ISHPEMING — When August rolls around, you know it’s time for some football in the U.P. For the Ishpeming Hematites, their Division 7 state title defense began on Monday.
“It’s an exciting time. These guys have been working so hard in the off-season. We know that. They’re itching to get going, getting out here and improving and learning things that are going to help them be successful in games, but so are we. Coaches are itching to get out here and get going,” head coach Jeff Olson said.
It will be another season of turnover for the Hematites as over a dozen player graduated as part of the class that won three of the past four state titles.
“I think we lose a lot of great players every year, but we have good players coming back like Donald Denofre for Ozzy Corp and such. They step up really well,” senior lineman Jacob Clark said.
“We still have a good team. We lost their leadership, but at the same time, they taught us how to be leaders so now that I’m a senior, I can work with the younger kids and pass it on,” senior cornerback/wide receiver Daren Giuchin said.
“I think they’ve really left the impact of we got to give it our all and stay motivated the whole year and just be successful in everything we do and doing the little things right all the time,” senior lineman Ashok Ravindran said.
The infusion of talent will begin with the players who are being brought up from junior varsity. The seniors on the team hope that the new guys understand the high expectations of the team.
“Everyone wants to live up to the Ishpeming expectation and everyone wants to be a state championship team. It’s all about work ethic and coming out on Friday and performing,” said Ravindran.
“I think they understand the pressure because you can see by our history that the pressure is high so they want to take this seriously,” said Giuchin.
“I think they understand because these juniors that came up, they were in the playoff run with us so they understand. But now getting them to play to that potential, that’s the tough part,” Olson said.
The first few practices are without pads, but it would be long until the full contact action will begin. But until then, the coaches will focus on the fundamentals.
“That’s what we’re trying to get to right now in these early stages of practices. Getting these kids to learn the terminology, learn our fundamentals so they can just react during games. It’s a fun time for us. It’s an exciting time and everybody is just ready to go,” said Olson.
Ishpeming will open the season on August 26th at Iron Mountain.