JLAS Football

Aug. 24th
7:00 pm

Aug. 31st

7:00 pm
Inland Lakes High School
Cards stopped short in seesaw affair

Sept. 7th

7:00 pm

Sept. 14th

7:00 pm

Sept. 21st

7:00 pm
Central Lake High School
Little plays add up for Cardinals
W 22-18

Sept. 28th

7:00 pm
@ Rudyard High School ~ Thirlby Field
J-L makes statement with clobbering
Oct. 5th
7:00 pm

Oct. 12th

7:00 pm
St. Mary Cathedral Junior Senior High School
J-L speed too much for SMH

Oct. 19th

7:00 pm
Oct. 27th
7:00 p.m.
Nov. 2nd
7:00 p.m.
Nov. 9th
7:00 p.m.
L 49-16

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All-SVC South football team announced

GAYLORD — Several area players were named to the All-Ski Valley South football list.

The newly formed Ski Valley South added a new award this season, the league’s Most Valuable Player. Although Johannesburg-Lewiston back Dillion Kibby was one of the two nominees for the inaugural award, the nod went to All-State Mancelona rusher Wyatt Derrer.

The Ironmen senior rushed for 1,342 yards and averaged 9.5 yards per carry during the regular season to sway the voting. Kibby and fellow Cardinal Dakota Finnerty received First Team nods for their work on offense.

Finnerty anchored the offensive line from his guard position that helped plow the way for 2,658 rushing yards during the regular season. Cardinal quarterback Alex Payne, fullback Mitch Hardy and tackle Logan Miller were named to the offensive Second Team.

St. Mary senior Matt Spyhalski earned a First Team defense nod for his strong play at defensive back. J-L defensive end Garrett Koronka, along with linebackers Drake Skowronski and Dylan Helms, also received First Team awards.

Snowbird defensive lineman Cameron Switalski and linebacker Nick Lochinski earned Second Team on the defense. St. Mary running back Nick Harrington fought through injury to earn an Honorable Mention, along with J-L sure-handed center Brad Kussrow.

Ski Valley South
All-Conference Awards

First-team offense: quarterback: Matt Tollini, Onaway; running backs: Wyatt Derrer, Mancelona; Dillion Kibby, J-L; Will Brockman, Central Lake; wide receiver: Justin Burke, Forest Area; tight end: Luke Smigielski, Mancelona; offensive line: Tristen Fleet, Mancelona; Dalton Sulz, Mancelona; Brandon Scott, Mancelona; Dakota Finnerty, J-L; Jordan Moffat, Central Lake.

Second-team offense: quarterback: Alex Payne, J-L; running backs: Trevor Ackler, Mancelona; Mitch Hardy, J-L; Jason Sigsby, Onaway; wide receiver: Carlos Bautista, Onaway; tight end: Tommy Auger, Onaway; offensive line: Dylan Buffman, Central Lake; Logan Miller, J-L; Jacob Szoka, Central Lake.

First-team defense: linemen: Dakota Orman, Mancelona; Garrett Koronka, J-L; Dylan Buffman, Central Lake; Brandon Johnson, Forest Area; linebackers: Drake Skowronski, J-L; Dylan Helms, J-L; Justin Gedda, Onaway; defensive backs: Kyle Schepperley, Mancelona; Kevin Schepperley, Mancelona; Matt Spyhalski, St. Mary; Will Brockman, Central Lake.

Second-team defense: linemen: Zach Carley, Central Lake; Chae Whitsitt, Onaway; Chris Cleaver, Onaway; Cameron Switalski, St. Mary; linebacker: Nick Lochinski, St. Mary.

Specialty: kicker: Carlos Bautista, Onaway; punter: Scott Sedwick, Forest Area.

Honorable mention: quarterback: Kyle Schepperley, Mancelona; running back: Nick Harrington, St. Mary; linemen: Brad Kussrow, J-L; Austin Vance, Forest Area.

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BEAL CITY — With the length of days shrinking, the majority of the Johannesburg-Lewiston football fans who made the journey to Beal City on Friday traveled in darkness.

After reaching the Rosebush exit on US-127, the Beal City stadium lights stood as a guide for the majority of the nine miles between the small towns.

For Cardinal fans, the excellent lighting stood as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dim season-ending loss as J-L fell 49-16 to the Aggies in the Regional final game.

“We came off to a little bit of a slow start,” said J-L coach John Bush. “They are a good team and came out and hit us right off the bat. Give them credit, they are a really good football team.”

Beal City quarterback Sam Schafer started the Aggies off on the wrong foot for Cardinal fans, completing a 31-yard bomb to Ryan Tilmann on Beal City’s second play from scrimmage.

Hayden Huber broke free for a 25-yard touchdown run a short time later. The drive dubiously set the tone for the majority of the first half.

When the Cardinals (9-3) brought defenders close to the line of scrimmage, the Aggies’ offense knew right where to throw to. When J-L played back, Beal City (12-0) pounded the ball up the middle.

Three 1-yard touchdowns ensued during the next 13 minutes of play, all of them building on Beal City’s lead. The first came from Ty Rollin, and the next two were quarterback keepers by Schafer.

Like the bright lights popping out of the Mid-Michigan cornfields, the Cardinals found themselves looking at a glaring 28-0 deficit.

Just when the game appeared to be heading completely out of control for the J-L faithful, Beal City’s booming kicker Paul Anders hung one up in the air for dangerous Cardinal returner Dillion Kibby.

Behind solid blocking, the senior speedster took the ball 95 yards for the Cardinal’s only score in the first half with eight minutes left in the second quarter.

“We never quit, that’s for sure, our kids gave effort,” said Bush, but added, shaking his head, “That Beal City, they are a tough team to beat.”

Rollin added a 20-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter, followed by a Joe Rau 14-yard score and a Luke Farrell touchdown run to begin the fourth quarter.

Rollin led all rushers with 122 yards.

J-L’s Nick May showed a glimpse of the future when he drove in the game’s final score with 3:08 left in the game.

Next year’s team will look different with 14 seniors departing, and Bush was more than happy to give them credit for the success during the season.

