Building a balanced football schedule is complicated for Mendon High School, which has won 25 St. Joseph Valley league championships, ranks second in all divisions in the state of Michigan with 74 playoff victories and has claimed 10 state titles.
Between not being able to fill all nine weeks or teams forfeiting to the Hornets, the program has played eight-game regular-season schedules 10 times since 1993. This season, without a Week 4 opponent, will make 11.
“Anybody that’s in our position is usually pretty good. We had three home games last year,” Mendon co-athletics director Glen Samson said. “Next year going into the new league (Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph, also known as the B-C-S) will be a better scenario.”
But it’s not just the Hornets that are struggling to find a ninth game. Due to Covert dropping its football program, both Mendon and Centreville are in a bind. The Bulldogs were slated to face Covert in Week 1.
Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Bronson have struggled in recent years to find six additional games on top of a three-game SJV schedule. Playing in the 10-team B-C-S next season means scheduling will mostly take care of itself.
However, it’s not as if squads around the state with open dates haven’t reached out to Mendon. Even the Hornets, with rich tradition and elite status, have to be reasonable.
“I would say anybody D6 or below we’d probably just grab it,” Samson said of possible late additions. “We had [Detroit] Country Day call us one time. Come on. Detroit Catholic Central called us and Centreville. Are you kidding me? Brother Rice called and wanted to play. Yes we have a good program, but let’s not get crazy here.”
Forced to make some long trips to ensure a full schedule in recent seasons, Mendon has had solid support from its Quarterback Club and other donors. The team trekked to Deckerville and Whittemore-Prescott — both nine-hour round trips — and Deckerville, Ohio — another five hours on the road — in 2011 alone. A journey to Wisconsin was required in 2010.
Longer trips, Mendon head coach John Schwartz said, require ditching school buses for charter buses. Expenses in such cases rise from roughly $250 to $2,000.
“We enjoy going and kicking butt on the road, but it’s expensive,” Samson said. “And you lose natural rivalries.”
“But our kids travel well,” Schwartz added. “They like getting on that charter bus and taking a trip somewhere. Those kids are all together all the way there and all the way back. It builds a lot of team unity. They enjoy that. But you wouldn’t want to do it every week.”