Seeking to repeat success

Modeltowners try to get back on the rise heading into this fall

This is the Gwinn High School Modeltowners varsity football team for 2018. In the front row from left are ball boy Tanner Snow, ToQuan Sterns, Ethan Parsons, Cameron Ghiringhelli, Austin Forbes, Jaeden Martinez, Roy Hamilton, Tristan Jancsi, Dallas Wiertella and Blaine Bridges. Top row from left, assistant coach Matt Marjonen, head coach Dion Brown, Jacob Smith, Chris Sirois, Seth Aho, Caleb Anderson, Danny Holmes, Edward Chapman, Tucker Taylor, Kaden Watt, Reid Hill, Mason Bockert and assistant coach Darren Sinaeve. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

2018 schedule

(* West PAC “B” game)

Friday, Aug. 24 — * at Bark River-Harris, 7 p.m. ET

Thursday, Aug. 30 — * MANISTIQUE, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 8 — * at Lake Linden-Hubbell, 1:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 14 — at Hancock, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 21 — HOUGHTON, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 28 — * ISHPEMING, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 5 — * at Norway, 7 p.m. ET

Friday, Oct. 12 — * WEST IRON COUNTY, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 19 — * at Munising, 7 p.m.

By RYAN STIEG

Journal Sports Writer

GWINN — Two years ago, the Gwinn football program ended a long drought and notched their first playoff berth in almost two decades.

Last year though, the Modeltowners took a step backward and missed the postseason, but that wasn’t entirely their own fault. Like many teams in the Upper Peninsula, Gwinn was hammered with injuries, and by the end of the year barely had enough to field a team.

Looking back on it, though, Modeltowners head coach Dion Brown didn’t place blame on the injuries, instead talking about the things he and his players could control and things he worked on himself.

“First I want to start off about grades,” he said. “Grades are very important. What a lot of people don’t understand is that we had four kids that went ineligible in the summertime. Grades is the No. 1 biggest thing and I made sure the kids got good grades.

“I also tried to make sure (this year) that more kids came out for football and that we try to finish the season strong. We finished (last) season with 13 or 14 kids. That was hard and I’ve got to do a better job of coaching. Having better preparation with myself and then transitioning it over to the guys.”

Looking at this year’s team, the Modeltowners do look prepared. Caleb Anderson will take over at quarterback for Austin Forbes, who was thrust into the role after Anderson was dealt a season-ending injury.

“Caleb is a cerebral guy and is very smart,” Brown said. “He picked up the offense in two days and we threw a lot at him in those two days. He’s a good leader and a strong kid. I considered moving him up last year … right after our football camp and then he tore his rotator cuff. So he was pretty much on the shelf for the whole year. So that’s why I had to move Austin Forbes to quarterback. Caleb is the quarterback now and he’s ready.”

Anderson has a solid supporting cast as well. Gwinn will have a three-headed-monster in the backfield with Seth Aho, Blaine Bridges and Brown’s nephew ToQuan Sterns. Anderson will also have a literally huge weapon to throw to in tight end Tucker Taylor — a big forward in the basketball season — as well as Forbes. However, those two won’t be the only weapons in the passing game as Brown says he’s going to “introduce people” to Danny Holmes.

“Danny’s about 6-foot-3, 180 (pounds) and can jump out of the gym,” Brown said. “Kid has a 40-inch vertical. He didn’t play last year and he was one of the kids with grade issues that just couldn’t get it.

“But he said he was just going to practice with you guys and make sure he gets my grades for his senior year. There’s also Austin and he’s going to be my “X” out there. He’s got some really good hands and some great speed to him. He’s a decent athlete, and of course, he knows all the plays.”

When it comes to the line, Brown plans to do some rotations and also said that with Gwinn having 25 players, the most he’s had since he became head coach, it gives the Modeltowners the depth they have been lacking the last few years.

As far as special teams go, Brown said he was planning to go for 2-point conversions again this year, but might consider having Taylor attempt some field goals and extra points.

“I might try a field goal with Tucker because he’s been begging me,” Brown said with a laugh. “He can kick extra points really good and he kicked a 40-yarder last year in practice. So I might actually see what he can do this year.”

A week into their preseason, Brown said he loved what was going onw with the ‘Towners, especially the effort his players have put into getting better.

“I think by far it’s the best camp I’ve had going into my five-year tenure here,” he said. “Kids are working hard and I told them that the one thing is grades and they’ve gotten their grades up.

“They’ve been at every weight training we’ve put on from the winter to the summer and kids at camp are giving it all they got and paying attention to detail.

“I’ve been doing a better job of giving them more visuals and putting on film. So it’s been fun and it’s been going well.”

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