Grand Valley State Lakers football

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Grand Valley State Lakers football
Gv lakers textlogo.png
Head coach Matt Mitchell
Home stadium Lubbers Stadium
Stadium capacity 10,700
Stadium surface Turf
Location Allendale, Michigan
Conference GLIAC
All-time record 353–129–3 (.731)
Claimed national titles 4

Blue, Black, and White

Rivals Ferris State Bulldogs, Saginaw Valley State Cardinals, Wayne State Warriors
Website GVSU Laker Football

The Grand Valley State Lakers football team represent Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in NCAA Division II football. After a national runner-up finish in 2001, losing to the University of North Dakota in the national championship game, GVSU completed the 2002 season with a perfect 14–0 record by defeating Valdosta State University, and winning the school's first-ever NCAA Division II national football championship. GVSU followed that success with a second national championship in 2003 with a 13–1 record, avenging the 2001 loss and defeating North Dakota in the championship game. GVSU was knocked out from the playoffs in 2004 by North Dakota in the now realigned playoff regions in the Northwest Regional Finals. In 2005 and 2006 GVSU won back-to-back National Championships, finishing both seasons undefeated. In 2007 the Lakers ran their win streak to 40 games, setting the NCAA Division II record for longest consecutive win streak;[1] this streak ended a loss to Northwest Missouri State in the 2007 National Semi-Final Game. In the 21st century, GVSU's win percentage was (.880), with a record of 147–20.[2] NCAA Division III's University of Mount Union has outpaced GVSU with a win percentage of .960 (167–7).[3] Since inception, GVSU's leads the NCAA in highest overall winning percentage at .734 (353–129–3),[2] ahead of Michigan, Notre Dame and Old Dominion among teams from all NCAA divisions. Their all time home record is 163–35–1.



GVSU launched its football program with a junior varsity schedule in 1970 and became a varsity sport in 1971. Robert "Rip" Collins, a successful high school coach at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills High School, became the programs first head coach. Success didn't come quickly for the Lakers as it took almost three years for them to win their first football game. Coach Collins was unable to get the program off to a successful start after going 0–13 and being outscored 534–58 in 1971 and 1972.

E. James Harkema took over as head coach in January 1973, coming to GVSU from Northern Illinois where he was an offensive backfield coach. Also awaiting Harkema was a brand new football field constructed in 1972 which featured the first "Prescription Athletic Turf" (PAT) football playing surface in the country.

1974 marked the first conference play for Grand Valley with the forming of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. GVSU went 6–3 and finished third in that inaugural year. Offensive guard Ron Stallard became the second individual Laker honored as he was awarded NAIA AAHM status at the end of the season.

1976 would be the year Grand Valley would receive national attention. The game that put Grand Valley on the map was the season finale against Northern Michigan University. The Wildcats came into Allendale as the defending NCAA Division II National Champions, boasting an 18-game winning streak, ranked No. 1 in Division II and fresh off an 82–7 win over University of Nebraska-Omaha. And, as they were the team which ended the Lakers chances from going to the NAIA National Playoffs the year prior. GVSU was seeking some payback on their home field. The Lakers, playing 21 seniors built up a 24–0 lead and went on to shock the Wildcats 31–14 before a large crowd, which included many top recruites. Winning this game allowed Grand Valley to sign many top All-State players which started their push to national attention.

Harkema had traditionally built his teams on defense and a solid running game, but in 1977 with the transfer of quarterback Roy Gonzalez from the University of Wyoming, a solid offensive line and using many talented freshmen, Harkema went to the air and won their first ever Great Lakes Conference Championships, ultimately winning three in the next five years. The 1977 team went 7–3 and had one NAIA All-American, offensive tackle Gary Evans and eight NAIA AAHM athletes: Roy Gonzalez-QB, Daryl Gooden-DT, Mack Lofton-DE, Tim Maki-LB, Roger McCoy-PK, Clint Nash-WR, Joe Pollard-S and Rusty Steffens-OG. Gonzalez was followed by quarterbacks David Quinley, Steve Michuta and Jeff Lynch, who gave GVSU the most feared passing attack in the Grand Lakes Conference. They had been blessed with talented receivers like Clint Nash, Rick Cunningham, Michael Woods, Rob Rubick, Jeff Chadwick and Bill Luckstead as the Lakers averaged seven wins a year from 1977–1982.

