EBEN - Superior Central coach Chris Messano claims he's something of a pessimist, always imagining worst-case scenarios for his eight-man football team.
He must not be lying, since he's worried about the Cougars' running game and offensive line this season after they averaged nearly 44 points a game last year and return their quarterback and top two receivers.
Teams run ragged by SC's aerial attack will only be too happy to see them keep the ball on the ground.
Superior Central quarterback Trevor Maki, top, waits to receive the snap from center Adam Lundquist as left guard Scott Lindbeck takes his stance during a game against Brimley at the Cougars' field last August. (Journal file photo by Steve Brownlee)
"We have a couple of holes to fill after Bill Torongo and Cody Rancier graduated," Messano said. "They were a couple of very, very valuable athletes."
They were two of the top running backs on last year's team, with Torongo also a team captain and cornerback and Rancier a starting linebacker on a team that won nine of its 11 games on the field. Its opening win against Brimley was forfeited to the Bays because of an ineligible player.
"It might look a little deceiving, since we use the pass to set up the run, but going back and looking at it, our pass-run ratio was only about 60-40," Messano said.
Brimley 2, Superior Central 0 (forfeit)
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 54, Bellaire 32
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 54, Posen 14
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 58, Mid Peninsula 24
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 48, Cedarville 36
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 48, TC Christian 12
Rapid River 40, Superior Central 34
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 26, Engadine 22
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 40, Ewen-Trout Creek 0
SUPERIOR CENTRAL 48, Mid Peninsula 14
Rapid River 64, Superior Central 26
Aug. 24 - At Brimley, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 - Bellaire, 4 p.m.
Sept. 6 - Posen, 4 p.m.
Sept. 14 - At Mid Peninsula, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 - Cedarville, 3 p.m.
Sept. 29 - Open date
Oct. 6 - Rapid River, 3 p.m.
Oct. 12 - At Engadine, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 - At Ewen-Trout Creek, 7 p.m.
"There's more holes in the defense to exploit in the eight-man setup. It's hard to come up with a base defense to cover everything. In eight-man, you're pretty much always giving something up."
So he wants a running game to keep opposing defenses from concentrating solely on the Cougars' passing game, which starts with senior quarterback Trevor Maki.
"He brings us a lot of leadership, and he's well versed on offense," Messano said, adding he's much like a coach on the field.
Two senior receivers, both All-Bridge Alliance Conference picks a year ago, are back starting in Dan Steward and Bryce Richard. They will be joined by sophomore Nick Maki, also a top kick returner.
The running game features three backs known less for power than elusiveness in seniors Tyler Kienitz and Colton Gauthier and sophomore Josh Herndon.
"Tyler is taller with more speed, while Josh and Colton are littler guys with quickness, but each brings something different to the position," Messano said.
There are just three linemen in their formations. Starters are set with seniors Britton Tyner at center and Joey Taskey - at 250 pounds the only player on the team weighing in at more than 200 - at one guard position. The other guard spot could go to junior Justyn Hill among several possibilities.
"If there's a concern going into the season, it's on our line," Messano said.
The Cougars also feature just one tight end - another position well up for grabs - to go with the quarterback and two receivers in all of their formations, though sometimes the tight end will motion into the backfield.
"I have a notebook with me all the time, and I'm constantly drawing up new plays," Messano said. "It's a little bit of an obsession.
"We'll try out some of the plays in practice, and sometimes they work really well, and sometimes they don't."
He has nearly two dozen players available this season, which includes all four classes in the school with the Cougars not fielding a JV team.
Defensively, SC has linemen Kienitz and Tyner and safety Nick Maki returning as starters, with Gauthier and senior Matt Verbrigghe at cornerback.
The outside linebacker position, which Messano describes as a hybrid "linebacker mixed with a defensive end and a touch of strong safety," will manned by Steward and Richard.
"They can blitz off the line or drop back into coverage," Messano said.
Middle linebacker is another position that is wide open with several freshmen and sophomores getting close looks.
"I don't think we are where we should be, but last year we peaked early. This year, I think we will peak later," the third-year coach said before a crucial scrimmage was played on Friday. "We have the potential to be better than last year with the abilities of players at a lot of positions."
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is email@example.com.