Ben Murphy
Contributing Writer

(Photo Provided)

When Bridgman head coach Aaron Locke was recently named one of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year, it really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. The 1996 Bellevue graduate has had much success in his eight years with the Bees, including this year’s perfect 9-0 record.

“Awards are nice but also a bit humbling since you are receiving recognition for a lot of other peoples’ work too and that doesn’t feel right,” Locke said. “I have a lot of help from many coaches, I had talented kids, a supportive administration behind me.”

This year’s squad outscored their opponents 328-76. They won the Southwest Michigan 8-man Football League; which included a 14-12 win over 8-player Division 1 state champion Martin. The Bees are too large enrollment-wise to participate in the post-season, otherwise they would have had a real chance at some post-season hardware.

“This season was successful because we had a very explosive offense with lots of talent,” Locke said. “We have very intelligent kids that work hard and are very adaptable. We run a lot of formations with different personnel packages, which is funny since we only have 15 players, but we use everyone in some way. We had an all-state quarterback (Chuck Pagel) and seven different receivers with three or more touchdowns, one of which had nine touchdowns (Wade Haskins). Most of the same kids play defense. We had two All-State players a middle linebacker (Nolan Stanisewski) and defensive tackle (Clark Smith).”

Of course, this level of success is nothing new for Bridgman. They are currently on a 34-game winning streak and won unofficial Division 0 state championships in 2020 and 2021.

“Our program has a lot of great coaches, both paid and volunteer,” Locke said. “They have a depth of knowledge and are problem solvers that can adapt game plans on the fly. The coaches have known our players for years. A few of us coaches have coached them since then.”

And along with those talented group of coaches is a program full of players ready to buy in.

“We have high expectations for our young men,” Locke said. “We work them very hard, we start practice with 25-to-45 minutes with strength and conditioning, we push then to physical failure and then we move on to the rest of practice. Our coaches teach football, we don’t just demand things. We share our responsibility of success and failure as well.”

Locke believes that there’s no reason to believe they’ll have any less success in the upcoming seasons either.

“The future looks promising despite the upcoming eighth and ninth grade class having 49 students in them,” he said. “We have good systems and coaches in place. We adapt the system to our kids. This year we threw the ball 70-percent of the time with a passing quarterback. The year before we ran the ball 88-percent of the time.”