In 1978, with Quinley at the controls, the Lakers suffered early losses to Northern Michigan and Bowling Green State, but bounced back to win eight straight games including a repeat of the GLIAC title and an NAIA Playoff victory over Wisconsin-LaCrosse. The team ultimately lost to Elon College in the NAIA Semi-Finals on a wet, muddy field in North Carolina. The team finished 9–3 and secured the winningest season in GVSU History at the time. The team celebrated two NAIA All-Americans in Bob Beaudrie-C and Joe Pollard-DB and four AAHM, Wade Bent-LB, Ron Essink-OT, Roger McCoy-PK and Rick VanEss-FB. This was the highlight of the first decade of football for Grand Valley State. Two players that stood out and won individual national honors: All-American Ron Essink-OT (NCAA DII/NAIA/Kodak) who went on to have an outstanding career in the NFL as a starting tackle with the Seattle Seahawks, and NAIA AAHM Mark Szczytko-DT.

1979 also saw the completion and dedication of the new stadium and track complex named after its president, Arend D. Lubbers, on September 15. The stadium was built around the existing PAT field and had permanent seating for 4,146 fans.


In 1990, Grand Valley, along with GLIAC members Ferris State, Hillsdale, Northern Michigan, Saginaw Valley and Wayne State, joined forces with the schools from the Heartland Conference which included Ashland University, Butler, University of Indianapolis, St Joseph's College and Valparaiso to form the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference (MIFC).

The Lakers continued their winning ways, posting a 22-game regular season winning streak before falling at Hillsdale, 38–34. GV won the inaugural MIFC crown, finished with a 10–2 record and lost to East Texas State, 20–14 in the playoffs. That 1990 season saw five Lakers win national recognition: Chris Tiede, OC – AA Football Gazette; Jim Cramer, DT – AA Football Gazette; Eric Lynch, FB – AA Football Gazette; Mike Flannery, CB – AA Football Gazette and Charles Sippial, LB – AA Football Gazette.

The 1991 team had eight players earn national awards at the conclusion of the season with five AA and three AAHM. Chris Tiede and Eric Lynch earned AA honors for the second year – Tiede from the AP, Football Gazette & Kodak – Lynch from the Football Gazette; Todd Wood, DB – AA (GTE/COSIDA); Mark Smith, OT – AA (GTE/COSIDA); Jim Cramer, DT – AA Football Gazette; Jack Hull, QB – AAHM Football Gazette; Bill McGory, OG – AAHM Football Gazette and Bob Michell, TE – AAHM Football Gazette.

Grand Valley shared its second MIFC crown with Butler, Ferris and Hillsdale in 1992 with an 8–3 record. The 1993 season saw the Lakers slide a bit posting a 6–3–2 record with key losses to Indiana (PA), Ashland and Hillsdale. Kelly and the Lakers bounced back in 1994 with a return trip to the playoffs and finished with an 8–4 record and a first round playoff loss. They started and ended that 1994 season with losses to Indiana(PA), regular season opener and first round of playoffs. The Lakers then posted back-to-back 8–3 seasons in "95" and "96", finishing second in the MIFC both years, but no playoff games either season. They again started each season with games against non-conference national competition but both ended in losses – "95"-Indiana(PA) and "96"-SW Texas State.

Multiple Lakers over those years earned All-American or AAHM status. 1992 – Miguel Sagaro, PK – AA Football Gazette; Jamarl Eiland, FB – AAHM Football Gazette; Jorgen Gustafsson, OT – AAHM Football Gazette; Brian Tazic, QB – AAHM Football Gazette. 1993 – Hardie Farr, SS – AA (CM Frank/AP); Youssef Sareini, WR – AA Football Gazette; Jorgen Gustafsson, OT – AAHM Football Gazette; Dan McLean, CB – AAHM Football Gazette; Mike Sheldon, OG – AAHM Football Gazette; 1994 – saw two repeats – Mike Sheldon, AA (AFCA/CM Frank/Football Gazette) and Youssef Sareini, AAHM (CM Frank/Football Gazette);Darnell Jamison, FB – AAHM CM Frank; Kwame McKinnon, QB – AAHM CM Frank and Tim Postema, LB – AAHM CM Frank. 1995 – Four players were awarded AAHM for a second year they were Darrell Jamison, Kwame McKinnon Tim Postema and Rich Hurley, OL – AA CM Frank; Kevin Gee, OL – AA CM Frank; Matt Potter, DL – AAHM CM Frank; Paul Siembida, DB – AAHM CM Frank and the most honored from this class was Diriki Mose, WR – AA (AFCA/Football Gazette/CM Frank/CoSIDA/Daktronics). 1996 – saw one player win multiple All-American awards after earning AAHM honors the year before – Matt Potter, AA (AFCA/Football Gazette/AP/CoSIDA/Daktronics) while Doug Kochanski, PK earned AAHM honors from the Football Gazette.

Quarterback Jeff Fox led the Lakers to their second straight MIFC title and back into the playoffs in 1998 with a 9–1 conference mark. They again lost to UC Davis (38–40) finishing the regular season 9–2 overall. Fox became Grand Valley State's first-ever Harlin Hill Award Finalist (Division II Heisman) as he rewrote the GVSU single-season and career offensive record books. The Laker season was ended by Slippery Rock, again in the first round of the playoffs, 37–14. Jeff Fox was awarded AA status from CoSIDA/Daktronics/Football Gazette as did Billy Cook, Spcl Teams – AA Football Gazette.


