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 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -Chuck Martin is riding high on the wave of Grand Valley State's record-setting 36-game winning streak, but the coach's first season as an assistant started off looking like a wipeout.
Under former head coach Brian Kelly, the Lakers lost four of their first five games in 2000 before reversing course and winning their last six to finish 7-4.
Since then, the team has gone 93-5, won NCAA Division II championships in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006, and evolved into a small-college powerhouse.
Martin, a defensive specialist who took over for Kelly after the end of the 2003 season, is 46-3 with two national titles in his fourth year at the helm of Grand Valley State.
The Lakers set a new NCAA Division II record when they won their 35th game in a row on Oct. 20, against Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival Northwood. They extended their streak to 36 on Saturday by beating Ferris State, another conference school, and are now 8-0 on the season, ranked No. 1 in the nation in Division II.
``We've been on a great roll and we're trying to keep it rolling,'' said Martin. The streak will be on the line Saturday when the Lakers play at Saginaw Valley State, traditionally a fierce conference rival.
Martin said the key to the program's success is preparation, which continues year-round in the weight room, during spring practice and even while recruiting. The team aggressively goes after standout, in-state players who aren't headed for Michigan, Michigan State or other big schools.
``To do what we've done over the last six years and, obviously, during the current win streak, to me it's a byproduct of what you do 365 days a year,'' he said.
Grand Valley State has landed several outstanding quarterbacks in recent years. Its last two starters, Cullen Finnerty (2003-06) and Curt Anes (1999-2002), were prolific passers who earned All-America honors and Harlon Hill Awards as the top players in Division II.
Brad Iciek, a sophomore from Grandville, has quickly shown that he is cut from the same mold as his two predecessors. In his first year as the Lakers' starting quarterback, he leads all of Division II in passing efficiency.
Iciek has had two games this year in which he has thrown for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns. After eight games this season, he has completed 110 of 165 passes (66.7 percent), including 21 for TDs, while throwing only four interceptions. His efficiency rating of 197.2 is 21 points higher than the second-most efficient passer in Division II, Jacary Atkinson of Tuskegee.
Iciek said he learned a lot from watching Finnerty for two years and, after fall camp, felt ``really comfortable'' going into his team's first game of this season as the starter. He ended up throwing for two touchdowns and running for a third as Grand Valley State easily defeated Saint Joseph's, 42-14.
Grand Valley State outscores its opponents by an average of 44-12 and is ranked fourth in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
``We don't worry about the next game and those numbers just keep piling up,'' Iciek said.
Kelly, who spent 13 years as the head coach at Grand Valley State and then three more seasons at Central Michigan before taking the Cincinnati job, said he was aware of the Lakers' streak and is glad that the team remained successful after he left.
``From my perspective, you always feel good when you leave that you've left it in great shape to continue to have success,'' Kelly said. ``So I feel a great deal of pride knowing that we left it in really good shape, that they were able to continue.''
He credited athletic director Tim Selgo for elevating Grand Valley State from a football program with a long history of playing well against local teams to one that can compete on a national level.
``Brian Kelly just did a great job as our head coach and the leader of our program, and Chuck Martin's been doing the same,'' said Selgo, the AD since 1996.
Kelly left for Central Michigan in 2003, shortly after winning his second straight Division II title. The next day, Selgo announced that Martin, who by then was Grand Valley State's defensive coordinator, had accepted a promotion to head coach.
Selgo said this week he had every confidence at the time that Martin would succeed.
``He loves working with young men and teaching them football and helping them to grow as people as well as players, and that certainly is demonstrated in the results,'' Selgo said.
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Associated Press Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this story.
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