Tom Saylor, the 33-year-old coach of the Hudson High Tigers, kissed his wife, was hoisted on the shoulders of fans and murmured over and over, “Fantastic. Fantastic.”
It was. Saylor’s 40-man squad, recruited from a student body of 525 in Hudson, Mich. (pop. 2,700) had beaten Hackett High of Kalamazoo, 24-14. The victory was historic: the 72nd in a row for Hudson, the longest streak ever compiled in football, amateur or pro.
“The most natural thing in the world is losing, giving up, quitting, saying, ‘I don’t care,’ ” says Saylor. “Teaching kids how to win is tough—setting an impossible goal and going after it.”
Saylor, who teaches social studies and owns a doughnut shop to supplement his $14,000 school salary, arrived at Hudson High 10 years ago. Since then, he has achieved an 80-4-1 record.
The traditions of the school have helped. “The grandfathers of some of these boys played for Hudson,” says Saylor. “We have 11 sets of brothers, 19 cousins.” Coaching is important too. “We love our players,” Saylor admits, “We yell and scream at them—a few players have cried—but we try to emphasize the positive.”
The third ingredient in Hudson’s winning formula is a weird one—superstition. Each Thursday silent practice is held. One coach insists on eating chili the day before a game. Saylor’s dinner is always chicken pot pie. On game day Saylor orders the team bus to circle the playing field once before the players get off.
A few years ago when a player began vomiting before each game, that, too, was added to the ritual. Once the boy failed and Saylor said: “Go in the other room and stick your finger down your throat.” The boy did. Doing what comes naturally, Hudson won.