Holt-Delhi Historical Society

Established 2014

History of Holt Varsity Football 

The Holt High School football program was organized in 1926. The earliest football coaches were also the school’s principal, Mr. Paul J. Straight and Mr. Charles Mann. For the most part, Holt’s team played on the empty field behind the old Holt High School at the corner of Holt Road and Park Lane. There was an athletic field that was located off of Coolridge Road in Holt. The field sat behind the houses in the neighborhood, one man who recalled the site noted its ruts and how unmaintained it was. In the early years, Holt was a part of the Ingham County League along with Mason, Stockbridge, Williamston, Haslett, Fowlerville, Okemos, and Dansville. In 1929, Holt’s football team’s record was 4-4, the team was coached by Mr. Paul J. Straight. In 1935, Holt won its first Ingham County Championship – the first championship Holt’s football team had ever won. The team achieved the same success in 1936.

In the 1940s, Mason and Holt had the county’s biggest rivalry. Also in the 1940s, Holt and Dimondale played yearly for the “Little Brown Jug” trophy. A trophy that the two schools competed for for many years. In 1946, Holt’s football coach was Mr. H. Tracy. Little is known about Holt’s coaches in the 1930s and 1940s, though some men who were known coaches were: Leonard Goodrich, Stuart Openlander, and Lawrence Hiller, among others. In 1948, Holt built its first official football field. The field was located at the corner of Aurelius Road and Sycamore Street. Holt Schools Superintendent Mr. Benton Yates, 1945-1951, wrote: 
I’m sure that more people will remember the construction of the high school football field with greater clarity than they will recall changes in curriculum, because so many people – kids, parents and other school patrons were so actively involved. I’ll never forget the two days and nights during which we virtually closed school, commandeered community trucks and trailers to dig up field sod from Carl Dougherty’s then laid in on the area which had been hastily and voluntarily graded by Mr. Savage. It was really a tremendous project and there were so many people who gave so willingly of their time and effort. Bill Harris, Hugh Smyth, Bill Fudge, Bud Dart, Marshall Coolidge, Orville Hitchens, Jack Armour and so many others worked with kids and school people.

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The field opened on October 1, 1948 with the home game against Dansville, which Holt won! Originally this field was known as Memorial Field and not only did every home football game occur on the field but a decades’ worth of Holt High School graduates received their diploma at the commencement services held on the field. At that time Mr. Fred Lawrence was Holt’s football coach. Coach Lawrence remained as the coach until the early 1950s, the exact year is unknown. It was the 1948 season that a longstanding school record was set by Bruce DePue, with 38 points scored against Haslett. After Coach Lawrence was Mr. Ted Bauer. Bauer only coached for a season or two then moved on to Lansing Everett High School where he remained for several decades.

In 1953 a new era began in Holt with the arrival of Mr. Walter Pawlowski in addition to Holt’s transition from the Ingham County League into the Capitol Circuit League. This new league consisted of Resurrection, St. Mary's, Mason, Eaton Rapids, Okemos, Howell, and Haslett. It was around this time that Holt grew into the “Rams” from the older term “Ramblers.” Coach Pawlowski built Holt football into a high quality and highly regarded program. Between 1955 and 1958, Holt built a new high school complex that included a new football field. The field was moved from the original location of Memorial Field because the new school was built directly on that corner. A new set of bleachers and lights were constructed in addition to the new field. Pawlowski remained as football coach until 1964, with a record of 56 wins-31 losses-6 ties. Pawlowski graduated up to the position of Athletic Director in 1964 and Mr. Darold Briggs was hired as the new football coach. Pawlowski remained as Holt’s Athletic Director/Assistant Principal until 1981. Coach Briggs is one of Holt’s most esteemed and most well remembered football coach in the school’s history.  In his first year, 1964, Briggs and the Holt team won the league championship. Briggs also led the team to league championships in 1970, 1971 and 1972. The 1972 championship was not like the others, however.

The 1972 Rams team was undefeated. But beyond that, the team had no points scored on them. The team has since been inducted into the Greater Lansing Area Sports Hall of Fame, the only team of any sport from Holt to have that honor. That season and team was perhaps Briggs’ greatest moment in Holt. 

Also in 1972, Holt High School’s newest addition was completed and opened. Part of that addition was improvements to Holt’s football stadium. The stadium received new bleachers, lights, and a press box. The field was also dedicated to Dr. Franklin L. Troost in 1972. Dr. Troost was Holt’s athletic/football team physician from 1930 to 1964, in addition to his countless years of serving the community in his family practice. Later in the athletic complex's history, the press box was dedicated to Ronald VanErmen, longtime Holt Schools employee and Assistant Superintendent. 

In 1976, Holt made another transition from the Capital Circuit League into a Capitol Area League, likely a precursor to the Capital Area Activities Conference. Briggs remained as Holt’s football coach until 1977. He did not leave Holt, however, he remained as the track and field coach until 1985.

In 1977, Mr. Dennis Bongard began as Holt’s football coach. In 1978, Bongard’s team made it to the semifinals, and in 1979 the team made it to regionals. Bongard held his position as football coach until 1986 when Mr. Rocky Shaft replaced him as head football coach. Coach Shaft, a Holt alum, had been Holt’s wrestling coach since 1980, a position that he still holds as of 2015. Shaft remained as football coach from 1986 until 1994. It was then that Mr. Mike Smith took over as head football coach. Smith’s 1995 Rams were the runner-up for the state title against Detroit Catholic Central with a score of 24-0 for the championship.

A new Holt High School complex opened in the fall of 2003, part of the complex was dedicated to the Rams football team with a brand new football stadium and practice field. In 2003, a new conference had also been established – the Capital Area Activities Conference (CAAC). Holt joined the new conference in 2004. Year after successful year, Coach Smith’s teams made it to the districts, regionals, and semi-finals in post-season. With Smith’s success, he became a highly sought coach in the area. He remained as Holt’s football coach until 2007 when he accepted the position of head football coach at Olivet College. He has since returned to the area as Eaton Rapids High School’s football coach. With Coach Smith’s departure from Holt, Mr. Al Slamer was appointed as Holt’s head football coach. Slamer led a successful program until his retirement in 2015. Holt High School appointed Mr. Chad Fulk, high school teacher and Holt alum, as the Rams' new head football coach on March 12, 2015.