After last year’s roller-coaster season, when the season stopped, started again and stopped before January playoffs, football teams around the state are beginning the 2021 season Thursday night.
After 2020, when there were no offseason practices and teams had only six games before a playoff game, 2021 was a return, mostly, to normalcy.
Four of the five Livingston County teams are home for their openers on Thursday. Brighton play host to Dearborn, Howell is home against Westland John Glenn, Hartland takes on Livonia Franklin, and Fowlerville is home against Corunna. Pinckney is the lone road team, opening its season at Ann Arbor Skyline.
For Hartland, the Eagles begin what will be their final season on natural grass on their home field. An artificial surface is scheduled to be installed before next season.
Hartland (3-4 last year) plays host to a Livonia Franklin team that has made the playoffs the last six seasons.
The game will be broadcast on The Livingston Post, starting at 6:50 p.m. Click here for the link.
The last time the Eagles earned a playoff berth, other than last year’s automatic slot, was 2015, which also was the last year Hartland finished over .500.
But that’s all ancient history now. What’s important is what happens Thursday, for both teams.
“We’ve had a scrimmage, so we got to see our guys work against other teams,” Hartland coach Brian Savage said. “But scrimmages are glorified practices. We’ll have a chance to see what it looks like in a real game.”
The Eagles certainly have some working parts, beginning with senior quarterback Brad Sollom, a three-year player who said before Tuesday’s practice that he could feel his team’s excitement.
“You can see it out here,” he said. “The boys are getting wild and the energy’s high. It’s awesome.”
The Eagles have five returners on both sides of the ball, meaning new players will have to get used to varsity speed against a Franklin team in a similar situation. The Patriots return six starters on offense and four on defense.
Among the Hartland returners is linebacker Aidan Martino.
“They definitely have some fast kids, and a big ol’ offensive line,” he said. “But I definitely think we can match and overcome it.”
As for the rest of the roster, Savage said the Eagles will be down a few players who are part of what he called “an isolation group” and unavailable.
In the meanwhile, Savage isn’t worried about what Franklin can or can’t do so much as seeing what his Eagles can accomplish.
“Our goal is to try and keep our offense on the ifield and minimize the times our defens has to go out,” he said. “We want to see what kind of football players we have, and I’m sure (Franklin) is in the same boat.
“They’re obviously a good team,” Savage continued. “But, you know, I think we’ve got a good group of kids, too. So we’ll see what happens.”
Another hot evening is forecast, and the Eagles have been hydrating throughout the week, hoping to avoid the cramping one often sees in the heat of Michigan openers.
“We’ve done things like take the pads off while conditioning,” Savage said. “We’ve been reminding them to drink water now, rather than wait until before the game, because then it’s too late.
“We’re going to try and play as many different kids as we can,” he added, “because on of our goals is to get some people some rest, but, you know, I imagine it’s going to be hot on their side of the field, too.”
Another welcome change from last year will be fans in attendance.
“It’s Little League Night, so we’ll have all the little kids running around,” Savage said. “That alway makes for a nice atmosphere. And Hartland is always a fun place to play. After a year off, I would hope a lot of people are going to get back at it and come out an watch a good football game.”