Dick Koski of Negaunee has long been regarded by many as the best area prep football coach ever.
Inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 1999, he posted a 199-93-1 record over 31 seasons before retiring. Koski took the Miners to the 1991 Class CC state championship game, which Negaunee lost, 14-8, to Battle Creek Pennfield.
But as good as he was, Koski may have to give up his lofty status to Ishpeming's Jeff Olson. The latter's 22-12 state Division 7 championship win over Detroit Loyola - his second straight title - may have cemented his designation as this area's best.
To my recollection, only four other local high school coaches have won state titles since the playoffs began in 1975: Mike Mileski (Ishpeming, 1975), John Croze (Ishpeming, 1979), Terry Sayen (Munising, 1980) and Paul Jacobson (Negaunee, 2002).
Each has strong credentials for coaching accolades. U.P. Hall of Famer Sayen, for example, went 137-72 in 26 years guiding the Mustangs; Mileski's Hematites in 1975 shocked the state prep football world by whipping Hudson, 38-22, ending that school's nationally recognized 72-game winning streak; and Jacobson is 111-40 in 14 seasons, making the state playoffs in 11 of those campaigns.
But as good as they were or are, not one of them won more than one state championship. Olson now has two, and he also took Ishpeming to the 2010 state Division 7 title game that his Hematites lost, 28-26, to Hudson.
In his 22-year Ishpeming coaching career, Olson has forged a 158-78 record. He has four Mid-Peninsula Conference titles, six district crowns and three regional championships under his belt. Olson has guided the Hematites to 14 playoff bids the last 16 seasons, including the last 12 in a row. In postseason play, he's 28-13.
The Marquette Senior High School graduate made his mark there in basketball. But Olson has since distinguished himself as a prep football coach.
When you talk to his players after a winning game, one or more will say how Olson's game plan paved the way to victory.
He and his staff adapt to their opponents' tendencies on both offense and defense. If a foe likes to run the ball, Olson will put eight defenders in the box. If a team uses a spread offense, he'll rush only three players and use eight to cover. If an opponent uses both the run and the pass, Olson's defense will be a mixture.
Offensively, he prefers to run the ball to control the clock. But Olson will turn to the pass if need be. More often than not, at least in the last several years, he'll outcoach his opponent before and during a game.
There's little doubt he can motivate his players. Ishpeming's players seldom come out flat. Come game time, they're ready to go.
Olson is also a well spoken ambassador for not only his team, but the Ishpeming community, as well.
Perhaps it's time to anoint Olson as the best prep football coach Superiorland has ever had.
It would be hard to make a case against him.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.