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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Struck Strikes Out : Many hands share MMC Eagle magic

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last spring Leo Hupke, one of my favorite pals for nearly 40 years, was sitting in my office sharing information about the Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn girls softball team that he coaches.

Leo is a "retired" former Cherokee Washington High teacher, Athletic Director, football coach, baseball coach, track and field coach, and softball coach.

However, since he retired from teaching and coaching and hopped on that IPERS train for a well-deserved ride, he has continued coaching - most notably the MMC softball team and 8th grade football team.

After we finished talking Eagle softball, I told Leo that I thought MMC's football team facing its first season of the 8-player game had the talent, depth, and skill positions to run the table in the District.

I had no idea that the Eagles of first-year head coach Kyle Oswald would just keep beating everybody all season and into the State Playoffs until there was nobody left standing and the Eagles found themselves perched atop the 8-player mountain with a State Championship trophy in their talons.

As I now look back on MMC's perfect 14-0 season and piece together all the incredible achievements of the 2012 Eagles in their "perfect storm" of a year, beyond their unrivaled skills, those MMC players enjoyed an invaluable and dedicated coaching staff starting with Oswald and assistants Jerome Holmes, Steve Phillips, and volunteer assistants Al Hoefling and Kirk Letsche.

And don't be quick to dismiss Hupke and Phillips, who coached this year's players in junior high and sent them on the way better prepared to learn how to play fundamentally sound football and become the Champions they are today.

Aw, go ahead...I also see a fingerprint or two of retired and legendary MMC football coaches Ed Smith and Dave Clayberg all over the Eagle program. And I'll never forget former Eagle coach Randy Peters and what I did to his 4-wood at an MMC "Glow-Ball" Golf Tournament way back in the day.

All they did was win, Baby.

When I told Leo last spring what I thought about the vast potential of these State Champs, and being the know-it-all I sometimes think I am, I named names and even speculated what positions they would play this season.

Bemused because he knows me so well, Leo simply smiled and said "Maybe so." And then he said, "You might be right." And then he added, "You pretty much have 'em pegged."

Leo then went on to identify the strengths and weakness of each MMC starting player and a few others he thought would see considerable action, that insight all gleaned from having coached them four years ago in 8th grade when they were mere pups.

And, you know what? With today's 20-20 hindsight, he masterfully nailed every player right on the button.

"They have to execute the game plan, accept their roles, and buy in to what the coaches are telling them," said Hupke. "If they do that, they can be something special. They're all really good kids and they have the players at every position."

Well, this group obviously did that and no team in this great State of Iowa stands taller today than the State Champion Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn Eagles, everyday throughout their memorable school careers nurtured by caring parents, families, fans, teammates, and coaches.

For sure, all their coaches.

P.S. Here's a special thank you to Belinda and Jim Leavitt of Marcus, who kept me supplied with some incredible photos this magical football season. I've tried hiring them and even volunteered that I'd work for them, but no go. MMC - special team, special people.