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3 Questions: Spring Lake Football

Josh VanDyke • Aug 11, 2017 at 4:00 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Second-year Spring Lake head football coach Dan Start took some time after his second official practice with the Lakers on Tuesday to answer a few questions facing the team as they prepare for a bounce back season after finishing 2-7 in 2016.

Is the varsity team experiencing an influx in numbers?

Last season, the Lakers struggled to close out games due to their extremely thin roster. After a few early season injuries, Spring Lake went through the conference schedule with only 16 players on their active varsity roster.

Start: “We’re going to be at about 30 kids at the varsity level this year, with the freshmen and junior varsity teams at about 15-20 kids on their teams, too. We’re excited to be playing with more than 16 kids this time around; that was really tough.

“Our junior varsity team was really good last year, so we’re planning on a lot of kids stepping up to the varsity level and having big roles for us this fall. Caleb Montgomery will get a lot of time at quarterback and on defense, Joe Chittenden will get playing time at fullback and on defense, and we’ve got a lot guys up front that are going to play early, too.

“We’re excited about the talent level in some of those younger classes, and we’re expecting a lot of those guys to step right in and play big roles for us this year. It’s pretty exciting to have that kind of talent and youth in the program.”

How will the team replace All-Conference performers like Cam Ball and Isaiah Pierce?

The team relied heavily on the playmaking ability of dual-threat quarterback Cam Ball and the outside speed of tailback Isaiah Pierce last fall. How do the Lakers plan on replacing their productivity this season?

Start: “I’m really excited to see how our running backs grow into those roles. We’ve got a lot of talented fullbacks, but our wingbacks are still unproven. We have a couple kids who didn’t play last year that came back out this fall, and we have some other kids that are coming up from the junior varsity level and filling into new roles at the varsity level. Some of those kids were tight ends at the JV level, but now we’re asking them to play wingback.

“We’re really excited for Gavin Paul. I was just talking with some of the coaches after practice and saying that Gavin looks like a completely different football player out there. The way he moves, his athleticism and his strength are off the charts. He really gained a lot of strength this winter, and it’s paying off right now. He looks fluid in his cuts and movements with the ball, and he’s probably one of the strongest kids in the school.

“We plan on replacing last year’s production with a group effort. We feel like we’ve got a lot of talented kids that each bring different looks to our offense.”

Can the team get off a better start this season?

The Lakers lost their first two games of the 2016 season in dramatic fashion. After holding a 27-0 lead, the Lakers fell to NorthPointe Christian, 28-27, in Week 1. They followed that up with a 14-13 loss to Fruitport in Week 2. The team struggled to pick itself back up after those heartbreaking losses. Can the team close out their rematches with NorthPointe Christian and Fruitport and possibly knock off Sparta for a 3-0 start to the season?

Start: “Those first three games are huge. In Weeks 4 and 5, we’re playing state champions, so we have to get the season off to a good start this time around. We know how important those first three games are, especially after how things went last year. We were up 27-0 to NorthPointe Christian, and we ended up losing that by one point. We had a great comeback late against Fruitport and lost that one by one point, again. Then, against Sparta, we just kind of fell apart. We know that we should be competitive again this year, and we just have to stay focused and locked in, and hopefully we can win those close games.

“Against (Grand Rapids) West Catholic and (Grand Rapids) Catholic Central, we’ll go out there and compete and give it everything we’ve got. Both of those games are at home, which is good for us. We just feel like the junior varsity players that we have coming up to the varsity level this year mesh really well with our senior class, and I really like the personality of the team. I’m excited for our potential this fall, and I think we’re going to a competitive, hard-working group.”

The Lakers travel to Chippewa Hills on Thursday, Aug. 17 for a scrimmage, before opening their season Aug. 26 against NorthPointe Christian at Grand Valley State University’s Lubbers Stadium.

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