2020 Advertiser gridiron preview

Akron Fairgrove prepares for new look conference

By Scott Bolsby

Sportswriter

FAIRGROVE – Akron-Fairgrove is preparing for its third season under head coach Ron Dunn after posting a 3-6 record in 2019 – the best mark Vikings country has seen in four seasons.

Dunn is looking to continue the upward trend this year in the North Central Thumb League Stripes division.

“We have returning lettermen and new additions,” Dunn said. “The outlook looks good for us. The team has been improving since I have taken over the program and this is the most talented team the Vikings have had in a long time.”

Akron-Fairgrove finished the 2018 season, the first under Dunn, with a 1-8 record after an 0-9 2017. The single 2018 victory coming via a forfeit against Carsonville-Port Sanilac.

“I believe the Vikings will be more competitive than we have been in the past few years,” Dunn said. “We will be a tough team to play. The message to the team has been one game at a time and don’t focus on games coming up. If we can do that, we will be successful.”

The stripes conference will welcome Ashley, North Huron, Peck and Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart while losing Owendale-Gagetown, which is now co-oping with the Bad Axe football program.

The Vikings hold losing records against Ashley, North Huron and Peck and are looking forward to their first matchup with Sacred Heart this season. Dunn is ready to see his underclassmen step up and help turn the program around.

“The junior class makes up most of the experience and talent on the team,” he said. “The coaches, players and myself are excited about the season. Although it has been cut by three games, the players and coaches feel we can make a statement this season that will impact future seasons to come.”

Akron-Fairgrove opened its 2020 season Friday at home against Kinde-North Huron, a 2019 playoff qualifier in the 8-player Division 1 state tournament. The Vikings lost 46-0.

Scott Bolsby is a sportswriter for The Advertiser. He can be reached at sports@tcadvertiser.com.

School: Akron-Fairgrove

Head coach: Ron Dunn (3rd year)
Last year: 3-6
Key returners: Wyatt Brink, Xander Tkacz, Todd Brink, Willie Hawley, Keaton Cetas, Brendan Durham
Key newcomers: Cayden Karpovich, Kris Bragg, Mason Allard, Blaine Oland

Akron-Fairgrove football schedule

Sept. 18: Vs. North Huron (loss, 46-0)

Sept. 25: At Ashley

Oct. 2: At Bay City All Saints

Oct. 9: At Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart

Oct. 16: Vs. Carsonville-Port Sanilac

Oct. 23: Vs. Caseville

(Photo by John Schneider)
The 2020 Caro High School football team. Front row (from left): Coach Andrew Whittaker, Keegan Gomez, Timothy Waggoner, Martin Samuelson Jr., Tom Waggoner, Zack Williams, Logan Carpenter, Reece Porter, coach Kyle Severn. Back row (from left): Coach Jason Parker, Joe Vandercook, Landon Wyckoff, Ashton Savage, Rylee Curl, Jayden Brown, Devin Parsell, Dustin Spencer, head coach Jason Pierce.

Caro must overcome interior losses

By John Schneider

Editor

CARO – It’s not the amount of players lost to graduation that will hurt the Caro football team this year, it’s their size.

During last year’s 3-6 campaign, the Tigers strength with the interior line, on both offense and defense. That crew – Hunter Dickson, Alec Will, Colton Severn, Isaac Joslyn and Miles Campbell – has graduated. So this year’s focus will be on the skill players, who got plenty of experience last year.

“It’s taking a lot of practice time,” said Caro second-year coach Jason Pierce. “We have some guys playing line who haven’t played line before, we’ve been taking them from the sill positions. It’s been a long road but we’ve gotta do it.”

Caro returns its starting quarterback – Devin Parsell – and top running backs Jayden Brown and Tim Waggoner, respectively.

How quickly players adapt to new positions will go a long way in determining the success of Caro’s football season, Pierce said.

“We need to get comfortable with what we’re doing early,” he said. “Because a lot of guys are new to the varsity and new to their positions. So as soon as they get comfortable in their spot, things will start to take off.

“But I don’t know how long that’s going to take.”

Caro kicked off its season Friday with a 38-7 Greater Thumb Conference West loss at perennial power Laker. Because of COVID-19 delaying the start of the season, Michigan high school football teams will play a six-game 2020 schedule. And in an unprecedented change, all teams will be eligible for the state playoffs, which could work to Caro’s advantage.

“We felt rushed this year, so hopefully we will have the kinks worked out by (the playoffs),” Pierce said. “And you see it all the time, in the playoffs, the hot team gets rolling.”

John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at john@tcadvertiser.com.

