ELSIE — No team was any stingier defensively in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference than Ovid-Elsie last season.
The Marauders gave up the fewest points allowed in the first year of the league (55) finished second to eventual state champion New Lothrop. The Hornets went 7-0 in the conference and surrendered 68 points.
Ovid-Elsie head coach Travis Long hopes his squad can continue keeping teams off the scoreboard in 2019 despite graduating seven starters, including All-Area standouts Liam Thompson (LB), Evan Morris (DE, punter/kicker), Devon Stringhum (DT) and Devin Kora (S/CB).
Long said the defensive cupboard is far from bare. Senior Justin Moore (6-4, 188) returns at defensive end, along with returning senior starters Colton Sutliff (5-10, 219) at linebacker, J.R. Ackles (6-2, 220) at defensive tackle and Shayne Loynes (5-8, 152) at strong safety.
“We kind of stand by our defense — that’s always a big goal for us,” Long said. “Justin Moore will be pretty good on the edge. Colton is a hard hitter and he’s pretty good. The secondary will be led by Shayne, he’s got some quickness and he put a lot of time in. He’s not very big in stature, but he comes up big with plays.”
“We’re pretty big and we’ve got some speed in the secondary,” Moore said. “We just had a scrimmage (last week) and I thought we played fairly well.”
Loynes will move from cornerback to safety this season.
“We’ve got four guys back on defense,” Loynes said. “So we’re pretty young. But with the leadership we have, I think we’ll be able to hold our own.”
Ovid-Elsie’s offense will run out of the pro set.
The Marauders will feature a 1-2 halfback punch of Cooper Beard and Loynes. Beard (5-11, 231 pounds) is a hard runner with a lot of size who, as assistant coach Chris Robinson says, is like a speeding “belly truck” and a player he affectionately calls “The Hammer.”
Loynes, by contrast, is just 5-8 and 152 pounds. Robinson sometimes refers to him as a “Ferrari” who can start and stop on a dime.
Both Beard and Loynes give a lot of credit to Robinson, a record-setting running back at Ovid-Elsie before graduating in 2010. He went on to star at Grand Valley State University. This is his third season as an assistant.
“I’ve always looked up to him and people compare me to him,” Beard said. “He’s just humble.”
Loynes said he has improved as a runner, and it starts with his eyes.
“I can see the field a lot better,” he said. “I know when to make the right cuts, when and where, and coach Robinson has helped me out a lot on the patience aspect of running. You’ve got to be able to set up your blocks and be patient when you’re running.”
Long said his offensive line will be anchored by a couple of players, but depth will be a concern.
“We’ve got eight offensive linemen,” Long said. “Probably Cayden Flynn, our center, is one of leaders. He’ll be a two-year starter. Kam Arnett, our right tackle, is another. If I had to rank them — No. 1 and No. 2 — I’d say they’re pretty good linemen.”
Flynn is a senior. Arnett is a junior.
Senior Luis Johnson is set to start at right guard while Joe Fabus is the projected starter at left guard and Keigan Ormes a junior, is listed as the starter at left tackle. Moore will be the starting tight end with senior Kyren Henning at wide receiver.
The starting quarterback is senior southpaw Aaron Hurst.
“Aaron Hurst has good ability and he is more of a pocket passer,” Long said. “But he has some pretty good pocket presence and he throws a good ball.”
Long said he likes to be a balanced team on offense, mixing the pass in with the run. The running game, however is very important to establish.
“I always try to stay balanced, but it always ends up we’re being a running team,” he said. “We’re going to stick with what works and try to build off of that.”
Ovid-Elsie opens the season with always-tough Portland, which handed the Marauders two of their four losses last season — one in Week 1 (18-0) and the other in the first round of the playoffs (33-19). But Long said defending state champion New Lothrop, last year’s MMAC champion, will once again be extremely tough along with several other teams.
“Portland, New Lothrop, Montrose and Corunna will probably be our top four games,” Long said.