What can I say? Based on my initial contact with the members of the team (at pad pickup day) I was afraid that this team may not win a game all season long. I certainly never expected them to go undefeated and win the division championship! Thanks to a couple of last minute additions to the team (due to signing up late and/or lost paperwork) we were able to field a team of 17 of the hardest working football players that I have had the honor to coach, and that made all the difference in the world.
Our first real "game experience" with the kids came during the Kearsley Scrimmage on August 28th. We played against four different schools that day, and I think that we dominated three of those schools and played the fourth team tough - which also happened to be our last scrimmage, coming off of a period where we did not have time to rest and during the hottest part of the day. All in all I thought we did great, and this was when I knew that this team had a chance to compete in some games this year.
The first real game came against what would turn out to be our toughest competition of the season. We played the Durand Railroaders on their football field on Saturday, September 11th, during a rainy evening. We jumped out to an early 13-0 lead thanks to one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown before giving up our first touchdown of the season. The two-point kick made it a 13-8 game. After another score by each team the game was still close at 19-14, but from then on out we pulled away. Two more passing touchdowns resulted in the remainder of the scoring, and we won going away 34-14. Tyler had an OK game, but did suffer a couple of injuries during the game. The first on was a helmet to his knee, and the second one was two helmets hitting his elbow. He was able to make some good blocks while playing on the offensive line, but he also had some trouble getting rid of blockers while playing defense end. He did come close to making a sack, but the quarterback had just released the ball a moment before Tyler hit him. Durand went on to have a strong season, finishing the season with a record of 5-1 and outscoring their opponents 168-88 for a plus-88 point differential, with our 34 points accounting for almost half of what they gave up on the year.
Our second game was at home against Lake Fenton Blue Devils on September 18th. We jumped out to a 22-0 lead in the middle of the second quarter and had to ease up thanks to a league rule that calls for the suspension of the head coach if the margin of victory is 25 points or greater (this rule came back to haunt us multiple times this season - I do not recall it ever coming into play in my previous two years of coaching). We started putting kids in positions that they hadn't really practiced throughout the season in an effort to keep the score close. We eventually allowed the Lake Fenton offense to put it in the end zone just so that we could have another opportunity to score in the second half. These last two scores resulted in the 28-8 final score. Tyler made some nice tackles in today's game, including at least one that resulted in a loss for the Blue Devils. He did suffer another injury today, this one as a result from attempting to recover a fumble on defense - he wound up getting his fingers caught between a couple of helmets in the process. Aside from some lost skin he was OK and able to return to the game a short while later. Lake Fenton had a tough season, finishing with a record of 1-4-1. They were outscored by their opponents 133-82 for a minus-51 point differential.
Game three was another road game, this time against the Swartz Creek Dragons on September 25th. We (as coaches) knew that today's game wasn't going to be much of a challenge, as the Dragons had only scored 2 points (two!) in their prior two games. Our prediction came true as we took an early 22-0 lead (and I mean early - with three minutes remaining in the first eight minute quarter). This was when we experienced our first encounter (this year) with a league official who lectured us about our onside kick (which happened to be the only kickoff that we have ever attempted, and today's game represented the first time this year that we were able to recover one of them) and the score. Just to appease the league we kicked deep for the rest of the game even though it only hurt the opponent more than our regular kick - they wound up with worse field position after our deep kicks than they could have had by recovering the onside kick. Whatever. With the game so far out of hand we tried to get every player on our team, regardless of their usual position, a chance to run the ball. Tyler got his chance, but didn't end up gaining any yards. A few other kids fumbled their chances away, but they were rewarded with an attempt. Much like last game, we put players in positions that we never would normally. We put all of our kids inside on the line on defense, hoping that they would sweep outside and get a score just so that we could score again. Ultimately the final score was 28-6, although it could have been much worse. This was one of the least fun wins ever though, as it felt like we played one quarter of football and three quarters of scrimmage against one of our freshman teams. The Dragons didn't fare much better in the rest of their games either, as they finished the season with a record of 0-6 and were outscored 48-164 for a minus-116 point differential.