“We started out kind of slow, and the kids made a decision to pick it up and finish strong, and we knocked out eight in a row,” he said. “There’s a lot to be proud of. These kids are character kids. I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a group of kids.”

The senior backfield of Mitch Hardy, Kibby, Jacob Lawrence and quarterback Alex Payne ran behind a senior line led by Dakota Finnerty and Logan Miller that racked up a total of 3,407 yards on the ground this season.

Dylan Helms and Drake Skowronski led the seniors on defense, which also included Garrett Koronka, Wyatt Pelton, Jacob Newell and Mike Scarcia.

Cole Nagy and Joe McGuire shored up the end positions in their final high school football seasons.

“Our seniors really did a nice job for us this year,” Bush said. “I could just ask effort from them, and they gave effort all the time, every down, every snap. That’s all you can ask.”

Beal City advanced to Saturday’s State semifinal in Traverse City against St. Ignace, which is also undefeated.

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J-L can avenge last year's loss to undefeated Aggies

BEAL CITY — The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team of 2012 made its mark Friday as one of the most successful in school history.

For just the third time in 43 years of football, the Cardinals won two playoff games, and their current eight-game winning streak is the longest since 1998.

Only the 1998 team, which traveled to the State semifinals, scored more points in a season (636) compared to 445 this year.

For their reward, the Cardinals have earned a date with Beal City, one of the state’s toughest teams in Division 8.

Led by veteran coach Lou Rau, the Aggies finished the regular season a perfect 9-0 with key victories over Clare, which is playing in this weekend’s Division 5 Regional Final, and Lake City, which is battling in the Division 7 Regional Final.

The Aggies stood near the top of the Associated Press rankings all season and defeated always strong Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 28-21 in the District Finals.

“Well, they were 11-0 this year and play in a really good league,” said J-L coach John Bush. “We’re approaching this one just like any other game. We are not just happy to be there. We will go into it ready to play.”

Seniors on the Cardinals’ defense will see a familiar foe in Beal City quarterback Sam Schafer and running back Ty Rollin, along with senior center Nate Schafer. All three were part of an Aggie team that bounced the Cardinals out of the playoffs last season in the opening round, 43-20.

“Their quarterback is a pretty accurate thrower and they run a balanced attack,” Bush said. “They are going to run first, but they can definitely pass when they need to. Seeing them last year gives us a little more level of comfort. At least there’s a little familiarity there.”

Sam Schafer finished the regular season with 1,117 yards through the air and 15 touchdowns while tossing just three interceptions. Rollin led the team through the nine-game regular season with 581 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, but the Aggies spread the carries around with five backs gaining more than 250 yards.

The Cardinals continue to combine the wrecking ball style of Mitch Hardy with the shifty speed of Dillion Kibby. The two have combined for 2,076 yards on the season.

Hardy leads the team with 1,152 yards, and after missing the first two games of the season with injury, rebounded to average 128 yards per game.

Hardy, along with quarterback Alex Payne, are closing in on a couple of Cardinal records in career production, including most career touchdowns. Despite the tall order of taking a Regional crown away from the Aggies, nobody has conceded defeat in the J-L locker room.

“It means the world, but we’re not finished,” said J-L defensive captain and linebacker Dylan Helms after J-L won the District title with a 40-30 victory against Central Lake. “We still have some things to accomplish.”

Coach Bush agreed with Helms.

“Everybody is excited about it,” Bush said. “We’re still moving on as District champs, and we’re going to Regionals. We are going to show up and give it our best shot and whatever happens, happens.”

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Defense, Hardy lift J-L to hard-fought victory

Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — The Johannesburg-Lewiston football squad defeated Central Lake Friday, 40-30, to bring home the second District championship trophy in school history.

The teams combined for nine touchdowns and 700 yards of offense, but the Cardinal defense took a proactive role in the outcome in a game that was played in a soft, but steady, snow shower.

On the Trojans’ opening drive of the second half, the rushing attack of Taylor Sutherland and William Brockman gashed the Cardinal defense for a 10 play, 60-yard drive, finished off by a seven-yard run by Brockman.

Central Lake took the lead, 30-24, but on the ensuing 2-point conversion attempt, the J-L defense held its ground and prevented Sutherland from scoring the bonus points.

“That was the difference in the game the first time we played them,” said J-L coach John Bush of the team’s 22-18 victory on Sept. 21. “They didn’t get any two pointers and we did. I kind of thought, once it got started there, that it might come down to that again, and it did. Once we stopped them on that 2-point conversion, I felt pretty good after that.”

Thanks in part to a fourth-quarter interception by Cardinal junior defensive back Coalton Huff spirited play by the defensive line and consistent play from linebacker Dylan Helms, the Trojans failed to score a point in the last quarter and a half.

“Our seniors prevailed is what it came down to,” Bush said. “Those are the kids that made the plays in the end, and that’s the kind of kids they are. They just don’t quit. It would’ve been easy just to pack it in. We were kind of back on our heels for a while there, but they stepped up and made plays.” Helms, a senior captain, agreed with Bush.

“Our senior leadership has made the difference,” Helms said. “We have a really strong senior class that has stepped up.” Bush was quick to give credit to Helms’ play and the defense in general. He led the team with 17 tackles. “He’s so important on that defensive side of the ball, calling plays, making adjustments and getting my calls out there,” Bush said. “He makes it happen over there, and he did that in the second half. We pretty much shut them out in the second half.”

Seniors Alex Payne and Jacob Newell each added 14 tackles, while Huff finished with 11 stops.

On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals continued their streak of running over opponents.
During the first quarter, a 17-yard Dillion Kibby run set up an 8-yard touchdown run from senior Mitch Hardy. In the second quarter, a 14-yard Kibby run helped set up a 23-yard Hardy scoring scamper.

Hardy added a 21-yard score in the third quarter and a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter.
The senior racked up 221 yards on 28 carries, four touchdowns and four two-point conversions to complete the game with 32 points. The total ties Hardy for second place with Marcus Ewing (1999, vs. Bellaire), Matt Martindale (2003, vs. Pellston) and Brad Ewing (2004, vs. Pellston) in the school’s all-time record books. Mark McArthur tops the list with 36 points against Pellston in 1997. Payne passed for the only touchdown that Hardy was not involved in — a play-action strike to Joe McGuire for 10 yards during the second quarter.

