By Greg Wickliffe
The Mustangs begin the defense of their league and national crowns Saturday against the Detroit Hurricanes at 7 p.m. at Oakridge High School. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for teenagers and free for children.
They will play an eight-game regular season schedule between Saturday and Aug. 6. Four of those eight games, including three of the first four, will be at home.
The Mustangs will embark on the new season under new leadership.
Rob Brown is the new head coach, replaced Brad Haney, who retired after the end of last season.
Brown is familiar with the team after serving as the defensive coordinator last year, but admits his new assignment will be a different challenge.
“Just being able to oversee the defense and the offense,” Brown said about the new workload. “I coached defense (last year), so I didn’t know much about the offense. Now I’m learning as many new things as I can to help us, and we’re learning together.”
Brown said he will be a little nervous heading into his head coaching debut.
“Anytime you take over a championship winning team, you have certain expectations,” he said. “The X’s and O’s are in place, we just need to be prepared physically and mentally to make another run at it.”
The Mustangs capped a historic 13-0 run last year with a 37-18 victory over the St. Paul Pioneers Northern Elite from Minnesota in the USA Bowl, earning a national semipro football championship.
Now a new test awaits the Mustangs — recapturing the magic of last season with every team in the state and country chasing them.
A first leg of that challenge will be repeating as Great Lakes Football League champions for the third time in four years.
“Coming into this year, we know we got the target on our backs,” said veteran Mustangs quarterback Aaron James. “Everybody is going to be aiming for us, so now we’re just trying to reload. We don’t think we have to rebuild, we just want to reload and pick up where we left off.”
Despite losing their head coach and some interior linemen, several key players return for the Mustangs. including Josie James, Eric James, Demonte Collins, Jamarcus Martin and Rodney Anderson, to name a few.
“The nucleus of our team is back,” Aaron James said. “We do have some new faces, not many though. That’s why I say we’re not so much rebuilding as we are reloading, and that’s how we try to look at it.”
The pressure and expectations of being national champions may be what the Mustangs need to remain focused each week of the season, according to James.
“We have a great chemistry because we’re all friends and we like each other,” he said. “But on the same token, we gotta come out of the gates smoking. We know teams are giving us their best shot, regardless of whether they’re good teams or bad teams, they think they can make a name off of us. So we know every game, we have to be ready to play football, because if not, we could lose.”
2016 MUSKEGON MUSTANGS SCHEDULE
Home games played at Oakridge High School
June 4 – vs Detroit Hurricanes
June 11 – @Detroit Diesels
June 18 – vs TC Wolves
June 25 – vs Lake Michigan Havoc
July16 – @ Capital City Stealth
July23 – @ Detroit Seminoles
July30 – vs Flint Fury
Aug6 – @Detroit Ravens