School: Caro

Coach: Jason Pierce (2nd year)

Last year: 3-6 (2-4 in the GTW)

Key returning players: Devin Parsell (QB), Jayden Brown (RB), Tom Waggnoer (DB/WR), Tim Waggoner (LB/FB), Zack Williams

Key newcomers: Martin Samuelson (LB/OL), Dustin Spencer (OL/DL), Keegan Gomez (DB/WR)

Key losses: Hunter Dickson (OL), Alec Will (OL), Colton Severn (OL), Issac Joslyn (OL), Miles Campbell (TE)

Caro football schedule

Sept. 19: At Laker (Loss, 38-7)

Sept. 26: Vs. Bad Axe

Oct. 2: At Vassar

Oct. 9: Vs. Marlette

Oct. 16: Vs. Cass City

Oct. 23: Vs. Burton Bendle

(Photo by Scott Bolsby)
The Cass City football team. Front row (from left): Matt Mihalic, Cameron Kaake, Kyle Jordan, Dustin Naegele, Dustin Miller, Jordan Mester, Ayden Torres. Middle row (from left): Head coach Scott Cuthrell, Ryan DeLong, Jeremy Velasquez, Alex Perry, Lance Swiderski, Noah Zaleski, Bryce Fernald. Back row (from left): Coach Brett Ross, Jacob Shantz, Connor Herford, Ethan Kampo, Joseph Zietz, coach Tavis Osentoski.
 

Cass City gets back to work after history-making 2019

By Scott Bolsby

Sportswriter

CASS CITY – After a season that saw Cass City win its second Greater Thumb West title in as many years and the program’s first state semifinal appearance, the Red Hawks are looking for a similar season of success.

Coach Scott Cuthrell doesn’t like to look too far ahead, instead giving his upcoming opponent his undivided attention.

“We are just happy to be playing football this year,” he said. “We take one week at a time and enjoy the game of football.”

Cass City have been really enjoying football the past five years in what has been one of the best runs in school history. The Red Hawks are coming off back-to-back Greater Thumb Conference West titles, a state semifinal appearance and have a 42-14 record over the five-year stretch.

The Red Hawks lost four-year-starting quarterback Sandyn Cuthrell, son of coach Cuthrell, who graduated in 2020, leaving the team in the hands of senior Bryce Fernald, who saw some time at QB last year when Sandyn Cuthrell switched to running back.

“Bryce Fernald has done an outstanding job leading our offense,” Scott Cuthrell said. “He has worked very hard and its showing.”

The Red Hawks also must replace Thumb Sportswriters Association first-team running back Hayden Horne, along with key cogs defensive end Collen Wrubel, offensive lineman Hunter Caister and defensive tackle Logan Boynton.

But Cass City doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.

Cass City had four rushers last year who could rush for 1,000 yards on any given night. Two of them – Alex Perry and Jordan Mester – are back.

The Cass City defense, which gave up just 79 points last season, returns defending TSA Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Velasquez who racked up 54 tackles and two sacks last season.

“We have a good bunch of boys,” Scott Cuthrell said. “They are working hard and have been working hard. They are working for the goal to repeat as GTW Champs and everything after that.”

The Red Hawks opened the 2020 season with a dominating 56-0 victory over GTC-West foe Vassar.

Cuthrell said there are some big hurdles in front of the Red Hawks if they want to win a third consecutive outright GTW title.

“It’s a little different,” he said. “We missed a few games already, but we can’t forget about USA and the upcoming Bad Axe matchup. One week at a time for us, everyone is even at this point.”

Scott Bolsby is a sportswriter for The Advertiser. He can be reached at sports@tcadvertiser.com.

Team: Cass City

Coach: Scott Cuthrell (20th season)

Last year: 11-2 (6-0 GTCW); lost 27-0 to Jackson Lumen Christi in the D-7 state semifinals

Key newcomers: Lance Swiderski, Ethan Kampo, and Ayden Torres

Key Losses: Sandyn Cuthrell (QB/DB), Hayden Horne (RB), Collen Wrubel (TE/DE), Hunter Caister (OL), Logan Boyton (OT/DT)

Key Returners: Alex Perry, Jeremy Velasquez, Matthew Mihalic, Conner Hereford, Jordan Mester, Bryce Fernald, Jacob Shantz, Kyle Jordan, Dustin Naegle, Justin Miller, Ryan Delong, and Noah Zaleski

Cass City football schedule

Sept. 18: At Vassar (win, 56-0)

Sept. 25: Vs. Reese

Oct. 2: Vs. Harbor Beach

Oct. 9: At Unionville-Sebewaing Area

Oct. 16: At Caro

Oct. 23: At Marlette

(Photo by Rummel Studios)

Frankenmuth looking for big year

FRANKENMUTH – The Frankenmuth football team has qualified for the playoffs in each of the last nine years.

And there’s no evidence anything will change this year.