Kibby finished up with 79 yards on 11 carries and Jacob Lawrence had 35 yards on five carries, including a 17-yard reverse during a key third down conversion on the game’s final touchdown drive.

For Central Lake, their season ended with a fight, with Sutherland gaining 76 yards and Brockman rushing for 72 yards. Bush commended his opponents’ play on the season.
“(Central Lake coach) Rob Heeke does a nice job with their guys,” Bush said. “He adds a lot of stability to their program. Their kids are disciplined and play the game the right way and it has been a battle with them all season in both games. It went right down to the wire and the final few plays both times but fortunately we prevailed.”

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Golden: Johannesburg-Lewiston football, volleyball capture
District Titles on same night
Gaylord Herald Times

J-L football downs Central Lake, 40-30

JOHANNESBURG – As the snow fell in Johannesburg, the Cardinal rushing attack plowed the field for over 300 yards as the team captured their first Division title since 2009.

Mitch Hardy led the way for 247 yards on the ground, four touchdowns and four two-point conversions.

Dillion Kibby rushed for 100 yards. The Trojans fought to a 24-24 halftime tie and took the lead on their first possession of the third quarter, 30-26.

The Cardinal defense stiffened when it needed to and smothered the potent Central Lake rushing attack for the remainder of the game.

Trojans combined for 271 yards on the ground. Senior J-L linebacker Dylan Helms led the defense with 13 tackles on the night.

The Cardinals travel to Beal City this Friday with the Regional trophy on the line. Beal City downed Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 28-21.

Lady Cards make quick work of District title.

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2012 Varsity Roster
Alex Payne
Coalton Huff
Sean Paris
Dillon Cushman
Mitch Hardy
Jacob Newell
Dillon Kibby
Jacob Lawrence
Cameron Nickert
Drake Skowronski
Chase Amborski
Kalin Leonard
Dylan Helms
Dakota Finnerty
Garrett Koronka
Brad Kussrow
Logan Hipsher
Travis Rider
Wyatt Pelton
Tony Baker
Logan Miller
Gage Law
Mike Scarcia
Joe McGuire
Cole Nagy
Head Coach:
John Bush
Assistant Coaches:
Gary Hoffman
Joe Smokevitch
Cody Proctor
Doug Kussrow
Rick May

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J-L runs past Hillman in playoff romp
Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG - Friday night's 62-14 victory against Hillman was the perfect case study in Johannesburg-Lewiston football.

The Cardinals did not complete a pass, but still managed to come up with all of the explosive plays of a team that chucks it up and down the field in an easy victory in the Division 8 Pre-District.

Mitch Hardy, Dillion Kibby and Alex Payne each scored two touchdowns for the Cardinals (8-2), who will host Central Lake (7-3) next Friday in Johannesburg.

Cameron Nickert and Dillon Cushman also scored for J-L, while Hardy had four two-point conversions and Payne had two. One of Kibby's touchdowns, an 84-yard kickoff return just before the first half ended, was of the majestic variety. Kibby added another spectacular punt return in the third quarter and just missed scoring a touchdown.

Hardy finished with 160 yards on the ground, while Kibby added 64 yards.

Dylan Helms had 14 tackles and a fumble recovery for J-L, while Drake Skowronski added 11 tackles.

J-L, with just under 400 yards of total rushing and a pair of long returns, enacted the running clock early in the third quarter.

Next week will feature a rematch from a 22-18 J-L victory over Central Lake in September. Since then, both teams have played very well.

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JOHANNESBURG — For the second season in a row, the Johannesburg-Lewiston football team will walk into the playoffs with home-field advantage.

This year, if the Cardinals win their first game, they will play host again next week.

The Division 8 playoffs begin at 7 p.m. Friday when J-L (7-2) tangles with Hillman (5-4).

Although the Tigers crept into the second season, Hillman is no stranger to the postseason, punching its seventh-straight playoff ticket.

Fighting injuries and a player moving out of town, Hillman showed its scrappiness in pulling out games when the situation required.

The Tigers march ahead full steam. The team won three of its last four games, including its final two on the road, beating Oscoda, 30-22, and shutting out Hale, 16-0.

Defense is the name of the game for the Tigers. Michael Olschanski leads the unit with 98 tackles in just eight games (one of Hillman’s victories was via forfeit).

Consistency, however, may stand as the biggest issue for Hillman. As good as the defense performed down the stretch, both sides of the ball have had their share of downs.

During its four losses, Hillman averaged under six points per game.

The Tigers rely on a balanced running attack featuring backs Michael Klein and David Olschanski.

Quarterback Ty Jones mostly relies on his feet for yardage, but threw for seven touchdowns. He’ll force J-L defensive backs to stay honest.

The advantage on both sides of the football falls in the Cardinals’ direction.

Behind a big and strong offensive line, the one-two punch of Dillion Kibby and Mitch Hardy ate up defenses this season, combining for 1,593 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns.

Fullback Hardy leads the team with 802 yards, averaging 8.7 yards a carry, despite missing the first two games of the season with injury.

Kibby added a dangerous special teams dimension, returning four kicks for touchdowns. Among rushing, returning, receiving and interceptions, Kibby reached the end zone 14 times. Factoring in two-point conversions, the senior is responsible for 98 points.

Quarterback Alex Payne improved throughout the season as a passer and continues to be a threat in the run game with nine rushing touchdowns.

As a team, the Cardinals averaged 295 yards per game on the ground.

After a slow start during the first three games of the season, the J-L defense found its groove and averaged 119 yards and five points allowed during the last six games.

Dylan Helms played the role of emotional leader in the center of the linebacker corps and the rest of the defense followed. Helms paced the team with 94 tackles.

Drake Skowronski, who also missed a pair of games with injury, is right behind with 90 tackles, while Payne leads the secondary with 71 stops.

The last time J-L hosted two playoff games was in 2009. The team opened that postseason with a 38-0 win against Hillman and defeated St. Ignace before falling to Frankfort in the Regional Final.

The winner of this game will face the winner of the Onaway-Central Lake game next week.

