That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of positives surrounding the program.
Year-in and year-out, young men learned valuable life lessons while forming long-lasting friendships. But when it came to wins and losses, the Buccaneers suffered more L’s than W’s.
Then Mike Farley came to town, and the program’s fortunes began to change.
In 2008, Farley’s first year, the Bucs finished 4-5. But in his second season, Grand Haven went 9-2, including its first playoff berth in a decade.
The Buccaneers reached the playoffs again in 2010 and 2011, with 8-2 records both years. Despite their success, both of those seasons ended in disappointment due to opening-round playoff losses to West Ottawa and Grand Ledge.
Then, last fall, the Bucs’ run of winning seasons came to an end with a 3-6 mark.
Hopes were high coming into this current season, but things haven’t gone as planned, and Grand Haven currently sits at 1-4, with four difficult O-K Red Conference schools — including West Ottawa and Rockford — yet to come.
With the losing comes the inevitable whisperings that it’s time to make a change at the top. It’s time for a new coach, someone who can come in and shake things up, make a big splash, turn things around.
But wait: Isn’t that exactly what Farley did when he arrived in Grand Haven a few years ago?
The difference was, when Farley came to town, he was blessed with a string of very solid quarterbacks, from Dan Bosch to Brian Kiel to Adam Poel to Scott Staal. He was also blessed with a couple of classes that had enjoyed tremendous success coming up through the system.
Plus, those teams were blessed with some tremendous skill players. Wide receivers Alex Smith and Dan Cotter and running backs Dalton Stenberg and Dakota Smith have all gone on to play college football.
Nothing against the kids that the Buccaneers have wearing the Blue and Gold this year, but there aren’t many college coaches checking out this year’s crop of quarterbacks. In fact, the team’s best athlete coming into the season, Isaak Newhouse, has missed a majority of the year with an injury.
In college, if you need a quarterback, you go recruit one. Same with a hulking left tackle or a lightning-quick cornerback. In the pros, you buy one.
In high school, you don’t have that luxury. You play with the hand you’re dealt. Some classes are better than others. And when you get back-to-back classes with winning traditions and solid athletes, especially at the skill positions, you’re golden.
That’s not to say that a coach doesn’t have anything to do with wins and losses. There are enough programs out there that win every year that it’s clear a coach can make a world of difference, especially when it comes to offensive and defensive schemes, work ethic, organization, and discipline.
But to start screaming for a coach’s job the minute things go awry is a bit hasty — especially in Farley’s case, where he’s proven that, with the right kids, he can win football games.
Instead of bashing the coach and the players for their lack of productivity, support the programs from the lower levels up, because it’s clear that, in high school sports, the best formula for success is to develop the best players from a young age on up.