A general panic had resurfaced among the masses.
Something was wrong? Has anyone had a bad fight with COVID-19?
Where were the choices!?!
Rest assured, those who claim our annual Highland Conference football drafts, this has been taken care of.
Those of you who don’t crave sportswriters espousing their opinions, get back to your daily life as if nothing had happened.
Yes, it’s a week late, but that’s okay, as every Highland Conference football team opened its season last week against a non-conference opponent.
League play begins in earnest this week with games Thursday and Friday.
The annual poll featuring yours from the Cadillac News, Mike Dunn of the Missaukee Sentinel, John Raffel of the Big Rapids Pioneer, Eric Hamp of the Houghton Lake Resorter and Jim Lahde of the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun voted electronically to find out how they think the the league race will be played this fall.
And no, no one is shouting that the results are fake news. All votes were counted accurately.
To no one’s surprise, defending champion and regular powerhouse Beal City is once again the pick to lead the Highland Conference.
To see our order of finish and a bit about each team, read on.
City of Beal – Beal City started with a 22-21 win at Ravenna on Friday, coming back from a 21-0 deficit to score 22 points in the final 14 minutes. The Aggies are going to be good and have momentum going into this week’s home and conference opener against McBain. Beal City graduated a lot from a state Division 8 runners-up team last season, but are also coming back a lot. Junior running back Cayden Smith and quarterback Jack Fussman are both very good.
Evart – Evart makes a lot of speed at skill positions and has a seasoned QB in Preston Wallace. Cole Hopkins is a tough fullback with a nose for the end zone as a runner and receiver while the White brothers have excellent speed on the outside. Evart’s attacking patterns and play calls are geared towards using his strengths. The Wildcats opened with a 34-20 victory over a pesky team from Beaverton.
McBain – McBain has everyone back in the backfield and a good power complement (Kalvin McGillis) with an elusive (Eli Baker, Bryce Akom) in the tight T and QB Braylon Pace expanding his game to include running more often. Probably the best overall line in the league anchored by Mack Bontekoe who will be a beast on guard this season. McBain has to get to Beal City early, which is a downside. The Ramblers opened with a 40-0 loss to perennial powerhouse Kingsley.
lake town — Lake City returns the explosive Dayne Blair, which is compactly built with the speed of a sprinter. If he stays healthy, he can be a game-breaker. Darin Kunkel returns to QB as a double threat to run or throw. He is tough and a fiery competitor and leader on the pitch. Hate losing. Decent size up front anchored by Rowland Ball but lacking in experience. Sam Baron and Brody Gothard are strong possession receivers. The Trojans lost a 54-26 decision to Cheboygan in Week 1.
Manton – Manton graduated a large group of seniors last season and numbers are once again an issue for coach Eric Salani’s squad.
He does have playmakers, though, with quarterback Nathan Winters leading the way. If Rangers can stay relatively healthy, they will stay in plenty of games. Manton hung on to beat Hesperia 36-33 in Week 1.
Roscommun — “I really feel this year is going to be the year we change some things,” Roscommon coach Steve Bednarik said of this year’s varsity football team.
With strong senior management, the Bucks have several veterans who will help lead them this fall. The Bucks fire several linemen.
“We can move football,” he said, noting that they have a dual-threat attack where they can both run and pass. Defensively, Bednarik said the Bucks will look to their core linebackers to help lead the team. He said his defensive backs will also be a strength. The Bucks lost to Grayling 21-6 last week.
Houghton Lake – The Bobcats will field a young team this year, graduating most of their offensive and defensive lines and backfield. “We’re going to find our way, but the kids are excited, they’re going after it,” coach Greg Maynard said.
“We are going to grow and get better and better every week.” Maynard said the Bobcats’ strengths this season will be on the edge and stretch things horizontally. Houghton Lake dropped their opener against Oscoda 30-12.
pine river — Brian Jackson takes over at Pine River after former coach Terry Martin took over as athletic director.
The Bucks lost the last two games last year due to discipline and resulting low numbers. An offseason hasn’t helped that either, as there are only 15 players on the varsity roster. Quarterback Damian Jackson and Ryder Holmes are the go-to options, but it could be a tough season for the green and white. The Bucks dropped their opener against Addison, 44-0.