By Dave Fredrick
Tribune Recorder Leader
2014 was a year of streaks for the Sandusky Redskins and Marlette Red Raiders football squads. Both teams needed some success in the season’s final week to qualify for the play-offs, after winning crucial games along the way.
The Redskins, who finished the regular season 6-3, got off to a tough start in the first four weeks, winning just one game. They rattled off five consecutive wins to finish out the season to storm their was in to the post season. Included in their winning streak were a pair of thrillers in back-to-back weeks with rivals Brown City and Marlette.
Sandusky, who finished the season scoring 240 points a year ago while allowing 191, edged Marlette 37-26 in an offensive shoot-out in Week 6 and then the following week, the ‘Skins clipped the Green Devils in a thriller, 35-28. They went on to trounce Memphis 49-6 and skated past Capac 35-21 to earn a spot in the play-offs. In a game that was not fit for man nor beast to be in, with pounding rain and sleet and storm force winds, Laker ended the ‘Skins successful season with a 18-0 victory.
“We had a talented team, with a lot of good senior leadership and some skilled players,” pointed out third year Sandusky Coach Craig Jacobson. “We worked hard as a team, put together some nice wins and won a game we had to have (Capac) in the end to make the play-offs.” He is quick to point out however, “this year’s team, some of the players have had a taste of that success and we are hoping they will carry that over in to this year. We have good ability at key positions, we are not real big, but have good overall team speed. I am confident this group of seniors will step up and continue working hard to show the way to another successful season.”
Senior Brandon Potter will take over the quarterback duties for the ‘Skins and will have a backfield of power runners Joe Stone and Chase Tucker to give the ball to. Tucker was one of the premier running backs in the area last season and will be key to any success the Redskins may have. Defensively, Coach Jacobson says his team is not real big and will have to rely on quickness to stop their opponents.
Sandusky, who hasn’t lost an opening night game since 2010, opens the season next week hosting the USA Patriots, a team that rolled past a year ago 38-6. In Week 2 they remain at home, colliding with GTC West powerhouse Reese before traveling to Bad Axe for a contest against a much improved Hatchet team that features one of the top quarterbacks in the Thumb in Tommy Morneau.
“We have to stay focused every week,” the Sandusky coach cautioned. “Our schedule is filled with solid teams top to bottom, there isn’t an easy week and we can’t look ahead. One game at a time. Our concern right now is USA. The GTC-East has a lot of parity this year. Harbor Beach is always good, but they lost some kids too. I think you’ll see a pretty evenly matched league race this year. We hope to be right there at the end of the year.”
Sandusky has qualified for the play-offs six times since 2002, earning trips in 2002, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2014.
Over in Marlette, things are very similar. Veteran Coach Denny Lester knows his team lost some key players to his offense, including Connor Thomas, but feels with hard work and a good work ethic, his team will could have another winning season. The Red Raiders have qualified for the post season six times since 2005, including three of the last four years.
After an opening season loss to a strong Merrill team (46-20) on 2014, the Red Raiders peeled off four straight wins, scoring an average of 42 points per game. On the heels of a lopsided 62-20 win over Memphis, Marlette then clinched a spot in the play-offs with a hard-fought 34-27 win over BWAC member Armada. The Red Raiders had their season come to an end in the opening round of districts, falling to Cass City 14-8.
“This year’s team is a hard working bunch,” Said Lester during a break in a highly energized workout last week. “We have some kids who can run the ball well, and our defense is a spot we need to improve over a year ago. We need to hold on to the ball, cut down on turnovers and be able to stop teams in the Red Zone. We’re excited to see how we do this season. I’ve got a great bunch of kids.”
Marlette was slated to hold a scrimmage this week, in a tuneup for their opening night game at Merrill. “They have a very good, a very successful program,” Lester admitted of the Vandals. “Our schedule is rugged. Our division of the GTC is really tough. There isn’t a bad team in the bunch. It should be a lot of fun and we are looking forward to it.”
After the Merrill battle, Marlette takes on Bad Axe (home opener) and Reese prior to beginning league play at home with a much-improved squad from Ubly.
The Red Raiders play key conference games in back to back weeks traveling to Brown City September 25th and hosting Sandusky October 2nd. The annual homecoming game is October 9th against Memphis.