Our 6 Sports Two-A-Days tour rolls into the CAAC Red with a look at Williamston and St. Johns.
Williamston has made the playoffs seven years in a row and has reached the state semifinals twice in the past five years. The Hornets finished 7-3 last season and lost to Corunna in the district opener.
The Hornets will have a new man under center this fall but are still in the process of determining who that will be. Last year’s starter Alex Petersburg has graduated, and seniors Zach Cribbs and Jack Kindinger are battling for the starting spot. Cribbs and Kindinger both played wide receiver last season.
“We’re still seeing them develop because they played wide receiver and slot last year,” said head coach Steve Kersten. “So we’re anxious to see a scrimmage and see what it looks like live.”
The Hornets return a pair of talented running backs in Noah Dunckel and Ollie Brown along with several offensive linemen. Kersten said he expects to run the ball more this season due to the personnel.
“Our strength for sure is speed, we’ve got some guys that can run” said Kersten. “So we have to figure out how to get the ball to these different guys and run. We’ve traditionally been a little more passing than running but I think we’re going to run the ball this year. But we’ve got some guys that can throw and catch as well so it’ll be exciting to see how that all comes together.”
Kersten’s desire to run the ball more is music to the ears of the running backs.
“We’re kind of going to more of a run setup because our line is also a little better this year and I mean, I’m always excited to run the ball, so I’m looking forward to it,” said Dunckel.
Dunckel also said he has full confidence in both of the players competing for the quarterback job.
“Zach is probably a little better of a passer and Jack is probably a little better at reading the defense but I think both of them have exactly what it takes to play,” he said. “I’m just excited to see what happens in-game.”
Meanwhile, the St. Johns Redwings are coming off a 3-6 finish in 2022, but the team did win two of its last three games to end the season.
“I think having those two wins at the end of the year really gave us a little boost going into the offseason here,” said head coach Andy Schmitt. “I think that helped us a lot gain some confidence and say ‘hey, you know, all that hard work and those wins, it feels good, and it means something to us.’”
The momentum has carried into two-a-days as St. Johns has had 95 kids come out for football from freshmen to varsity, about 20 more kids than they had a year ago.
“You’ve got 95 kids out here willing to go through two-a-days. That’s exciting, you know what I mean?” said Schmitt. “So our numbers are good right now. We’re in a good place as a program. So it’s just one of those things where we’ve got to keep improving every day to get those wins.”
“It makes me excited,” added senior quarterback Brody Dush. “Younger years we didn’t really have a lot of kids and [it’s good] seeing a lot of kids getting committed and coming out here, giving everything they got.”
The willingness of 95 kids to put themselves through two-a-days is a sign of the toughness Schmitt wants his program to be about.
“I played here and I think one of the big things we always did was hang our hat on toughness,” he said. “That’s a big thing for us, it’s a big thing for this community. I feel as a football coach of this program I want to make sure that that’s what we are, you know? I think that’s been a big thing for us that we need to keep instilling into our guys.”
St. Johns will open the season against Okemos on Aug. 25th.