GWINN - Most high school varsity head football coaches are optimistic about their teams during preseason drills.
Count Darren Sinnaeve at Gwinn High School as one of them.
"We have potential this year," the second-year coach said of his 2013 team. "Our whole focus is making the playoffs.
Gwinn High School will open the season at home Thursday against Gladstone. Gwinn team members are, in the front row from left, assistant coach Ben Olsen, Jason Sicotte, Dylan Hart, Nick Miller, Justin Beauchamp, David Hill, Austin Anderson, Luke Aho, Mike Limon, Brett Ketola and Dakota Draper. Back row: head coach Darren Sinnaeve, assistant coach Jim Driscoll, Mike Rector, Travis Corkin, Nick Bjork, Luke Sinnaeve, Owen DeVooght, Justin Nyquist, Jake Nelson, Dylan Sharkey, Joe Wise, John Sicotte and assistant coach Jim Morris. Not pictured are C.J. Fisher and Jesse McGovern. (Submitted photo)
"The kids have a lot of confidence and they're capable of performing well. They don't want to let anyone down."
The Modeltowners, coming off a 3-6 season in which they won three of their last six games, have not posted a winning season since 2000 when they went 5-4.
In addition, GHS has not qualified for postseason play since 1999 when it went 10-3 overall.
(3-6 overall, 1-5 M-PC)
Gladstone 49, Gwinn 12
Iron Mountain 45, Gwinn 21
Manistique 35, Gwinn 6
Gwinn 42, Baraga 10
Negaunee 49, Gwinn 6
Gwinn 22, Westwood 19
Gwinn 24, Detroit Christian 14
Norway 25, Gwinn 24
Ishpeming 53, Gwinn 14
Aug. 29: Gladstone, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: Iron Mountain, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: at Manistique, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: Bark River-Harris, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Negaunee, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Westwood, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Stephenson, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18: at Norway, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24: at Ishpeming, 7 p.m..
"We have the potential to do something this year we haven't done for a long time," Sinnaeve said.
'The biggest thing is getting that first win (Thursday at home vs. Gladstone). "It's huge. "
The Modeltowners play four of their first five games at home.
"They have athletic kids at Gladstone, but they're a bit of an unknown with their new coach (former Manistique High School star Cody Kangas)," Sinnaeve said. "We're not real sure what we'll see.
"But if the kids play hard and are aggressive, we should be fine."
Gwinn has 11 lettermen returning - seven of them starters.
"We're very athletic and very experienced," said Sinnaeve, 49, a 1982 GHS graduate in his 29th season overall with the school's football program. "We're 'athletic' big with a lot of kids who move their feet and have some speed."
Returning at quarterback in Gwinn's I-formation on offense is Justin Nyquist (6-4, 195 senior). He completed 23 of 52 passes last season for 157 yards and a touchdown.
"He has good size and a strong arm," Sinnaeve said. "He's more comfortable at seeing things on the field and I think we can air it out this season."
The coach's son, Luke Sinnaeve (6-2, 190 senior), will be at tailback after gaining 211 yards (4.8 average) and scoring twice in five games in 2012.
Owen DeVooght (5-11, 195 senior) will return at fullback. He rushed for 717 yards (5.2) and notched five TDs last season.
"Luke has put on 30 pounds and worked hard over the summer," Darren Sinnaeve said. "Owen is strong and explosive with a tremendous work ethic."
Travis Corkin (5-8, 150 junior) will be at split end, with Nick Miller (6-2, 190 senior) manning the tight end position.
Up front will; be Nick Bjork (5-11, 205 junior) at center; John Sicotte (5-9, 185 senior) and Luke Aho (5-10, 180 junior) at the guard spots; and Justin Beauchamp (6-1, 185 junior) and Jason Sicotte (5-8, 200 junior) at tackle.
"These kids are good athletes with quick feet. They can move," Sinnaeve said.
Nyquist and DeVooght are in the mix to be Gwinn's placekicker.
In the Modeltowners' 4-4 defense, Dylan Sharkey (5-10, 205 junior) and Dylan Hart (5-10, 220 junior) are penciled in at tackle, with Miller and Beauchamp manning the end spots.
"Sharkey is big and strong, and we're hoping Hart will just go one way to stay fresh during games," Sinnaeve said.
DeVooght ("he has a nose for the football") and Aho will be at inside linebacker, while John Sicotte will play on the outside.
Nyquist and Corkin will man the corners, with Luke Sinnaeve at free safety.
"Nyquist is tall and athletic who can knock some balls down, Corkin is a good cover player and Luke - who plays like a linebacker - makes our defensive calls," coach Sinnaeve commented.
Nyquist will likely serve as the team's punter after averaging 31 yards a boot in 2012.
Sinnaeve listed Ishpeming, Negaunee and Iron Mountain as the teams to beat in the Mid-Peninsula Conference.
"If we stay healthy, we can compete with every team we play," Sinnaeve said.
Serving as GHS assistant coaches are Ben Olsen and Jim Morris, as well as volunteer coaches Carl "Buck" Nystrom and Jim Driscoll - both former Northern Michigan University coaches.