2006-08-24 / Sports

Game Face: Area gridiron teams to face off in openers

By Lisa Paine
GB View Sports Editor

GENESEE COUNTY — As area high school football teams prepare to hit the gridiron in season openers tomorrow, many of their coaches have tossed away the age-old tradition of making predictions on the season.

“They just don’t serve anyone well,” said Grand Blanc coach Joe Delaney. “One game at a time is our goal this season.”

“We have a lot of experience back and are very optimistic about our chances this year,” said Goodrich coach Tom Alward.

The first couple of games will test just how well each squad can stay focused on the game at hand, while keeping the big picture of going as far as they can in the post-season in perspective. Goodrich, a young team last season that finished a disappointing 1-8 last year after going 10-2 the previous year, gets its first look at Richmond, which finished 8-3 in the Blue Water Area Conference last season and 6-3 in 2004. Following that is a big Bay City John Glenn squad that came out on top, 8-2, the past two seasons, and who routed the Martians, 35-0, last season, 27-10 in 2003 and 13-0 in 2002.

Grand Blanc will be tested by East Kentwood, a tough team from the Ottawa-Kent Conference-Red that ended the 2005-2006 season at 5-4 and was 9-3 in 2004. Delaney knows that his predominantly junior-heavy squad must be ready. After that test, Lapeer West, the only Lapeer County squad to make it past the regular season, hosts the Bobcats. West has won the past two meetings with Grand Blanc, 6-0 in 2001 and 27-20 in 2000.

Below is a preview of each squad and what they will bring to the scrimmage line this season.

Head coach: Tom Alward, 14th year
Last year’s record: 1-8
Key losses: Joe Leppek, Eric Hughes, AJ Harmon
Key returnees: Bennett Gillam, Sr., Josh Johns, Sr., Chris Tanner, Sr., linebackers; Tyler Moncrieff, Sr., quarterback; Scott Edwards, Sr., offensive guard.
Season outlook: “We play a tough schedule with no breathers, so we will have to execute weekly to be successful,” Alward said. “Our players are working very hard, and we are starting to come together, so if we can stay away from major mistakes and injuries we should be very competitive.”
The Martians will once again rely on Moncrieff, who certainly learned a lot of tough lessons last year, and will be looking for redemption against Richmond. That experience should bode well for Goodrich, despite the loss of Hughes, one of Moncrieff’s favorite targets last year. Offering protection for Moncrieff will be Edwards and the rest of the offensive line.
A strong contingent of linebackers in Gillam, Johns and Tanner should help shore up the defensive line as the Martians look to stop their opponents’ running game. As Alward pointed out, though, execution and minimizing mistakes will be key to the blue and gold’s success.

Head coach: Joe Delaney, 13th season
Last year’s record: 5-4 overall, 4-3 Big Nine
Key losses: Lance Smith, Kyle Carson, Brandon Foutz, Jon Mills, Aaron Caldwell, Jeremy Lord, Joe Voiles, Pete Kohn
Key returnees: John Mora, Sr., quarterback; Mark Ingram, Jr., running back/defensive back; Chris Coriasso, Sr., receiver; Sean Dyer, Sr., Alex Klick, Sr., Matt Skubik, Sr., Pat Dochenetz, Sr., Chris Porritt, Sr., offensive line.
Season outlook: A perceived shakeup in the coaching staff turns out to be nothing more than good coaches moving on to good opportunities, according to Delaney.
“There is no big shakeup, just people taking advantage of opportunities that opened up, and I did not discourage them from those opportunities,” Delaney said. “As coaches, we coach kids, and when good opportunities open up, you have to take those and move on.”
Despite losing many seniors, Delaney believes his squad has what it takes to be competitive and hopes the boys will rely on their experience to carry them forward against a tough league and overall schedule. Many powerhouses from across the state await the Bobcats.
“Hopefully we can make a playoff run,” Delaney added. “Our opener is tough against East Kentwood, and Lapeer West always had a good program, and we typically play tough games against them, so the first couple of games should be a good test for us. East Kentwood made the playoffs the past five years, and it’s not often that we get to play a school that has a bigger student body than we do.”
Ingram, a known speedster and standout from last season’s squad, should be key to the running game. Mora and Coriasso have three years of varsity experience to provide leadership to the younger team members, and a seasoned core of veterans should put the Bobcats in contention early on, but as Delaney said, “Only time will tell how well we do.”

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