— part 1 —
The 1956 Almont High School football team was one of the best in school history. They finished the season as co-champions of the Southern Thumb Association with a record of 7 wins, no losses and a tie–an undefeated season. The tie was with co-champion New Haven and the only blemish to their record.
They had a potent offensive attack that averaged over 30 points per game. However, it was their defense that was dominate. The defense shut out six of their eight opponents and only allowed a total of 25 points for the entire season. The four touchdowns scored against them all came through the air. They did not allow a rushing touchdown. On average, they allowed only 83.6 yards per game.
The offense lead by senior quarterback Earl Chisa averaged 30.6 points per game. The offense produced 2,451 total yards from scrimmage. Of that total, 2,056 yards were gained by Almont’s bevy of running backs. Senior halfback Alex Iloncaie gained 918 yards for an average of 8.5 yards per carry, sophomore fullback Frank Hartway gained 470 at an average of 4.9 yards per carry, and sophomore halfback Larry Ostrander gained 566 on an average of 7 yards per carry. Additional rushing yardage was gained by Earl Chisa, junior halfback James Johnson, and junior halfback Gary McAlvey.
The passing game produced 395 yards, most from the arm of Earl Chisa with most of the catches being made by Larry Kersten, Ron Little and Gary Emery.
No offense can produce these types of numbers without a strong offensive line. The offensive line consisted of senior end Larry Kersten, senior tackle Lee Hartway, senior guard Marvel Yoder, sophomore center Jim Ostrander, sophomore guard Dean Upleger, junior tackle Walt Griffin, and senior end Ron Little, with assistance from junior Gary Emery, senior Howard Betker, junior Dick Mata and others. It is these same individuals who manned the defensive line and did such an outstanding job.
Alex Iloncaie was the county scoring champion with 18 touchdowns for 108 points. Frank Hartway ranked sixth in the county with 31 points, and Larry Kersten and Larry Ostrander were tied for seventh with 30 points each.
North Branch 33 0
New Haven 19 19
Imlay City 7 6
Armada 18 0
Brown City 51 0
Capac 46 0
Dryden 38 0
Memphis 33 0
Totals 245 25
Almont 5-0-1 7-0-1
New Haven 5-0-1 6-0-1
Memphis 4-2 4-4
Dryden 3-3 5-3
Armada 2-4 2-4
Brown City 0-5-1 0-7-1
Capac 0-5-1 0-7-1
After the season, the team garnered many individual honors.
First year Coach Jerry Laycock was named “Coach of the Year” by the Lapeer County Press.
Alex Iloncaie, Lee Hartway, Larry Kersten, and Earl Chisa were picked as All Stars for the Southern Thumb League. Earning Honorable Mention honors were Frank Hartway, Larry Ostrander, Jim Ostrander, Howard Betker, and Walter Griffin.
The Lapeer County Press had Alex Iloncaie and Lee Hartway on their First Team All-County and Frank Hartway, Larry Kersten, and Howard Betker on their Second All-County Team.
Lee Hartway was named to the Detroit Times All-State First Team. He was named by the Detroit Free Press to the Second Team of their Class C All-State team. Lee made Honorable Mention on the Associated Press All-State Team.
Alex Iloncaie was named to the Detroit Times Second Team. The Pontiac Press named him one of the outstanding players of the area. He was named to the Associated Press All-State Team. He was the high scorer in Lapeer County. He received an additional honor in January, 1957 when he was given Honorable Mention on the All-America Team picked by the Woodmen of America. The selection would allow him to play in a game in Crump, TN in August, 1957, provided he met certain requirements.
Larry Kersten was named on the Honorable Mention list for the Detroit Times All State Team. He was named by the Pontiac Press as one of the best ends in the area. He was named to the Associated Press All-State Team.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or email@example.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.