Trying to improve: Superior Central football turns next page after starting over in 2016

The Superior Central eight-player varsity football team for 2017 includes, in front, Roubens Fink; middle row, from left, Henry Hancock, Clayton Collier, James Maki, DJ Johns, Beau Rondeau, Josh Kulik and Jack Rondeau; top row, from left, head coach Sam Eggleston, Austin Swetich, Ramsey Luft, Noah Groulx, Nathan Frusti, Devin Kearney, Wade Krysiak, Kyle Hemminger and Maezie Nettleton. (Photo courtesy Sam Eggleston)

2017 schedule

(* Western U.P. 8-Man Conference game)

Saturday, Aug. 26 — * at Ontonagon, 1 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 31 — * at Rapid River, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 9 — * vs. Carney-Nadeau, 1 p.m. EDT (at Powers)

Superior Central running back Roubens Fink, front right, is pursued by several Ontonagan defenders during their game played in Eben on Aug. 26, 2016. (Journal file photo)

Friday, Sept. 15 — * at Forest Park, 7 p.m. EDT

Saturday, Sept. 23 — * STEPHENSON, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 30 — * NORTH CENTRAL, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 7 — * NORTH DICKINSON, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 14 — at Flint Michigan School for the Deaf, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 21 — RAPID RIVER, 1 p.m.

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EBEN — Last fall was a fresh start for the Superior Central football team.

The Cougars had a new group of players, a new offense and a new head coach in Sam Eggleston. Some teams might’ve struggled with that, but SC put together a solid season and one of their best in quite a while.

“When you become a head coach, you don’t have the same day-to-day decision-making responsibilities as an assistant,” Eggleston said. “So running the entire program was an adjustment, but I’m pretty happy with how it went and the kids seemed happy, too.

“We went 4-5 and that was our best finish since 2012. We won our first homecoming game in four years and we also set the school scoring record. All those things led to a great building year and a step in the direction that we want to go.”

On paper, it looks like the Cougars may continue to improve as they return almost all of last year’s roster, including quarterback Beau Rondeau and some talented skill players.

“Beau has thrown well this offseason and he’s worked really hard on that,” Eggleston said. “We went to a 5-on-5 camp and he looked good. We threw only 50 times all (of last) year, but Beau is also key in the running game and he’ll have a good season running the ball.

“Roubens Fink runs about a 4.7(-second) 40(-yard dash) and he’s been recruited by a couple of colleges, so we expect him to have a big year.

“We don’t have much of a receiver set, but our two top guys return in Wade Krysiak and Kyle Hemminger.

“Wade has good hands and is speedy, while Kyle is excellent catching in traffic. He’s also our top blocking tight end, so we might be relying on a little more in that aspect than catching.”

As far as the big guys up front on the offensive line, Eggleston says the Cougars will return everybody from last year and just about everybody will have to play on both sides of the ball.

“First, there is D.J. Johns, who is a junior,” Eggleston said. “He’s undersized, but he doesn’t back down. Our guard, Noah Groulx, is also a junior and he has looked good in a bunch of camps. Another guard is Ramsey Luft and we’ll expect big things from him as a senior.

“We only have 17 kids out this year and three are freshmen. So we’ll run almost everyone both ways with Rondeau being the exception, but we are confident they can slide in both ways.

“At kicker, we have Austin Swetich (who) is a soccer player and he’s decent on the kick. We also worked with him with some onside stuff.

“In 8-man, it’s difficult to kick field goals with so many guys rushing, but we are going to work it in a little more because we think our contests will be tighter.”

Eggleston thinks the Western U.P. 8-Man Conference will be competitive from top to bottom. One of the highlights this year is a road matchup with the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.

“Our conference is as difficult as any conference in the state and I think it is the toughest conference in the state,” he said. “North Central is back after two straight state titles and Stephenson has everything it takes to win a title.

“Rapid River has made the playoffs every year and Ontonagon and E-TC (Ewen-Trout Creek) combined, so they’ll be good.

“North Dickinson dropped down and they’re not shy about making the playoffs, and then there is Forest Park who made it 20 years in a row.

“Carney(-Nadeau) is also looking better and Michigan School for the Deaf had one of their best seasons in years.

“We played them last year to fill space on an open date and now they’ve invited us to go down and stay on their campus.

“Overall, I’d say that every team in the conference has the toughest schedule in the state and not a week will go by that will be an easy win.”

Though the schedule could be brutal, Eggleston is confident in his squad and thinks that the experience his players got last year will be a big boost.

“We’re still young with most of the guys being juniors, but they got some good playing time last season,” he said. “It was an interesting year with new guys, a new offense, a new coach and we went 4-5.

“Had the playoffs been expanded last year, we would’ve made it in. So this year, that is our goal, first and foremost, to make the playoffs and I think we can do it.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.