BELDING — The Belding football team is back in a familiar position from many years ago.
The Redskins are ranked in a tie for ninth in the state in the latest Associated Press Division 4 football poll.
Belding coach Joe Schwander was glad to get the ranking, but there were more important things he’s thinking about.
“I think any time you get recognition it’s a good thing,” Schwander said. “But for the program, we’re a third into the season. We’re playing homecoming, we’re playing a program that we haven’t played before. They have a new coach. But at the same time it’s nine one-week seasons and we’re in the fourth one.”
That new opponent is Leslie, which is playing the Redskins for the first time. And it comes on homecoming, which can be a distraction for some players.
Schwander doesn’t agree that it is a distraction.
“Maybe 20 or 30 years ago,” he said. “Nowadays, kids are always distracted at the time. You get them in 30-second bits. You take anything that’s going on and that’s how the kids live their lives. You just get them into practice.”
But he’s not completely dismissing homecoming.
“I think it’s a good thing that guys come back and watch the game,” he said. “Your kids want to practice with extra motivation. I don’t think it will be a distraction. We just want to get better tomorrow at practice.”
Belding goes into the game 3-0 overall, the first time it has been 3-0 since the 1998 season. That year, Belding lost to Chesaning in the Class B state final.
They’ll be facing a Black Hawk team that is 0-3, having been shut out in its first two games and losing to Perry 35-30 last week. Last year, Leslie was 8-1 before losing in the Division 5 pre-district game to eventual state champion Portland.
“They’re an aggressive team,” Schwander said of the Black Hawks. “They like to do a lot of onside kicks. They’re known with the previous coach to go for it on fourth down. Offensively, they will try to spread it out. They have a couple of quarterbacks that they rotate in and out. They’re a team that will go five-wide and that’s a big challenge for us.”
Schwander didn’t want to think about a specific facet of football that will determine who wins.
“I’m not great at giving predictions,” he said. “We use a coaching cliché, but we’re just getting better every day. I don’t know if there’s one specific key. We just have to score one more point than they do.”
Other games around the area Friday have Byron Center at Greenville, Coleman at Montabella, Central Montcalm at Morley Stanwood, Lakeview at Chippewa Hills, Tri County at Fruitport and Carson City-Crystal at Vestaburg.