet. I think we should be a little better than we are. We have a lot of starters back from last year, especially on offense. We just have not gelled yet.”
Roda never really left the L’Anse Creuse football field. After graduating from high school, he first worked construction while attending Macomb Community College. He returned to help his former position coach, Bob Lefkowitz, whose first year at the varsity football coach was 1984. After coaching at the junior varsity level for a season, he joined the varsity staff.
Friday night’s game means plenty for both teams. Just ask coaches Roda, Reed, Batkins and Kiner.
Last Updated: 9/24/2012 10:24:58 PM EST