By Calli Newberry
Relentless and ready to make the play. That’s just who Jake Townsend is.
Whether he was juking his way into the end zone under the Friday night lights, stealing his way around the basepath, or simply helping out at a youth basketball camp, he has undoubtedly left his mark on the Croswell-Lexington community.
“He did it in the right way too. He represented the school the right way, he was very humble, and he always gave credit to his teammates,” Cros-Lex head basketball coach Lance Campbell said. “That’s what a leader does.
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
“When you think of Jake, you think about him spending the whole day at fifth and sixth-grade basketball camp. There’s a lot of 6-12-year olds at Cros-Lex that look up to him and would love to be the next Jake Townsend…and he takes the time to talk to those kids and work with them.”
Townsend finished his high school career this spring in a fashion unlike any other. As quarterback, point guard, and center fielder, he led three different teams to a district title this year, earning BWAC MVP and AP All-State Honorable Mention in football and basketball – a rare feat.
The Pioneers were also undefeated in football and basketball conference play, clinching two league titles.
He said that his proudest accomplishment besides committing to Northwood University to play football and earning those three district titles.
“It meant a lot. The [baseball] district title was probably one of the hardest to win. Our team was super young, and everyone doubted us. We lost games 15-1, but baseball’s weird like that,” Townsend said. “We clicked at the right time and shocked a lot of people, and I think it just proved to people that it doesn’t matter how you start at the beginning of the year; it just matters how you finish.”
And that unwavering belief in the seemingly impossible is what sets Townsend apart. As head football coach Mike LeGrow said, his dedication to all three of his sports and his ability to make the necessary plays is an outstanding example.
“He’s just a kid that’s been able to do everything for us. Just from his leadership to his knowledge of the game, and not just football, but every sport he’s played. He’s the reason why we were as successful as we were last year,” LeGrow said. “He has this knack for extending plays and this ability to just know what the situation is calling for. His athletic IQ is through the roof.”
This year, he finished the football season with more than 3,000 yards of offense, including 2,333 in the air and 23 passing touchdowns. He averaged 13.8 points, 4.1 assists, and 4.2 steals per game in basketball. And in baseball, he carried a .370 batting average with five triples, 25 RBIs, a home run, and 23 stolen bases.
“He set the bar very, very high. He’s the example I give kids that are playing other sports or who have goals to go do things post-high school. Jake would play 30 of 32 minutes of basketball, and the next day he was hitting heavy squats,” LeGrow said. “It just shows you if you want something badly enough, if you work hard for it, you can achieve it.”
As a result of his hard work and impressive resume, Townsend has earned Blue Water Healthy Living’s Male Athlete of the Year as voted on by the community.
“There were a lot of great athletes in this area for sure, and to be honored as one of them is awesome. It shows that I had great teammates and great coaches,” Townsend said. “Without them, none of this would be possible. We won a lot of games because of them, and you don’t get nominated for things like these if you’re not winning a lot of games.”
And Townsend had a unique ability to lead those teams as well. His belief was contagious, as Campbell recalled a non-conference game against Reese midseason when the Pioneers trailed by 16 at the half.
“Things didn’t look good,” he said.
But Townsend never gave up and scored 23 points, handing the Rockets a 67-51 loss.
“He just brought a great attitude, great leadership, and obviously he was highly skilled…He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around,” Campbell said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid that brought it every night, and he was eager to stay late at practice and show up early. I think that forces other kids to do the same when they see the best player [doing that].”
He might’ve challenged his teammates by the example he set, but he wasn’t afraid to speak up either. He’d command the offense from the line of scrimmage, direct the defense from the top of the key, and he always offered a quick word of encouragement in the dugout.
“As a leader, you want to have a say in what goes on and how practices are going. You want to be in control when the games are tight or a play needs to be made,” Townsend said. “I think having that mentality has always helped me to never play scared and that was one thing that I learned growing up was to never be scared coming into games. I think that’s what helped me become a leader and our guys have allowed me to be a leader. They’ve allowed me to criticize them, but they also allowed me to be their biggest fan, so you’ve got to find that balance of when to get on your guys and when to praise them.”
His leadership and athleticism won’t be soon forgotten, and there’s no doubt he’ll carry many of the same memories as he moves on to the collegiate level.
“It’s meant a lot to be able to play with a lot of great players and be coached by a lot of great coaches,” Townsend said. “I was blessed to have the opportunity to be successful while playing at Cros-Lex and I wouldn’t have traded my time here for anything.”