— PART 2 —
Coming off an undefeated championship season (7 wins, no losses, and one tie), expectations for the 1957 Almont football team were high. Losses to graduation included three All-State performers: left tackle Lee Hartway, halfback Alex Iloncaie, and end Larry Kersten. In addition All League quarterback Earl Chisa, honorable mention All-League guard Howard Betker and consistent performers Ron Little, Floyd Wells, and Marvel Yoder had graduated.
The fifteen returning lettermen were led by a quartet of honorable mention All-League performers: fullback Frank Hartway, halfback Larry Ostrander, center James Ostrander (who moved to end), and tackle/kicker Walter Griffin. The starting offensive lineup for the first game was Gary McAlvey at quarterback, Larry Ostrander at left halfback, Jim Johnson at right halfback, Frank Hartway at fullback. On the left side of the line were Gary Emery end, Walter Griffin at tackle and Dean Upleger at guard. On the right side of the line were Jim Ostrander at end, Bob Taylor at tackle and Dick Mata at guard. Leo (Neil) Pittenger manned the center position.
Also expected to see plenty of action were juniors and sophomores, Don Eschenburg, Mickey Forsyth, Elroy Betker, Bill Sawyer, Ken Taylor, Dave Bishop, Jeff Bagocius, Dick Howe and speedster Jim Massie who ran the 100 in 11 flat, along with other promising men.
The team had a potent offense that averaged 30.1 points per game. The offense was based on a ground game that covered yardage in large chucks. Fullbacks Frank Hartway and Gary Will, along with halfbacks Larry Ostrander, James Johnson, Dick Howe and Don Eschenburg produced a combination of power and speed that was almost unstoppable. Gary McAlvey took over for Earl Chisa at quarterback and the passing offense improved, creating a dual threat from the backfield. Both Gary Emery and James Ostrander were excellent at catching passes and running after the catch. They also were formidable blockers both for the running game and for each other once a pass had been caught.
The defense was again outstanding averaging only 3.25 points per game. The team only allowed a total of 26 points for the season and no team scored more than one touchdown. They shut out four teams. The pass defense was particularly good intercepting numerous passes and quickly advancing the ball back up the field. It held L’Anse Creuse, a Class B school, to 38 total yards for the game. Dryden had zero yards at halftime.
The 1957 team finished the season undefeated with a record of 8 wins and no losses. They were Southern Thumb league champions. They finished the season on a 16 game undefeated streak and a 14 game winning streak. Statistical data about the team has not been found.
Almont had the top two scorers in the county with Hartway with 73 points and Larry Ostrander with 50. Jim Ostrander was fifth with 29, and Emery, Howe and McAlvey were all tied for ninth with 18 each.
Flint Atherton 13 7
Memphis 32 6
New Haven 38 7
Imlay City 38 0
Armada 21 0
Brown City 28 0
Capac 45 6
Dryden 26 0
Totals 241 26
Almont 6-0 8-0
Brown City 4-1-1 6-1-1
Armada 4-1-1 5-2-1
Memphis 3-3 3-5
New Haven 2-4 3-5
Capac 1-5 1-7
Dryden 0-6 0-8
After the season, the team garnered many individual honors.
For the second consecutive year, Coach Jerry Laycock was selected by the County Press as the “Coach of the Year”. The team had the best record in the county, scored the most points (241 points) and allowed the fewest points (26 points). The team was ranked ninth in the state by the Detroit Times and the County Press ranked them number 1.
Named to the Southern Thumb All-conference team were senior tackle Walter Griffin, junior fullback Frank Hartway, junior guard Dean Upleger and junior end James Ostrander. Also receiving many votes was junior halfback Larry Ostrander, but he was excluded due to being dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons just before the next to the last game.
Four other players received Honorable Mention selections to the Southern Thumb All-conference team. They were senior end Gary Emery, senior quarterback Gary McAlvey, junior tackle Bob Taylor and sophomore halfback/quarterback Don Eschenburg.
Selected to the Lapeer County Press All-County First Team were senior tackle Walter Griffin, junior guard Dean Upleger, junior end Jim Ostrander, and junior fullback Frank Hartway. Selected for the Second Team were junior quarterback Don Eschenburg and senior end Gary Emery. Junior halfback Larry Ostrander would probably been selected but his dismissal from the team for disciplinary reasons prevented his selection.
Frank Hartway received a berth on the Detroit Times All-State Class C-D team. He was also acclaimed as the top all-around athlete in the Southern Thumb area. Frank was selected as a back on the First Team All-State team by the Associated Press. He gained 874 yards rushing with an average yards per carry of 8.5. He also caught three passes and completed five passes.
He also played defense as linebacker and lineman. The County Press often referred to him as Frank (Bull) Hartway.
Three Almont players were selected as Honorable Mention by the Detroit Times for their Class C-D All-State team. Selected were Dean Upleger at guard, Walter Griffin at tackle and James Ostrander at end.
Dean Upleger at 5’ 8” and 180-pounds was referred to by rival Southern Thumb coaches as the “biggest little man” in the conference. He was short, stocky and exceptionally fast and it was over his position that Frank Hartway gained most of his yardage.
Walt Griffin was co-captain of the Raiders. At 170-pounds he played tackle and Coach Laycock noted that he was the team’s best downfield blocker. According to Laycock, “He was always assigned to take out two men on every play. And he did!” He handled most of the extra-point kicking duties and made 11 during the season.
As an end, James Ostrander was given Honorable Mention for All-State by the Associated Press. He did all of the team’s kickoffs and put about half of his boots into the end zone. He also made four extra-points and did the team’s punting. He averaged 45 yards per punt. He averaged 20 yards per play on end-around plays. He was also known for his blocking.
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.