“I made sure to keep my calendar open,” said the 80-year-old Everback, who resides in the Scottville area. “And since Tom called me, I’ve been so excited about this.”
Everback was the second-ever coach in the Spring Lake program history, having led the Lakers from 1964-66 after the tragic death of previous coach, Len Fase.
Despite needing an oxygen tank and admitting to battling a few health issues, Everback was joyful to be back on Spring Lake grounds.
“I’ve met so many familiar faces tonight, some that it took me awhile to remember their names,” he said. “There’s been a lot of great stories.”
Everback recalled the first time he met his Lakers’ team, and tried to come off as a no-nonsense coach.
“I think I was a little too tough on them,” he said with a laugh. “I think they were scared of me after that first meeting.”
Spring Lake’s festivities featured four decades of football and cheerleading alumni during a special halftime ceremony, and highlighted each generation’s record and notable accomplishments.
From the 2000’s, Adam Hill can claim to be on one of the most successful Spring Lake teams in program history. As a right offensive tackle on the 2000 squad that reached the Division 5 state finals at the Pontiac Silverdome, Hill said the memories from his playing days remain vivid.
“You never forget listening to the band in the hallways, wearing that jersey and coming down here on Friday nights,” Hill said at a pre-game hog roast held near the Spring Lake soccer field entrance. “For a lot of us, it was the best times of our lives.”
Hill, who is now a police officer with the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg department, said the 2000 team’s strong chemistry on and off the field played a role in its success.
“The team camaraderie was a big factor, I’d say,” he said. “Even today, I still talk with a lot of the guys on that team. I was on the phone with (quarterback) Carey Pohlman earlier today and he asked me if I was going to the anniversary.”
Several alumni traveled from across the country to the celebration, but 1988 graduate Pete DeGraff made the trip after a recent stay in China. As a world-wide sales and marketing specialist, DeGraff does business around the globe, but said he was determined not to miss the anniversary celebration.
“My dad, who is also Pete DeGraff, was the very first quarterback on the first team here,” he said. “So I grew up with Spring Lake football.”
DeGraff, who went on to play college football at Alma College, said a memory that sticks out the most during his playing career was the stunning news of losing coach Tom Grabinski to a heart attack during his sophomore year in 1986. Grabinski led the Lakers’ program to several of its most successful seasons, including his 1982 squad that went 9-0 and outscored its opponents 266-6.
“He was such an integral part of this community,” DeGraff said. “I remember watching games in the stands with my mom and wanting to grow up to play for him,” DeGraff said.
“I remember the memorial on the field for him after his death. It was such a solemn experience. It was like, ‘How does this community move forward from this?’”
In a special moment before Friday’s kickoff inside the stadium baring his name, Grabisnski’s children, son Brian and daughter Angie, presented the game ball to the officials.
The festivities conclude today, with a gathering at Terre Verde Golf Course in Nunica, beginning at 5 p.m.