The Eagles have established themselves as a bona fide football powerhouse over the last three decades, and this could be one of the best teams to suit up in Frankenmuth. Which would be fitting since Frankenmuth installed a brand-new, artificial-turf field in its football stadium over the summer.

“We were young last year in quite a few spots, and we hope that game experience will mean a lot with the squeezed team activities this summer,” said Eagles coach Phil Martin. “We won’t be as big up front as the past couple of years, but we are hoping to make up for that with speed.”

The Eagles return most of their skill players from the 2019 season – when they went 7-0 to win the Tri-Valley Conference Central finished the season as a top-five team in Division 5 – including quarterback Davin Reif, running backs Daniel Barger, Riley Roy and Tyler Rich and wide receivers Ben Storms and Ryan Brenner.

Frankenmuth opened the shortened season against a team that has become one of its biggest rivals in recent years – Freeland. Normally a close contest, the Eagles rolled to a 41-3 win.

The Eagles have only three conference games this year in the ever-changing Tri-Valley Conference. This year, the Central Division consists of just four teams, Frankenmuth, Birch Run, Essexville Garber and Bridgeport with Garber posing the Eagles’ biggest title roadblock.

Team: Frankenmuth

Coach: Phil Martin (8th season)

Last year: 9-2 (7-0 in the TVC Central); lost 21-7 to Saginaw Swan Valley in second round of D-5 playoffs

Key returners: Davin Reif, Sr. (QB), Riley Roy, Sr. (RB), Daniel Barger, Sr. (RB), Tyler Rich, Sr. (RB), Ben Reinert, Sr. (DE), Ethan Jacobs, Sr. (RB), Cole Jankowski, Jr. (DB) Samuel McKenzie, Sr. (DE), Ashton Benkert, Jr. (DL), Kyle Main, Sr. (OL), Zach Adkins, Sr. (OL), Ryan Merrihew, Sr. (OL), Ben Storms, Sr. (WR), Ryan Brenner, Sr. (WR)

Key newcomers: Cole Lindow, Jr. (RB), Michael Carter, Jr. (OL), Alec Martin, Jr. (OL)

Key losses: Jon Kelley, Jon Stone, Colton Bryce, Shiloh Koth, Chris Mills, Derek Humpert, Corey Thompson, Seth Messing

Frankenmuth football schedule

Sept. 18: At Freeland (win, 41-3)

Sept. 25: At Saginaw Swan Valley

Oct. 2: At Essexville Garber

Oct. 9: Vs. Alma

Oct. 16: Vs. Birch Run

Oct. 23: Vs. Bridgeport

(Courtesy photo)
The Kingston football team. First row (from left): Isaiah Helton, Owen Corlis, Collin Machota, Jeffrey Fitzroy, Brentyn Langmaid, James Rayl. Second row (from left): Coach Derek Flikkie, Coltin Jocham, Turner Marquardt, Anthony Kopp, Wesley Sholes, Hunter Vennevy, Myles Spencer, Arthur Stilson. Back row (from left): Head coach Brandon Jones, Lawson Lyons, Jacob Rayl, Luke Fetting, Joe Cryderman, Ethan Harrington, Kaidin Peters, James Wilson, Anthony Krych, coach Jay Green.

Young Cardinals ready to spread wings

By Scott Bolsby

Sportswriter

KINGSTON – Kingston finished the 2019 season as the final 8-Player Advertiser-area team standing with a trip to the state semifinals.

The appearance, a 45-14 loss to Suttons Bay, marked the best finish for the Cardinals since making the switch to 8-Player football in 2012.

Fourth-year head coach Brandon Jones knows that it will be an uphill battle to duplicate the feat this season after graduating many starters, including quarterback Aaron Koehler, defensive end/tight end Jack Green, defending Thumb Sportswriters Association offensive lineman of the year center Tristen Skinner, all-state running back Caleb Goss and all-state honorable mention running back Jake DeLong.

“The learning curve this year has been far more difficult than I have ever experienced as a head coach,” Jones said. “We have one returning senior, so we are trying to get freshman and sophomores ready in such a short amount of time.”

The Cardinals will look to newcomers Ethan Harrington, Anthony Krych and a slew of freshman who will vie for playing time.

 “I think that we can be competitive,” Jones said. “We have such a young squad and so little time to prepare for Week 1, there will be a bit of a learning curve there. Our goal is always to be playing our best football at the end of October.”

The North Central Thumb League Stars conference features heavy hitters Deckerville and Morrice, but also Kingston’s season-opening opponent (Genesee) and rival and Week 2 opponent (Mayville).

The Cardinals lost to Genesee in Week 1 and face Mayville Friday in The Advertiser Game of the Week.

