STANTON — When the Central Montcalm Hornets football team took the practice field on Tuesday evening it felt more like late September than the second day of the preseason practice.
The Hornets are coming off their first losing season (2-7 in 2012) since going 4-5 in 2006. Central Montcalm went to the postseason four consecutive seasons (2007-10), but have missed that goal the past two seasons (5-4 in 2011).
Hornets coach Marty James said last year was an eye opener.
“We have an expectation and that is a good thing. We are not satisfied with anything other than contending for the league title and going to the playoffs,” he said. “Last year was extremely tough to swallow. We evaluated as a staff and did a lot of soul searching. We decided there were some things we needed to change philosophically.
“Will that result in wins? We can’t be sure, but we for sure will be able to say, at the end of the season, our record will not be indicative of the approach and effort,” he added.
After going 35-15 the previous five seasons, the Hornets may have lost some of the previous seasons’ hunger.
“We have to keep our kids hungry. We kind of relaxed,” James said. “Maybe that is the best way to say it. We can’t let that happen.”
Two days into practice and after plenty of offseason work, the Hornets are off to a good start this season.
“I feel pretty good about where we are at. The kids have put in a ton of work in the offseason,” James said. “We are kind of trying to slow them down a bit and not move ahead too quickly. They have digested everything so quickly.”
James noted the effort of his team, so far.
“Our effort has been extremely good,” he said. “Today was phenomenal effort-wise. I tell the kids, we can put them in the right place, tell them how to do things and give them the technique, but we can not control their effort. It has been really good.”
The Hornets scored 217 points last year (24.1 points per game) and will continue to run the veer offense. For the most part, the offense is the same, but James said it’s an ever evolving offense.
To help evolve the offense, James spent time this summer with Ferris State University head football coach Tony Annese.
“We had 90 percent of our stuff when we left camp two weeks ago,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work with Ferris State. Our offense is pretty much a carbon copy of theirs. The kids and myself have spent a lot of time with Tony and his staff digesting and getting a better feel for some of the things they do.”
The first three days of practice are without pads. The focus is conditioning and reviewing what has been learned over the summer. Teams can finally put the pads on beginning Thursday.
“Football is hard to simulate without pads,” James said. “You can only do so much. We are ready to get in the pads and get going.”
Central Montcalm will open the season at home Aug. 29 against Chippewa Hills. They travel to White Cloud in week two.