It’s hard to imagine that a 54-point first half would leave a team with a long list of desired improvements, but for Jeremy Ferman and the North Branch football team, there will be no settling this season.
“We’ll enjoy this for 24 hours and then we’ve got to go back to work,” the head coach said. “It’s a long season. We’ll go into film first thing in the morning, see what we did well and what we didn’t do well, and build upon those.”
The Broncos played their conference opener on the road at Imlay City last night, asserting their dominance within the competitive league with a 60-7 victory. They’re now 2-0 on the season, outscoring opponents 116-7. Not a bad start.
But this team isn’t focused on the start. Instead, it’s about who’s healthiest and playing their best football in October, and if last season was any indication of what’s to come this fall, North Branch is well on track.
“We’ve got a lot of seniors who’ve been with me for three years now,” Ferman said. “They’ve just been working. When you’ve got a senior-led group and a senior group that leads, good things happen.”
Nearly half of this year’s roster is made up of seniors who fill key spots, such as quarterback Will Damaska; running backs Aiden Swoish, Lucas Schapman, and Ryan Henne; and defensive lineman Ethan Wenta.
By the end of last season, this group finished conference play on a 5-0 run and they seem to be picking up right where they left off.
“I think toward the backend [of last season] the guys really clicked,” Damaska said. “We’ve got a lot of the same guys returning, so I’m hoping we just keep it going and keep doing our thing.”
Damaska made the most of his passing game last night with 105 yards and two touchdowns on just two passes: one to senior Griffin Mabery and another to Swoish.
Swoish also rushed for 153 yards and three touchdowns, Schapman added one more on 124 yards, and Henne found the end zone twice with 103 yards.
“We have four backs in that backfield, I don’t think there’s any one person you can key on,” Ferman said. “We have four guys – all seniors – and we just try to get them all the ball.”
Wenta led the North Branch defense with three solo tackles and five assists, including one tackle for loss. Junior Wyatt Bruff chipped in with three solo tackles and four assists, and sophomore Mason Howe added four tackles, including one sack.
The Spartans’ lone touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter when sophomore Andrew Cezik ran the ball 52 yards to the end zone. He followed that up with a successful extra point.
“The thing with this group is that it doesn’t matter who gets the touchdown. It’s about who gets the W and that’s the team. These guys know that. They’d give a touchdown back to have a shutout, that’s how this team is. We’re fortunate,” Ferman said. “We’ve got a lot of ball ahead of us, the BWAC is tough. Any given Friday night anything’s possible, so we’ve got to buckle down. We’ll be better.”
The BWAC is no doubt tough this fall. Not only is North Branch returning with a talented, senior-led roster, but Croswell-Lexington has also managed to reload with a highly-effective offense and Armada has risen to the top after upsetting Marine City in week one.
For Damaska, the competitive conference will make for a fun final season, especially as he looks forward to correcting the only two conference losses last year against Armada and Cros-Lex. Instead of playing those two teams first, the Broncos will see them at the end of this season.
“It’s fun. I really enjoy the close games when the teams are a bit of a challenge. That's what makes football fun,” Damaska said. “I’m excited for the backend of our season, I’m looking forward to it.”