Our 6 Sports Two-A-Days coverage continues with looks at a pair of CAAC-White foes, Olivet and Charlotte.
Olivet is new to the CAAC-White this season, making the move to the conference from the GLAC.
Olivet’s last two seasons both ended with one-score losses to Portland in districts, and now, the Eagles will face Portland as a conference opponent in the regular season every year. The Eagles have had a record of .500 or better each of the last 15 seasons and are ready for the challenge the new conference will provide.
“Portland, Charlotte, Lansing Catholic, just teams like that are going to be a lot of a bigger challenge for us but I think it’s going to make us better as a team,” said senior Tayven Feldpausch. “Just facing that better competition and going into the playoffs just being more prepared for teams like that [will help us].”
“Obviously it doesn’t matter who you’re playing, it’s going to be physical football,” added head coach Gabe Priddy. “It’s going to be well-coached, great athletes. So we’re excited about that, understanding that we’re a small fish in a big pond.”
Priddy is back on the sidelines at Olivet three years after stepping away from the position. He coached Olivet from 2013 to 2019. Brock Peters was the Eagles head coach the past three seasons.
Interestingly, Peters is staying on staff as an assistant to Priddy. It’s a unique situation, but it’s also a return to normalcy in some ways, as Peters was an assistant during Priddy’s first coaching stint.
Priddy said he and Peters have a great relationship and the situation just fell into place; Peters was looking to take a step back after last season and Priddy had the itch to get back in the game.
“We competed against each other in high school and had a fun, competitive relationship in high school,” said Priddy. “We were opposing quarterbacks and I would hand the ball off and he would throw it. So what I value about that is, with our offense, I think we have a really good balance of run and pass. So he can help me out with how to try and attack secondaries and I try to figure out how to attack the box.”
Feldpausch said the entire coaching staff has done a great job getting everyone on the same page.
“The coaches just do a great job of setting us up for success mentally, physically, just all aspects of the game,” said Feldpausch. “So there’s always trust in Olivet football and the guys that we have here.”
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Orioles are entering year five under head coach Mike Sparks.
The team finished 9-2 a season ago, losing to Hastings 23-13 in the district championship game.
“We had a lead late in the game and things just didn’t go our way and then we pushed too hard,” Sparks said about the district title game. “So we really try to learn from everything. We never lose, right? We either win or we learn.”
“It was just a lot of self-imposed mistakes [against Hastings],” said senior quarterback Ben Buzzard. “So I think seeing that we can get to a district championship game, we’ve just got to put 100 percent, know what we’re doing on every play and I think we can walk out with the championship.”
The 9-2 finish marked back-to-back winning seasons for Charlotte. The team returns two quarterbacks with varsity experience this fall in Buzzard and junior Christian Powers. Buzzard started last season and helped the Orioles get out to a 4-0 start before breaking his collarbone in week five. Powers was pulled up from JV to run the offense after Buzzard’s injury and the Orioles went 4-2 with him under center.
“Iron sharpens iron, as they say,” Buzzard said of competing with Powers. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s got a lot of experience. We compete but it’s nothing against [each other], no hard feelings or anything you know? We’re just trying to help the team win.”
The Orioles graduated 15 seniors from last year’s team, including five players who are going on to play collegiately, but the team returns a lot of talent as well.
In addition to the two quarterbacks, the Orioles return All-Conference two-way player Carson Berkompas and free safety Cutler Brandt, who set a school record last season with 133 total tackles.
“Last year wasn’t where we wanted to finish so we want to try to get better, get that district championship and more,” said Berkompas.
If the Orioles win a district championship, it will be the program’s first since 2004.
“Charlotte’s got a rich, deep history,” said Sparks. “But at 9-2 last year we were one of the more successful teams in recent history. We’ve had some down times but 6-4 the previous year, so we feel like we’re back. We’re in the fifth year of our program and we’re really focusing down on the fundamentals and trying to be disciplined.”