SEBEWAING — Reese and Vassar were supposed to contend for the Greater Thumb West championship this season.
And they are.
Unionville-Sebewaing Area and Cass City?
Not so much.
Cass City came into the 2010 campaign off a disappointing 3-6 season, hired a new head coach, and had plenty of question marks on both sides of the ball.
No matter, the Red Hawks are 3-0 overall and are ranked No. 2 — behind the Rockets — in the GTW in both offense and defense.
Meanwhile, the Patriots endured a 2-7 mark in 2009 and a 1-8 record in 2008 — their worst stretch since 1992-92 — and had just 14 players on their 2010 preseason roster.
No matter, the Patriots are off to a 2-1 start, including a surprising come-from-behind 21-6 win over Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port last week, putting them 2-0 in the GTW.
The two league unbeatens go head-to-head here Friday night in an important GTW matchup.
For USA coach Jason Beagle, it’s another chance to make a winning statement to all the doubters.
“After the last couple of years, these guys have every reason to be down,” Beagle said. “But they have never hung their heads or shied away from what we’ve asked them to do. We have preached to the kids that we can’t control things that are not in our control. We have 14 guys, we have a tough schedule, we have this, we have that..
“But we’re just going to buckle it up and do what we can do.”
What USA does best is get the ball to do-it-all Tim Canfield. USA’s senior co-captain is one of several players who rarely leaves the field. He did plenty of damage last week against the Lakers, rushing for 112 yards and one score. His 60-yard punt return for a touchdown — his second special teams score this season — sparked USA’s fourth-quarter comeback against the Lakers.
“We put a lot of stuff on his shoulders and he’s stepped up for us,” said Beagle.
After running a form of the spread for the last few seasons, USA has gone back to a more traditional offense, hoping to use Canfield’s hard-nosed, open-field ability that way.
“We have gone back to a fundamental running game, but we’re still looking for chances to spring him,” Beagle said. “Tim, in the open field, is tough to catch and bring down.”
Like most opponents, Cass City probably figures it can wear down the Patriots as the game progresses.
The Red Hawks have a 23-player roster, including up to five or six capable tailbacks to put the pressure on the USA defense.
Last week against Bad Axe, the Red Hawks rushed for 548 yards on 49 carries — good for a flashy 11.1 per carry average — in their 61-0 pounding of the Hatchets.
Alex Varney led the way, rushing for 259 yards and four TDs. He got plenty of help from Austin Osentoski, who had 112 yards and two scores. In all, five different players scored at least once for the Red Hawks.
Beagle knows his team will get a stiff challenge from the Red Hawks. He also knows they might be looking past his undermanned USA squad, considering they host Reese for Homecoming the following week.
Nevertheless, the Patriots will be prepared, especially when it comes to conditioning and playing a full four quarters.
“Even on game weeks, Monday and Tuesday we run their legs off,” Beagle said. “We know they have to be out there all night.
“There are teams that have 18 or 20 guys on the roster and they play 14 of them. We have 14 guys on the roster and we play 14. There is not a guy on the sideline who is not a good varsity player.”
Here is the Thumb Sportswriters Top 10 Poll...
School Record Pts. LW
1. Millington (3) 3-0 48 -
2. Reese (2) 3-0 47 -
3. Ubly 3-0 40 -
4. Deckerville 3-0 33 -
5. Cass City 3-0 26 -
6. North Branch 2-1 21 -
7. Vassar 2-1 19 -
8. Cros-Lex 2-1 17 -
9. Caro 2-1 10 -
9. (tie) USA 2-1 10 -
(First place votes in parentheses)
Also receiving votes: Harbor Beach - 2 pts., Brown City - 1 pt., Kingston - 1 pt.
A team voted first nets 10 points, second earns nine points, etc. The Thumb Sportswriters Association Poll is voted on by: Chad Wingert - Sports Editor of the Tuscola County Advertiser, Paul Adams - Sports writer for the Huron Daily Tribune, Christian Selich - Sports commentator for Mix 92.1, Eddie Fury of Thumb Tailgater Sports and Rick Glaza - Sports voice of Cruise 102.1
Tribune Power Poll...
The Week 3 Power Poll for the GTC and NCTL as voted on by the Tribune sports staff. The power poll will run each week during the season in the Huron Daily Tribune.
4. Cass City
6. Brown City
7. Harbor Beach
15. North Huron
18. Bad Axe
MY PICKS FOR THIS WEEK...
Bad Axe at BCAS – BCAS QB Drew Janer will run wild.
SCORE: BCAS 41, Bad Axe 6
Cass City at USA – I think Cass City's offensive depth at tailback will wear down the Patriots.
It will not be easy, though.
SCORE: Cass City 26, USA 18
Vassar at Reese – The Rockets seem to be getting better as the year goes on.
SCORE: Reese 33, Vassar 13
Harbor Beach at Brown City – As much as I like the way Harbor Beach has rebounded this season, Brown City is too strong for the Pirates to pull off the mini upset.
SCORE: Brown City 28, Harbor Beach 13
Mayville at Ubly – Enough said.
SCORE: Ubly 50, Mayville 6
North Huron at Deckerville – The Warriors will hang around for a half, but the Eagles have way too much offensive firepower.
SCORE: Deckerville 41, North Huron 16
Marlette at EPBP – Can the Lakers rebound from last week's disappointing loss to USA?
I am not so sure.
SCORE: Marlette 26, EPBP 22
Sandusky at Memphis – The Redskins make it 2 in a row after an 0-2 start.
SCORE: Sandusky 35, Memphis 6
Kingston at Au Gres – Au Gres has not won yet.
SCORE: Kingston 22, Au Gres 12
Owen-Gage at A-Fairgrove – Anyone know the status of Owen-Gage's Hunter Champagne?
If he plays, the Bulldogs have a chance. If he doesn't...
SCORE: A-Fairgrove 44, Owen-Gage 22
CPS at E. Washtenaw – CPS looks like a pretty good 8-man team.
SCORE: CPS 50, E. Washtenaw 20
U-Mass at Michigan – Robinson should have another field day.
SCORE: Michigan 35, U-Mass 13
Notre Dame at Michigan State – Ah, the old night game at Spartan Stadium. MSU never loses at home at night, right?
SCORE: Michigan State 24, Notre Dame 20
CMU at EMU – The Chips aren't as good as they have been in the past, but EMU is just as bad.
And I'm an EMU alum, though I hate admitting it...
SCORE: CMU 33, EMU 20
Eagles at Lions – Is there any team in professional sports which has more bad luck than the Lions?
They had a chance if Kevin Kolb was playing.
But a Michael Vick vs. Shaun Hill matchup is no match at all.
SCORE: Eagles 30, Lions 20
Who else dares to put their rep on the line?