As part of our 'best-of' pages we are running during the local sports shutdown, here’s a selection of some of the best Shelby games I’ve ever borne witness to since arriving on the scene. The Tigers have had a big selection of incredible games to choose from. Unfortunately for them, they’ve been on the short end of many of them. Unfortunately for me, maybe the most insane game Shelby’s played since I’ve been here, a four-overtime boys basketball triumph over Muskegon Heights in 2014, is ineligible for this list because we didn’t make the trip down south that night.
Shelby at Oakridge, football, 2013 - OK, fine, I wasn’t at this one, either. But we had a photographer on the scene for the game, so I’m putting it in on a technicality. The Tigers won the game 22-19 by executing a perfect hook-and-lateral play to score a 56-yard touchdown with 14 seconds to play. Quarterback Andy Fortier hit Dylan Unger with the hook, and Unger lateraled to Devin Mussell, who went the rest of the way. This win ultimately earned the Tigers the West Michigan Conference title, their first outright championship in 36 years. It’s hard to find a bigger regular-season win in recent Shelby sports history.
Shelby vs. Hart, volleyball, 2018 - The best games often involve two great teams, but sometimes two young, struggling teams can deliver a contest that’s just as exciting. That was definitely the case when Shelby and Hart got together for the 2018 Pink and Green game. Shelby was still recovering from the mass exodus of the senior class that had led the Tigers to consecutive regional titles, and the two teams brought up the rear of the WMC standings that season. But in a sweatbox of a gym (the match took place in early September), they played a memorable five-game marathon that the Tigers won, 18-25, 29-27, 25-20, 17-25, 15-10. Then-freshman Kendall Zoulek led the Tigers with 18 kills and 32 digs. Coach Tom Weirich said after the match that it was Shelby’s first one of that season with more kills than errors on the offensive end.
Shelby vs. Glen Lake, boys basketball regional finals, 2013 - Unfortunately, the Tigers have been on the wrong end of more than their share of classics, too, and this was one of the first ones I saw. Shelby, riding high after an impressive semifinal win, looked to be on its way to the quarterfinals when they led by five late in regulation of this one. However, the Lakers stormed back, scoring a tying basket as time ran out, then held off the Tigers in overtime, 64-62. Andrew Beckman led Shelby with 16 points and Spencer Peters had 15. The Tigers would lose another heartbreaker the following year in the same round, to Pewamo-Westphalia, by surrendering a late six-point lead.
Shelby vs. Whitehall, boys soccer, 2016 - This was Shelby’s best team in a long time - the Tigers allowed less than a half a goal per game - and one of Whitehall’s worst, so the time was right for the Tigers to break a long winless skid against their WMC tormentors. Already having played Whitehall to a tie that season, Shelby pulled off the win this time in the WMC tournament, 3-1, in overtime. The Tigers’ Fernando Cabrera scored the winning goal on an assist from Enrique Vences, and Shelby scored again later in the OT periods. They went on to win the tournament and a share of the conference crown.
Shelby at Montague, football, 2012 - Another Shelby overtime heartbreaker, but I have a soft spot for this game. It was the first great sporting event I covered here. At the time I was barely four months into the job, and Shelby and Montague locked horns in a game with a playoff atmosphere. After a touchdown, Spencer Peters hit Devin Mussell for a two-point conversion late in the game to tie it at 15, and the Tigers actually had a chance to win the game in regulation with a field goal, but a failed snap kept the game deadlocked. Montague ended up winning 22-15. Peters threw for 123 yards and a touchdown in the defensive slugfest; the Tigers had the last laugh, advancing to the state semifinals.
Shelby vs. Brown City, volleyball quarterfinals, 2016 - I apologize if this one is still a bit too fresh for some Tigers’ fans. This was a spectacular match to witness, as the Tigers stormed to a 2-0 lead in games before Brown City roared back to win the match in five games, 22-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-12, 15-8. The Green Devils played as well in the last three games as it’s possible to play. Kasey Morse had 39 assists under constant duress to lead an impressive, though futile, Tigers’ effort. Brown City went on to be the state runner-up.
Shelby at Montague, boys basketball, 2018 - I promise, Tiger fans, I don’t hate you, but here’s another incredible matchup in which the guys in purple fell just short, 58-56 in three OTs. To my memory, this was the first three-overtime game I covered here, and it was a really good one. Led by 16 points from Logan Claeys, the Tigers came back from an early 16-point deficit to force overtime, and the game became a test of will and endurance later as both teams started losing guys to fouling out. Ultimately, Shelby just ran out of forwards, and Montague took advantage of it to score the game-winning basket at the buzzer on a tip-in by Wildcat Chase Peterson.