“Morrice returns a lot off of last year’s semi-final team,” Jones said. “Then obviously Deckerville is about as steady as they come. I think those two are the favorites, but Mayville has a ton of speed and will be very dangerous.”

The Cardinals have qualified for the playoffs each of the last three seasons. That trend will continue this year as all teams will make the playoffs.

Scott Bolsby is a sportswriter for The Advertiser. He can be reached at sports@tcadvertiser.com.

School: Kingston

Coach: Brandon Jones (4th year)

Last year: 9-3 (4-1 in NCTL Blue); lost 45-14 in 8-player Division 1 state semifinals to Suttons Bay 

Key returners: Jacob Rayl, Luke Fetting, Lawson Lyons, James Wilson, Joe Cryderman

Key losses: Caleb Goss (RB/OL), Jake DeLong (RB/OL), Aaron Koehler (QB/DB), Tristen Skinner (OL),  Jack Green (TE/DE)

Key newcomers: Ethan Harrington, Anthony Krych

Kingston football schedule

Sept. 18: Vs. Genesee (loss, 54-28)

Sept. 25: At Mayville

Oct. 2: At Deckerville

Oct. 9: Vs. New Haven Merritt

Oct. 16: At Morrice

Oct. 23: At Burton Atherton

Red Raiders look to right the ship in 2020

By Scott Bolsby

Sportswriter

MARLETTE – Marlette is ready to make a mark in the Greater Thumb Conference East, only problem is they won’t have many chances to make that mark.

The Red Raiders, due to the cancellation of the first three weeks of football, lost Sandusky and Ubly from the schedule and then Capac opted out of the 2020 campaign.

“It’s going to be a different season,” Marlette coach Denny Lester said. “We only have three league games with Capac not having a varsity team this year. We just hope to go out every Friday night and compete no matter who we are playing.”

While Marlette did lose Capac in the Week 2 slot, it was able to replace it with a nonconference game at the NorthStar League’s Lincoln Alcona to keep a full six-game season.

The Red Raiders fielded a young squad in its 2-7 2019 season and took their lumps.

“There is no doubt that we struggled last season,” Lester said. “We were so young and that had a lot to do with it. This year we have a lot more experience, even though we only have four seniors, we have athletes and a quarterback that can run the show.”

The quarterback taking over the offense is junior Jason Tenbusch, who was the starter on the junior varsity squad last year.

“He had a tremendous year on the JV team,” Lester said. “Jason has made some tremendous progress and we look forward to him leading us for the next two seasons.”

The Red Raiders also look to senior back Ian Schetter to help guide the team with his legs, as he rushed for more than 1,100 yards in 2019.

“He was a workhorse for us,” Lester said “He has very good feet and I thought his vision really improved last year. We expect a lot out of Ian this season.”

Lester also expects big things out of his other offensive leaders – running back Chyler Chisholm and wideout Travis Fuller.

“Travis is one our best players,” Lester said. “He loves the game of football and plays as hard as he possibly can. He was our leading receiver last season.

“Chyler is a tough kid that is physical. We have asked a lot out of him as a freshman and sophomore, so he has a ton of experience for a junior.”

The Red Raiders also know they have to rely heavily on the offensive line to help create holes for their skill players. The interior line is filed with senior linemen, including twin brothers Dustin and Patrick Cummings.

“Dustin is in his third year as a varsity player,” Lester said “He has really taken on more of a leadership role this season. Patrick has really improved so much over the years. He is a selfless player that always does what is best for the team.”

Lester says he’ll need as many pieces working together as possible to help push through the tough GTE which features heavy hitters Harbor Beach, Sandusky and Ubly.

“I know Sandusky has a great group of seniors this year,” he said. “They should be considered the favorites. Ubly and Harbor Beach are both great programs and will always be at the top of the standings.”

Scott Bolsby is a sportswriter for The Advertiser. He can be reached at sports@tcadvertiser.com.

Team: Marlette

Coach: Denny Lester (19th season)

Last year: 2-7 (2-4 GTE)

Key Returners: Ian Schetter (Sr. RB/DB), Dustin Cummings (Sr. OL/LB), Chyler Chisholm (Jr. RB/ LB), Patrick Cummings (Sr. OL/DL), Josiah Hager (Sr. TE/OLB), Travis Fuller (JR. WR/DB), Myles Parker (Jr. RB/LB), Tristan Creighton (Jr. TE/OLB), Brenden Whiteside (Jr. OL/LB), Jack Macha (So. OL/DL)

Key Newcomers: Jason Tenbusch (Jr.), Grant Roberson (Jr.), Ethan Marshall (Jr.), Collin Miller (Jr.), Payton Brooks (Jr.), Jeremiah Miller (Jr.), Matt Williams (Jr.), Logan Abbott (Jr.)

