As a sophomore, I played junior varsity football. We had a large squad with 36 players, but 24 of them were freshmen. We also lacked experience and size in both height and weight.
At that age we were going through growth spurts which meant we were skinny and somewhat uncoordinated. We were still growing into our bodies.
Additionally, four of our best players had been promoted to the varsity squad. The previous year, the squad was dominated by sophomores so very few of this year’s sophomores saw any extensive action.
Frank Bacholzky (fifth grade teacher)–in his first coaching assignment–was our coach. There weren’t any assistant coaches. Mr. Bacholzky had grown up on his grandfather’s (John Bachholzky) farm south of Allenton. Almost all of the children from the surrounding farms went to Armada to school. Mr. Bacholzky graduated from Almont in the Class of 1945. As a result, when he got to high school and beyond, he had a strong dislike of loss to Armada.
When he was a senior in 1944-1945, he played football, basketball and baseball. The football team won the Southern Thumb Association title with a record of seven wins, no losses and a tie with Imlay City
(a non-league foe). The basketball team advanced all the way to the semifinals of the State tournament before losing. They were league champions with an unbeaten record. Both of these teams have been inducted into the Almont Community Schools Sports Hall of Fame. The baseball team was undefeated league champions and had a record of 10 wins and two losses. This team should also be in the Sports Hall of Fame.
As we approached the game with Armada’s JV’s, Mr. Bacholzky worked us hard trying to get us ready for the game. Armada came into the game with a much more experienced and bigger team. We had a losing record and they had a winning record. Fortunately, the game was played at home.
The first half we couldn’t have played any worse. The offense couldn’t block, catch passes, or gain anything on the ground. Defense couldn’t tackle or stop them from marching down the field and scoring. At halftime, the score was Armada 20 and Almont 0.
At half time we went to the locker room, which was located in the basement below the gym. Mr. Bacholzky couldn’t tell us what we were doing wrong because it was everything. His halftime speech was more of a pep talk—try harder, concentrate, take one play at a time, if they can score 20 points in a half, so can we. The longer he talked, the more emotional he became. His voice cracked, his lower lip quivered, and his dislike of losing to Armada came through. I had known Mr. Bacholzky since I was a year old and since I had no nearby relatives, he and his wife “Boots” were like an aunt and uncle to me.
In the third quarter, the defense stopped the Armada offense and they didn’t score any more points. Our offense became more effective and early in the third quarter, quarterback John Bacholzky (one of Mr. Bacholzky’s twin sons) broke through the Armada line and scored. However, we failed at making the extra point. Armada 20, Almont 6. The rest of the third quarter was a defensive battle with neither team scoring.
In the early part of the fourth quarter, the offensive line opened a hole for halfback, Frank Bacholzky (the other twin) and he scored but we again failed on the extra point. Armada 20, Almont 12.
Mr. Bacholzky pulled us together at the sideline before the kickoff and ordered an onside kick. We had practiced this but had never done it in a game. We kicked off but the kick was longer than it should have been, but it landed in an opening in Armada’s return team formation. Fred Schulte rushed down and fell on the ball.
The offense then slowly moved the ball down the field. Finally with about two minutes left in the game, John Bacholzky scored and then ran in the extra point. Armada 20, Almont19.
Mr. Bacholzky again ordered an onside kick, but Armada had moved someone into the opening where we had recovered the previous kick. The Armada player caught the ball and returned it to their 45- yard line.
On the first or second play after the kickoff, the Armada quarterback fumbled the ball trying to hand it to their halfback and I recovered the ball at about midfield. The offense moved the ball down field to the 35-yard line but there was only about a minute left in the game. John Bacholzky called a pass play. He dropped back and heaved the ball toward the goal line. Dave Bannister (son of one of Mr. Bacholzky’ high school classmates, Morris “Buck” Bannister) caught the ball and ran into the end zone. However, we missed the extra point so the score stood Armada 20, Almont 25.
After the kickoff, Armada had the ball at about our 45-yard line with about 30 seconds to go. They ran an off-tackle play and their halfback was headed for the end zone. As their halfback ran toward the end zone, I lay on the ground thinking “What a waste of effort!” Fortunately, the referees blew the play dead because the entire right side of their offensive line was off side. Two or three more pass plays and the game was over. We had won. Mr. Bacholzky was very happy.
At the time of this game in the fall of 1965, this was the largest known comeback victory in school history. It has since been surpassed by a game in the 1990s.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or firstname.lastname@example.org or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.