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J-L draws Hillman in football playoffs, Cards could host 2 games

JOHANNESBURG - The Johannesburg-Lewiston football team received a favorable draw in the Division 8 playoffs as the Cardinals could likely host a pair of playoff games.

J-L (7-2) earned the No 1 seed in its district and will open the playoffs against Hillman (5-4), likely on Friday.

If the Cardinals win, they will face the winner of Onaway (5-4) at Central Lake (6-3).

Six Ski Valley Conference teams made the field - J-L, Onaway, Central Lake, St. Ignace and Pickford in Division 8 and Mancelona in Division 7.

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Wenzel: Cardinals hoping to host Round 1 game as playoff fate awaits

Gaylord Herald Times

Ahead of Sunday’s high school football playoff selections, Johannesburg-Lewiston is one of several teams from around Northern Michigan anxious to find out its path to what it hopes will be five more weeks of competition.

J-L is one of 256 schools awaiting its fate of the selections, which will be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday on Fox Sports Detroit.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association, saddled with the unenviable task of setting up the brackets, employs mathematicians and computer geeks to help chew up the 596 football teams in the state and spit out groupings in multiples of four.

J-L possesses the magic number of at least six wins and thus is an automatic qualifier.

Whether the Cardinals’ first game will be at home is another matter altogether.

According to calculations, estimates and best guesses, the Cardinals are shaping up to be in a Division 8 Pre-District bracket with Hillman, Central Lake and possibly Mio. In this scenario, J-L should have home-field advantage throughout the first two games.

Action north of the Mackinac Bridge will dictate where the Cardinals eventually fall, as the number of Division 8 schools from the Upper Peninsula have a major bearing on the Northern Lower Peninsula schools.

If eight schools are chosen, and Onaway makes the field, then Onaway will be squeezed into the J-L bracket, and Mio may be pushed down to a more southern bracket. All of this is subject to complete change, but it will come down to how many playoff points a team on the bubble has that will ultimately determine its fate.

Playoff points

What are playoff points? Here is an oversimplified version of the rules:

Each of 596 teams in the state are ranked by points. There are two types of points — playoff points and bonus points. Playoff points are awarded automatically with victories and ties and vary from 80 points for a victory over a Class A team, down to 16 points for a tie against a Class D team. No points are awarded for losses.

After the season, the total playoff points are divided by the number of games played. That sounds logical enough.

Playoff points are then added with bonus points. Bonus points are given when a team you defeat, beats or ties another team. After the season, those points are added up and divided by the number of games that team played. Fractions are converted to decimals and are rounded to the nearest thousandth place. Automatic qualifiers (those with six wins or more) will not fill out the amount of teams needed for the four classes that become eight divisions during the process, so teams with 5-4 records will be sprinkled in.

The amount of leftover places after automatic qualifiers are divided equally through the four classes and spread evenly throughout the eight divisions.

Confused yet?

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J-L shuts out Pellston

Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — The red-hot Johannesburg-Lewiston football team tuned up nicely for the postseason with a 42-0 romp against Pellston Friday.

The game was one of teams headed in opposite directions. It marked the sixth consecutive victory for J-L (7-2), while it was the fifth loss in a row for Pellston, which won its first four games.

The game was never in doubt as senior Mitch Hardy scored on a 48-yard run on the Cardinals’ first possession of the game.

Hardy added a two other first half touchdowns as J-L led 34-0 at halftime.

The “Thunder and Lightning” backfield of Hardy and Dillion Kibby continued to impress.

Hardy had 161 yards, while Kibby had another spectacular all-purpose game with 78 rushing yards, 73 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Both seniors are averaging more than 8.3 yards per carry this season.

Senior quarterback Alex Payne completed 5-of-9 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Overall, the Cardinals ground out 448 yards of total offense, compared to 73 yards for the Hornets.

The stout J-L defense was led by Dylan Helms (13 tackles), Logan Miller (12 tackles), Drake Skowronski (11 tackles) and Jacob Newell (10 tackles).

Payne and Kibby both added interceptions.

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JOHANNESBURG — Monsoon season in Northern Michigan took a night off Friday and the skies cleared for a cool, crisp rivalry game as St. Mary traveled to Johannesburg-Lewiston to take on the Cardinals.

The home team made a statement with an emphatic 56-6 victory over the Snowbirds, with the Cardinals punching their tickets to the playoffs in the process.

“We’re starting to get on a roll,” said J-L coach John Bush when asked if it was a relief to officially qualify for the second season. “Honestly, I thought we would have at least seven wins by now, but we are in a good spot heading to the end of the season.”

The points piled up quickly for J-L (6-2), a product of a speedy backfield, multiplied by an offensive line humming on all cylinders.

With Logan Miller, Dakota Finnerty, Brad Kussrow, Drake Skowronski and Garrett Koronka on the interior, and Cole Nagy and Joe McGuire at tight end, the Cardinal freight train ran up and down the field.

It took Dillion Kibby just over two minutes to score the game’s first points. After a false start penalty cost the Snowbirds (0-8) a first down, Kibby caught Jack Lochinski’s punt on the left side of the field and dashed to the right, where a wall of blockers was waiting. Kibby’s speed carried him the rest of the way.

“Special teams are something that we have been working quite a bit on lately,” Bush said.

From there, it was offensive domination for the Cardinals, who took an eye-popping 50-6 lead at halftime.

The St. Mary offense attempted to flip things up by starting running threat Matt Spyhalski at quarterback but switched to natural passer Charles Strehl in the second quarter.

Strehl managed to orchestrate a late first-half drive that spanned 70 yards with a couple of quality post passes to Nick Lochinski.

Nick Harrington finished off the drive with a tough 5-yard fight up the middle for a touchdown.

It would be the only points for a Snowbird offense that was held to season-low 124 total yards.

On the other side of the ball, contributions were spread out.

Senior quarterback Alex Payne moved into the fourth-place spot in the school record books with 33 career rushing touchdowns. He scored twice on the ground and added a 25-yard touchdown pass to McGuire. Overall, Payne was 3-of-4 passing for 62 yards.

Senior Mitch Hardy led the team with 91 yards rushing and three touchdowns, while Jacob Lawrence also added a rushing score.

