Early Football

1901 Ishpeming High Football Team1901 Ishpeming High Football Team
State Champions
Image courtesy of Ishpeming Public Schools
As early as the 1890s, high schools throughout the Upper Peninsula were fielding competitive football teams. Following in the footsteps of college programs, schools saw these games as fun extracurricular activi­ties for the students, but also as ways to bring commu­nities together. From these games, however, came great community pride and longstanding rivalries. Menominee and Marinette (Wis.) have the oldest inter­state rivalry in the country, going back to 1894.

In late 1899, the University of Michigan and the Michi­gan High School Athletic Association committee de­cided to hold a state championship game each Thanks­giving weekend. The second year of the champion­ship, they invited Ishpeming High School to compete against Orchard Lake Michigan Military Academy. The Hematites won their first state championship by defeating Orchard Lake, 12-6. Ishpeming would go on to win the title the next two years as well (1901 - Ish­peming 27, Kalamazoo 21; 1902 - Ishpeming 35, Benton Harbor 12).

1908 Escanaba High Football Team1908 Escanaba High Football Team
State Champions
Image courtesy of the Delta County Historical Society
In 1903, Escanaba was selected to play in the cham­pionship game, but lost to Benton Harbor, 22-0. A year later, Escanaba got a new football coach, John Woodhams, and began the rivalry with Gladstone, whom they tied 0-0 during their regular-season game. Escanaba had a season record of 6 wins, 1 loss (to the Escanaba city team), and 1 tie. The Es­canaba high school team played Mount Pleasant in the state championship and won 16-5.

In 1905, Ishpeming would return as the state cham­pion, defeating Grand Rapids Central by a score of 17-5, but after that year the game was no longer held on a yearly basis. Escanaba High School’s 1907 foot­ball team was supposed to play Saginaw in the state championship, but the Saginaw team refused to play them either at home or in the U.P. Escanaba there­fore won the state championship by a forfeit from Saginaw, which is recorded as a 1-0 score. The next year, Escanaba was the U.P. champ again, but a game with Ann Arbor never materialized.

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