Clare County’s three varsity high school football teams have been in practice mode for two weeks now and though numbers are slightly down for each team, the area coach’s are still expecting strong seasons.
Clare went 9-2 last season, winning the Jack Pine Conference for the fifth straight season and topped Meridian in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Morley-Stanwood in the district championship.
“Numbers are good on the varsity, we have about 32,” Clare head coach Kelly Luplow, entering his 25th season heading the Pinoeers said. “Sophomore numbers are OK, freshmen are down. We’ll probably be combining freshmen and junior varsity. That will be the first time in years.”
With the squad’s first game being played Friday by hosting Freeland, the coach has already begun to analyze both sides of the ball.
“We’re trying to focus on developing an offense,” Luplow said. “Our offensive line is back but (no one is back) in the skill positions. I think we’ll be ready to go. You’ll always deal with first game jitters and first game mistakes you just have to survive the first game then learn from mistakes and get better after that.”
Clare senior linebacker Mitch Greenacre likes what he sees as well.
“We’re looking really strong defensively and we bring back our entire offensive line,” he said. “Our defense is going to be our strongest point for sure. We bring back seven of our starting11 back on defense. We’re trying to capture our sixth straight conference championship. It’s never been done before but I think we can do it.”
Farwell went 4-5 last year, and enters the season with first year head coach Alan Esterline. According to the coach, about 25 athletes have turned out for camp, which is down a few from last year’s turnout.
“The ones that are here want to be here and are working hard and doing what we ask of them,” Esterline said. “We’ve been really stressing discipline and team work and that we need everybody to be here and they’ve accepted that challenge.”
Keegan Rohdy, a senior running back for the Eagles doesn’t expect the lower turnout to hurt the team once they begin play next week when they host Coleman on Thursdays.
“We’re working real hard,” he said. “We don’t have as many numbers this year so we have to work to be extra conditioned because a number of us are playing both ways. We’re expecting, to have a better year than last year and never give up on a play.”
Harrison head coach Mike Petrongelli enters his fifth season guiding the Hornets, though he sees his numbers in camp at 22, about four fewer than last year at this time.
“They have a lot of potential,” he said. “The key for us is we have to stay away from injuries. We’re not very deep. Hopefully as the season goes on we’ll be bale to develop more depth.”
One focus for the coach, who’s team went 2-7 last year is intensity.
“We’re trying to get them to be more intense. (This week’s) practice was a lot better,” he said. “As last week went on it got better and better. We scrimmage (today) so we’re building up for that. They seem to be a real nice group of kids, they work hard. If we can keep them all intact we’ll be OK.”
As the Hornets prepare to host Lake City on Thursday, the senior quarterback Jacob Stuhr hopes for a better result than last year’s 31-0 setback.
“I feel like we look the best we’ve ever looked, we have some good intensity,” Stuhr said. “We’re doing a lot of stuff right, we’re being where we need to be. Football is a psychological game. If you don’t try to scare everybody no one is going to take you serious.” Check out complete football previews for all three county teams in next week’s issue of the Review.