Grand Valley Football entered its most successful period during the 2000s (decade). The year 2000 saw the Lakers start their season slowly losing their first three games to South Dakota State, Saginaw Valley State and Northwood. But this sophomore-dominated team regrouped and finished by winning 7 of 8 remaining games, posting a 7–4 record.


In 2001, the dividends of valuable experience in the young players showed as the Lakers not only won their first ever Division II playoff game, but advanced to the 2001 National Championship. Behind a potent offensive attack, Grand Valley State posted a perfect 10–0 regular season (September 11, 2001 game was canceled) with an average of 58.4 points per game and 48.0 points average margin of victory. GVSU's march to the championship game was not easy, however, as quarterback and Harlon Hill Finalist Curt Anes, was injured in the Lakers' first playoff game. Grand Valley responded with a first round 42–14 victory over Bloomsburg, a 33–30 second round win over Saginaw Valley State, and a semi-final win over Catawba College, 34–16. One of the backup quarterbacks used during this run was actually a wide receiver brought in to run an option style offense when the other young backup ran into difficulty. In the championship game against North Dakota, the Lakers took a 14–10 lead with 2:46 left in the game, but the Fighting Sioux responded with a last minute drive of their own to take the title, 17–14.[4]


A football signed by the 2002 NCAA Division II Champion Grand Valley State Lakers football team

The Lakers opened at home against a tough non-conference opponent, California-Davis (which was in its last year of Division II competition) and won 24–14. The Lakers went on to defeat three ranked teams en route to the undefeated season. The playoffs began with a convincing 62–13 win over Long Island University-C.W. Post. Then came a matchup against longtime nemesis Indiana University of Pennsylvania. GVSU entered the game 0–6 against the Indians all-time, however, the Lakers scored on their first eight possessions in the first half and built a 50–7 halftime lead. The Lakers cruised to a 62–21 win and advanced to the NCAA D-II Semi-Finals. Grand Valley State again jumped out to an early lead and never looked back with an impressive 44–7 victory over Northern Colorado (also in its last year of Division II competition). The win advanced GVSU to the NCAA D-II National Championship game for the second straight year. The top-ranked Lakers squared off against second-ranked Valdosta State. GVSU led 17–6 at the half and 24–6 midway through the fourth quarter. However, VSU scored 18 unanswered points to tie the game with just over three minutes remaining. Curt Anes, who won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the D-II Player of the Year less than 24 hours earlier, utilized his All-American receiver David Kircus to drive the Lakers 68 yards in 2:05 for a TD to give GVSU the 2002 NCAA DII National Championship. Anes hit Kircus on a 10-yard pass for the winning score, finishing the season with a perfect 14–0 record, and was also ranked No. 1 in the AFCA poll each week of the 2002 season.

The 2002 team had eleven players earn post season national honors, four of which were repeat winners – Curt Anes – Harlin Hill Award, All-American (AFCA/D2Football/Daktronics/Football Gazette); David Kircus – All-American (AFCA/AP/D2Football/Football Gazette/Daktronics); Dale Westrick – All-American (D2Football/Football Gazette/Daktronics) and Dan Vaughn – All-American (Football Gazette/AP/D2Football) others include; Keyonta Marshall, DT – All-American (Football Gazette/D2Football/Daktronics); Scott Mackey, DB – All-American (Football Gazette/AP/D2Football/Daktronics); Reggie Spearman, RB – All-American (Football Gazette/D2Football/Daktronics); Orlando Williams, LB – All-American (Football Gazette/Daktronics); Phil Condon, TE – All-American (D2Football); Terrance Banks, WR – All-American (Football Gazette) and Tom Hosford, OC – All-American Honorable Mention (Football Gazette).

Dan Torres receives Special Player of the Year award with 8 carries and 8 fumbles to his name.


December 8: GVSU's win-streak was snapped when they lost at Northwest Missouri State in the Division II National Semifinal game at Bearcat Stadium that was known as the "Ice Bowl" because it was played during the Mid-December 2007 North American Winter storms that would destroy more than 100 trees at Northwest's Missouri Arboretum campus.[5] Grand Valley was ranked #1 and was undefeated and Northwest was ranked #5 and had lost one game but hosted the game because of strength of schedule.

It began as a close game with Grand Valley leading 13–10 at halftime. The Lakers were able to pull within one, 17–16, late in the third quarter on Justin Trumble's third field goal. After NWMSU kicker Tommy Frevert made one from 22 yards early in the fourth quarter and Xavier Omon scored on an 11-yard pass 2½ minutes later, the Bearcats were up 27–16. Five plays later, Omon broke loose for a 98-yard touchdown run with just over 9 minutes remaining. Final score: GVSU 16, NWMSU 34.

