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Eagle gridders seek third straight TVC East title
With this year’s motto “Only The Strong Will Survive,” the Frankenmuth varsity football team will look to win a third consecutive league title this fall.
The Eagle gridders were 9-2 overall last year, capturing the Tri-Valley Conference East Division crown at 7-0. The season ended with a 33-29 home loss in the MHSAA Division 4 District contest.
FHS Head Coach Phil Martin will begin his second season at the helm. When practice began August 12, Martin had no true starters back from 2013, however, the defense has several key returnees.
“I am hoping and counting on the defense to lead until the offense grows and matures,” Martin said.
The schedule is rather favorable for Frankenmuth, with five home games and four away tilts. Three of what appear to be the tough games are at home, including North Branch (September 5), Millington (September 19) and rival Birch Run (October 3). Essexville Garber, a team that has arguable the best quarterback in the league. The other home games include Bridgeport for Homecoming (October 10) and the season-ending non-league game against Vassar (October 24).
Hemlock hosts the season opener at 7:30pm Thursday, August 28. The remaining eight games will kick off at 7pm. The away contests are at Caro (September 12) and at Otisville-LakeVille (October 17).
Martin said the team has two quarterbacks in junior Jack Tagget (6-foot-0, 200 pounds) and sophomore Jared Davis (5-10, 170). They replaced Nick Volk, who graduated this past spring.
𠇋oth are pretty even at this point. Jack is the bigger of the two and can run the north-south stuff better while Jared can do more with his feet and make things happen after the fact,” Martin said.
At this point, Tagget will start the game, however, Davis “will get meaningful minutes,” Martin added. Both will start on defense.
FHS will continue to operate from a 5-0 defense and an option offense.
“The 5-0 will be the base, with adjustments coming out of it, depending on the situations and teams. Martin listed senior Nick Szczepanski, senior Derek Warnemuende, senior Aaron Krafft, senior Tony Schurr, junior Jack Veitengruber and senior Tyler Johnson as key returning defense players.
On offense, wing players include senior Cam West, junior Grant Leach, junior Josh Szczepanski, junior Bennett Dwan and Veitengruber. The primary receiving corps includes Krafft, Dwan, sophomore Grant Bronner and senior Riley Fassezke.
“We have 10 returning seniors and 12 seniors overall. They take pride in their game,” Martin stated.
The offensive line is still not completely settled, however, many are competing for starting time.
“We’ll have an entirely new offensive line. We need to see how fast these guys improve as we coach them up,” Martin noted.
On special teams, Krafft will handle the kicking and punting duties. Veitengruber is a very capable back up in both areas.
Josh Szczepanski, Davis, Dwan, Leach and Veitengruber will see time returning kick offs and punts.
Since August 12, the Eagles have scrimmaged Flint Powers Catholic, Port Huron Northern, Swartz Creek, Cros-Lex and Goodrich.
“We held our own, especially in the games against traditional powers like Flint Powers and Goodrich,” Martin said.
The rest of the ‘Muth roster includes seniors Santino Llamas, Jonny Zink, Brandon Marcinko, Nick Worley, Reece Sprague and Bryce Gasper. The juniors are Nick Fisher, Ben Coughlin, Jared Mose, Travis Walker, Nick Bright, Cory Knoll, Stephen Messing and Gage Clark, who is out for the season with a knee injury.
The lone sophomore, in addition to Davis and Bronner, is Jack Gilmour.
Martin sees North Branch and Millington as the top teams looking to topple FHS. North Branch returns the most experience and the Cardinals may have the best 1-2 punch offensively in quarterback Caleb Wascher and tailback Chase Maxon.
Birch Run has put together two years of solid junior varsity level football, Garber has a great quarterback in Logan Martin and Bridgeport has many good sized players.
While it may be a scramble to win the TVC East, Martin did point to the smaller numbers of players out of football. Millington has about 30 players (nine are sophomores) but many will suit up between 20-25. FHS has 28 on the roster.
“We have many players competing for playing time. Those who show the most consistency will be on the football field the most. With that being said, the teams that stay healthy and execute will win the league, due to the lack of numbers,” Martin pointed out.