August 11, 2010 —
By Bill Mullaly
The nice, fun relaxing days of summer are over for the high school athletes in the state of Michigan. The second Monday of the month of August signals the start of the fall athletic season. School is still four weeks away from beginning but the games must and will go on as the Tigers get set to open the football season on August 27th. The Tiger gridiron prospects were out in full force on Monday afternoon at the high school practice facility. The Tiger coaching staff welcomed close to 40 players for the 2010 gridiron campaign that will begin next week with the annual preseason scrimmage on Friday at Stockbridge. Hudson head football coach Chris Luma and his staff were hard at work and that was good to see, as the expectations for this team are higher than in previous years. Hudson is coming off of a blockbuster, record-setting season in 2009. The team won its first 13 straight games to advance to Ford Field where they fell in the division 7 state final game to Traverse City St. Francis. In 2009 fans were looking for a successful and winning season but they got much more than they were expecting. Now, in 2010 with several key players returning from the record-setting team the expectations are very high and the fans will be hoping for more of the success like the team had last fall. Here is a look at what was going on during opening day on Monday as Luma greeted 37 players in helmets with three others awaiting the okay to practice when they finally have a physical on file with the school.
The players speak
Hudson might be short on overall numbers for a varsity and junior varsity program but they are not short at all in talent, at least at the varsity level. Luma is looking to carry about 24 on the big team and that leaves for small numbers at the junior varsity level but the coaches can only work with who they have out their wanting to play. “I liked what I saw out there today,” said Luma, on opening night. “We are ahead of where we were last year in some ways like conditioning and I thought we had a good off-season weight program that was well attended. These kids did what was expected of them over the summer and it is time to get them going. We are all looking forward to the upcoming season. We are ready to go and it should be a lot of fun this year coaching these kids.” Luma will be entering his 14th season leading the Tigers and he surpassed the century mark in wins last year in a school record-breaking season that saw the Tigers win 13 games in a season for the first time ever surpassing the 12 wins back in 2001. Last year was good and fine but this is 2010 and you can’t live on past success in this business or somebody will sneak up on you and pull a surprise. The players on this team want to set their own standards and they want to build on what was done last year. The 2010 squad will feature six, solid senior captains who will lead the team into the fast approaching season. The offensive line will be the key again this year and Meiko McDaniel is the headliner. The two-year starter at center is back for his second go round with the varsity team. “I have been lifting weights and conditioning all summer long and I am ready to go,” said McDaniel, who could be a real force on what could be a very good offensive line. “I want to be a leader and I am pretty confident that this team can win each game if we work hard and stay focused.” The rock solid McDaniel will play nose tackle on defense.
If McDaniel blocks like he is capable of then speedy halfback Drew Milligan will have quite a year. The dynamic runningback can break a carry for a long gain at any time and he will be worth the price of admission just watching him run the ball this year. “I lifted and ran during the summer and I am itching to get going with football so it was great to be out here today,” said Milligan, who played a lot of baseball over the summer. “I really think we can have another really good year. We have a lot of returning players that are very good. My job is to run the ball and to play better pass defense and I know I need to work hard.”
The coaches were pleasantly surprised when fullback/halfback Grant Benschoter showed up weighing a bit more than expected. They know he will be a brute in the backfield that opposing teams will have trouble stopping. “I lifted a lot and worked out hard this summer and I am focused and ready to go,” said Benschoter in words that opposing teams will not want to hear. “This year should be a lot of fun and I like the guys we have here to work and play with. This group on the varsity team is tough both mentally and physically. I want to be on that field for every play whether on offense or as a linebacker on defense.” There is no doubt that if coach Luma want to win a few games than Benschoter will be out there quite often.
James Williams is the kind of player that could make or break the season. Sure, the team is loaded with talent but if Williams produces like he thinks he can then watch out in 2010. He wants to play quarterback and his personal goal is to win the starting job under center. “I want to be a big part of this team and I have worked hard this summer to be ready to go,” said Williams. “I just want to help us win and this should be another great year for the team. I just want to play wherever they need me to help the team.” Williams also could see time at tight end depending on who is the team’s starting signalcaller.
Nathaniel Osborne is in his second season with the varsity team and he is very optimistic about what this team could do this fall. “I lifted and ran over the summer and I am ready to go as I am in good condition,” said Osborne, who played linebacker last year and will add offensive line duties this fall. “I am excited for the upcoming season. I think we have the potential to do very well. We have a strong group of players and I know I need to do my part to be a leader of this team. It is going to be a great year and everyone is working hard.”
One Tiger football player who will receive a lot of notice is senior standout Matthew Smith who will begin his third full season with the big team on the varsity. Smith at 6-3, 214 pounds is attracting a lot of interest from not only his coaches and opposing coaches but also college coaches. “I am ready to go and all I have been doing this summer is football stuff and some wrestling,” said Smith, who attended 11 different football camps. “I want to be a team leader and I want to see this team win the league and make the playoffs and have another long run in the playoffs. I will catch some passes on offense and on defense I want to spend a lot of time in the other team’s backfield making myself a real terror,” said Smith, who has been doing that the past two years.
Another senior will need to crank it up for the team to do well and Dimitri Nealy wants to contribute. “I can run the ball and I need to do a good job of defending the ball when it is passed,” said Nealy, who will be battling for starting spots on both sides of the ball.
The Tigers are short on overall numbers but the talent is there at the varsity level for this to be another banner season. The players are excited, the coaches are optimistic and the fans can’t wait. You just know it is football season in Hudson when Jim Bills shows up at the first practice and wants to talk football, which he did on Monday late afternoon. The pads go on today (Thursday) and assistant coach Danny Rogers summed it up best when he noted, “We will really find out who wants to play when we put the pads on and start hitting each other.”
The scrimmage next Friday will see the J.V. team go at 5:00 and the varsity at 7:00.
The first official game is Friday, August 27th at home at legendary Thompson Field as the Tigers take on local rival Hillsdale in the annual season opener. All games home or away have a 7:00 kickoff time. Go Tigers!