LSJ preview: Two offensive threats change positions for Montague Wildcats

Last month, the Local Sports Journal published a 24-page high school football preview section. Here is the preview story on the Montague Wildcats. If you would like to purchase a copy of the football section, send an email to sports@localsportsjournal.com

By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
It’s been a heck of a decade for Montague football.
Two state titles, 11 straight playoff appearances, eight straight district titles and winners of five of the last seven regional titles.

Seniors Jacob Marsh and Brandon Moore are changing positions to bolster the Wildcats’ offense. Photo by Mark Lewis.

So, obviously, Wildcat head coach Pat Collins knows a thing or two about reloading after graduation ravages his roster.
And while Collins has certainly never shied away from making bold changes – such as moving a player who played quarterback one year to running back or receiver the next year – the changes coming to the 2012 Wildcat offense will be more dramatic than ever.
The team’s most dynamic player, the lightning fast and athletic Brandon Moore will move from receiver to quarterback, giving Collins an opportunity to have the ball in his best player’s hands on every offensive play.
But that’s not the only change in store for the Wildcats.
After plowing a path last year for running backs, Jacob Marsh moves from the line to the backfield in 2012. Because of Marsh’s obvious physical strength and size, just the thought of facing Marsh after he’s gained a head of steam should give opposing defenses fits.
Collins sees this season’s changes as required moves to get his best players into the spots they’re needed most.
“Brandon’s excited to play there,” said Collins. “When I asked him about (playing quarterback), he never backed down. He’s jumped at the chance.”
Moore, who is getting college looks in both football and basketball, tries to hide his excitement for his new position behind a veneer of calm.
“I’m looking forward to playing a new role on this team,” he said. “It’s a chance to move our team ahead, that’s how I’m looking at it. It’s a chance to help out in a new way. Really, the only change is that instead of catching the ball, I’ll be throwing the ball.”
Marsh also relishes his new role.
“I’m very excited to get the ball,” Marsh said. “But really, it’s a new mindset, moving from the line to the backfield, which takes a little while to get a handle on. But, yeah, it’s going to be great getting and carrying the ball. I’m really looking forward to it, I can tell you that.”
Nevertheless, graduation has taken a toll on the Wildcats, requiring the squad to replace both their offensive and defensive lines and offensive and defensive backfields.
Senior Billie Welsh, the line’s lone returning starter, will help anchor the offensive line, while Camre Hope, Sawyer Smith and Ben Ruber will be called on to replace what Collins calls “The Big Three” on the defensive line. That unit was led by Chen Martinez.
At the offensive skill positions, Kris Kieft, who blew out his knee last season, and who is, Collins said, “at about 80 percent,” and Chris Caroll will see time in the backfield, as will Tim Blackmer at the slot or H-back position.
Junior Alex VanVleet and freshman Keenan Eiler will be the receivers. Preston Kahl, a junior, will also see plenty of playing time.
Defensively, Brandon Stine and Marsh will man the inside linebacking positions, with Tristen Schultz holding down the weakside linebacking spot. Dylan Lohman and Blackmer will be at the corners, and Caroll and Kieft will round out the secondary. As in previous years, Moore can be brought in nickel and passing situations as a cover corner.
With all the new starters taking the field, one may think this is going to be an inexperienced squad.
However, because the program has made so many deep playoff runs, the upperclassman, even if they didn’t start last season, gained plenty of experience playing nearly an extra season of games over the past three years.
Further, Collins seems to embrace the change, taking the view that such drastic upheaval every now and then is a good thing.
“When everything is cleared out,” he said, “it forces you to go back and rethink things, to take a new approach. This is a clean slate for the guys and they’re really responding to challenge. And we like what we are seeing.”
Though the team won’t be as physically imposing as previous years, Collins jokes, “There aren’t a lot of extra large jerseys being handed out.” Slighter size allows the Wildcats to play at a faster pace.
“We will be all about playing a fast, up-tempo game,” Collins said. “We’ll be very fast up and down the field.”
Montague opens the season with four-straight road games – at Orchard View, at Hart, at Oakridge and at Ravenna. But Week 5 begins a five game homestand, starting with a Sept. 21 much-anticipated contest against rival Whitehall. Another key contest will come Sept. 28 against Shelby.
This season, it isn’t all about what’s on the field at Montague. This past summer, former Wildcat running back Iisaiah Townsel drowned while swimming in Duck Lake. Though he’d graduated in June, Townsel’s memory will be celebrated in 2012, with the Wildcats sporting Townsel’s jersey number sticker on their helmets. Townsel wore No. 33.
They have also named one of their CrossFit workouts in Townsel’s honor. “(Townsel) was such a hard worker,” said Collins, “that when the kids do that routine, they know not to mess around. It’s one way of remembering him and what he brought to our program.”

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