Football fans across West Michigan don’t have to wait until this fall to catch a little action at Buccaneer Stadium.
The Lakeshore Cougars semi-pro football team opens its eighth season on Saturday with a home game against the Grand Rapids Thunder. Kickoff is 5 p.m., and tickets are being offered for just $3.
“We’re hoping for a nice turnout,” said new team president Michael Thelemann, who also plays on the team. Thelemann, a defensive back, is entering his 20th year of semi-pro football.
The Cougars were founded in 2008 by Bishop Deirreio and Tshavia Duncan as part of their youth outreach, Vaniah Ministries, Inc. The team was assembled to further foster post-high school and college football players’ ability in the sport, as well as to minister wayward young men and keep them out of trouble.
Deirreio served as the team’s owner and coach for the first six seasons before moving to Arizona.
Kevin Puckett, who served as the Cougars’ offensive coordinator last year, takes over as coach of this year’s team.
The Cougars are made up of players from Grand Haven, Holland, Grand Rapids and Muskegon. Most team members played high school football, while a few played college ball, including former players from Northwood University and Hope College.
Grand Haven High School graduate Mike Svoboda is a 6-foot-10, 315-pound tight end/offensive lineman currently in his fourth year for the Cougars. Fruitport’s Dakota Gordon is a 5-10, 160-pound safety/linebacker about to start his rookie season. Another newcomer is Christian Deal, a 6-1, 205-pound wide receiver/defensive back from Spring Lake.
The cougars play an eight-game schedule against teams from across the area, including their rivals, the Muskegon Mustangs.
They also play teams from Kalamazoo, Traverse City, South Haven, Lansing, Detroit and Flint, along with the Grand Rapids Thunder.