Pennfield is the last city school to win a state championship in football and the Panthers were perennial playoff teams in recent decades.
But who is the G.O.A.T – The Greatest Of All Time in Pennfield football history?
That’s for us to decide and for you to argue about this weekend.
Over the summer, the Enquirer asked for opinions from a panel of former players and coaches from each of the city schools to get nominations for our list of the Top 10 All-Time players for each of the football programs. Based on those comments, the Enquirer picked the 10 best football players in the history of the school and have ranked them, leading us to No. 1 – naming the Greatest Of All Time.
We have stated our case for why each of the players belongs on the list with a short bio and a general thought that is the consensus from the panel. Now that we have completed the top 10 list, it is up to the Battle Creek area to vote for their No. 1 player and to find out if we agree.
Or, scroll down to the bottom of story for our online poll
Voting for the Pennfield G.O.A.T – greatest football player of all time at the school, starts online today at http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com.
Then, each week, we will do a different city school until we have looked at the top players from each of the programs in Battle Creek.
The Top 10 All-Time Football Players at Pennfield:
No. 1: Gary Rugg – Class of 1963
By the time he left Pennfield, he had the best scoring season ever in high school football in the state of Michigan. Rugg set the then-record for points in a single season in the state. Rugg was an All-State halfback who had 28 touchdowns his senior year, including seven in the final game of the regular season, adding five extra points. He was also a key defensive lineman for Pennfield as he helped the Panthers to 15-3 record during his junior and senior seasons. With scholarship offers from Michigan and Michigan State, Rugg signed with the Spartans and eventually started on the offensive line during an era when MSU was one of the top college football programs in the country.
What the panel said: ‘Was a force on both sides of the ball and often had to be double-teamed in the trenches.’
No. 2: Jim Martens – Class of 1993
The key player on Pennfield’s only state championship football team, helping the Panthers to a Class CC state crown in 1991 after a 14-8 win over Negaunee in the Pontiac Silverdome as he earned All-State honors. Martens led Pennfield to 27 straight wins, including the Panthers’ undefeated 13-0 year in 1991 and an 11-1 year as a senior as Pennfield fell in the state semifinals. Martens was 31-2 in his three-year varsity career. As a senior, Martens had a 13.6 yards per carry average as the 5-foot-10, 195-pound back went on to be a three-year starter at Hillsdale College.
What the panel said: ‘Scored the winning touchdown in the state title game.’
No. 3: Doug Geno – Class of 1984
A powerful offensive and defensive lineman, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Geno jumped to the Division I level after high school to play at Central Michigan University. Geno helped lead Pennfield to a 22-5 record during his three varsity seasons, including a 9-0 campaign in 1982. Geno later was All-State on a 1983 team that went 8-1 as he set a school record with 22 tackles for loss in a season, coming up with 97 stops overall his final year in green and gold. Geno was an Enquirer Athlete of the Year for 1984 as he was also a state champ in the shot put and was one of the few Pennfield players to compete in the East-West All-Star High School Game.
What the panel said: ‘One of the stronger athletes to play football at Pennfield… dominant.’
No. 4: Terry Tindol – Class of 1975
One of the best overall athletes in Pennfield history, Tindol was a standout halfback and linebacker for three seasons for the Panthers on some average teams, never winning more than five games. But while his teams were average, Tindol was a standout. And at the end of his high school career, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder caught the attention of several big-time college football programs, ultimately signing with Michigan State University. In his senior year, Tindol led the city with 133 tackles with three interception and had 765 yards on offense, scoring 80 points.
What the panel said: ‘Terry was a Pennfield Athlete of the Year and won nine varsity letters … a great all-around athlete on the football field.’
No. 5: Dana Sanders – Class of 1979
Another Division I athlete out of Pennfield, Sanders had early interest from programs such as Michigan, Notre Dame and Indiana and eventually signed with Central Michigan University. As a running back and linebacker, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Sanders helped the Panthers to 5-4 and 6-3 seasons, but was a star individually. Sanders was the first Pennfield athlete to earn the Enquirer Athlete of the Year award as he had a huge senior season, earning All-State after rushing for 1,112 yards and scoring 90 points. His 10.1 time in the 100-yard dash is still a school record at Pennfield.
What the panel said: ‘Had one of the best games ever with 275 yards and six touchdowns in his final game.’
No.6: Mike Clothier – Class of 1988
A member of one of the few undefeated teams in Pennfield history, Clothier was a two-way lineman for the 9-0 1987 team and finished with a 23-3 record over his three varsity seasons. The 6-foot, 235-pounder was a bit undersized as a lineman, but his ability led him to a scholarship to play at Grand Valley State. Clothier had 10 varsity letters in football, wrestling and baseball and helped the Panthers to two straight league titles, getting 67 tackles his senior season.
What the panel said: ‘One of the most dominant linemen in Panther history.’
No. 7: Nic Acton – Class of 2012
It had long been a running team, but Acton rewrote the record books at Pennfield as a passer. He still holds the career passing yardage mark with 3,208 yards. Acton led Pennfield to a 28-5 record over three seasons, including taking the team to the regional finals in 2011 and finishing No. 3 in the state in Division 4 with an 11-1 record. The 11 wins in a single season is tied for second in school history. A two-year captain, the quarterback/defensive back rushed for 300 yards and had 1,600 yards passing as a senior. Acton played lacrosse in college at Siena Heights.
What the panel said: ‘Was one the most finely conditioned and hardest-working players to ever play at Pennfield.’
No. 8: Art Clark – Class of 1993
One of the heroes of Pennfield’s only state title football team. Clark made the final tackle in the championship game from his defensive back spot during his junior year as time ran out in a 14-8 game with Negaunee to help the Panthers win the Class CC state crown in 1991. As a junior, he had 57 tackles and three interceptions. As a senior, the 6-foot, 185-pounder had 683 yards rushing on just 53 carries for a whopping average of 12.8 yards per carry with 15 touchdowns and eight 2-point conversions. The all-around athlete earned nine varsity letters in football, basketball, track and baseball and went on to play basketball at Kellogg Community College.
What the panel said: ‘One of the best athletes ever to play sports at Pennfield.’
No. 9: Newt Callahan – Class of 1983
A four-year starter at quarterback and defensive back, Callahan was a versatile athlete who helped the Panthers to one of their best seasons ever as the 1982 team went 9-0. Earning All-State honors, Callahan was a Pennfield Athlete of the year his senior season as he earned nine varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball. Callahan would go on to play baseball at Kellogg Community College.
What the panel said: ‘Very athletic and helped Pennfield to a rare unbeaten season.’
No. 10: Tyler Sifton – Class of 2002
Was a key player of the team that started Pennfield on a string of 15 straight playoff seasons. Sifton was on three playoff squads from 1999-2001 and was 26-8 over his career, playing a key role on the offensive line as a blocking tight end. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound three-year starter earned All-State honors in 2001 as the Panthers advanced to the third round of the playoffs, tied for the deepest run a Pennfield team has made in the postseason, except for the state title team in 1991.
What the panel said: ‘Not necessarily the biggest or the fastest player to play at Pennfield, but quite possibly one of the toughest.’
Contact Bill Broderick (269) 966-0678 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @billbroderick
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