Game totals: GV's Brad Iciek threw for 273 yards and a touchdown and an interception on 23 of 42 passing. Xavier Omon ran for 292 yards and four touchdowns.

GVSU ended the season with a 12–1 record.


GVSU was 11–0 on the season until they lost to Minnesota-Duluth by a score of 19 to 13 in the Division II quarterfinals; ending GVSU's season at 11–1. Minnesota-Duluth had a record of 12–0 entering the game.

GVSU claimed their fourth consecutive GLIAC championship.


The Lakers lost their first GLIAC game in nearly five years, falling to the Hillsdale Chargers 27–24 in the Chargers' homecoming game, yet still won the GLIAC outright for a fifth straight year. Grand Valley then received a first round bye in the playoffs only to face Hillsdale once again. After defeating Hillsdale, University of Minnesota Duluth, and Carson-Newman, the Lakers eventually fell to Northwest Missouri State University in the national championship game 30–23. Danny Richard, Nick McDonald and Jacob McGuckin were named first team All-American while Cameron Bradfield and Justin Victor took home second team honors and Quarterback Brad Iciek was a Harlon Hill finalist.


GVSU vs. West Texas A&M

Matt Mitchell took over as head coach with Chuck Martin leaving to join Brian Kelly's staff at Notre Dame. Mitchell had previously served as defensive coordinator under Martin. GVSU won their 6th GLIAC championship in a row and advanced to the second round of the playoffs to finish with an 11–2 overall record. On offense the Lakers were led by Kyle McMahon who had 2616 yards passing and 583 yards rushing and a total of 37 touchdowns. On the ground in addition to McMahon, Justin Sherrod had team leading 1052 yards and to go along 12 total Tds, Norman Shuford pitched in 661 yards and Left Tackle Cameron Bradfield led a strong offensive line and was named All-American. Greg Gay led the team in receiving yards and Jovonne Augustus led in receiving touchdowns. Justin Victor and Zach Breen were the top tacklers on defense with 120 and 101 respectively. Luther Ware led in sacks and Rob Carlisle and Matt Baker were tops with four interceptions apiece.


Despite a slow start, which included losing their first three conference games, the Lakers still managed an 8–3 overall record, winning their last seven games. That streak qualified Grand Valley State as having the longest winning streak in Division II football at the end the season. GVSU led the GLIAC in many categories, including scoring offense, total and rushing offense. The Lakers were led on offense by quarterback Heath Parling, who led the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 180.35, to go along with 2415 yards and 34 touchdowns. On the ground the load was shared between Hersey Jackson, Mike Ratay, Norman Shuford and Chris Robinson, each having at least one game where they led the team in rushing. Charles Johnson led the receivers with 1030 yards and 15 touchdowns. Defensively Brad Howard led the team with 79 tackles. Andre Thomas finished second in the GLIAC in tackles for loss and sacks. Erik Thompson led the team with five interceptions, two of which he brought back for touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.


The Lakers again finished the season 8-3. The offense was very explosive once again, leading the GLIAC in scoring offense. Starting QB Heath Parling went down in the third game with a torn ACL but Isiah Grimes picked right up where he left off as he led the nation in passing efficiency at 178.07 and passed for 2213 yards and 22 TDs in 7 games as the starter. Kirk Spencer led the team in rushing yards 978 to go with 5 tds. Michael Ratay had 603 yds rushing and led the team in rushing TDs with 12. He was also second in receiving tds with 3. Chris Robinson chipped in 361 yards and 6 tds before tearing his ACL in the fourth game. Charles Johnson again led the team in receiving with 1199 yards and 16 tds. Charles Hill led the defense with 91 tackles and 11.0 tfls. Brad Horling had 89 tackles and Luther Ware had 74. Ware and Matt Judon paced the defense in sacks with 3.5 a piece. Reggie Williams was tops in interceptions with 4 to go with one punt return td and one kickoff return td in 8 games played.


The Lakers returned to the playoffs in 2013, falling to eventual national champion Northwest Missouri State in the national semifinals. The Lakers finished the season ranked #3 in the nation.

Lakers in the NFL[edit]


  1. ^ "Omon's 4 TDs lead NW Missouri State past Grand Valley State – NCAA College Football Recap – ESPN". ESPN. 2007-12-08. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  2. ^ a b "Grand Valley State Yearly Totals". Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  3. ^ "Mount Union Yearly Totals". Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  4. ^ Bob Johnson, USA Today, "North Dakota tops Grand Valley State for D-II title," December 8, 2001.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Joseph Hayes, Football: Tim Lelito makes case for roster spot: From St. Clair to New Orleans, he remains a Saint, The Times Herald (Port Huron, Michigan), August 21, 2013.

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