Marlette football schedule

Sept. 18: Vs. Brown City (win, 39-24)

Sept. 25: At Lincoln Alcona

Oct. 3: At Memphis

Oct. 9: At Caro

Oct. 16: Vs. Harbor Beach

Oct. 23: Vs. Cass City

(Photo by John Schneider)
The Mayville football team (from left):Alex Wren, Zach Smith, Brendon Savage-Langmaid, Ashgin Mrock, Hunter LaBean, Steven Gilbert, Tylor Wheaton, Ethan Schenk, Mason Halsne, Zac Langmaid, Nick LaRue, Jace Brown, Cameron Rowbotham (back middle), Austin Middleton, Gavine Estreine, Seth Fisher, Andrew Bruman, Kenneth Blackwell.

Return of POY raises expectations in Mayville

By John Schneider

Editor

MAYVILLE – The best news about Austin Middleton’s 2019 Thumb Sportswriters Player of the Year award?

He earned it as a junior.

That means there are high hopes for the high school football team in Mayville this year. The Wildcats lost a lot of Middleton’s weapons, but return plenty on a team that hopes to be in the mix for a North Central Thumb League Stars Division championship.

Middleton finished the 2019 regular season with more than 2,000 total yards (1,282 yards rushing, 842 passing yards), propelling the Wildcats to a 6-3 record and playoff qualification. He passed for 14 touchdowns and rushed for another dozen. 

As a defensive back, he was ball hawk, recording 48 total tackles and four interceptions. 

Mayville also returns its top two running backs – Steven Gilbert and Ashgin Mrock – to a squad that averaged more than 50 points per contest in the games it won. The Wildcats took a big hit, however, in the receiving corp. with the graduation of 6-foot-4, 210-pound Jacob Millerand 6-foot-5, 245-pound Jeffrey Frost.

But coach Mike Campbell still expects Middleton to produce yardage in the passing game.

“I think that this edition of the Mayville Wildcats will be very well-balanced,” he said. “This team has some good lineman and some speed at the skill positions. On the defensive side of the ball we are aggressive and want to improve each and every week.”

Campbell expects the Stars side of the NCTL to be tough this season, with multiple state powers waiting in the wings.

“The league is very good, one of the best in the state,” Campbell said. “Our schedule has five playoff teams from last year out of our six games. We think we will be prepared for the challenges that await.”

The Wildcats downed Burton Atherton 64-14 Friday in its season opener. But the schedule gets much tougher from there with this week’s matchup against rival Kingston and a looming Oct. 9 matchup with powerhouse Deckerville.

John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at john@tcadvertiser.com.

Team: Mayville

Coach: Mike Campbell (15th season)

Last season: 6-4 overall (3-2 in NCTL Blue); lost to Mio, 34-22, in first round of 8-player D-1 playoffs

Key returners: Austin Middleton (QB/DB), Lucas Rutter (OL/DL), Ashgin Mrock (RB), Steven Gilbert (RB), Hunter LaBean, Nick LaRue

Key newcomers: Nathan Crane III, Zach Smith, Kenny Blackwell, Alex Wren

Key losses: Jeffrey Frost, Jacob Miller, Billy Petitt, Hunter Brown, Zakk Romanowski

Mayville football schedule

Sept. 18: Vs. Burton Atherton (win, 64-14)

Sept. 25: Vs. Kingston

Oct. 2: Vs. New Haven Merritt

Oct. 9: At Deckerville

Oct. 16: at Flint International

Oct. 23: at Kinde-North Huron

(Courtesy photo)
 The Millington football team. Front row (from left): Zach Dickson, Dave Tebedo, Kadyn LaChapelle, Leyton Mays, Brendyn Callahan, Issac Slough, Ashton Smith, Jerdannio Bailey, Drew Kihn, Austin Kirby. Second row (from left): Dom Novelli, Jason Loomis, Ryan Livingston, Nick McClain, Jordan Rabideau, Cole Hitsman, Landyn Hanel, Logan Curtis, Jack Sherman. Third row (from left): Brody Germain, Avery Barron, Joe Novelli, Jonah Williams, Will Kirby, Jared Legue, Christian Harry, Andrew Hoard, Conner Sirmons. Back row (from left): Bradey Urban, Jacob Gorsuch, Luke Hoffman, Gerald Moorhouse.

Millington has numbers to compete in talent-filled conference

By Scott Bolsby

Sportswriter

MILLINGTON – Millington started last season, its first in the Tri Valley Conference West I Division, with a 1-4 record and the threat of having a losing season for the first time since 1988.

The Cardinals turned things around by winning their final four games to finish the regular season with a 5-4 record, good enough to slip into the playoffs.

Third-year head coach Lenny Dantinne knows that this year the Cardinals will have to battle to earn those wins as the TVCW-I was junior-heavy in 2019.

