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Pure Finisher: Marquette’s Dawson lighting up scoreboards without statewide fanfare



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MARQUETTE, Mich. — Max Dawson doesn’t recall exactly who his first high school goal came against in 2019.

Who could blame him?

The Marquette senior midfielder/forward has scored plenty of them.



And without much fanfare.

The talented soccer player has lit up scoreboards all over the Upper Peninsula and the upper portion of the Lower Peninsula during his stellar four-year varsity prep career with regularity – and most coaches around the state don’t know much about him or know of him at all.

To answer the first question, the first varsity goal came in an early-season tournament during Dawson’s freshman season – a 2-1 loss to downstate New Boston Huron in the Saginaw Heritage Showcase.

“I don’t really remember who that first goal came against to be honest,” recalled Dawson. “That was along time ago. It was something like the third game my freshman year.”

As a freshman, Dawson came off the bench the first few games before being inserted into the starting lineup. The rest is history.

Entering the weekend of Oct. 13-15 this season, Dawson has all but rewrote the school records book for the Redmen, who are currently 20-2-2 and have not suffered a defeat since losses to Traverse City West and Petoskey in the first week of the season in mid-August. He has 99 career goals entering the weekend, including a single-season school record of 39 last season. He has finished in double digits in goals each year, including 13 goals as a freshman, 12 markers during a COVID-shortened sophomore campaign in 2021, the aforementioned 39 tallies last year as a junior and 35 goals so far this season as a senior captain.

His 32 career assists rank amongst the top 10 in school history, and his four goals in a game recorded a few times also ranks high on Marquette’s books. He is the school’s all-time leader in goals (99) and points (131) to go along with his record for goals in a season. He has scored against schools of all sizes and rarely is held off the scoreboard.

“Max is a very talented player,” beamed Marquette coach Dan Salmon, who is in his third season with the Redmen. “He scores against almost everybody. Every team we face tries to (man-mark) him and only a couple have been able to shut him down. He’s a very solid player who I think his greatest attribute is his speed. He is normally the fastest player on the field every game. If he gets in behind the defense – he’ll put it in the back of the net. But he’s definitely not a selfish player at all. He can always make the right pass and he makes players around him better. If we are up by a lot of goals, he’ll keep working hard setting up others and trying to help the younger players. He doesn’t try to run up the score on teams.”

To answer another previous question regarding why many coaches around the state don’t know about Dawson is quite complex. It’s a fact that no one has ever observed Dawson on the All-State lists that come out every November – and there is reason despite him being one of the most prolific goal scorers and overall soccer players in Upper Peninsula history.

Since 2007, Marquette and the rest of its brethren from around the Upper Peninsula, are withheld from the state tournament which first stems from a lawsuit that started two decades ago and ended in 2007 that eventually forced several prep sports seasons to be played out of season in Michigan.

The MHSAA eventually lost the lawsuit and ensuing court order, as several seasons were forced to be moved out of season. Girls volleyball, the main reason behind the lawsuit, was moved from the winter to fall and in parallel with most of the country and girls basketball was forced into the winter season from the fall. Boys tennis and girls golf were moved from the spring to the fall and boys golf and girls tennis from the fall to the spring season.

Soccer was somehow forced into the upheaval as well.

Boys soccer was supposed to be moved to the spring in the U.P. and girls soccer north of the bridge from the spring to the fall. But with limited schools in the Upper Peninsula sponsoring boys soccer — ranging from 12-20 each year depending on participating schools — and girls soccer (only around a half dozen compete in girls soccer), the high schools in the Upper Peninsula could only keep their seasons in parallel with Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin due to ample opponents and with one major stipulation.

In result, the Upper Peninsula schools are forced into their own boys soccer postseason tournament, which takes place in mid-October each year at about the same time as the Lower Peninsula schools are participating in MHSAA district play. The U.P. Tournament is not sanctioned by the MHSAA. The U.P. Girls Soccer Tournament is also held in early June each year dating back to the spring 2008 season.

So for Dawson, Marquette and the rest of the U.P. soccer teams, they still compete against schools in the Upper Peninsula, Lower Peninsula and Wisconsin, both in non-league games and weekend tournaments. They have not participatde in the MHSAA tournament for the past 15 years. The top players from the Upper Peninsula are not selected in the All-District, All-Region, and All-State process as the downstate players can enjoy if their school is a member of the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association and competes in the MHSAA tournament.

“It does bother me a little bit, but I try not to think about it because it’s out of my control,” said Dawson of not being able to play in the MHSAA state tournament. “All I can control is trying to help my team get better and win as many games as possible. We always try to win the U.P. tournament.”

For the record, Marquette competes in the Upper Peninsula Division 1 Tournament, which usually has around 4-6 schools each year. The same amount of schools compete in the Upper Peninsula Division 2 Tournament, as both tournaments are held in Marquette each year at the Kaufman Sports Complex. Several very small high schools in the Upper Peninsula opt out of the D-2 tournament and solely play in a league tournament (Northern Lights League) in early October each year.

Despite playing in near-obscurity each fall prep season, Dawson does play club soccer in Marquette in the offseason and has garnered some college interest, mainly from Northern Michigan University and Michigan Tech University. He hopes the recruiting process eventually opens up to more college around the country in the near future.

