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Hematites, Mastodons and others/Paul Peterson

December 5, 2012
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

Back in 2010, I believe there was a downstate reporter who noted there surely wasn't another school that carried the nickname of the Hematites.

He was, of course, referring to Ishpeming, which won the Division 7 football championship at Ford Field.

He was wrong. Now-defunct Amasa High School used to have the identical nickname.

The Upper Peninsula has long been known for schools with unique monikers, according to John Hanner of Houghton.

"In modern days, we've had the (West Iron County) Wykons and (Bessemer) Speed Boys and others," noted Hanner, who has compiled a list of school nicknames along with Mike Maki and Bob Erkkila of Calumet over the years. "But in the past, there were a lot of schools with names that stood out."

You only have to look at one of Amasa's former rivals in Iron County to see proof of that in the Alpha Mastodons. The nickname sprang from the fact that remains of the prehistoric mastodon had been found near the small town.

Many schools have carried at least two monikers in their time. Hanner's alumnus, Lake Linden-Hubbell, was known as the Whiz Kids before picking the Lakes name.

Dollar Bay was once known as the Blue Bolts before being shortened to the Bays. Ontonagon's first name was the Polar Bears before the Gladiators was added.

And John A. Doelle was first labeled as the Warriors. The school - the first agricultural facility in Michigan - later used the Spartans in deference to Michigan State University, which has agricultural (pardon the pun) roots.

The number of schools that have been long closed used nicknames that are remembered by only a few people.

Take the Pequaming Warriors, a team that was actually a powerhouse in the 1930s. Established in honor of carmaker Henry Ford, the school produced many fine players.

Or the Trout Creek Anglers, who won the last state Class E championship held in 1960. Trout Creek produced the second leading scorer in U.P. history in Jim Manning, who made it to the major leagues as a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. TCHS also had Bob Gale, whose 36 points in the 1966 Class D state championship game was a record for a few years.

Parochial schools also had their day in the sun with such names as the Escanaba Holy Name Crusaders, Marquette Pierce Warriors, Negaunee St. Paul Emeralds, Marquette Bishop Baraga Royals, Laurium Sacred Heart Rockets and Ironwood St. Ambrose Ramblers.

Negaunee St. Paul produced the top scorer in U.P. history in Dominic Jacobetti (2,150 points). Bishop Baraga won a state championship in 1969 in its final year of existence.

Everyone knows about the Purple Hornets, Gremlins, Vikings, Jets, Panthers (Chassell and Ewen-Trout Creek), Copper Kings etc. in our area.

But they might not be aware of such schools as the Mass Rockets, who once won 59 straight games.

Or the Hulbert Hornets, Daggett Dragons, Cooks Clippers, Rockland Black Hawks, Bergland Vikings, White Pine Warriors, Hermansville Redskins, Nahma Red Arrows, National Mine Nats, Rock Little Giants, Powers-Spalding Tigers, Stambaugh Hilltoppers, Eben Eagles, Perkins Yellow Jackets, Trenary Comets, Sault Loretto Angels, Champion Indians, Michigamme Black Hawks and Vulcan Giant-Killers.

One of my personal favorites has always been the Winona White Hawks, a small school located a few miles off M-26. The White Hawks featured many fine players in the 1930s.

Even the now-closed Keweenaw Academy sported three nicknames (Eagles, Huskies and Miners) in its short existence.

But I'm left to ponder if we'll ever have a U.P. nickname like the Rhinelander (Wis.) Hodags, which is probably a cross between a Wykon and a Mastodon.



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