Traverse City high school football teams are gearing up for their opening games. TC West’s season kicks off Aug. 29 at Midland, while on Aug. 30 TC Central visits Marquette and St. Francis hosts New Lothrop.
The Ticker asked a couple of local prep football broadcasters about the upcoming season. Tim Brick played at St. Francis and the University of Montana and has been broadcasting football for more than 20 years. Rick Coates hosts a weekly high school sports talk show on ESPN Radio.
Brick on TC Central: Coming off their best season since 1991, it's hard to look at the 2013 Trojans and not talk about who they lost. They lost the TJs (TJ Shepperly and TJ Schwanneke), two of the fastest guys in the league who accounted for 26 Trojan TDs. The Trojans have a good chance to be 2-0 going into the third game vs. West and if they can get by West they could possibly run the table. They return another Schepperly (Joe) and Ethan Campbell, who started against West last year and responded with 102 yards rushing and a 99-yard kickoff return. The Trojans play five home games, plus West, so in essence they have six home games. Prediction: 7-2, 4-2 in the BNC. Player to watch – Jake Gorter, who is entering his fourth year as kicker for the Trojans, has the range and accuracy to make the Trojans a scoring threat any time they cross the 40-yard line.
Coates on TC Central: The Big North Conference is wide open with possibly four teams in the mix for the championship. Don’t be surprised if Central starts 7-0 with West in week three as the only serious obstacle. The final two games of the season (Ogemaw Heights and Cadillac) could keep Central from repeating as outright conference champs. Don’t be surprised if Central runs the table and finishes 9-0 or after the dust settles Central may find themselves in a three-way tie with Ogemaw and Cadillac plus West and Petoskey possibly in the mix.
Brick on TC West: The strength of the Titans will be their line; hard to overlook because they are huge. They have three Division One prospects up front. It's possible they could start out 0-3 with away games at Midland and West Branch before coming home to face TC Central. The Titans lost a ton of speed and skill players, but return senior Grant Balino who had 600 yards rushing last year. Grant Ellison started the 2012 season with a bang (165 yards vs. Kenowa Hills in the first game) but was a non factor the rest of the year. The Grants will have to take advantage of those horses up front to get the Titans into a position to make a run at the playoffs. Three of their last four games are on the road so it's important they start strong. Player to watch – Lineman Conner Hayes who stands 6-foot-4, 270 pounds and has already signed with Pitt. Prediction 5-4 overall, 4-2 in the BNC.
Coates on TC West: The Titans finished tied for second in the conference last year. If they aren’t careful they could start 0-4. They open with powerhouse Midland on the road, followed by Ogemaw Heights, TC Central and Petoskey. The schedule also includes two tough non-conference opponents near the end of the season, Comstock Park and Allendale. Look for a 5-4 finish, but don’t be surprised if Coach Wooer and his team surprise the doubters.
Brick on St Francis: The Gladiators have only had 3 losing seasons in the last 42 years, so they don't know how to react to a losing season. 1968 and 1969 was the last time they had back-to-back losing seasons. With seven playoff teams on the schedule the Glads will have their work cut out for them if they want to stop the bleeding. They'll be bolstered by the return of Michigan State-bound Byron Bullough who missed most of last year with an injury. Players to watch - Adam Armour and Bullough could be the best linebacker tandem north of Grand Rapids. Scoring on the Glads will be tough. Prediction 6-3.
Coates on St. Francis: St. Francis missed the playoffs for the first time in 22 years and had their first losing record in 31 seasons. The Gladiators have been among the state’s top football programs with 462 wins, second to only East Grand Rapids (476). The Glads are without a conference this year so the focus will be making a championship run and returning to Ford Field on Thanksgiving weekend. St. Francis has a tough schedule taking on six playoff teams from last year, including the season opener against New Lothrop. The Glads look to avenge 2012 losses to Boyne City, Grayling, Glen Lake and Muskegon Catholic. With a healthy team and strong senior leadership, look for St. Francis to go 8-1 and make a deep playoff run. Don’t be surprised if Coach Greg Vaughan and his team come back to Traverse City on Dec. 1 with their ninth state title.