Ben Murphy
Contributing Writer

(Photo Provided)

Winning the program’s first league championship in 21 years is pretty much guaranteed to draw some attention. That attention turned into some coaching honors for Maple Valley football head coach Marty Martin, as he was recently named one of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year.

“I am deeply honored to be selected for this award,” Martin said. “To be acknowledged by coaches from all over the state of Michigan is humbling to me. To be recognized for what the kids accomplished on and off the field is a testament to Maple Valley football.”

The Lions went 7-2 this fall and won the Tri River 8-player Football Conference. They started the season 6-0, getting wins over Mesick (38-14), Marcellus (28-8), Onekama (54-12), Concord (50-32 league win), Lawrence (66-12) and Britton Deerfield (56-6, league win). They won a single game in their final three contests, 54-6 over Bangor.

“Our program has stressed being men of character for the past nine years,” Martin said.

His program was able to do some special things off the field as well.

“Our kids have given back to the community volunteering to set up and take down tables for both of Nashville’s longest ice cream table events, we worked on washing homes, tearing porches off of homes, and stripping paint when Nashville received their community improvements grant,” he said. “We cleaned up the grounds at Maplewood school in Vermontville before they reopened it. This year, we helped the Vermontville Library move shelves and books after their flooding event. As a program, we were proud to help the community which has given us so much support. Academically, we have stressed to our players the importance of working hard in the classroom. We have received MHSFCA Team Academic All-State Honorable mention for the past three years in a row. Additionally, we have had numerous players over the last nine years receive All-State Academic Honors.”

Getting the program to this level certainly took some doing. Even in the years they didn’t compile a winning record, they’ve taken on some steep competition admirably.

“Success has not come easily,” Martin said. “We have repeatedly played some of the best teams in the state in both 11-man and 8-man football. To do that, the kids have needed to commit to improving themselves as athletes in the weight room, in the film room, and during the summer. Over the years, we have kids who have committed to doing this, and we have been successful because of it. We also stressed the youth football experience. The numbers have increased every year for the past nine years because the youth coaches have made playing football enjoyable. Hopefully, this continues to translate into increased numbers at the high school level.”

There will be some major changes in the program this off-season though. Martin stepped down from his coaching duties after the season and the team will go back to playing 11-player football for the first time since the 2018 season.

“One thing will help though and that is playing schools MV´s size in the Big 8 Conference,” Martin said. “It should help improve the success of the program and allow Maple Valley’s kids to compete against schools their size.”