Preserve football memories

There aren’t too many things, if any, that I miss from high school.

That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy my time at Bark River-Harris, or the people in my class, because I did. It’s just that while you grow up, you realize how much more there is to life once you get outside of the bubble that is high school.

Comparing high school to college is not a fair comparison. In college, you get to take classes that interest you, meet new people, and take part in the “social” scene. I also was fortunate enough to cover football, basketball, and other sports at Grand Valley State University for the student newspaper. It was my first taste of adulthood and I loved it.

Now, writing for the Daily Press, I get paid (Paid!) to go to sporting events and tell the stories of the players and games that happen in this area.

Wouldn’t you agree those two things are better than sitting in a classroom from 8:20 a.m. up until 3 p.m.?

But as I attended football practices and talked with the area coaches in preparation for this fall’s season, I couldn’t help but get the urge to reminisce and think about the memories I made while taking part in high school football.

No, this isn’t going to be a former player talking about his “glory days,” in an attempt to live in the past. Instead, it’s about why there are numerous intriguing storylines in our area to follow this fall. Also, it serves as a simple reminder to anyone lucky enough to play this fall: enjoy it.

With this being my first fall back in the U.P., I’m as thrilled as anyone for this football season. Just out of the football previews I covered, I’m looking forward to seeing Escanaba’s no-huddle offense. They normally say year three is when it usually clicks for a new head coach and his program, which is why it made sense when third-year Escanaba head coach Jim Hansen said his team is finally understanding his system at the level he wanted them to. With high school’s normally in a huddle, run-oriented offensive sets, it’s always refreshing to see a spread offense attack.

The other spread offense I saw this summer was at North Central.

Maybe it’s because I live in Bark River and my family and friends are from the area, but one name that has constantly come up as I talk with people in the area is Jets’ senior quarterback Rob Granquist.

Last year’s regular season stats for Granquist are impressive in its own right, as he threw for over 1,500 yards, with 20 touchdowns to just three interceptions, which is why I was intrigued enough to head out to a practice and watch him throw it live.

I watched Granquist go through passing drills and also some light 11-on-11 work. The sample size was small, but to me, I came away impressed. From the quarterbacks I have seen in the U.P. throughout my life, he throws the best looking ball out of all of them.

My alma mater, Bark River-Harris has fallen on tough times the last few years, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by talking with the coaches and players. Head coach Al Stenberg gets his first full season with the team, after being thrust into the head coaching role a week before the season after Brad Wiljanen resigned, in 2013.

Stenberg has had success coaching on the JV level with a similar group that is now on his varsity roster. Now, he just has to translate that similar success to the varsity level.

Those are just the three teams I have been able to make it around to, but each other area team presents interesting story lines themselves.

Along with BR-H, it should be interesting to see if second-year coach Cody Kangas can turn things around for Gladstone, while his father, Todd Kangas, prepares for another season at Manistique. I’m also looking forward to attending my first 8-man game tonight, as I head over to Rapid River to cover their season opener against Ewen-Trout Creek. Rapid River has developed an 8-man dynasty of sorts, and it should be intriguing to see if they can maintain their level of excellence they’ve managed to achieve since they made the move to 8-man.

Despite the many storylines for this season, it still comes back to the kids.

If you’re a senior, you have nine more opportunities in your life to play organized football. Nine. That’s it. And if you’re one of the fortuitous ones, you get to play in the playoffs. And if you’re one of the three or four percent of lucky high school seniors, you get to play at the collegiate level.

Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, you’re bound to create memorable experiences this fall. You won’t necessarily remember the wins or the losses, but instead, the memories you make with your teammates and friends. Blaring music in the locker room while you assemble your gear together, the feeling of getting off the bus on road games with the collective attitude of “we’re here to mess things up,” and the camaraderie during meals, or the feeling of walking off the field together after a game.

Any current or former player knows what I’m talking about, and those are just some of the things that make playing prep football, great. So enjoy those moments and relish them while you can, because once you get out of high school, those opportunities to make those types of memories will be gone.