That recipe led to a 3-6 mark last fall, and despite rivalry game wins over Spring Lake (14-13) and Reeths-Puffer (21-6), the Trojans are determined to finish strong in 2017 and get back to the postseason for the first time since 2012.
Here are three questions facing Fruitport head coach Greg Vargas and the Trojans this fall:
How will the team replace All-Conference running back Levi Six?
Vargas: “We have a kid in Blade Williams, who is a senior this year, and we’re hoping he can embrace that role that Levi had for us. He’s also a really solid defensive player for us, too. We have a talented sophomore in Dominic Colegrove, who is about 5-10 and 195 pounds and can move in space pretty well, too. He’s big enough to take some punishment, but he can also get out in the open field and make people miss. Blade is pretty shifty in his own right, too. He’s probably a little bit more an outside runner who can catch passes, as well, which makes him a little more versatile for us.”
How will the team replace quarterback Connor Routt?
Vargas: “We have a good competition for the quarterback position. Jakob Carlisle is going to be a junior, and he probably leads the competition right now. We also have Crue Cooper, who is a sophomore, and he’s doing pretty well right now for us, too. He’s nipping at Jakob’s heels a little bit. We also have Jordan Gilbert, who is a senior that hasn’t played for a few years, but is coming back to play for his senior season. It’s been a good competition that really helps push all three of those kids to get better each and every practice.”
Can the team find a way to finish close games in the fourth quarter?
Vargas: “Our kids did a great job last year, but we just struggled to close out games in the fourth quarter. We have a ‘never give up’ attitude around here, and we know that will carry over to this year’s squad.
“Those first two games are going to be huge for us. We know we have a chance to compete and win those two matchups against two quality opponents in Spring Lake and Coopersville. Spring Lake is always an emotional and intense contest, and it almost always comes down to the final play or two.
“Then, we enter conference play against Muskegon in Week 3, and they look to be even better than they were last year. Ladarius Jefferson is an amazing kid, and Coach Fairfield and Coach White do a great job over there getting those kids fired and excited to play. We know we’ll be the underdogs in that particular matchup, but we’re going to go out there and compete, and hopefully set the tone for the rest of our conference schedule. We know it’ll be critical for us to start the season off with a few wins if we are going to make the postseason.
“The chemistry we are creating with this particular team is exciting. All the older kids are taking care of the younger kids and helping them learn on the fly. We have older kids helping the younger, inexperienced kids learn techniques and plays without the coaches’ help. You need that kind of atmosphere in your program if you are going to take that next step toward contention. We really like what we have in our program, and we’re excited to go to work.”
The Trojans will go to work on Aug. 17 at Oakridge High School for a multi-team scrimmage, starting at 10 a.m. The team will then host Coopersville on Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. for their regular season opener.
The Broncos defeated the Trojans, 36-13, at the Gridiron Classic at Grand Valley State University in last year’s season opener.