Although admitting that “the Wing T is our bread and butter,” Bush acknowledged defenses should be ready for a different style of offense.

“It (a variety of formations) gives us something else to work with,” he said. “We have the athletes to take advantage of defenses and you may see a little bit more next week.”

Steady senior linebacker Dylan Helms led the defense with eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Kussrow also recovered a fumble for the Cardinals.

St. Mary is left with one final chance at a victory this week at a tough Atlanta team, which has a chip on its shoulder from having three early season wins forfeited because of the use of an ineligible player.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals keep feasting on home cooking against an improved Pellston team. The Hornets (4-4) would love to give the playoff selection committee something to consider with a victory and a 5-4 record. J-L, on the other hand, will be angling for a potential first round home playoff game.

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ONAWAY — Johannesburg-Lewiston’s slogan, plastered on everything from shirts to e-mails this season is “It’s a Great Day to be a Cardinal.”

Friday, it was a great day to be Cardinal running back Dillion Kibby.

Kibby piled up over 400 all-purpose yardage, four touchdowns and two two-point conversions on the way to a 56-14 victory over Onaway.

Kibby scored his four touchdowns in just about every way possible and entered himself into the Cardinal record books at the same time.

A third-quarter kickoff was caught by Joe McGuire who handed it to Kibby on a reverse. It worked for 80 yards and now stands as the fifth-longest kickoff return in school history, tied with a J.J. Myers return from 2004.

Four minutes of game time later, Kibby picked off a Matt Tollini pass and ran it back 90 yards for six more points. That play goes to the books, tied for the second-longest interception return (Tim Guild, 1999) and the sixth-longest scoring play ever with Guild’s play and a Brian VanCoillie kick return from 2009.

Kibby rushed for another touchdown of nine yards and was on the receiving end of a 17-yard diving pass reception from quarterback Alex Payne.

J-L coach John Bush was briefly complimentary of Kibby’s performance but seemed more interested in speaking of the team concept that was able to hold a dangerous Onaway offense to 14 points.

“This is a senior bunch of guys and they did a great job this week of helping the team prepare for this game,” Bush said. “We had a very strong week of practice, came in here and got the job done.”

The game was a big one for the visiting Cardinals, who improved to 5-2 while knocking Onaway back to 5-2. J-L can clinch a playoff spot with a victory at home against St. Mary (0-7) Friday.

The senior leadership showed the way at the front lines Friday. J-L senior Drake Skowronski involved himself in 19 tackles, 10 of those were solo tackles from his defensive end position. Skowronski set up camp in the face of Tollini throughout the entirety of the game.

On the interior line, Garrett Koronka disrupted the Onaway blocking scheme and for the most part held a quick and shifty offense in check. He also got a paw on the game’s first punt, giving the J-L offense the ball on Onaway’s 42 yard line for their opening drive. Senior linebacker Dylan Helms also played an outstanding game both in coverage and with nine tackles.

The game marked only the second time this season Onaway has been held under 28 points — the other, a 56-14 game against Mancelona.

With 427 total rushing yards on 51 caries, J-L controlled the line of scrimmage, the clock, the turnover battle and scoreboard.

Kibby led the team with 178 yards on just nine carries. Senior Mitch Hardy was the workhorse, rushing 21 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Payne carried nine times for 44 yards, scoring two touchdowns and rounding out a powerful ground attack.

As it has all season long, the offensive line, led by senior Dakota Finnerty, were a big reason for the big chunks of yardage.

Playing their best football of the season, the Cardinals are excited about what is to come.

“We’re looking forward to some home cooking, that’s for sure,” Bush said. “St. Mary is going to be ready, though. They always bring in a contingent of hard-working young men.”


Photo Courtesy of Gaylord Herald Times

J-L makes statement with clobbering
Gaylord Herald Times

RUDYARD — It was the type of victory the Johannesburg-Lewiston faithful have been waiting for.

After traveling across the Mackinac Bridge Friday, J-L delivered a Cardinal-like 51-0 thrashing of one of the Ski Valley Conference’s newest members, Rudyard. Senior Mitch Hardy, who continues to get healthier after an early season leg injury, was a difference maker.

The fullback had 164 yards and accounted for 26 points — three touchdowns and four two-point conversions. Hardy was far from the only cog in J-L’s 397-yard ground attack.

Jacob Newell added 76 yards and two touchdowns, while Cameron Nickert had 53 yards, and Dillion Kibby rushed for 48 yards.

Quarterback Alex Payne contributed three rushing touchdowns, while Hunter VanDeKerChove also scored on the ground. The scoreboard changed early and often for the Cardinals, who were up 44-0 at halftime.

Drake Skowronski led the defense with 11 tackles, while Logan Miller had 10, Dylan Helms nine and Garrett Koronka eight. Skowronski added an interception. Coalton Huff had a fumble recovery.

A big test is coming up for J-L Friday as the Cardinals (4-2, 2-1 Ski Valley South) travel to Onaway (5-1, 2-1). Both teams are looking to that game to boost them into prime playoff position.

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JOHANNESBURG — “When we needed a play, he came through,” said Johannesburg-Lewiston football coach John Bush on Friday night.

The play that Bush spoke of occurred with 1:08 to go in the fourth quarter during J-L’s 22-18 Homecoming victory against Central Lake.

The Trojans carried the momentum of play throughout the fourth quarter and were itching to get the ball back for one last attempt at a game-winning score.

With the Cardinals desperate to run out the final ticks of the clock, J-L possessed the ball on the Central Lake 25-yard line at a pivotal fourth-and-5.

“He” in the previous quote turned out to be Dillion Kibby, who grabbed a handoff from quarterback Alex Payne and broke down the left sideline for a gain of 8 yards. Kibby’s vigilance told him to get down in bounds and the game ended shortly after with Payne taking a knee behind center.

It wasn’t the pretty, blowout victory the J-L crowd had thirsted for, but the old cliché of a win is a win was good enough for Bush.

“We finished out on top in the scoreboard, and that’s what counts,” Bush said. “A few years from now, these guys will just look back and remember that they won their Homecoming game. They probably won’t even remember what the score was.”

Like the final scoreboard, two plays in the first half may eventually fade from the Cardinals’ memories but were just as important as Kibby’s late burst.

