By Adam Knorr
MUSKEGON – Last season, the Muskegon Mustangs posted a 9-2 record, outscored opponents by nearly 300 points, and won the West Division of the Great Lakes Football League.
According to Mustangs quarterback Aaron James, that made the season a bust.
“Last season we came up short,” James said. “Our goal is always a championship. We lost in the championship so we consider last year a total bust. It wasn’t a failure, though, because some positive things came out of it.”
With the 2015 season kickoff kickoff this weekend, James, head coach Brad Haney and the rest of the semipro squad are poised to make this year a success.
The Mustangs will travel to Kalamazoo to play the West Michigan Force on Saturday. They will play another road game June 6 against the Lakeshore Cougars, then will open at home on June 20 against the Lake Michigan Havoc at Oakridge High School.
Haney will return as head coach this year after serving in that position in 2013. Last year he served as defensive coordinator under former head coach Doug Tibbets.
“(Losing in the championship) was one of my deciding factors to come back and rebuild the team,” Haney said. “The talent is there, the athletes are there and the community is there. I can see it in the guys’ demeanor this year. They’re still angry and disappointed about (the loss).”
The team is comprised of former players from numerous area high schools, including Muskegon, Muskegon Catholic, Reeths-Puffer, Fruitport and Muskegon Heights, among others.
The Mustangs will be expected to put up a lot of points again this season, after scoring a league-high 401 last year.
James, a Big Red alumnus, will line up under center again this season, after earning Quarterback of the Year honors in the GLFL last season.
James will be surrounded by numerous with weapons on offense, including wide receivers Jamarcus Martin and DeMonte Collins and running back Rodney Anderson.
The offensive line will be built around former Ferris State standout Carlin Landingham and Grand Haven’s Mike Bodes Svoboda.
The defense, operating out of a 4-2-5 formation, will be built around imposing linebacker Karey Morrow-Bey.
“(Morrow-Bey) stepped his level up even more than what it was before,” Haney said about the linebacker’s performance last season. “He turned it up a notch.
“As a whole, we got a really, really good group of guys. We’ve got a lot of different guys who can stand out every game.”
The Mustangs have worked to become a fixture in Muskegon, and the community has responded. They drew as many as 2,000 fans to some home games last year.
The team recently hosted the first annual Mustangs Kids Camp at Smith-Ryerson Park in Muskegon, and plans to have similar events in the future.
“We’re not in this to make any money,” James said. “We want to play football, have something to do on Saturdays and do something positive in the community.
“We talked (to the kids at the camp) about the basics you learn in football, but on top of that we brought them in to talk to them about good grades, taking school seriously and respecting elders.
“We want to make it about more than football.”