The fourth game of the year, played on Saturday, October 2nd, figured to be a much tougher game than our previous two. The Bendle Tigers, our opponent, came into the game undefeated, as were we. Unfortunately the 9:00am start time, the rain, and the frigid temps combined to make it a tough game for both teams. Tyler was absolutely heartbroken that he couldn't play today because a little bout of the flu. He gave it is all, weighing in and warming up with the team, but he just didn't have the strength to stick it out. Unfortunately for him he wound up watching the game with Tara in the stands, covered up by a blanket and and umbrella, trying to stay warm and dry. The score was 6-0 at halftime, with us in the lead. We scored once again in the second half, and the converted kick made up all of the scoring, resulting in the final 14-0 score. Bendle went on to have a good season as well, finishing with a 5-1 record and outscoring their opponents 84-48 for a plus-36 point differential.
Our fifth game, on Saturday, October 9th, figured to be a tough game but in the end was anything but. Coming in to the game, the Grand Blanc Bobcats were sporting a 2-1 record, and their only loss came last weekend during the cold rainy weather. We held a 22-0 lead at halftime, and the threat of the head coach suspension (see, I told you that this rule would come in to play a lot this season) caused us to switch up things a bunch in the second half once again. We even played with only 9 defensive players just to let them score (and it took us yelling to the other coach where to run the ball). They finally did score a touchdown and ran in the conversion afterward, and then we promptly marched down the field to score again. The final score was 28-7, and the victory clinched the division championship for our team. Tyler played a strong game today, making several good blocks on offense. He played a decent game on defense as well, especially considering the amount of movement we did with the players while trying to let them score. Tyler even recovered a fumble during today's game, his first of the season. Grand Blanc, despite their 2-0 start to the season, ended up with a record of 2-3-1. They were outscored 96-69 overall for a minus-27 point differential.
Our final game of the season was played under the lights at Holly High School against the Flushing Raiders. This was the school that came to our field last season with a 5-0 record and a banner proclaiming their undefeated season before we beat them 18-0. This year we knew that we weren't going to face much of a test, as they came in winless in their previous four games and had scored only 12 points in those games. Once again the 25-point rule forced us to let the opposition score so that we would be able to score again ourselves, but their drives took longer than we had hoped, leaving us little time to try and score again. We played defense with as little as 8 players on the field just to try to let that happen. Unfortunately a player was injured on their last kickoff to us, and we were forced to call the game with a little over two minutes remaining instead of waiting for the ambulance to arrive and then resuming play. The score at the time was 31-13, and we had every intention of driving down the field for one more score. It was a terrible way to end our season (Flushing had one game remaining), as well as some of these players Holly Youth Football careers - including Tyler's. We wanted nothing more as coaches to be able to end the game scoring one last time as these kids worked so hard throughout the season, but it wasn't meant to be. Thankfully they have a perfect 6-0 record for the season and a division championship to look back on. Go Bronchos! Tyler had another good game today, making several good blocks on offense. He played a good game on defense as well, playing out of position during the second half while we tried to let them score. He played cornerback a lot , but we (the coaches) had him stand so far away from the line of scrimmage (while trying to let Flushing score) that he wasn't really able to make too many plays. Flushing finished the season 0-6 and were outscored 94-25 for a minus-69 point differential.
As I previously said, I wasn't expecting much out of this season, but the players all performed way above my expectations. Even though I feel that last years team had a greater collection of talent overall, this years team worked better together than I ever could have imagined. At the end of the year the three coaches (of which I am one) discussed who should be our offensive and defensive MVP's, as well as our most improved player, and we had a very difficult time choosing just one player. We really wanted to give the awards to every player, because every one of them made major contributions to the team. We couldn't have gone 6-0 with just 6 players standing on the sideline during each play if they didn't.
I want to provide some reference to our results to the amount of points that the other teams scored. We scored a total of 160 points during the season. Durand outscored us by eight, with 168 points. We gave up only 48 points this year, which is also the same amount that Bendle scored. Only the 14 points that we gave up against Durand were with our original full strength defense on the field. The remainder of the points allowed were virtually handed to the opposition, sometimes literally (by playing less than the allotted 11 players on the field at once, for example). I would venture to say that this group of kids could have beaten any team in the league this season, not just those that we played or those that were in our division. Our point differential worked out to be a plus-112, and an even better plus-146 if you take away the touchdowns we gave up in our efforts to score even more.
Great job boys on an excellent season! Good luck in your future football endeavors, as well as in the rest of your lives. With the amount of talent in our youth league coming up I see good things happening as the boys move on through middle school and on into high school if they continue to play together. I know I am certainly looking forward to seeing it happen.