Last month, the Local Sports Journal published a 24-page high school football preview section. Here is the preview story on the Orchard View Cardinals. If you would like to purchase a copy of the football section, send an email to [email protected]
By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal
There’s a bell just beyond the south end zone at Cardinal Stadium.
Last season, there just wasn’t enough ringing of that bell as the Orchard View Cardinals struggled through a 1-8 season.
They lost their first seven games in a row, narrowly defeated Tri-County in Week 8 and lost to Oakridge in the season finale. If you ask head coach Joe Tanis about that rival just to their east, he’ll just point in that direction or say “the school down there.”
It was a painful season in more ways than one for the Cardinals. The roster was decimated by injuries – the team had 13 players when the season ended. And when someone went out with a minor injury or a cramp, it was usually out one or two plays and back into the game.
But there’s a new optimism, a new coaching staff and a clean slate as the Cardinals look toward the upcoming season.
“We didn’t have a big team to start with,” running back Justin Hunter-Smith said. “Nobody wants to go 1-8. It’s about as bad as you can get.”
But enough about last season.
Coach Tanis steps into his first head coaching job, and he’s ready to bring OV back to where it’s accustomed to being.
“The transition has been really smooth,” said Tanis, who played football at Grandville High School and Olivet College. “The kids have responded well. This is a school with great tradition.”
In order to get OV back on the football map, Tanis is relying on a special group of skilled players. That starts with senior Hunter-Smith, an all-state hurdler in track, and a physical specimen with a lot of talent.
Senior wide receiver Corey Pierce (5-foot-9, 165) is very quick and will be a key target in the offense. Hunter-Smith (6-foot-0, 195) has speed, power and size. On the line, there’s Sloan Bowen (6-foot-3, 275), a two-way lineman who will be a dominant force.
“We will try to get Hunter-Smith as many possessions as possible to be as successful as possible,” Tanis said. “We have to utilize his skillset.”
Those three senior leaders will be counted on to lend a hand to their young quarterback, sophomore Kris Wells (5-foot-10, 165).
“We have senior leadership; those are the key guys,” Tanis said. “They have bought in right away. We are trying to make it a great senior year for them.”
Wells, the jayvee quarterback a year ago, is very mature for his age, according to Tanis. His speed will help make the offense go, and if needed, he can fire a pass downfield with Pierce being a key target.
If anyone on the roster is hungry for success, it’s Bowen, who had a rough junior year. On the Monday
after last season’s opener against Montague, Bowen suffered an injury, and he never returned to the field.
“We are making sure everything gets done,” Bowen said. “As captains, we are making sure everything is tight.”
Besides those four standouts, the Cardinals are banking on others to help get them back into the mix of the Lakes 8 race.
Senior fullback Kyle Cunningham (6-foot, 190) brings toughness to the backfield.
Also expected to make significant contributions is senior tight end Jake Kriger (5-foot-10, 190).
Key players along the line include junior center Cordell Bernard (6-foot-1, 280), sophomore tackle Zach Patitucci (5-foot-9, 265) and guard Colin Weaver (6-foot, 190).
Patitucci, who bench presses 350 pounds, is the strongest player on the team. He also is expected to handle the kicking duties.
The Cardinals have plenty of two-way players. That does not include Wells, who is expected to just concentrate on his duties as the quarterback.
Hunter-Smith and Pierce will man the secondary. Kriger, Weaver and Cunningham will play linebacker, and Bowen, Bernard and Patitucci will anchor the defensive line.
“The seniors are really keeping on the underclassmen,” Hunter-Smith said. “We have a young team, but the seniors are ready to get at it and pick up the slack.”
The Cardinals open the season against their usual Week 1 opponent, Montague, before heading into the Lakes 8 portion of the schedule.