By DAVID GREEN
Lenawee County’s oldest football rivalry—spanning nearly a century—has come to an end as Morenci withdraws from the annual game with Hudson.
Morenci superintendent of schools Mike McAran said the district will try for a few years to build up the football program before renewing the contract with Hudson.
McAran noted that over the past 20 years, Morenci has won only four games, with losses culminating in the past season through a 54-13 beating.
However, in 2016 and 2017 Morenci lost by only two points each year and Morenci was the winner in the two years before that.
At the Jan. 13 school board meeting, audience member Tim Bovee said that he was shocked to hear that the rivalry had ended.
“I don’t know why we dropped Hudson from the football schedule,” he said. “I heard that this morning, it absolutely shocked me. I don’t know what it’s all about, but I was disappointed.”
He said that he was baffled when he learned that Hudson would be replaced with Stockbridge, a school that’s twice the size of Morenci and well over an hour away. He spoke later about how gate receipts would drop compared to the Hudson game that always attracts a lot of fans.
“I have made the decision to drop them,” McAran answered. “We’re four and 16 over the last 20 years and we’re getting beat worse every year. We’re trying to re-build the program that’s down to very few kids.”
Stockbridge doesn’t have an outstanding record, he added, and might give Morenci players the opportunity to win a game more often than against Hudson.
“We’ve got to get kids out and get kids playing, and they have to get a taste of victory because they don’t like to get beat 54-13, and we need to turn that whole tide around.”
Winning cures everything, Bovee said, but he thinks that when players get a taste of what they want to give out, they will work harder to reach that skill level.
“In my thought process, you want to play people who are good,” he said. “I don’t know anything about Stockbridge, so I just don’t know if that is the direction [to go].”
Summerfield is the only Tri-County Conference team that played Stockbridge in the past season and the Bulldogs won the game 37-20. They later beat Morenci 28-0.
Bovee acknowledged that students have left Morenci through the Schools of Choice option—including middle school students—in order to attend schools that have better football and wrestling programs.
The choice program was introduced in Michigan in 1996 to give students the option of attending another district for academic or extracurricular reasons.
• Observer editorial
In 1929, the Morenci Observer was referring to the Hudson football team as “our supreme rival.” A year earlier, in 1928, the team had been called “our ancient rivals from Hudson.”
In 1927, the Observer stated that for the first time in seven years, Morenci lost the annual game to Hudson, 14-0.
In 1926, the school yearbook included this wrap-up of the game: “Refusing turkey for a chance at the throat of Hudson, the boys won the last game in a mud-covered field 6-0.”
Refusing turkey? That refers to game day when Morenci and Hudson tangled. Back in the 1920s, the game was played at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.
In 1925, the Boy Scout troops played a game before the high school boys. Morenci won 8-6 before Morenci posted a 13-0 win in the school game.
Morenci scored a 24-0 victory in 1924 and the Bulldogs won the county championship that year. “That there will be great teams in the future is assured,” read a yearbook story, “but it not probable that a team to compare favorably with the present aggregation will exist for a long time to come.” That team put Morenci on the map, it said, as it included wins against Defiance and Bowling Green.
1923 was a year of no football with Hudson due to a smallpox outbreak and the Hudson players were quarantined.
When did this rivalry begin? According to a long poem in the 1924 yearbook, Morenci’s football program began in 1921, and the Hudson match-up along with it. Apparently, the Morenci-Hudson confrontation was 98 years in the making, falling just short of an entire century.
We’re sorry to see it go. There have been eras when Hudson dominated and others when Morenci was on top—all right, a few more for Hudson than Morenci—and plenty of exciting games when neither team was the dominant force.
Even when Hudson was pounding the Bulldogs, we never gave up and walked away—not until this year when the long series finally came to an end.