Back to respectability

EBEN JUNCTION – To say last season was a rough one for the Superior Central eight-man football team might be an understatement.

The Cougars finished 1-8 and none of their losses were particularly close, including a 70-point loss to Stephenson.

However, 2016 begins a new era for Superior Central as Sam Eggleston takes over as head coach after serving as an assistant coach. He’s excited for his first year at the helm even after a rough 2015.

“Last year was difficult,” Eggleston said. “Our record wasn’t great and we had a lot of team issues. It just really started to come apart at the seams after the Stephenson game, when we lost 70-0. It was starting to come off the rails already and then that is what pushed us over.

“We tried to get it back over, we really did, but we had 18 or 20 kids and half were disgruntled; it’s difficult to get things back in the direction you want and flowing toward victory and success.”

This season’s squad is going to be young, but Eggleston said that there’s some experience there and a lot of potential.

“This year, we’re relying heavily on our junior and sophomore classes,” he said. “We only have one returning senior and that’s Kody Beauchaine. He’s going to be a pretty big role player for us and he’ll probably play both ways. He’s really strong for his size and is a powerful guy.

“Out of our junior class, Noah Groulx will be starting as guard and outside linebacker. He’s one of the most technically sound players I’ve coached over the years and he’s really dedicated to that part of the game. It makes it very difficult to matchup against him, so he’ll be big for us.

“Kyle Hemminger is going to be a first-year tight end, but he’s been in that role a couple of times last year and showed some promise. He had formerly been a guard, so for him to turn outside is key for us this year and he’ll fulfill that role nicely.

“We also have Wade Krysiak and he’s going to be our wide receiver and start as free safety. He’s one of those kids that everybody looks up to. He’s very sound athletically and he came into this season ready to lead.

“Dropping down to our sophomores, our starting quarterback is going to be Beau Rondeau. Beau is a very athletically gifted kid and he started for us last year. He was also a varsity starter on basketball and he’ll also play corner for us.

“Roubens Fink will be our tailback and as a freshman before preseason last year, he ran a five-second 40 (yard dash). He’s very shifty and has nice moves.

“Outside of that, we have a lot of role players, but nobody that isn’t interchangeable.”

Superior Central’s biggest hurdle may be the strength of other eight-man teams in the Upper Peninsula, including defending state champion North Central.

“In my opinion, we’re in the toughest part of the state for eight-man,” Eggleston said. “We have the defending state champs in North Central, who lost nobody, and we’ve got Forest Park coming down this year, who has made the playoffs 16 years in a row in 11-man.

“After them, we have Rapid River, who has never failed to make the playoffs in eight-man, and then we have Stephenson who not only made the playoffs, but didn’t graduate a lot of kids; and they have a sturdy backfield as well.

“There’s our top four out of nine. Not only are they all probably going to make the playoffs, but they could be state champions.”

Even though things may look discouraging this year, Eggleston is fired up to start his first season and said that there is an interest and buzz about the program.

“I really think that we’re not going to repeat last year,” he said. “We’ve got right around 20 kids and we had a few more come out (late last week). There’s an excitement in the community and it just feels like a new season.

“We’re bringing back experience, we’re just not bringing back a lot of size. We feel that we’ve put together a playbook that will work well for us and that there are a handful of games that we could win.

“If things go our way, there’s potential to (get) back into the playoffs. We’re excited about the season and we’re hoping that we’ll develop fast. We also have six home games this year, so we’ll get to play in front of our home crowd a lot and that is a good boost for the kids.”

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