OWOSSO — Owosso hopes experience and improved team strength put it in good standing entering its first year in the expanded Flint Metro League.
Owosso, stocked with 23 seniors, hopes to break loose from a dry spell which has spanned six years and produced just three wins — one each in 2013, 2014 and 2018.
“We’re basically a little stronger and we’ve got a little more depth than what we’ve had — probably all over quite honestly,” third-year head coach Devin Pringle said. “You kind of get to that point sometimes where you have teams where you kind of think, ‘OK, what are we possibly going to do here?’ Now we feel like we have some good competition in some positions where kids can push each other a little bit and we can get better.”
The Trojans will feature six returning starters on offense, including quarterback Brett Hudecek, fullback Colton Blaha — the team’s leading rusher last year with 870 yards and 10 TDs — halfback and sometimes quarterback Hunter Blaha, along with center Parker Hasyn, guard Gideon Millar and tight end Keegon Potter.
The offensive line will also include guard Elijah Voss and tackles Dom Patterson and Lonnie Hewitt.
Nine of the 11 projected starters on offense are seniors, with two juniors — Voss and tight end Branix Pakosz.
Defensively, Owosso will line up in a 4-2-5 and returns six starters in tackle Ben Bush, linebacker Ted Hunt, weak safety Jaxon Unger, strong safety Colton Blaha and free safety Hunter Blaha. Charles Poag will be a key player at defensive end.
“Our defense looks real good and we changed it up a little this year,” Poag said. “Offense scores points, but defense wins games.”
Kam Andrews will start at defensive tackle while Justin Mills will be a starting linebacker. The cornerbacks will be Taylor Lamrouex and Noah Crites.
Owosso’s placekicker is Noah Jafri, a soccer player who has shown some promise in practice so far.
The Trojans will be the biggest team in terms of enrollment in the newly-created Flint Metro Stars Division — with Corunna, Goodrich and Lake Fenton, all formerly of the GAC Red — along with Clio and Ortonville Brandon.
“The mindset, No. 1, is to win the Flint Metro,” Colton Blaha said. “And our second goal is to make the playoffs.”
The talented wrestler finished third in the state as a 152-pounder at the MHSAA Division 2 Finals last winter. He is about 10 pounds heavier than he was last fall and said he is trying to be a good leader along with fellow captains Hunter Blaha, Dylan McCallum, Hudecek and Hunt.
“Over the years, we haven’t really had much senior leadership and, with that, our team really hasn’t come together as a family,” Colton Blaha said. “This year, we’ve got a good senior class and good leaders … We also have depth in the backfield, which we really haven’t had before, at all of the positions.”
“The thing I don’t like most about Colton is that he’s not triplets,” Pringle said. “I could use three of him. That would be awesome. Colton’s work ethic is second to none. Colton and Hunter (Blaha), you can’t ask for two better kids to build a program around — whether it’s the tone they set for their teammates, their work ethic in the weight room and what the young kids of the community do. The young kids of the community run around and talk to those kids like they are rock stars. Those are two kids who do it the right way.”
Hunter Blaha is taller and heavier at 6-1 and 200 pounds. He will start at halfback and free safety and also play quarterback at times.
“The 2 back, it’s more of our speed-type running backs to the outside and get some speed,” Hunter Blaha said.
Last year he rushed for 583 yards and six scores, and passed for 430 yards and three TDs.
“Switching over to running back was kind of hard at first,” he said. “Toward the end of the year, I did click.”
Hunter Blaha said he’ll be the QB when the team goes to the spread offense, but Hudecek is Owosso’s primary quarterback when Owosso is in its normal alignment, the full house T.
Hunter Blaha said speedy Jaxon Unger will also be a strong addition to the starting backfield.
“We’re looking real good,” he said. “We’ve got depth at all of our positions and we got kids who can start right now if our starters got hurt. We’ve got more depth than we’ve had the last few years … We are the biggest school in our division but that doesn’t matter to me. There’s small schools who have great football programs, great kids in their football programs and still do great. So we just have to keep ourselves together. Our attitude has to be great and we’ve got to play to the best of our ability.”
Owosso begins its 2019 season at Lansing Eastern. The Quakers have fared 0-9 in five of the last six years. It will mark the first time the teams have faced each other since 2002.
In Week 2, Owosso travels to Swartz Creek, which is a member of Flint Metro Stripes, the six-school larger division which includes Flushing, Fenton, Kearsley, Linden and Holly. The Dragons fared 6-4 last fall while making the playoffs.
The Trojans then begin league play at home against Goodrich in Week 3, then, battle Brandon, Lake Fenton, Clio and Corunna. Brandon put together an 8-2 mark a year ago.
Week 8 is a Flint Metro crossover, which Owosso will host, against the Metro team in the Stripes with the same division placement. Owosso finishes the regular season against Stockbridge, which went 1-8 the last two years.
The Owosso-Corunna game, traditionally a Week 1 contest, is now a league game set for Week 7. Pringle believes the game will always be important, no matter when it is played.
Now that it’s a conference game for the first time, the intensity could be even higher.
“I like to think (that) where we’re headed as a program and where they’ve traditionally been, that game, at the end of the Metro schedule, could be a game that matters a whole lot more than just the rivalry,” Pringle said.