Chassel Wins Title, Again

1956 Chassel Championship TeamBack row: Team Managers, Jack Bakkila, Phil Sauvola, Players: Kenneth Tormala, Michael Wisti, Dale Destrampe, John Pyykkonen, Robert White, Paul Makela, Coach Edward Helakoski. Front Row: Don Mattson, Terry Pokela, Alan Morin, Donald Jaakkola, Tom Peters, Alden Tormala.There are many great records set in high school sports in the Upper Peninsula, but most don’t last more than a few years. One record that may never be surpassed was set by the Chassell High School boys’ basketball team between 1956 and 1958. Over three consecutive seasons, the Panthers compiled 65 straight victories and three Class D State Basketball Championships.

This incredible streak began in 1956, under the leader­ship of head coach Ed Helakoski. Midway through the 1955-1956 season, the Panthers lost to Trout Creek. This would be the last loss for the next three years. Chassell went on to win the rest of its games, culmi­nating with a 71-68 victory over Portland St. Patrick in the State Championship (overcoming a 15-point deficit with four minutes left to play).

Chassell basketballThe winning streak continued during the 1956-57 season, as the team survived a close call against L'anse (64-63) but won the rest of its games with by an average margin of 27 points. The team stormed through the state tournament with its closest game being the State Final against Stevensville, which Chassell won 58-50.

With the winning streak at 39 games, the Panthers began the 1957-58 season gunning for the winning streak record held by nearby Mass of 59 games in a row. This was no sure thing with only one returning starter (Don Mattson) and only 30 boys to choose from in the school. Though the team would have some close calls, it broke Mass’ record with the 60th win against Marenisco in the Districts. The Pan­thers would return downstate and defeated Owosso St. Paul for their third straight state championship, 66-61.

Chassell 1957 Championship Team1957 Championship Team
Back Row: Team Manager Peter Hruska, Players: Phil Junkkari, Robert Belhumer, Kenneth Tormala, Coach Edward Helakoski, Dale Destrampe, Donald Sohlden, Robert White and Team Manager Walt Kalliainen. Front Row: John Pyykkonen, Donald Mattson, Terry Polkela, Tom Peters, Alden Tormala, Paul Makela
On November 24, 1958, Chassell’s record breaking streak ended when they lost the first game of the season to Ewen. Though it was a devastating loss for the team and community, it is a record that has lasted for more than 50 years. There have been a couple of schools that have contested Chassell’s record, but the winning streak of 65 games has yet to be bested.

Chassell 1958 Championship Team1958 State Championship Team Homecoming
Back Row: Coach Edward Helakoski, Gary Soumis, Paul Makela, Donald Mattson, Alden Tormala, Fred Haapala, James Komula, Kenneth Tormala.
Front Row: Phil Junkkari, Gary Jaakkola, David Marke, Robert Belhumer, Henry Ohtonen, Howard Tormala, Peter Hruska.
Images courtesy of the Chassell Historical Organization.

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