Lions Open Season At Davenport Newaygo Football Preview
By Alexis Mercer
The air smelled of fall Monday morning. It was the coolest temperature the 25 players and 7 coaches of the Newaygo Lions Varsity Football team have seen since practice started on August 8. The change in weather comes just in time...
...to really gear up for the season opener on Friday, August 26 at Davenport University against Hopkins with a 4pm kickoff time. It is a huge game for the Lions, who are looking to field 7 more players than last season.
Included in the 25 on the roster are Matt Moore, Cooper Heinzman, Cory Crotser, Nick Simington, Dalton Jones and Brandon Verburg, who all are returning two-way varsity starters.
At Davenport, Newaygo will be facing Hopkins High School, who is a perennial playoff team. This is a new look to the beginning of the season for the Lions.
“Davenport will be awesome because it is opening night and there will clearly be some extra buzz with all the exposure for the players and the extra attention that it brings,” said Lion Head Coach Andy Busch. “As a coach, I try to get my team ready for the ‘Big Games’ and the setting at Davenport will fit the bill as a big season opener.”
After the opener, Newaygo faces a strong contingency of early opponents. They will see Reed City, who has ruled the conference for several years in a row and Chippewa Hills who fields the largest team with the most talented athletes in the league. In the middle of the season, the Lions will line up against Big Rapids’ impressive offense, including a quarterback who is getting offers from Division 1 colleges. At the end of the season, Newaygo will face Manistee; a new opponent for the Lions, but a team that has made the playoffs several times in recent years.
If there is one game the Lions are hoping will draw a huge crowd at home, it is the Homecoming game against cross-town rivals, Grant, which will be played on October 14.
In addition, Coach Busch expects to see a huge crowd at the Fremont game on September 30 at their field. Fremont has joined the CSAA just this year, making it a key conference game.
So what makes this team different from teams of the past?
“This team is very positive and upbeat each day at practice. They look forward to working and getting better with repetitions. Without a doubt this group has bought into our system, our goals, and our brand of Newaygo Football more so than anytime I have coached,” said Coach Busch.
The team came into the official start of the season having had a great turnout for 7 on 7s, summer camp and having pushed a whole lot of weight in the weight room.
Who are the players to watch?
Matt Moore. Moore was a two year varsity starter at running back, but due to team needs, Coach Busch moved Moore to the offensive line; not exactly a switch a running back might be excited to make. But Moore has embraced the role as a lineman and played physically through practices and scrimmages. His willingness to sacrifice for the team has caught his coach’s eye. “He has taken the total team approach and has told other players that if the returning two year starting running back can be a lineman and do what it takes to help the team win, then everyone can buy in and they have been following his lead,” says Busch.
Dalton Jones. Jones is the returning quarterback who has shown a calm demeanor with a knack for leadership. He is known by his teammates to handle pressure well and as a guy who does not stress or lose his cool in tense moments.
Coach Busch’s staff includes Joe Barrette and John Goodin mentoring the defense, with Barrette also working with running backs. Ryan Dornbos helps with both the offensive and defensive line. Tom Gracik, Mark and Jared Wright coach the JV team and help out in the press box on Friday nights.