You go to the Friday night football game at Spartan Memorial Field and you see some of your old high school football teammates from Lakeview. And then, maybe you see a couple of guys from a few years before, or a few years after.
And then the talk begins.
Which class had the best football team?
Who had the best season?
That’s what we are here to figure out – the All-Time No. 1 team in the E-10 era at Lakeview.
We have had the E-10 rankings at the Enquirer for 15 years now. The E-10 is a weekly ranking we do on our Prep Gameday page at the Enquirer, listing the top 10 high school football teams each week, regardless of class.
To mark the ’15-year anniversary’ we are going to have special All-Time E-10 rankings throughout the football season. Each week, we will rank the top 10 football teams over the past 15 years for the city and local teams in the Enquirer coverage area.
The era we are talking about is 1997 up to last season – 2011. A small sample size – but we do this for two reasons. That’s basically how long I have been here, so I can back up these All-Time rankings. And it goes with our theme of 15 years of E-10.
This week we are tackling the teams from Lakeview.
Lakeview didn’t have a team go undefeated in the regular season during the E-10 era, but maybe it should have. The 2000 Spartan team is our pick for No. 1 in the Lakeview All-Time E-10 rankings.
That 2000 squad had a sparkling 8-1 regular season record, with the only blemish coming in a loss to an undefeated Harper Creek team, that might itself make a run for the Beavers’ No. 1 spot in that school’s All-Time E-10 rankings. It could be a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time for the 2000 Lakeview bunch.
Lakeview’s 2000 team was a running machine with two of the better running backs the school has seen in the era and one of the better lineman. The Spartans were led by tailback Travis Sleight, who finished with 18 touchdowns during his junior year and would finish that season at No. 2 on the school’s all-time rushing list. Lakeview also had a bull of a fullback in Aaron Bowman, who gave the Spartans their own form of thunder and lightning. And helping to make the holes was a very good offensive line, led by 6-foot-6, 270-pound lineman Mike Marko. In fact, Marko also lined up at the goal line in the backfield for some short yardage runs.
In the end, the 2000 team, under head coach Marc Cisco, placed second in the Twin Valley behind Harper Creek and lost to East Lansing in the first round of the playoffs to finish 8-2 overall.
A few more Lakeview teams had a shot at the No. 1 spot in the All-Time E-10 poll.
One obvious one, and one that you have to look a bit closer to see.
The 2003 Lakeview team climbs to the No. 2 spot in the E-10 poll with the second best record on paper in the era at 7-2 in the regular season. After going 1-8 the year before, the Spartans started the 2003 season 2-2 and then won five straight to end the regular season. The 2003 squad is the only team in the era to win a playoff game also, as it beat Haslett in the first round and lost to Charlotte in the second round to go 8-3 overall.
Following close behind is a team, that on paper, doesn’t seem like it should be in the conversation. Some record books have the 2004 team finishing at 3-6, but that record is a result of four games that were lost by forfeit. An ineligible player closed down a promising season as Lakeview opened the year 4-2. At that point, it was found out that the Spartans had a player that should have been ruled ineligible, changing their record to 0-6. Lakeview would finish the year with three straight wins and would have qualified for the playoffs at 7-2. The Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference later reinstated the wins in their record books, but not soon enough to get Lakeview to the postseason.
Best of the Rest
From that point, Lakeview has seven teams during the era that went either 5-4 or 4-5. Ranking these squads comes down to small points that could be debated by Spartan fans and players from all of those teams.
The 2006 team falls in at No. 4 on the list as the 5-4 team missed out on a playoff spot after a one-point loss to Stevensville-Lakeshore late in the year and suffered another loss to an 10-2 Harper Creek team.
The 2007 team was another tough-luck squad that was 5-4 and one win away from the playoffs, losing two defensive battles in a 11-8 defeat to Stevensville-Lakeshore and a 9-0 defeat to Harper Creek.
In 1999, a 4-5 team slips up to that level because one of the losses was by forfeit, meaning they were really 5-4. And the bulk of that team, the following season, would turn into the No. 1-ranked 2000 squad we have on the top of that list.
Again, this week, the toughest spot to decide is the last spot in the E-10 poll. We are going to give the final spot to the first team in the E-10 era in 1997. That squad went 4-5, but it still had some talented players from a strong era of Lakeview football that had a string of winning seasons from 1981 to 1996.
The fans agree with our E-10 rankings as the 2000 team finished with the most votes in our online poll, followed by the 2003 team.
Next up for the All-Time E-10 poll is Harper Creek. Get online and vote for which Beaver squad over the E-10 era is the best of the bunch.