“We feel like our team is balanced this year,” he said. “We have 34 kids on varsity and return the majority of our team from last year.”

Among those players returning is junior quarterback Isaac Slough, who was injured in Week 5 last season.

Millington also returns Division 5/6 honorable mention all-stater Brody Germain on the offensive and defensive lines. Seniors Brendyn Callahan (WR/DB), Luke Hoffman (OL/DL), Will Kirby (QB/D), Jordan Rabideau (FB/LB) and Jonah Williams (WR/K) also return for the perennial powerhouse Cardinals.

“We plan to play a lot of kids and hopefully wear some opponents out with our depth,” Dantinne said. “Our conference returns a majority of players on each team, and each team in our conference made the playoffs last year.

“Our schedule gives us no breaks from week to week. We expect every game to be highly competitive.”

One major player from last season that will be sorely missed is all-state honorable mention and Thumb Sportswriter Association first-team tight end and defensive end Zac Yorke.

Millington will battle with familiar foes Carrollton, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Midland Bullock Creek and Hemlock before finishing off the season against non-conference opponent Flint Hamady, who it beat in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, 21-14.

Ithaca made the move from the TVCW-I to the TVCW-II, giving the Cardinals a new conference opponent in Standish Sterling, which Millington defeated 18-6 on Friday.

Scott Bolsby is a sportswriter for The Advertiser. He can be reached at sports@tcadvertiser.com.

School: Millington

Coach: Lenny Dantinne (3rd year)

Last year: 6-5 (1-3 in TVC West I); lost 22-0 to Montrose in second round of D-6 playoffs

Key returners: Brody Germain, Sr. (OL/DL), Brendyn Callahan, Sr. (WR/DB), Luke Hoffman, Sr. (OL/DL), Drew Kihn, Jr. (WR/DB), Jerdannio Bailey, Jr. (WR/DB), Will Kirby, Jr. (QB/DB), Leyton Mays, Jr. (RB/LB), Jordan Rabideau, Sr. (FB/LB), Jack Sherman, Sr. (FB/DL), Issac Slough, Jr. (QB/DB), Jonah Williams, Sr. (WR/K), Jacob Gorsuch, Jr. (OL/DL)

Key newcomers: Avery Barron, Jr. (OL/DE), Logan Curtis, Jr. (WR/DE), Landyn Hanel, Jr. (FB), Kadyn LaChapelle, Jr. (DE), Jared Legue, Jr. (LB), Dominic Novelli, So. (OL), Bradey Urban, Jr. (RB/LB)

Key losses: Zac Finatri, Remington Ray, Hunter Maxon, Kyle Paquette, Jake Holtsberry, Zac Yorke

Millington football schedule

Sept. 18: at Standish-Sterling (win, 18-6)

Sept. 25: vs. Carrollton

Oct. 2: at Michigan Lutheran Seminary

Oct. 9: vs. Midland Bullock Creek

Oct. 16: vs. Hemlock

Oct. 23: at Flint Hamady

(Photo by Scott’s Studio)
The North Branch football team. Front row (from left): Evan Schapman, Lucas Schapman, Aiden Swoish, Mason McLean, Brayden Vauter, Andrew Mersino. Second row (from left): Drake Deshetsky, Kyle Daley, Will Damaska, Dylan Bennett, Brandon Martin. Third row (from left): Damion Milbocker, Blake Clouse, Jackson Schultz, Gabe Baksa, Colton Law, Jacob Ranney. Fourth row (from left): Griffin Mabery, Ryan Henne, Wyatt Howe, Dominic Schierlinger, Antonio Soto. Fifth row (from left): Dillon Schulz, Logan Sawson, Memphis Rogers, Ryan Rogers, Dylan Schmidt, Franklin Caudill, Sean Patten. Sixth row (from left): Trenton Thomas, Drew Ragatz, David Petitt, Ian Greib, Landen Swoish. Eighth row (from left): Coach Jared Ramsey, coach Daniel Deshetsky, head coach Jeremy Ferman, coach Bubba Goins, coach Kyle Kleinknech.

North Branch football schedule

Sept. 18: Vs. Yale (win, 56-0)

Sept. 25: At Almont

Oct. 2: Vs. Algonac

Oct. 9: Vs. Richmond

Oct. 16: At Imlay City

Oct. 23: At Armada

Reif ready for second season with Rockets

REESE – Reese High School alum Cody Reif took over the Rockets’ football program in 2019 with hopes of bringing his hometown squad back into the playoff spotlight.

The 2010 graduate, who played under legendary coach Bob Saylor, looked to instill the same winning tradition of football he experienced back into the program.

It didn’t happen last year as the Rockets struggled to a 2-7 season, but Rocket nation is hopeful for this season.

