20 YEARS OF STATE CHAMPS! 20 STATE CHAMPIONS SERIES: 2008 EAST GRAND RAPIDS PIONEERS
East Grand Rapids — The Show lasted two years, thrilled the masses of the MHSAA and rightfully ended with a championship.
In 2008, East Grand Rapids senior tailback Joe “The Show” Glendening finished off a marvelous two-season run in the EGR backfield by leading his Pioneers to a Division 3 state crown, rushing for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns in his team’s 43-24 win over Inkster in the state finals. It was another in a long line of magnificent efforts toting the rock. The year before, the electric Glendening sliced and diced his way to 179 yards and 4 scores, including the game-winner in a 46-39 5 overtime victory in the Division 2007 Division state championship game against Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
Glendening’s fire-and-ice antics on the gridiron highlighted EGR head coach Peter Stuursma’s celebrated seven state titles in a nine-year span dynasty of the 2000s. The Pioneers’ 2008 state-championship club was smack dab in the middle of the program’s rare “five-peat” between 2006 and 2010.
“This town produces players that just know how to compete,” said Sturrsma of Glendening to the Holland Sentinel at the time. “Joe is the ultimate competitor.”
Glendening’s 1-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter of the 2008state finals versus All-American quarterback Devin Gardner (Michigan) and Inkster broke his opponents backs and their spirits, placing EGR ahead 30-16 heading down the stretch. Quarterback Andrew Thompson scored on a sneak early in the fourth quarter and then found tight end Chris Blair (Western Michigan) for their second scoring hook-up of the game on a 2-yard connection to seal the crowning and ring in another title for Stursma and company.
The EGR defense pummeled Gardner all game long, holding him to just 5-of-16 on his pass attempts. Josh Laarman and Brennan Martin led the Pioneers’ defense in the game with 7 tackles apiece. Defensive end Colin Voss added one of EGR’s 3 sacks on the day. Blair, who also played rush end on defense, gathered 5 tackles and a sack, to go along with his pair of touchdown grabs.
Laarman was a standout on the baseball diamond. Voss played basketball in college at Central Michigan.
“Joe the Show” went 26-2 as a starter in EGR’s backfield/. His brother, future NHL center Luke Glendenning, starred for the Pioneers at running back on the 2006 state-title squad.
Kevin Grady (Michigan) jumpstarted the era’s bumper crop of rushing talents under Stursma, shattering MHSAA records and winning Stursma his first two state crowns in 2002 and 2003, respectively.
The always humbled and magnanimous Glendening doesn’t consider himself on the same level as Grady when discussing the greatest backs in the EGR history.
“I don’t even put myself in the same sentence as Kevin Grady, this was all my offensive linemen, teammates and coaches,” said Joe the Show to the assembled media following his 2008 championship.
EGR’s 2008 team closed the campaign with a mark of 13-1. At the college level, Glendening was a DII All-American at Hillsdale.
Stuursma left EGR in 2015 for the head coaching post at Hope College, where he found success in his new endeavor pretty quickly. Hope is the two-time defending MIAA league champions this fall.
“You wish you could take those championship moments, those tremendously meaningful memoires and botte them,” Stuursma said.