When I put out a call for shutdown-era story ideas from our readership way back in March, I received several interesting submissions. My favorite, though, came from Terry Riggs, who suggested, among other things, that we run a ‘best-of’ page for each county school. I decided to fashion that idea into a page spotlighting the best players I’ve seen for each of our five schools in the eight (!) years I’ve been part of our fair county.
We’re starting this week with the Shelby Tigers. The plan is to get to all five county schools by the time we — hopefully — resume sports action in August.
Obviously this list is not exhaustive - I do have space limitations, after all, otherwise it might be twice as long - but below, you’ll find many of the Tigers who have shined the brightest in the past eight years, in no particular order.
Jeff Beckman - Jeff Beckman is one of the more overpowering players I’ve seen at this level. In his two full varsity seasons of 2014-15 and 2015-16, Beckman was a superstar, averaging double-doubles in both seasons (15 points, 10 rebounds as a junior, 19 and 10 as a senior) to earn Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan all-state honors each time. He torched Montague in one game for 38 points - 25 in the first half - in probably the most dominant game I’ve seen a county athlete play in person. Beckman later helped Spring Arbor to an NAIA Division II national title.
Jaren Smith & McKenna Peters - It’s impossible to separate these two, so they get combined into one spot. This volleyball duo was incredible, carrying the Tigers to consecutive regional titles in 2016 and ‘17, an unprecedented feat. Both claimed second team all-state honors in ‘17 - Peters did it in ‘16, too. Despite both lacking the kind of height you’d normally see in overpowering outside hitters, each made up for it with jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism. Peters went over 1,700 kills and 1,700 digs in her career, while Smith nearly went 1,200/1,200. Both were three-sport athletes at Shelby, each playing basketball while Peters played softball and Smith ran track.
Nick Felt - Few Tigers have excelled at one sport more than Nick Felt in wrestling. The younger of fellow Tiger legend and coach Ed Felt’s two sons, Nick joined his dad in the elite class of four-time all-state wrestlers. Felt’s highest finish was second place, as a junior in Division 4; he took third in D-3 as a senior. Felt, a three-time regional champ, was a game-changer for opposing coaches, who routinely rejiggered their lineups so that Felt’s inevitable bonus-point wins wouldn’t hurt them too much in dual meets. Felt also ran cross-country, became a star keeper for the soccer team, and was a valued speed demon for the baseball squad.
Jenny Beckman - When Jenny’s brother Danny and cousin Jeff, the last of the Beckman boys to date to play basketball for Shelby, graduated in 2016, they both agreed that she was “the real stud” of the family. It was a big proclamation, but Jenny made it hard to argue. The star surpassed 1,000 points for her career as a junior, led the Tigers to two district titles in 2016 and ‘17, and was second team all-state in 2017 and ‘18, averaging 22 and 25 points per game respectively. Two things made Beckman a special player — her efficiency (she shot nearly 50 percent from the field despite being a guard) and her consistency (even on slower nights, Beckman was a near-lock for double digits in scoring). Beckman was also twice academic all-state.
Nathan Lentz & Devin Mussell - These two Tigers’ backs were the driving force for Shelby’s consecutive state semifinal football teams in 2012 and ‘13. Lentz was a senior in ‘12 and ran for nearly 1,200 yards, averaging over nine yards per carry. He had a nose for the end zone, scoring 24 times as a senior - 17 on rushes, five on receptions and twice on returns. Mussell was a key part of the ‘12 squad as well, and in ‘13 he really came into his own, eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing with 17 touchdowns. He was at his best in the big games — he went for 148 yards and an incredible five touchdowns in the Tigers’ 2013 regional win over Schoolcraft. He was also an all-state punter as a senior and even got a tryout to punt for the University of Michigan.
Matt Felt - Matt Felt starred for Shelby in both soccer and (especially) baseball. Felt, now playing on the diamond for Division II Davenport, amazingly hit for over a .600 average as both a junior and a senior, earning first team all-state honors both times. His .603 mark as a junior is tied for the second-best average ever by a West Michigan Conference player. Felt also was impressive on the soccer field, scoring 51 goals in his final two seasons and being named third team all-state as a senior.
Sydney Czurak - Czurak was already an established star by the time I arrived in 2012, but as a senior she took it to a whole new level, especially on the basketball court. A one-woman force in the paint, Czurak led the Tigers to a share of the WMC title and a regional championship in 2012-13 en route to all-state honors, and just seemed to get better as that season went along. To wit, she went for 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots in an incredible performance in a regional semifinal win over Pine River that season, then one-upped herself in the Tigers’ quarterfinal defeat against Houghton, putting up a 24/19 effort. She played so well that Houghton coach Julie Filpus, who ordered her team to play keep-away with nearly half the fourth quarter to play in her team’s win, admitted afterward that Czurak was essentially the only reason she made that call. Czurak also starred in volleyball for Shelby.
Keaton Inglis - It was no surprise Keaton Inglis is an impressive golfer; after all, his dad Marc has been PGA club pro at Oceana Golf Club since before Keaton was born. However, Inglis more than lived up to his billing, dominating the WMC in his final two years to earn medalist honors. He also spearheaded impressive comebacks to help the Tigers claim conference titles in each year, and ultimately finished his career as an all-state player by taking ninth place in the 2017 state finals. He went on to play at both Northwood and Wayne State.
Jason Beckman - Closing out the Beckman portion of this list, Jason Beckman was one of just two Tigers to see the court in their 2012 state semifinal game and return the next season. He emerged as a star in his final two seasons, mostly playing a steady point guard as Shelby made the regional finals each year. However, he was more than capable of exploding if needed, as he did in a 2014 regional semifinal win against Lakeview, when he went for 34 points. He claimed BCAM all-state honors that season. His younger brother Danny was no slouch either when he succeeded Jason as point guard, averaging 17 points and five assists as a senior.
Amy England - It’s almost impossible to score as many soccer goals as Amy England did in her final two seasons at Shelby, when she carried the Tiger offense. England, who used elite speed and ball control to outclass defenses, went off for 49 goals as a junior, just outside the top 20 single season totals in state history, then added 44 more as a senior, as well as 11 assists. She helped the Tigers reach the district finals in each of her last two seasons.
Hannah Deblois - Deblois joined Shelby late, moving here from Illinois as a sophomore. As she told it, she basically dropped her bags in the house when her family arrived in town and immediately reported to volleyball practice. Less than a week after first trying out for the Tigers, she scored 14 kills and had 26 digs in a win over Ravenna, and the rest was history. Deblois went on to lead Shelby to a 2014 district championship and was named third team all-state as a senior.
Tori Mussell - Mussell was a rare ‘12-sport athlete’ - a four-year, three-sport athlete - playing volleyball and basketball and playing both well. Softball, though, is where she truly starred. Mussell was a very dangerous power bat; I’ve never seen a player make hard contact as consistently as she did. She hit a ridiculous .590 as a senior, often being intentionally walked in close games, and now plays for Kalamazoo Valley Community College, where she’s continued to excel, hitting .462 as a freshman.