“Our club team does compete against some teams (downstate and in Wisconsin) but we don’t get a chance to travel far that often,” he said. “I still want to play college soccer. That’s been a goal of mine for a long time, whether that’s Division I or Division II or anywhere. I hope to get that chance. I have to try to get my name out there because players up here don’t get (the same) exposure.”

Salmon agrees.

“If he gets the chance, he’ll be a steal (in college),” noted the coach. “He’s a very well-rounded player and I don’t know if we would be where we are at (this season) without him. This year we only returned seven players from last season and Max is one of two returning starters. We started a little slow back in August as we worked in a bunch of new players and some teams we played really keyed in to stop him.”

As an independent in soccer, Dawson and the Redmen have played dozens of different high schools in recent years with the late-season goal to finish as the top team in the U.P.

So Dawson will close the last chapter of his stellar prep career this month as arguably the best player in the entire Upper Peninsula regardless of school-size. But he’s already more than made his mark not only on his school but the entire U.P. region. Marquette is going for its 14th straight Upper Peninsula Division 1 championship.

“I just hope I’ve left an impression on the younger players and they learned from me and the other upperclassmen,” said Dawson. “I’ve always tried to make everyone on my team the best player they can be just like the seniors did for me when I was a freshman. After I am (graduated) I hope the younger players can carry on the tradition.”



2019: 13 5 18

2020 12 5 17

2021 39 8 47

2022 35 14 49

Current Totals: 99 32 131


An * asterisk denotes school is eligible to use eighth grade students on high school athletics teams due to the state’s sub-100 students rule. Two ** asterisks denotes school is eligible to use both eighth grade and seventh grade students on high school athletics teams due to the state’s sub-50 students rule.

Current Upper Peninsula Boys Soccer Teams:

School: 9-12

Beaver Island 15 **

Brimley Ojibwe Charter 39 **

Chassell Copper Country Christian 46 **

Cooks Big Bay De Noc 56 *

Escanaba-Gladstone Bayside Unified 652/414

Grand Marais Burt Township N/A **

Hannahville Nah Tah Wahsh 65 *

Houghton 468

Iron Mountain-Norway Unified 264/177

Ironwood-Bessemer-Wakefield Unified 196/114/95

Kingsford 563

Mackinac Island 22 **

Marquette 1,114

Munising Baptist N/A **

Negaunee 414

Sault Ste Marie 884

Schools At One Time Formerly Sponsored Soccer Programs:

Bark River-Harris 220

Gwinn 265

Manistique 263

Paradise Whitefish Township 22 **

Rapid River 109

Other Upper Peninsula High Schools:

Baraga 123

Bark River-Harris 220

Brimley 154

Calumet 369

Carney-Nadeau 77 *

Cedarville Les Cheneaux 62 *

Chassell 68 *

Crystal Falls Forest Park 124

DeTour 41 **

Dollar Bay 110

Eben Junction Superior Central 83 *

Engadine 94 *

Escanaba Holy Name Catholic 20 **

Ewen-Trout Creek 67 *

Felch North Dickerson 82 *

Gwinn 265

Hancock 222

Iron River West Iron County 235

Ishpeming 215

Ishpeming Westwood 383

Kinross Maplewood Baptist 27 **

Lake Linden-Hubbell 103

L’Anse 188

Manistique 263

Marquette North Star Academy 68 *

Menominee 370

Mohawk Keewenaw Academy N/A

Munising 179

Newberry 167

Ontonagon 116

Painesdale-Jeffers 190

Paradise Whitefish Township 22 **

Pickford 161

Powers North Central 108

Rapid River 109

Republic-Michigamme 36 **

Rock Mid-Peninsula 45 **

Rudyard 169

St. Ignace-Lasalle 201

Stephenson 149

Wakefield-Marensisco 95 *

Watersmeet 51 *

White Pine N/A *

U.P. DIVISION 1 FOR BOYS SOCCER – Houghton, Iron Mountain-Norway Unified, Kingsford, Marquette, Sault Ste Marie

U.P. DIVISION 2 FOR BOYS SOCCER – Chassell Copper Country Christian, Houghton ‘B’, Ironwood-Bessemer-Wakefield Unified, Marquette ‘B’, Negaunee

NORTHERN LIGHTS LEAGUE (U.P.-based high schools have not entered Upper Peninsula Tournament in recent years) – Beaver Island, Brimley Ojibwe Charter, Cooks Big Bay De Noc, Grand Marais Burt Township, Hannahville Nah Tah Wahsh, Mackinac Island, Munising Baptist

UPPER PENSINSULA GIRLS SOCCER TEAMS -- Houghton, Iron Mountain, Kingsford, Marquette, Sault Ste Marie


2021: Marquette

2020: Marquette

2019: Marquette

2018: Marquette

2017: Marquette

2016: Marquette

2015: Marquette

2014: Marquette

2013: Marquette

2012: Marquette

2011: Marquette

2010: Marquette

2009: Marquette

2008: Marquette

2007: Not Available


2021: Escanaba-Gladstone Bayside Unified

2020: Chassell Copper Country Christian

2019: Not Available

2018: Not Available

2017: Not Available

2016: Escanaba-Gladstone Bayside Unified

2015: Not Available

2014: Escanaba-Gladstone Bayside Unified

2013: Not Available

2012: Not Available

2011: Not Available

2010: Not Available

2009: Not Available

2008: Not Available

2007: Not Available

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