Jets eyeing back to back state titles in 8-man football

POWERS — In just over a year, the North Central Jets have created a powerhouse football team in the Upper Peninsula. But in a year where everything seemed to go right, head coach Kevin Bellefeuil still hopes for some important things to carry on into the upcoming season.

“Everybody had everybody’s back and you try to get that same thing going. We lost two really good leaders in the locker room in Brett Baird and Brenden Gatien. And then on the field, Morgan Cox. He’s not so much a rah-rah guy, but on the field, he was a great leader for us. We have to fill that void. We have Jason and Bobby, when he gets healthy. We’ll fill that void, along with some other kids that have to step up,” Bellefeuil said.

The biggest news out of training camp is that running back Bobby Kleiman will be forced to miss a few weeks due to a throat infection. He says he’s itching to get back on the field, but he’s getting a different look at the team from the sidelines.

“You get to watch everything. You sit with the coaches. You talk and you see other things that you wouldn’t when you’re playing. It’s a good experience,” said Kleiman.

All eyes will be on All–State quarterback Jason Whitens, who will look to carry an offense that will be without several pieces from last year’s team. But if you ask him, he isn’t too worried about it.

“It’s just a next-guy-up mentality. We have a lot of capable guys out here. We’re going to come out here and we’re going to work hard. We’re going to put guys in positions to do well. I know they can. Those juniors that are coming up. Yeah, they’re inexperienced but we’ll get them there. They’ll be ready to go,” Whitens said.

North Central will have an X on their back as the defending state champs, but they know what needs to be done if they want to continue to dominate 8–man football.

“All of us, our main goal was to get in the weight room and get bigger, stronger and stay in shape. We all did that,” Kleiman said.

“We have to stay healthy. We have limited numbers and we’re already a little unhealthy. We have to stay healthy and build that good chemistry. And if we do that, we have the athletes to go ahead and play with just about anybody in eight-player football,” Bellefeuil said.

“Hard work. We’re just going to get back in it. On a beautiful day like this, we’re just going to work hard. We’re having fun out here. We always have fun. Come on, it’s North Central. We’re just going to come out and do what we do,” said Whitens.

The Jets open the season next Friday against Luck, Wisconsin.