Football team prepares for season opener vs. Bucks
Vikings have several returners on offense and defense and a new head coach
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The varsity football team from Grayling High School, a squad that’s in its second full week of official practice sessions following a productive offseason this summer, will open its 2018 season with a road game at Roscommon next week.
The program’s numbers are a little down so far this year, but the team has several returning players, plus some new talent.
“Decent numbers this year, maybe a little lower than years past. We are about half and half with juniors and seniors and plan on bringing up a couple of sophomores. We have several returners on the offensive side of the ball and about half on the defense. Overall we have a lot of kids with playing experience, which will should bode well for us,” Coach Eric Tunney said.
Grayling football players – both varsity and junior varsity – participated in weight lifting sessions and other activities prior to official practices starting on Monday, Aug. 6.
“Our offseason workout program continued over the summer and had a great core group of kids who hardly missed anything. It was great to see several freshmen as well making a solid commitment during the summer months. These workouts are designed to help develop strength and power, prevent injuries, build camaraderie, and keep the kids active throughout the summer. We also attended 7 on 7’s and were exposed to some different schools and some great talent, which helps raise our level of play,” Coach Tunney said.
Coach Tunney said the first week of official practice sessions went well.
“While most coaches can never really be satisfied, I am happy with where we are at after the first week. The kids responded well to everything we threw at them and their effort was never in question. We have some new guys at various positions and have added some wrinkles on both sides of the ball, so we will continue to rep those and build on the foundation that is already there. We just need to work on being more consistent. We show signs of being a pretty good team at times and want to capitalize and build off of those,” Coach Tunney said.
The team’s strengths right now? Experience, and willingness to work and get better.
“We have guys on both sides of the ball that have started or played a significant amount last year. There is a solid core of kids that showed up to nearly everything in the summer so we were able hit the ground running in August,” Coach Tunney said.
Coach Tunney said the key to success for Grayling this year is “being able to do the little things very well.”
“We’ve talked a lot this week about the importance of discipline and how the little things matter. If we can do the little things well we should find some success,” Coach Tunney said.
What does the team need to work on the most?
“Being more consistent and realizing their full potential. Some kids are still getting in their groove and realizing what they are capable of,” Coach Tunney said.
“I hope the kids realize their own abilities and see what they are capable of doing. Unfortunately, I think a lot of times kids short-change themselves and don’t come close to reaching their potential. Figuring out how to unlock that is tricky but worthwhile,” Coach Tunney said. “I expect the kids to work hard and be disciplined in everything they do both on and off the field. We’ve talked about it this week and so far they have been great in their response.”
Goals for this year’s team? Win the next game. Develop. Compete for league and district titles.
“Obviously, one goal is to win the opener. Roscommon always plays us tough and it will be a good test to see where we are at week one. Like every year, being in a position to compete for a league and district championships are something to strive for. Ultimately, we are in the business of developing young kids into successful human beings through discipline and hard work,” Coach Tunney said.
The varsity football team will play at Roscommon High School on Thursday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m.
The Vikings will open their league schedule in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends Division with a game at Cheboygan at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 30.
On Friday, Sept. 7, the Vikings will play in a home game vs. Kingsley. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. Kingsley is also in the Northern Michigan Football Conference Legends Division.
The team expects several tough tests during its league slate this year.
“Our league is solid. We have a few new head coaches so that is always difficult to gauge, but you have to assume they are doing good things. Boyne City and (Traverse City St. Francis) are very solid programs and have been at the top of our league for several years in a row. That’s who everybody has been chasing. We are just going to control what we can and take it week by week,” Coach Tunney said.
Tunney, an assistant coach for the program for several years, is in his first season as head coach of the team.
“It has been very busy but very fun so far. I’ve learned a lot in the past few months and am eager to learn more. As an assistant you kind of just get to coach your position and chip in here and there but as head coach obviously you are in charge of it all so you have a hand in everything. I’m fortunate to have a great staff and it is great to talk ball with them and watch them coach out on the field. I know that they genuinely love the game, but more importantly have a passion for developing young men,” Coach Tunney said. “These kids have worked their tails off and it has been a blast watching them progress in such a short amount of time.”