New street signs honor 1960 Wakefield football State Championship team

A sign outside of Wakefield-Marenisco school, commemorating the 1960 Cardinals football team.
A sign outside of Wakefield-Marenisco school, commemorating the 1960 Cardinals football team.(WLUC)
Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 4:02 PM EST
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WAKEFIELD, Mich. (WLUC) - Back in the days before high school football playoffs, state championships were picked by sports writers, and of course, back then, important information was sent through the mail, and some things could be overlooked, like a state championship selection for one of the smallest schools in the state.

The 1960 Wakefield Cardinals were a perfect 7-0, a season capping off a great decade of football for the team. That team also won the school it’s only state championship for football, even if it was in the days of so called, ‘Mythical Championships,’ before the playoffs began.

“They were a powerhouse team. they were expected to win every night, and they did win,” said Russ Maki.

Maki is a Wakefield football alum himself, playing for the team in the late 60′s, early 70′s. He even grew up a die hard fan of the late 50′s, early 60′s teams. But even Maki didn’t even know about the state title until just last year. After seeing footage of a parade from 1961 with a few of the football players in a car that read ‘State Champions’, Maki went to work researching the team. That’s when he made a discovery.

“Basically what happened was, the state championship notice fell between the cracks,” said Maki.

The release was sent out well after the Fall of 1960, during basketball season. The school got it late, and never really hosted a celebration of any sort. It was upon this realization that Maki resolved to help the team get it’s recognition. During a basketball game last year, a banner was unveiled with members of the 1960 team there. Maki also began fundraising for two signs on either side of the school to commemorate that team. Those signs were unveiled Friday, with a player from the team there to witness it.

“It feels like getting into the hall of fame in your later years,” said Bob Orlich, who played linebacker and wide receiver for the 1960 Cardinals team.

“This sign here is going to be here for a long time, after I’m gone, to signify that this team was the best Class C team in 1960,” said Maki.

Although the field where the Cardinals once played is now home to a joint team, the Gogebic Miners, the school, and the town of Wakefield, are still eager to celebrate this once lost piece of history.

“For small towns like this, to have a sign like this on the school property is a nice gesture,” said Brandon Makela, head teacher at Wakefield-Marenisco Schools.

So even though the Cardinals football team is no more, the legacy of the program will continue to live on.

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