NEWBERRY - If the Newberry High School football team wishes to be competitive this season, it must stay healthy.
At least that's what fourth-year head coach Fred Bryant says after just 16 players came out for fall drills.
"We have some good players in the lineup, but our No. 1 goal is to stay healthy," Bryant, 40, said. "Our numbers are way down. We graduated 17 players from last season and we saw this (dropoff in players) coming.
"We're in a rough spot right now.
"This is a rebuilding year for us," he added. "(But) we still want to give ourselves a chance to win every game."
Bryant says he has some quality players to meet that goal.
(3-6 overall, 2-3 Mid-Eastern)
Newberry 34, Rudyard 6
North Dickinson 42, Newberry 6
Newberry 20, Bark River-Harris 14
Newberry 29, Munising 12
Stephenson 40, Newberry 0
North Central 27, Newberry 21
Manistique 28, Newberry 0
Ishpeming 29, Newberry 6
Sault Ste. Marie 38, Newberry 6
Aug. 29: at Rudyard, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: North Dickinson, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Bark River-Harris, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: Munising, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Stephenson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at?North?Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: at?Manistique, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18: Ishpeming, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25: at Sault Ste.?Marie, 7 p.m.
"We have seven returning starters. With the guys coming back and the junior class, we have a good mix of size and speed," said Bryant, who holds a 12-15 coaching record after posting a 3-6 mark last season.
The 1991 Engadine High School and 1997 Northern Michigan University grad said freshman quarterback John Paramski (6-1, 190 pounds) will get the call at the critical offensive position.
"He's a talented kid with all the tools, but he's still a freshman," Bryant said. "He can throw and run, but still a work in progress.
"We'll run some plays out of the I-formation, but we'll also use the shotgun to give Paramski more time to see the field."
Chris Ducsay (6-0, 200 senior) will get the call at tailback, with Steve Livermore (5-10, 220 senior) at fullback.
"Both have good speed for their size," Bryant said, "and are very strong. We'll focus on those two guys."
Matthew Edgar (5-9, 170 senior) and Rob Gibson (5-10, 165 junior) will serve as backups.
At wide receiver, Edgar is likely to start, with James Oberle (5-11, 175 junior) and Austin Berry (5-9, 140 junior) also in the mix.
Darik Marsh (6-3, 245 senior) will be at tight end.
"He's a big, strong kid who has some speed," Bryant said. "But he'll be important on our sweeps, too."
The coach is counting on his offensive line to make things happen.
It consists of Chris Wendt (6-1, 240 junior) at center; Parris Norris (5-11, 170 senior) and Josh Lewis (6-2, 195 senior) at guards; and Joseph Edgar (5-11, 220 junior), Tom Loya (5-9, 240 junior) and Kody Winkelhorst (6-2, 275 senior) at tackle.
"The line will be our strong point," said Bryant, whose 2012 squad went 3-6 overall. "Last year, we lacked communication up front, but this year, the guys are talking. The seniors will make a difference."
Edgar and Paramski will be handling the kicking jobs this season.
The Indians - who last qualified for state playoff competition in 2005 - will be switching from a 4-4 defense to a 4-3 this season.
"It's because of our lack of depth at linebacker," Bryant said, adding former Newberry coach Bruce Dake will be the team's defensive coordinator. "It'll just be a matter of getting used to the terminology and positioning with the defense."
Winklehorst and Wendt will man the tackle positions, with Loya and Kristopher Cole (6-4, 250 junior) also likely to see time.
Marsh and Livermore will be at end, while Ducsay in the middle will be flanked by outside linebackers Lewis, Norris and-or Gibson.
Berry and Paramski are penciled in at cornerback, with Edgar and Oberle serving at safety.
"We'll be hoping to stop the run and make teams try to pass on us with our ability to cover," Bryant said.
Newberry is a member of the Mid-Eastern Conference, which Bryant says has a clear-cut No. 1.
"Until someone beats North Dickinson, they're the favorite," the coach said.
"This is a rebuilding year for us. We're always looking to be competitive. We want to give ourselves a chance to win every game."
Besides Dake, assisting the head coach will be Pete Paramski, John's father, Bryant's brother Ed and when time allows, former star player Matt Payment.