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Luplow named 2013 MHSFCA hall-of-famer

By Ben Murphy

Sports writer

3-22-13 clareluplowClare varsity football head coach Kelly Luplow has quite the decorated resume. 32 years of coaching, 183 wins, 17 playoff appearances, 14 conference championships and four district titles.

Starting tomorrow (Saturday) he can add hall of famer to the list, as he joins the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame along with 13 other coaches in the 2013 class.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” Luplow said. “There is no question that I am very excited and extremely thankful to be going into the hall of fame. I’ve been blessed with an outstanding career. This is not the reason I got into coaching but as the years went on and I saw a lot of my friends around the state getting inducted, I Thought it would be a very rewarding accomplishment some day. Never, in my wildest dreams did I think it would be this soon. It’s an honor I will accept on behalf of my coaching staff, family, school and community. They have all made a major impact in receiving this award.”

Luplow, who quarterbacked the Pioneers himself from 1969-72, has since spent the last 32 years in the Clare football program, 26 as varsity head coach, has amassed a 183-72 record and has won 11 of the last 13 Jack Pine Conference championships . With all of things taken into account, Luplow had a hard time selecting his favorite moments.

“Making the playoffs for the first time in 1985 (is one) and then every other year we made the playoffs,” Luplow said. “It’s such a big accomplishment to earn the right to continue your season. Going to the semi-finals in 2000, and , of course, making it to the state finals in 2009. There is not a better feeling than going through the tunnel at Ford Field. It was a season our entire community will cherish forever… and, of course, the ultimate which is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend.”

“There are so many fun times and great experiences every year,” Luplow added. “One of my favorites is the Cookie Bowl, which started 13 years ago when my kids were 5 or 6 years old. My kids divide the team up and we play a touch football game on Selection Sunday, cookies at halftime of the game, then everyone comes to our house to eat and watch the selection show to see who we play in the playoffs. It’s a fun time for everyone. My wife is responsible for the birth and organization of this game and it’s one of the most anticipated events of every year. Our coaches meetings are always something we look forward to and the clinics we attend as a staff create memories every year and keeps us fresh with new ideas as well as allowing us the time to socialize with coaches from around the state.  I could go on and on and I’m sure I’ve left out some important moments but after 32 years, that’s to be expected, I guess.”

Luplow points to many things that have helped make him as successful as he has been over the years.

“First and foremost, I credit the support of my family,” Luplow said. “My wife and kids have become as passionate about the game as I have and have often given me the boost to carry on. They all embraced this program with their heart and soul and have always been supportive of the time and energy it requires to be successful.”

Along with his family, the coach points to a strong supporting staff on the sidelines.

“Our success also is due to the continuity of our coaching staff,” Luplow said. “I have a great staff and their commitment to excellence is second to none. They, too have families that are very supportive of their passion to coach. I believe a staff that stays together over the years can build and maintain a consistent program. Plus, most of our staff played and graduated from Clare and that results in a lot of pride in what we do. We have wanted to give back to a program that made an impact on our lives.”

As for the players themselves, the coach was endlessly thankful.

“Without a doubt, we have been blessed with some outstanding student athletes over the years,” Luplow said. “You can’t win without them. They come into our program with a winning worth ethic and a willingness to learn to be the best they can be. They expect to win and are willing to do what is necessary to achieve that goal. The parents of these athletes have also jumped on board over the years and have taken ownership to our success. They do a lot behind the scenes from decorating on game night, making players signs, providing team dinners every Thursday night and being there for us whether we win or lose.

“Lastly, we have had an administration and boosters club that has been very supportive over the years,” Luplow added. “You can’t experience consistent success without that support. If you take any of these out of the equation the program will struggle. I’m very thankful for all of them.”

The coach also points to the same reasons in keeping him on the sidelines year after year.

“The great kids we have every year, the close-knit coaching staff we have, my family who loves the game and the fact that I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t coaching in the fall,” Luplow said. “There is nothing better than Friday night lights. As long as I get that feeling of excitement every Friday night, I will continue to coach. When that’s gone, I will be gone.”

Though he’s been at it as long as he has, the coach doesn’t see an end to his coaching career in the immediate future.

“As long as I have my health and the fire burning inside me, I will coach,” Luplow said. “I know it’s getting near the end but I don’t want to think about that right now. I would rather think about another trip to Ford Field and a chance for that state championship.”

Saturday’s Hall of Fame Banquet is Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel in Ann Arbor at 6 p.m.

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