Both teams scored three touchdowns, but the difference on the scoreboard came down to two-point conversion. Twice for the Cardinals, Payne kept the ball and ran it in for successful conversions. None of his 80 yards of rushing stuck out as big as the six yards he earned during those attempts.

Brad Kussrow also came through with two big plays on defense in the fourth quarter that will never see the stat sheet.

With 2:14 left in the game, Trojan running back William Brockman punched the ball into the end zone and completed a 75-yard drive.

On the two-point attempt, quarterback Kyle Hiltunen faked a handoff and rolled to his right, hoping to find an open receiver.

From his nose tackle position, Kussrow fought through the offensive line and sacked Hiltunen about six yards behind the line of scrimmage.

The inevitable onside kick on the next play bounced to Kussrow, who cradled the ball and quickly hit the ground.

“He did well out there tonight,” Bush said. “Sometimes he gets overlooked because he’s our sophomore, but he snaps the ball for us every down (as center) and today on defense they actually ran away from him all night.”

Drake Skowronski with 20 tackles and Wyatt Pelton, who notched nine tackles, also played tough games on both the offensive and defensive lines.

After missing the first two games with a lower body injury, senior fullback Mitch Hardy showed a glimpse that he might be approaching 100 percent.

“He’s starting to get his speed back,” Bush said. “He missed a lot of time at the beginning of the season, and it takes a while to get that back.”

Hardy rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns, including a 23-yard run that he broke up the middle for the game’s first score.

Payne finished with 70 yards through the air on four completions. Jacob Newell caught one of those passes for J-L’s third touchdown.

Bush was quick to give Central Lake praise for a well-played contest and commented on the rising parity of the Ski Valley Conference.

“The teams at the top, Mancelona is still way up there, but the bottom teams have all risen up as well,” Bush said. “They can all give you a fight, and it’s great to see.”

Bush and the Cardinals (3-2, 2-1 in Ski Valley South) travel north of the bridge Friday to take on Rudyard (0-5).

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Photo Courtesy of Gaylord Herald Times

Cardinals light up the scoreboard
Gaylord Herald Times

FIFE LAKE — Johannesburg-Lewiston put together a complete game against Forest Area Friday, downing the Warriors 60-8 in Fife Lake.

“We played well,” said J-L coach John Bush. “They had one drive on us that they converted a long fourth down, but they didn’t put together much of a comeback. Our effort was good and our execution is getting there.” Glaring out on the stat sheet, the Cardinals’ special teams delivered blow after blow to the Warriors. Kick and punt returner Dillion Kibby stung the Warriors for 183 total return yards, including a demoralizing return for a touchdown to open the second half of play.

Despite a second touchdown return called back for a holding penalty, Kibby managed to out-return the entire Forest Area offense on the night by 59 yards.

Kibby scored another touchdown in the potent ground game, adding 44 yards.

In his second game back from an injury, Mitch Hardy led the rushers with 72 yards on 10 carries.

Jacob Lawrence gained 53 yards on the ground, and Cameron Nickert added 47. Quarterback Alex Payne rushed for two touchdowns. Payne was also 4-for-7 passing for 92 yards.

Hardy caught three passes for 46 yards, while Kibby had a catch for 46 yards. “We had a lot of backs in the game,” Bush said. “We didn’t really have a featured back, and it was nice to get several in there with quite a few yards.”

The Cardinal defense continues to improve. Logan Miller, Wyatt Pelton, Dylan Helms, Drake Skowronski and Coalton Huff led the way with six tackles each. Cole Nagy made five tackles.

“My seniors really stepped up on the inside,” said Bush. “Dakota Finnerty and Wyatt Pelton were good on the inside, and we played well on the defense. We seem to get better as we keep going in the season. We have some depth now at key spots.”

It’s Homecoming for J-L (2-2, 1-1 in Ski Valley South) on Friday as the Cardinals welcome Central Lake (1-3, 1-1) into Johannesburg.

According to Bush, the Trojans will not be overlooked. “You know in the first half, they gave Mancelona a game,” said Bush. “They are a much improved team with an offense that hurries up to the line so they get a lot of plays in. We are going to have to be ready for that.”

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MANCELONA — Friday night’s football game between Mancelona and Johannesburg-Lewiston rekindled a physical rivalry and played out much closer than the 22-0 Ironmen victory on the scoreboard.

The game looked more like a throwback to footage of old-time football on the soggy field in Antrim County as the majority of the action was played between the hashes in a defensive battle.

“I’m not much for moral victories or anything, but I’m proud of our kids. They played really well,” said J-L coach John Bush.

Endurance training for the defense was put to the test early as J-L managed only one offensive possession in the first quarter, which promptly ended in a lost fumble.

“The defense played great,” Bush said. “I think we only managed one play (on offense) in the first quarter so they had to be.”

That first quarter ended in a 0-0 tie and fueled a hint of nervousness from the home crowd. A slight sigh from the Ironmen faithful came a minute into the second quarter when All-State back Wyatt Derrer punched in his first touchdown of the game — a 2-yard burst through the middle of the line during Mancelona’s first trip into the red zone.

Derrer ended the game with 108 yards on 23 carries, a stat that Bush was pleased with.

“He’s legit,” Bush said. “I thought we contained him fairly well. We knew he was going to get the ball, and I thought our kids did a good job.”

The game turned into a jabbing contest with tempers elevating on both sides of the football.

Much to the dismay of the coaches, a couple of personal fouls were scattered throughout the game, and one J-L flag was a costly one.

“The plays that we gave them were just a couple of mistakes,” Bush said. “The first score we fumbled the ball and gave them good field position. The second score we gave them a personal foul and gave them a first down plus.”

The Cardinal defense nearly survived the first half onslaught, but with 4:50 to go in the second, a third-down penalty led to a Mancelona touchdown run by Derrer spanning 23 yards. It would stand as one of the longest plays of the day for the Ironmen.

A 16-0 lead at halftime led to a physical, gritty and scoreless third quarter as Dylan Helms made his presence known.

“Dylan Helms, he’s our quarterback on defense,” Bush said. “He calls all our plays on that side and did a great job tonight. I can’t really pick anybody else out. That was a great defensive job from all of them and that was great defensive game in general.”

