Maroons kick off season 120
Menominee opens season on road against Antigo
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 7:00 PM
MENOMINEE - Just 58 seconds separated Menominee from its fourth trip to the state championship game last season.
Soon after David Kuzma snared a 14-yard pass from Travis Russell in the corner of the end zone to lift Grand Rapids to a 21-17 win in the Division 5 state semifinals, the Maroons began refocusing on their Ford Field goal.
The journey begins Friday night when Menominee travels to Antigo for a 7 p.m. game.
Coach Joe Noha noted that he enters his second year as head coach with a better awareness of the individual talents of each player.
"The anxiety is still there, but our preparation has been more scripted this year," he explained. "Last year we were evaluating personnel as the season progressed. We're excited about the 120th Maroon campaign getting underway."
The Red Robins have their own agenda after being thumped by two-time defending state champion West De Pere 48-0 in the playoffs last year and falling to the Phantoms 47-0 in their season opener last week.
"They have the potential to hurt us in certain spots," Noha said. "They have a big line and a quarterback who has the ability to run inside or outside."
Menominee won last year's matchup 34-18.
Quarterback Matt Wolter, who used his ball-faking skills to give the Red Robins a 12-6 third quarter lead with an 80-yard dash last year, leads Antigo. Wolter also tossed a 62-yard scoring strike in last year's game.
The Red Robins' ground game spun its wheels against West De Pere last week. Max Nowinski led Antigo with just 18 yards on seven carries while Jake Zakowski rushed for just 9 yards.
"We have to control Wolter," warned Noha. "He's a triple-threat. They run him on isolations, options and sweeps and he can definitely throw the ball. This year they're running similar plays (as last year), but they're spreading it our more and creating more running lanes."
The new Maroon defensive line, led by Mason Kewley and Brandon Chouinard, will be tested by the Red Robins' variety of looks and blocking schemes, while Ryne Francour, Brilinski and Karl Schloegel are run-stuffers at linebacker.
Sullivan opens at safety and Colin Nerat, Aeron Forsberg, Chase LaCombe and Austin Vorachek will get a baptism by fire in the secondary.
Antigo did a solid job of containing the Maroon ground game last year, but Sam Schewe ripped the Robins for 189 passing yards.
The Maroon interior lines will get an early test from a big Antigo line. Sustaining blocks has been an emphasis in practice for Menominee. Blake Kirsch tips the scales at 280 pounds and tight end Josh Hale is an imposing blocker at 6-3, 240.
"Wherever (Hale) is, they have a tendency to move in that direction," said Noha.
The Maroons will pressure the Antigo defense with their "space invaders" attack, getting their speedy running backs and receivers into open space.
A retooled offensive line, led by junior tackle Skyler Reinhardt (6-1, 255) and senior tackle Travis Pursley (6-2, 270) will be the key to creating space downfield.
"We've been focusing on perimeter blocking," Noha explained. "We have to block better in space. That's an area we want to attack."
Schewe, and receivers Bryan Hines and Jared Rivard, who accounted for most of the damage last year, have graduated. Senior fullback James Brown, junior tailback Justin Brilinski, senior wingback Devon Barley and senior receiver Shaun Sullivan get their chance to step up and lead the Maroons' single wing Friday night.
Defensively, the Red Robins will confront the Maroons with a 4-3 alignment.
"Every defense gives you something," Noha explained. "We just have to find it. We lost some great senior leaders on offense. We're going to have to rely on our 11 senior leaders early in the season."
Junior defensive ends Zach Salewsky and Morgan Plemel will sit out the game with injuries.