By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half
MANISTIQUE – Schyler Andersen had no idea what he had just accomplished.
The senior running back may have known he rushed for 126 yards in Manistique's 54-21 loss in the regular-season finale at Lake Linden-Hubbell on Oct. 26.
What he didn't know right away is he had set the school's single-season rushing record at 1,491 yards, topping the previous-best by the late Ron Rubick (1,388) in 1959.
"I wasn't sure what the record was at the time," said Andersen, who also finished this season with 22 touchdowns for the 3-6 Emeralds. "When I found out later on, I was real happy about that. I'm very grateful for all the opportunities I had. The most satisfying part is we won some games."
Rubick, an Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame member who went on to play at Michigan State University, set a U.P. scoring record as a senior with 29 TDs and 183 points on 103 carries for a 13.5-yard per carry average.
Andersen ran 233 times this season for a 6.4-yard average and was 26-of-62 passing for 409 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. He was a media All-U.P. Dream Team selection at running back and Offensive Player of the Year in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference’s Iron Division.
"It's sad that I didn't get to meet Ron," said Andersen. "I would have liked to have gotten to know him. Obviously, I didn't know this was going to happen. Just having my name next to Ron Rubick is a real big honor. My teammates and coaches deserve all the credit. I couldn't have done this without them."
Manistique had fallen on hard times prior to this season, finishing 1-8 in three straight (2013-15), 0-9 in both 2016 and 2017 and playing just two games last year before cancelling the remainder of the season.
Then on Sept. 6, the Emeralds defeated Gwinn 28-8 for their first home victory since 2012.
"That got the ball rolling for us," said Andersen. "We gained more confidence as the season went on. There was definitely a sense of relief after we won that game. The explosion (of fans) after the game was unbelievable. We played better here than anywhere else. All of our wins happened on our home field. Without the support of our hometown crowd, our season wouldn't have been what it was. I don't think our record shows how successful we really were."
Manistique also topped Munising 29-7 for Homecoming on Oct. 4 and Norway 19-14 on Oct. 18.
"A lot of teams looked down on us," said Andersen. "The Norway game was kind of a statement win, and our loss to Negaunee (24-22 on Sept. 20) was a little controversial in the end. We had a 14-0 lead after the first quarter against Negaunee and were pretty disappointed we didn't win, but I think we did a pretty good job overcoming that. I don't think our confidence ever really went down."
Andersen believes having more players made a significant difference for the Emeralds this year.
"This was the first season in a while in which we had more than 20 players," he said. "We had good depth to go to in case of injuries or sickness. We had a lot of young players. I think this is a step in the right direction."
Andersen, who plans to major in journalism after high school, hopes to continue playing football in college as well.
"Writing is one of my favorite things to do," he said. "Football is my favorite game for sure. It was great to see the other guys so happy this year, and I was happy to be part of it. I'm looking into playing at Northern or Central (Michigan University)."
John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
PHOTOS: Manistique's Schyler Andersen breaks through the line during a Sept. 6 win over Gwinn. (Middle) Andersen finds an opening during his school record-setting rush Oct. 26 against Lake Linden-Hubbell. (Photos courtesy of Faith Andersen.)