Penn, players see Mount Clemens football on path to revival

By: Mike Moore | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published October 6, 2011

 Quarterback Aaron McFadden helped guide Mount Clemens to a 3-3 record at press time.  Entering week seven, the Battling Bathers were talking about playoff possibilities.

Quarterback Aaron McFadden helped guide Mount Clemens to a 3-3 record at press time. Entering week seven, the Battling Bathers were talking about playoff possibilities.

Photo by Edward Osinski

MOUNT CLEMENS — The journey has been long.

Those involved, whether from the field, the sidelines or the stands, saw the difficulty and the struggles firsthand.
In all reality, there’s little way to disguise, or ignore, the path that’s been tread to this point.
But it’s the road now paved that has all of those involved with the Mount Clemens High football program excited for what could be, and in ways, what already has been.

Quiet simply, the Bathers are “battling” again.

“The foundation we set last year, the things we started putting together, are paying off,” coach Harold Penn said last week. “The kids are buying into the concept of program and of team. They’re understanding the game of football more. They’re seeing themselves in a better light. It’s like that self-defeating attitude that was always here due to losing is gone.”

Penn accepted the Mount Clemens job last June, and after a 10-point loss to open the season and then a 39-point win in week two, there was some belief that the program was starting to turn.

Still, Penn stressed patience.

He worried more about the way games were played rather than whether they were won or lost.

Seven weeks later, the Battling Bathers finished the year 1-8, but Penn believed the groundwork for the bigger picture had been laid.

Six weeks into the 2011 season, that belief has turned to reality.

“We feel like we have a real program here now,” senior quarterback Aaron McFadden said during a break from an Oct. 3 practice at the school. “We’re playing together, like a team. It’s pretty cool.”

Prior to an Oct. 7 game against Warren Lincoln, played after press time, and one week removed from beating Madison Heights Lamphere for the first time in seven years, Mount Clemens was 3-3, marking the most wins for the program since the 2003 squad finished 4-5.

The .500 mark through six weeks is even more impressive considering the Bathers haven’t had a winning season since 1997 (6-3). In that same span, they have averaged 1.8 wins a year, won more than three games only twice and had two winless seasons.

The journey has certainly been a long one, yet when asked about what’s transpired so far, Penn stopped well short of saying he’s surprised.

“I was hired so late in the game last year that we were kind of shorthanded once the season started,” he said. “This year, we were able to institute an offseason program. We’re working on generating interest in the younger kids and getting the older guys to be more committed. … Last year, we had one team and maybe 18 guys. Now, we’ve got a freshman team and nearly 40 guys in the program. It’s an exciting time around here. I think we all like where this is headed.”

Penn pointed to the work ethic of the kids and the way they’ve embraced things when asked just why there’s been such a dramatic change. But asked the same question, his players had a much different answer.

“Coaching, without a doubt,” senior running back Josh Weidner said. “(Penn) is so passionate. You can tell how much he knows and how much he loves the game of football. He’s the kind of guy you’d run through a wall for.”

“It’s tough to explain, but he’s the reason we are where we are,” McFadden added.

Now the focus centers on where they’re going.

With the 3-3 record and three winnable games remaining, Penn wasn’t shy about proclaiming his belief that his guys are a playoff team.

“Why not?” he asked, rhetorically. Mount Clemens has made the playoffs twice, in 1993 and 1994. “If we win all three, we’re in for sure. If we find a way to win two of them, I still think we’d have a good shot based on the schedule we’ve played.”