LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – When the Mason football team won the program’s first-ever regional title in 2021, there was excitement and a sense of accomplishment.

But all it took was one week for that feeling to go away.

The Bulldogs defeated Brother Rice, 20-17, in the regional final and advanced for the state semifinals for the first time. In the semis, Mason was tasked with taking on Detroit Martin Luther King and 5-star quarterback Dante Moore.

MLK ended the Bulldogs’ season with a 46-7 win and eventually went on to win the Division 3 state championship over DeWitt.

“We were pretty excited about where we were, being in the semifinals,” Mason coach Gary Houghton said. “They didn’t like the way it ended.”

Senior defensive tackle Hunrey Horn said, “Besides these past few year, we haven’t been super great. So, I think seeing that success motivated a lot of guys to work harder for the next year.”

Mason featured a number of play-making sophomores last season, like running back AJ Martel. So, with plenty of experience returning the Bulldogs feel confident knowing what they’re capable of.

“I think having so many returners at the skilled positions is good for us,” Martel said. “We already know our offense. We know what everybody does. So, playing off each other strengths should be really good for us.”

Every season since 2011, Mason has opened the year against Okemos and that doesn’t change this year.

Our next stop on the ‘6 Sports Two-A-Days’ leads us to Okemos where new leadership is looking to turn around a program that has hit rock bottom.

The Wolves have gone winless in the previous two seasons and have just one win since the 2019.

East Lansing grad Efe Scott-Emuakpor was hired as head coach in March and has continued to grow the program and get kids to come out an play for the team. At his first spring workout as coach, just six players were in attendance.

“We’ve just been in the school doing what we can to show our faces and get people to believe the program can rise up from where it’s been at,” Scott-Emuakpor said.

Senior Luca Wisinski hasn’t played football since he was in middle school but decided to come out for the team after he “got worked into it by my buddies,” Wisinski said.

“It felt like it was going to be any other year, but we got into the workouts and instantly it felt like the place to be.”

Senior wide receiver Raj Singh said, “Losing for three years straight now, I think everybody is determined. Everybody wants to listen to the coaches. Everybody wants to get better.”

At practice, Scott-Emuakpor and his staff were wearing shirts with the hashtag ‘1W1F’ on the back. It stands for ‘One Way, One Family’ and is the team’s motto heading into 2022.

“If you have a bunch of people working hard and being confident together as a family, then you can go a long way. So, that’s kind of what we instilled and the kids embraced it. You have a bunch of people working hard and being confident together as a family,” Scott-Emuakpor said.

Singh said, “That’s the one slogan we’re really living by,” Signh said. “Everyone is fighting for each other. Everyone is really competing for each other. We may get on each other but we say that’s because we’re family and family gets on each other. We want to push each other to be better.”