LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Four of the seven teams in the CMAC made the playoffs a season ago and the conference figures to be tough once again this fall.

The Fowler Eagles were co-conference champions along with Laingsburg and Pewamo-Westphalia. The Eagles made the deepest postseason run of any CMAC team in 2022, defeating Beal City in a thrilling district championship game before falling short to perennial Division 8 power Ubly in the regional round. They finished the season with a 10-2 record.

Fowler returns the majority of its skill position players from last year’s district championship team but the Eagles will be young up front this fall.

Senior right tackle Evan Curtiss, a GVSU commit, is one of few returners on the line. Head coach John Spicer said Curtiss’ leadership will be invaluable early in the season.

“As a coach you can only see so much,” said Spicer. “He helps the younger guys with technique stuff and stuff that he sees when he’s playing across the ball from them. So to be honest with you, the situation we’re in, that’s a huge help.”

“I’ve never been a really big talker,” said Curtiss. “But this year I’ve got to step it up and lead the guys a lot.”

The Eagles have beefed up their non-conference schedule this fall to help prepare them for the postseason. They jump right into the fire in week one against Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (Liggett finished 7-3 in 2022). Then in October, they’ll travel to Frankfort (8-2 in 2022) before hosting a McBain program that’s made the playoffs seven years in a row.

Spicer said playing quality opponents in the regular season will help his guys get used to pressure situations.

“In Division 8, being a small school anymore it’s so tough to schedule because a lot of people around us that are smaller schools are 8-man,” said Spicer. “When you schedule quality non-conference, it makes you better, and especially some of the physicality we’re going to see definitely helps as you move on.”

Meanwhile, the Dansville Aggies went just 3-6 last fall but return experience at key positions in 2023.

Senior Trent Ackerson will be the starting quarterback for a third straight season and he’ll have fourth-year starter Camden Graf protecting his blind side at left tackle.

Graf just picked up an offer from Michigan Tech and has received interest from other GLIAC schools and Division III schools.

Dansville actually returns every starter along its offensive line, and second-year head coach Zach Mendez said the line will be a position of strength for years to come.

“We had four underclassmen play last year as freshmen and those four guys are back plus a senior left tackle,” said Mendez. “So I think here this year and the years coming our offensive line is going to be our strength.”

“We have a really young team so [the seniors] know what our job is to do,” added Graf. “We did that last year as well even as juniors but we just know that we’ve got to lead them and that they’re next so we’ve got to teach them well.”

Mendez has been on staff at Dansville for seven years in total. Heading into year two as the head man, he said the biggest lesson he learned in year one is to delegate responsibilities.

“I wanted to do everything myself so that’s not the case [this year],” said Mendez. “I have a great group of guys behind me on my staff and a great group of players that I can push off some responsibility to and they love it and they accept it.”