Drought quenchers: Marquette football looks to build on 2019 Great Northern Conference title, state playoff berth
“A lot of times, we’re four-wide and we’re eight to 10 receivers deep that I have all the confidence in the world putting them out there.”
Editor’s note: Today’s Marquette and Negaunee football stories join ones about the Gwinn and Munising teams in Thursday’s Mining Journal Sports as team previews for the high school football season.
MARQUETTE — The Marquette Senior High School football team ended two droughts in 2019 — making the MHSAA playoffs for the first time since 2014 and winning its first outright Great Northern Conference championship since 1976.
Now, the Redmen hope to build on that success. Head coach Eric Mason thinks his team is definitely capable of doing so as he describes his team as “very talented” and that their team speed is “very good.”
Things will be a little different, though, schedule-wise as thanks to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, the Redmen won’t travel downstate or host big and/or powerhouse schools like Alpena, Petoskey and a pair of Traverse City schools.
However, Mason is just glad his team gets to play at all this fall and thinks the Redmen have moved past the pain of finding out they couldn’t just after preseason practices started.
“I just dreaded telling them (in August), and they were obviously upset,” he said. “You got a range of emotions from tears flowing to just plain … mad. I’ve got to believe it has, but kids are pretty darn resilient. I think if it would’ve went straight through and we didn’t play, then obviously, if we’re just out there utilizing our 16 practices they were going to give us in the fall, I could see it more then.
“But the fact that we now get to play games, I think that solves a lot of issues.”
One thing that also won’t be an issue this fall for Marquette is at quarterback, where Austin Ridl will be in charge again.
“We’ve got a good quarterback and he’s grown,” Mason said. “When he was here last year, I think he was 135 pounds, and this year he’s 160-plus. So he’s done his work in the offseason. The best thing about Austin is his competitiveness and then his headiness, I guess you’d say as far as his knowledge of the game and just willingness to learn.
“And then you get kids quite often that are very talented, but putting the time in and watching film and with the whiteboard and going over things, that takes a little extra. He definitely has put his time in.”
Ridl isn’t the Redmen’s only offensive weapon as they are stacked at skill positions with guys like Kam Karp, Brady Wright, Justin Jurmu and Ty Lotterman.
“On our football team, we’re blessed with a lot of skilled kids that we could basically be like hockey and change lines,” Mason said. “We’re a spread team (on offense) so a lot of times, we’re four-wide and we’re eight to 10 receivers deep that I have all the confidence in the world putting them out there, which then translates to very competitive practices all throughout the summer.”
Mason said his linemen are young, but he has two talented returning starters in Chris Ricker and Tayber Cook. Marquette will also continue its tradition of having a quality field-goal kicker with Connor Johnson.
MSHS is obviously capable of winning another GNC title and getting past the first round of the playoffs, but it’s still going to take some work. However, Mason says his charges are eager to put in the effort that’s required.
“Usually you get into football, and normally with your double days and your early camps, kids are just like ‘Oh my God, this is a lot of work,'” he said. “I don’t think these kids in this situation would ever say that right now. It’s like they understand and it really hit home with them that, basically, things can be done at any point.
“The fact that (the season) did get basically postponed, and now all of a sudden they’re back, you really don’t have to do a lot or say a lot to them to get the effort out of them.”
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal. net.