That is the goal heading into the 2018 season — emerge with a win. Third-year head coach Dan Start has the ball rolling, having installed his One Crew identity for the team and levying it toward an immensely productive offseason.
After fielding a team of just 18 players in 2016, the varsity team has rebuilt their roster into the 30s, allowing players ample time to settle into starting roles.
That means a battle-tested senior group, who endured last year’s winless season in full, is all set to retake the field with renewed vigor, determined to keep their focus forward while remembering their past.
Here are three questions asked of coach Start for the Spring Lake football team concerning their development for the 2018 season.
How do you handle last year’s win total this year?
“It is what happened, 0-9. It isn’t fun, but you need to remember your past so you can move forward. We don’t stare in the rearview mirror, but it is there. We have to keep looking forward, but remember that 0-9 is a real possibility if you aren’t out here doing the work like you are supposed to.
“From a coaching standpoint, we are really trying to scale things back and simplify what we are doing. We worked our tails off to get our quarterbacks ready over the offseason with winter throwing and studying the system and getting them ready to lead the offense.
“We made some changes to the offense to try and take advantage of some of the positive things we saw last year, and on defense, we are trying to simplify things to make sure our guys can play fast.”
How do you replace last year’s small, but powerful senior class?
“We only had seven or eight seniors last year, so we had a lot of juniors and young guys who were thrown into the fire and had to learn on the fly. I think a lot of those guys who struggled last year got a lot of experience, and I think we got a lot of kids back who will do a great job for us.
“Now that we have some depth, we can rotate guys out and keep them fresh, which helps a lot.
“We had a big freshman class come in that is very talented and we got a handful of kids who didn’t play last year, some juniors and seniors who weren’t playing and decided they wanted to be a part of what we are building. Caleb Montgomery, Alex Flechsig and Wyatt Lisman did a great job recruiting the hallways and to bring in guys that way.
“Caleb Montgomery is obviously going to be a big player for us. Noah Verlinde who was All-Conference last year will be back, Austin Schubert is a dynamic little guy who can make big plays, Mitch Payne is a running back like the Tasmanian devil — you never know where he is going and he is going there at 1,000 miles per hour.
“On the defensive side, Alex Flechsig and Wyatt Lisman are going to hold down the middle of the defense at linebacker. Then, we have some guys filling spots who weren’t there before and guys moving up that we are really excited about. We’ve got a lot of talent at a lot of positions.”
What does it mean to be “One Crew”?
“This year, there is more of the kids feeling like a team. They feel dedicated to each other and are holding each other accountable, which is a big step in the right direction.
“For the offseason, we broke the kids up into smaller teams. Each leader figure on the team took on seven or eight younger guys and took ownership of their guys over the winter. If a kid doesn’t show up to the weight room, they followed up in the hallway to see what was going on. The kids have really bought into it. Those teams got closer to each other and started holding each other accountable and it has all grown into a great feeling when we finally started camp.
“I wish you could go from zero to ready to go right away, but it is a process to rebuild and you have to remain patient and develop over time by doing things the right way, and we are going that.”