Helms had 10 total tackles on the night. Drake Skowronski led the team with 17, just above Logan Miller, Alex Payne and Dillion Kibby with 13 each.

Slowly, the J-L offense showed signs of awakening toward the end of the third quarter. During his first action of the season, senior Mitch Hardy, who had been out with a leg injury, came through with 50 yards of rushing to lead the team, mostly in the fourth quarter.

“It seemed like he was all right,” Bush said. “I would have liked to not play him on defense, but Alex (Payne) had a sore foot so I had to put him over there (on defense). It was his first game so it will get better when everyone is there next week.”

Next week for J-L (1-2, 0-1 Ski Valley South) means a trip to Forest Area (0-3, 0-1) Friday to take on the struggling Warriors.

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Cards stopped short in seesaw affair

Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — A nail-biter between Johannesburg-Lewiston and Inland Lakes was decided in the last minute when Inland Lakes senior Cody Bonilla broke a tackle and scored his fourth and final touchdown of the game.

With the clock ticking down, the Cardinal offense made a desperate attempt to return the favor and tie the game.

Dillion Kibby’s kick return gave J-L good field position at the 50-yard line, but a Bulldog interception sealed a 34-28 victory for the visitors.

“We played hard and came up short,” J-L head coach John Bush said. “They came to play, and we couldn’t stop them when it was time to stop them.”

The home team used the strength of its offensive line to physically push its way down the field on the first possession of the game.

As six minutes ticked away in the first quarter, a multitude of short yard runs from Dillon Cushman and Jacob Newell, and a 10-yard pass from quarterback Alex Payne to Cole Nagy set up Cushman’s 2-yard touchdown run. Payne’s kick put the Cards up 7-0.

Inland Lakes managed a great kick return, though, and the Bulldog runner wasn’t stopped until Newell got the tackle at about the 20-yard line.

From there, J-L’s defense tried to flex its muscles, but Bonilla managed to slip through the line and into the end zone. Payne wrecked Inland Lakes quarterback Shane Bacon on the two-point conversion attempt.

Back and forth action with stilted progress marked the second quarter, and neither team managed to add points to their side of the scoreboard. Kibby made some great plays, notching the majority of his team’s runs in the second quarter, but missed passes, rushes for loss and a fumble hindered the Cardinals from adding to their score.

“I’ve been telling our seniors that we need to execute our plays better,” Bush said. “We’ve got some things we need to work on and things we need to fix before the rest of the season.”

The teams traded possessions throughout the opening minutes of the third quarter, with neither making very much progress down the field.

However, Bacon was pursued by the Cardinal defensive line and threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage that was scooped up by Dakota Finnerty, who ran it back to the Inland Lakes 18-yard line. From there, Joe McGuire caught a 17-yard pass and on first-and-goal, then Jacob Lawrence ran it in for a touchdown. Payne’s kick followed, and J-L led 14-6 with 4 minutes left in the quarter.

The lead didn’t last long. A Bulldog kick return provided good field position and after a long run by Jordyn Smeltzer, Bonilla scored on a 50-yard scamper on a fourth-and-1 play. Bacon pushed through for a good two-point-conversion to tie the game.

McGuire started the fourth quarter by catching a beautiful 25-yard pass from the 50. Kibby then ran the rest of the way for a touchdown. After a blocked kick, the Cardinals were up 20-14.

Bonilla and Smeltzer’s running started to wear down the Cardinals’ defense on the next drive. Bonilla’s quick feet set up a touchdown and two-point conversion, and Inland Lakes suddenly found its first lead of the game, 22-20.

J-L tried to fight back, but an unsuccessful drive forced a punt. A bad snap sailed over the head of Payne and the Bulldogs were able to take over deep in Cardinal territory. From there, the combined running efforts of Bonilla and Smeltzer put Bonilla close enough to score his third touchdown of the night with only 3 minutes left. The Cardinals stopped the Bulldogs from scoring another two-point-conversion, but Inland Lakes was still up, 28-20.

The Cardinals replied with an quick drive. With just over a minute to go, Kibby managed to score another touchdown, and Cameron Nickert’s catch for the two-point conversion was enough to tie the seesaw game.

But with the seconds ticking down, the Bulldogs made the plays, including Bonilla’s final run and the interception, to win. Kibby led a balanced rushing attack with 52 yards, while Payne had 44 yards, and Newell added 32 yards. Payne completed 3-of-11 passes for 50 yards.

Bonilla’s 161 rushing yards led a potent Bulldog attack.

Payne led the defense with 14 tackles, while Cushman and Wyatt Pelton each had nine. Dylan Helms, who Bush praised, had a solid game, adding a pair of tackles for loss.

The Cardinals, now 1-1, play Mancelona (2-0) on the road Friday.

“It won’t be an easy game,” Bush predicted. “We’re just going to have to go there and give it our best shot. The kids are eager to play, and we’ll be ready.”

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Cards hang on after wild ride
Gaylord Herald Times

JOHANNESBURG — A win is a win. The statement applies to Johannesburg-Lewiston’s 28-26 football victory over Atlanta Friday.

“It was a nail-biter, but we won,” said J-L coach John Bush. “Atlanta is a much improved team. It went down to the wire — I don’t think it could have been any closer.”

With 17.6 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Huskies’ quarterback Garrett Badgero threw a pass that hit Josh Barrett in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown.

Two previous times during the course of the game, Atlanta attempted a 2-point conversion and was stopped short of the goal line.

In the fourth quarter alone, Badgero had a 46-yard touchdown run and another touchdown pass to Jake Chambers that spanned 41 yards.

However, when it was absolutely crucial, the J-L defense held its ground to earn the victory in the wild game.

“We finally stopped him (Badgero),” Bush said. “We executed like we were supposed to, and our kids stepped up to make a big stop.”

Less than a minute before the defense held dual-threat Badgero at bay, J-L’s Dillion Kibby scored the game’s winning points when he was successful on a 2-point conversion.

With 1:08 to go in the fourth quarter, Dillon Cushman ran for his third touchdown of the game, a 4-yard play that set up Kibby’s conversion and the end-of-game drama. Kibby led all rushers with 222 yards on 20 carries and began the game’s scoring in the second quarter with a 48-yard scamper with 10:28 to go.

