Taking the field: Football squad to open 2017 season with home game vs. Roscommon Bucks on Thursday
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The varsity football squad from Grayling High School, following a productive offseason and two and a half weeks of official practice sessions, will open its 2017 season with a nonconference home game vs. the Roscommon Bucks on Thursday, August 24, at 7 p.m.
Key to success this year?
“We have to adjust to varsity speed as soon as possible. For many, August 24 will be their first varsity action. We need to make sure they are ready for it,” said Tim Sanchez, head coach of the GHS varsity football team.
The program’s overall numbers this year? Close to 50 players. As of late last week, 22 on JV and 27 on varsity. Normal numbers.
“That is about the average for us at the beginning of the year,” Coach Sanchez said.
On varsity, the squad has 11 seniors, 12 juniors, and four sophomores. It’s a group that does not have a lot of varsity football experience.
“The majority of our team has little to no varsity experience, as we lost a lot of three-year starters last year. This crew is extremely coachable, though, and they are getting better every day,” Coach Sanchez said.
It starts in the offseason. Camps. Weight room work. Coach Sanchez said players put in the work this summer to get ready for the season.
“We had great offseason weight room participation this year. Percentage wise, this was our best offseason. The kids who realize the weight room makes a difference, and it transforms their bodies into a bigger, faster, stronger version, are the ones who really take their performance to the next level,” Coach Sanchez said.
The first week of practice, August 7-11, went well, Coach Sanchez said.
“We have had great weather, which allows for more intense and focused practices. We have a lot of competition for positions this year, so the atmosphere is electric as every play matters,” Coach Sanchez said.
With an inexperienced group, Coach Sanchez said the staff concentrated on the fundamentals for the first week.
“Learning is key for us and going back to the basics,” Coach Sanchez said. “Learning drills, learning reads/assignments, learning how to practice effectively, etc.”
The coaching staff this year features several returners: Eric Tunney (offensive coordinator, offensive line coach), Mike Kososky (defensive coordinator), Jerremey Carr (defensive line and running backs coach), and Tyler McClanahan (wide receivers and defensive backs coach).
“We have an outstanding staff that cares about our players. They put in so much time and effort that it often times gets overlooked, but we couldn’t be as consistently successful without their commitment,” Coach Sanchez said.
Team unity is a strength of this year’s group, Coach Sanchez said.
“Our team camaraderie is outstanding. Everyone cares about each other, puts the team first, and there are no egos,” Coach Sanchez said.
The team’s goals and expectations are simple: improve every day and every week.
“We are truly only focused on ourselves this year. We need to get better every day, and focus on the week ahead of us,” Coach Sanchez said. “We have to get better week to week.”
The Vikings are in the Legends Division of the three-tier Northern Michigan Football Conference. Grayling’s division includes Kingsley, Cheboygan, Boyne City, Traverse City St. Francis, Elk Rapids, Benzie Central, and Kalkaska.
Four teams from the division – St. Francis, Boyne City, Grayling, and Kalkaska – qualified for the playoffs last year. St. Francis won the conference championship at 7-0 in league play. Boyne City was 6-1 in the division, Grayling was 5-2, and Kalkaska was 4-3.
Coach Sanchez expects it to be a solid division again this year.
“St. Francis and Boyne are always the top dogs. Kingsley, Benzie, and Cheboygan will be tough as well,” Coach Sanchez said.
The Vikings will start their Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends Division slate with a road game at Kingsley on September 8. After that, Grayling will host Cheboygan, play at Boyne City, play at Traverse City St. Francis, host Elk Rapids (homecoming), play at Benzie Central, and finish the 2017 regular season with a road game at Kalkaska.