The Rockets, who are on their third coach since Saylor’s retirement in 2014, have compiled a 14-43 record since 2014.

Reese, a powerhouse program for decades, is currently on a playoff dry spell with only one playoff appearance since 2013, after making the postseason 14 of the previous 15 years.

Reese will first replace quarterback Isaac Johnson with junior wide receiver and talented athlete Tanner TerBush.

He will be joined on offense by fellow newcomers Damarquss Palmretuer at running back and Jacob Rau at tight end, along with returning wide receivers Levi Foco and Josh Kendziorski and full back Jake Kowalski.

The defense will be anchored by Thumb Sportswriters Association second-team linebacker Grant Bouvy.

The Rockets started the season Friday with a 46-26 loss at Unionville-Sebewaing Area in the annual Sugar Bowl, but played competitive for three quarters before the Patriots pulled away.

Reese will stay on the road for the second game of the season – a battle at Greater Thumb West favorite Cass City – before returning home to Vito Tutera Field to take on GTW foe Bad Axe.

Coach: Cody Reif (2nd season)

Last year: 2-7 (1-5 in GTW)

Key Returners: Josh Kendziorski, Jack DuRussel, Landen Bender, Jacob Kowalski, Caden Goodrow, Grant Bouvy, Levi Foco

Key Losses: Bryce Brechetelsbauer, Isaac Johnson, Mason Hawes, Wyatt Schember, Jonathon Hudson

Key Newcomers: Trevor Kalkman, Tanner TerBush, Brandon Williams, Jacob Rau, DaMarquss Palmreuter

Reese football schedule

Sept. 18: At Unionville-Sebewaing Area (loss, 46-16)

Sept. 25: At Cass City

Oct. 2: Vs. Bad Axe

Oct. 9: Vs. Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port

Oct. 16: At Capac

Oct. 23: At Sandusky

(Photo by Greg Hall)
Members of the Vassar High School varsity football team are (front row, from left) Tobias McDonnell, Anthony Folino, Colin Kilmer, Connor Rayment, Matthew Piazza, Ian Hubbard, Owen Kilmer, Dalton Hook, Alic Ray, Logan Green and Devin Metro; (second row) Leo Zarko, David Wegrzyn, Damien Sanders, Caden Cook, German Cerda, Logan Stroup, Brady Putnam, Chad Deming, Hunter Stroup, Manuel Mendham, LeMonte Davis, Devin Polidoro and Alex Elisech; (back row) Steven Blakeley, Joseph Folino, Landon Klinesmith, Landen Haubenstricker, Dustin Henderson, Rylan Mansueto, Nate Whitney, Logan Cherniawski, Zac Klinesmith, Marquavis Crist, Evan Hunkins, Garet Edler and Michael Lopez.

Young Vulcans aim for steady improvement

By Tom Gilchrist

Reporter

VASSAR – Vassar High School’s varsity football team hopes to adjust to life without quarterback Ricardo Macon Jr. – and with restrictions related to COVID-19.

“We’re a young team, and we have some good kids,” said Jason Kiss, entering his 14th season as head coach of the Vulcans.

“We have some returners, but with everything that’s been going on, to flip the switch and to not have a scrimmage, it’s tough to say what’s going on out here at all.

“We’re just hoping to get better week by week – that’s the truth of this.”

Macon, a 2019 Vassar High graduate, signed to become a preferred walk-on player for the University of Michigan football team, but shifted direction before the season to play for Central Michigan University last fall.

Kiss said his squad has “good numbers” with 40 players, including about 11 freshmen. But he’s searching for intangibles among the troops.

“Last year we had a lot of good leaders,” Kiss said. “The biggest part is we need these guys to step up and be leaders.”

Vassar fell to Cass City, the defending Greater Thumb Conference West Division champion, 56-0, on Friday. The Vulcans host Laker High School this Friday.

Vassar, 1-8 in 2019, has shifted former offensive guard Dalton Hook to quarterback this season.

Bill Germain, offensive coordinator, said Hook brings an unusual perspective as a quarterback.

“He sees the defensive line alignment and he recognizes the situation, and he can check (to a different play) at the line,” Germain said. “If you’ve always been a quarterback, it’s hard to understand the angles and the blocking scheme up front.”

Kiss and Germain look for offensive firepower from running back LeMonte Davis and wide receiver Marquavis Crist. The offense must try to mesh without the benefit of 7-on-7 games in the summer due to COVID-19.

“But the other part is that everybody’s on the same page,” Kiss said. “It’ll be interesting. I would imagine a lot of these games will be a little rough at first.”

Germain said Hook has the benefit of attending Jeff Trickey’s Quarterback Camp in Mount Pleasant this summer.

