FOWLERVILLE — Hope has carried the Fowlerville football team through a long offseason.
Tonight, the Gladiators are counting on experience and enthusiasm to carry them in their 2016 opener at Dexter.
“Nerves are definitely starting to come,” senior quarterback Nick Semke said on Wednesday. “We’re trying to work off in practice and get everything down. Everyone knows what they’re doing and it should be a good result on Friday.”
The game will be broadcast from Dexter on The Post beginning at 6:50 p.m.
On the face of it, Semke has good reason to be optimistic.
After all, the Gladiators have won the last four meetings between the schools.
And Dexter, which has never been a football power, is going through a dry spell of epic proportions: The Dreadnaughts have lost 23 games in a row and 34 of their last 36.
On hearing a recitation of these facts, Fowlerville coach Bret Shrader sets his jaw.
“We know they’re a program that’s hungry for wins,” Shrader said. “They’re going to come out hitting on all cylinders and would like nothing better than to get their season started with a W.”
As for the Gladiators’ winning streak against Dexter, “they’ve all been well-contested games,” he countered. “Last year (a 38-20 Fowlerville win) got away from them, but they’re usually pretty close. They’re going to come for us.”
And, while the Gladiators went 4-5 last season, they know well what the Dreadnaughts are going through. In Shrader’s first four seasons, his teams won a total of six games, three against Dexter.
So it figures to be an angry group of Dreadnaughts, and Semke is also expecting a tough game tonight.
“We’re not overlooking anyone there,” he said. “They’ll come hard at us. They’ll be looking for a little revenge for the seniors, and they’re definitely a tough group.”
And the key, Shrader said, is the same whether a team is 2-34 or 34-2 over the last four years.
“It’s always winning up front,” he said. “I don’t care if you pass or run, if you don’t win up front, you don’t have a chance.”
The Gladiators are hoping to be a little more diversified on offense, especially in the rushing attack, this season. All the better to shift opposing defense’s focus on Semke, who was the Gladiators’ leading rusher last season.
To do that, the Fowlerville line will have to open holes for Alex Brownlee, who will start the season at running back.
But, amidst all the talk of the business of the season, at least one Fowlerville player is just happy to be on the field.
Tommy Quaine, a co-captain this year, missed seven games last year due to a broken leg.
“It’s awesome,” he said of the season opener. “Football is my first love, and I’ve played it for 12 years. So, to get an opportunity to represent my town and play football for it, is amazing.”
Quaine and Semke are seniors, and Shrader freely admits to stealing one of Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio’s thoughts on seniors.
“Your seniors have to have their best year ever for your team to have a successful season,” Shrader said. “It’s been a long week, and we’re real excited to get going.”