Cushman finished with 81 yards on 10 carries and three touchdowns. Jacob Newell ran for another 52 yards as the Cardinals totaled 405 yards on the ground. Alex Payne led the J-L defense with a total of 14 tackles, just in front of Wyatt Pelton and Dylan Helms, who had 12 each.

Brad Kussrow and Logan Miller each recorded a sack on the slippery Badgero. The spread offense worked well for Atlanta, and in particular for Badgero, who piled up 161 yards passing and 106 yards on the ground on his way to a combined four touchdowns.

“He got out on us a little bit,” Bush said. “I’ve heard that he is one of the best athletes in the (North Star) league, and although I don’t see every team over there, I would have to agree. He’s fast. If he gets a step on your contain, he’s going to be gone.”

J-L played the game without seniors Mitch Hardy and Drake Skowronski, who both were All-Area players last season. Both have lower body injuries and could return to action in the next couple of weeks. While J-L (1-0) and Inland Lakes (0-1) are familiar Ski Valley opponents, Friday’s game in Johannesburg will count as a nonconference affair as the two schools are now in separate divisions. J-L begins Ski Valley South play Friday, Sept. 7, at Mancelona.

Despite the fact Inland Lakes was blanked by Onaway 28-0 in week one, J-L will not be taking the Bulldogs lightly. “The last two years in a row it has come down to the last minute with them,” Bush said. “It must be something about the way our styles match up. I saw them scrimmage this summer, and they looked like a very competitive team.”

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2012 Pre-Season Cardinal Football

Cardinals bring back powerful running attack

Practice begins in earnest

First look: Area football schedules released

Cardinals bring back powerful running attack
By Matt Wenzel, Staff Writer Gaylord

JOHANNESBURG — On paper, the Cardinals lost a lot to graduation this past spring.

Gone are nearly 500 pounds of lineman in Sean Aisthorpe and Blake Huff; a solid two-way player and leader in Gunnar Owens; and a 756-yard rusher in Brian VanCoillie. All four moved on to higher education this fall.

But as most football coaches would say, football games have never been played on paper.

Coach John Bush frequently places the season on the shoulders of the senior class, always hoping they will lead the team to more wins than losses.

There are plenty of shoulders for the distribution of that weight this season.

The Cardinals have 14 returning seniors and 15 total returning varsity players. As usual, the offense will feature a powerful J-L running attack, and last year’s Herald Times Area Player of the Year Mitch Hardy returns for his final season.

At his fullback position, Hardy ran all over defenses last year with 1,311 yards, 15 touchdowns and an average of 12 yards per carry.

Alex Payne acts as dual threat general of the offense, running for 636 yards and throwing for 593 last season with a combined 22 touchdowns.

The Red defense is anchored by All-Area performer Drake Skowronski at linebacker and Garrett Koronka at the line. Brad Kussrow steps in at center as the only returning junior.

Last season, the Cardinals returned to the playoffs and finished the season with an 8-2 record. While most teams would be pleased with those accomplishments, the two losses came in the form of a couple very bitter pills.

During week four, the Cardinals where unceremoniously welcomed to their first home game of the season and a bad defeat at the hands of Mancelona.

The postseason was equally frustrating for J-L, which fell 43-20 to Beal City in the opening round.

During the eight wins last year, the Cardinals gave up a total of 57 points while yielding 83 points in the two losses.

J-L begins the season Friday against Atlanta at home, but all of Cardinal Nation is looking at Friday, Sept. 7, when their team travels to Mancelona for what will most likely be the Ski Valley South conference championship game.

Friday, Sept. 28, also is an interesting matchup with Rudyard, which also returned to the playoffs last season. It will be the second time the Cardinals have ever played the Bulldogs. The first was 2001, a 27-12 victory by Rudyard.

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Photo Courtesy of Gaylord Herald Times

Practice begins in earnest
Gaylord Herald Times - Matt Wenzel

OTSEGO COUNTY — Any resident who left their bedroom windows open Sunday evening could feel it in the air.With pressure changes, the air temperature dipped into the 40s and gave just a hint that summer’s scorching grip will eventually end.

Monday the heat cranked up to more seasonable temperatures for the first day of football practice, another signal that someday in the not too-distant future, Friday nights will fill area fields with frenzied fans .Those images become true during Johannesburg-Lewiston home games, where Cardinal red fills two communities that even a county border cannot split apart.

This year will be no different and the Red and White once again plan on attending the second season. Practice opened in Johannesburg Monday with a handful of senior leaders urging younger players to shout out the warm-up counts like they meant it, as calves got stretched and pushups got the blood flowing.


Photo Courtesy of Gaylord Herald Times

First look: Area football schedules released

OTSEGO COUNTY — The 2012 high school football season sits just around the corner with practices beginning Monday for Michigan high schools.

A couple of changes are in store for area teams, especially St. Mary and Johannesburg-Lewiston, playing in the newly expanded Ski Valley Conference.

One of the major changes is the annual showdown between the two schools, which will not be the final game of the season as in years past. The last time St. Mary and J-L did not face each other to end the regular season was 2001.

Whether a fan of the Ski Valley South division or the North division, football fans in general have Sept. 7 circled on their calendars for a big early season matchup between J-L and Mancelona on the Ironmen home field.

The Cardinals’ mission for a perfect season was trashed a year ago by the Ironmen, with a 40-0 victory over J-L. Revenge remains on the tongues of the Cardinal faithful, but the last time they were victorious in Mancelona was 2004.

Expectations at Gaylord and St. Mary remain conservative for second-year coaches Denny YoungeDyke of the Snowbirds and Doug Berkshire of the Blue Devils.

Both teams strive for respect in their conferences as they continue to implement and perfect their systems. Gaylord looks to accomplish respectability when Petoskey visits the Blue Devil den during Homecoming Sept. 28. For St. Mary, the second game of the season, an Aug. 31 matchup with Pellston at home, will give the Snowbirds a benchmarking tool.

The Herald Times area football preview will be released on Wednesday, August 22.



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 Updated 3/13/13