Hook “worked on mechanics quite a bit,” said Germain, who likes the attitude of the Vassar squad.

“As far as catching on and picking up everything really quickly, it’s very exciting,” Germain said. “They’re a real coachable group.”

Kiss said the Vassar offense won’t lean too heavily on running plays or passing plays.

“We’ll be 50/50, and we’ll do both,” Kiss said. “We’re very good at taking what people give us.”

Though the regular season has been shortened to six games, every team makes the state playoffs this year, meaning the Vulcans will compete in their first tournament game since a 2015 loss at Ithaca, which won a state title that year.

“We’d be excited, especially if it’s a district draw like basketball,” Germain said. “But it’s a bummer if everybody’s in the playoffs, and you still have to drive three hours to a game. I’d really like to play somebody close, but we’re not sure yet how it’s going to work out.”

Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com

School: Vassar

Coach: Jason Kiss (14th season)

Last year: 1-8 (0-6 GTC West)

Key returning players: Dalton Hook (QB/LB); LeMonte Davis (RB/CB); Marquavis Crist (WR/S); Matthew Piazza (OG/DL)

Key losses: Ricardo Macon Jr.

VASSAR SCHEDULE

Friday, Sept. 18 (Lost to Cass City, 56-0)

Friday, Sept. 25 vs. Laker High

Friday, Oct. 2 vs. Caro

Friday, Oct. 9 at Bad Axe

Friday, Oct. 16 vs. Unionville-Sebewaing Area

Friday, Oct. 23 at Brown City

(Photo by John Cook)
The 2020 Unionville-Sebewaing Area football team. Front row (from left): Kreedon Stanley, Walker Foley, Garrison Dyer, Chase Payne, Ethan Engelhardt, Justin Hunt, Jacob Nimitz, Jeremiah Hahn, Noah Crumm. Back row (from left): Dakota Miller, Braylon Ballard, Kirkland Czewski, Evan Volz, Daniel Czewski, Samuel Kock, Conner Gettel, Kaden Kuhl, Nehemiah Parmenter, Keegan Bixman.

Ground and pound: USA running game among Thumb’s best

By John Schneider

Editor

SEBEWAING TWP. – Many football teams would love to return an all-conference running back.

Unionville-Sebewaing Area has three.

Juniors Conner Gettel and Walker Foley and sophomore Braylon Ballard took turns running wild in 2019, often putting up monster numbers in the same game.

But USA coach Josh Hahn doesn’t see the running back position as the most important spot on his team.

“The key to our success is the offensive line,” he said. “Those guys are great players, but if we don’t do the job on the offensive front, they don’t get going. We have a great group of seniors coming back so hopefully we can take another step forward.”

The Patriots had an interesting 2019 season. They went 5-1 in the Greater Thumb West and 6-3 overall before losing in the first round of the playoffs to Ubly. But three of the four losses came to teams that made it to the state semifinals – Ubly (who defeated USA in the regular season as well) in Division 8 and GTW rival Cass City in Division 7. The fourth loss came Harbor Beach, which went 10-1 and was ranked in the top five in the state most of the year.

In its six wins, USA beat teams by an average of more than 40 points per game.

As he mentioned, Hahn will count on his offense line to propel the Patriots to a big season. And USA has the horses up front to open big running lanes.

Jacob Nimtz was a first-team all-GTW on both the offensive and defensive lines a year ago, and will anchor the interior for the Patriots. Keegan Bixman and Kirkland Czewski also return on the interior. Czewski’s twin brother – Daniel – decided to play football as a senior this year to add to the talent up front.

The Patriots kicked off the season Friday in what is its most anticipated game – against rival Reese in the annual Sugar Bowl. A back-and-forth game turned into a comfortable win as USA captured its fourth in a row in the series, 46-26.

John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser. He can be reached at john@tcadvertiser.com.

Team: Unionville-Sebewaing Area

Coach: Josh Hahn (4th year)

Last year: 6-4 (5-1 in GTW); lost in first round of D-8 playoffs to Ubly

Key returners: Jacob Nimtz (OL/LB), Keegan Bixman (DE/TE), Ethan Engelhardt (QB/DB), Kirkland Czewski (OL/DL), Braylon Ballard (RB/LB), Conner Gettel (RB/DB), Walker Foley (RB/DB)

Key newcomers: Noah Crumm (RB/DL), Daniel Czewski (OL/DL), Dakota Miller (OL/DL)

Key losses: Landin Zimmer (QB/DB), Nash Morton (RB/DB)

USA football schedule

Sept. 18: Vs. Reese (win, 46-26)

Sept. 25: At Brown City

Oct. 2: At Laker

Oct. 9: Vs. Cass City

Oct. 16: At Harbor Beach

Oct. 23: At Caro

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