CORUNNA — On Kyle Robinson’s annual pre-season preview form, the Corunna head football coach always gives his unvarnished opinion on how his squad compares to the previous year.
The choices: much better, better, the same, a shade below or worse.
“I believe we will be much better than last year’s team, 5-4 or 6-3, if we can stay healthy,” said Robinson, now entering his fifth season.
Corunna is coming off a 1-8 campaign. The biggest reason for his optimism: Senior leaders.
“They are leaders through their voice, their actions and the way they pick the other guys up,” he said.
Corunna figures to be better due to seven returning starters on offense and four on defense.
One impact player will be junior Nick Steinacker, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound defensive end/wide receiver who was offered a scholarship by the University of Michigan in June 2018. Steinacker has not decided where he will go to college, although other Division I schools have also showed interest.
“I don’t really know which school I want to attend yet,” he said.
But he, like his coach, believes Corunna will improve this fall.
“It’s the experience and we’re just a little bit more mature,” Steinacker said.
The Wolverines were chiefly interested in Steinacker’s defensive potential, though Robinson said Steinacker is a matchup problem for the opposition on both sides of the ball.
“His ceiling is very high and (he) could have an even bigger year than last year on defense,” Robinson said. “On offense he should have big numbers as well, as he is a mismatch nightmare, especially forcing the defense to declare the run or not.”
Defense is Steinacker’s first love, though. He had 57 tackles and six sacks from the edge in 2018, with 101/2 tackles for loss and one interception. He was largely untapped on offense, hauling in just four receptions — but averaging 21.5 yards per catch with one touchdown.
“I feel good about (our defense),” Steinacker said. “We’ve got Porter (Zeeman) at (middle linebacker). We’ve got Scout (Jones) on the outside and they’re going to be good linebackers, helping us make plays. We’ve got guys on the line who are going to be making plays I think. If we can just buckle down on some things. Make a good read at linebacker, making it quick. And then the linemen just got to be able to recognize pass and move and get to the QB.”
Another high impact junior will be Zeeman (6-0, 180 pounds), who recorded 76 tackles last fall.
“We’re looking good, definitely better than last year and we care a lot more,” Zeeman said. “I want us to establish a really good run defense and go over 90 tackles.”
Also back as starters defensively are Jones, a junior linebacker, and Gabe Baumchen, a senior defensive back.
Senior Peyton Norton will be the starting quarterback out of the flex offense; he started eight games last year. Norton passed for 785 yards and six TDs last season.
He feels more in tune to the offense and the team is much more prepared for its opener than last year.
“We’re starting off leaps and bounds where we thought we were — but we’re still not where we expected to be,” Norton said. “So there’s still a lot of growing ahead, but we’re definitely a lot further ahead of schedule.”
Nick Yarmuth, a senior running back, led the 2018 team with 579 rushing yards and five TDs despite starting only six games. He will be a key component in the backfield.
“I think we’re looking really good — we’re meshing really well with the juniors and seniors,” Yarmuth said. “I still don’t think we are where we should be, but I think we’re getting there.”
Added Robinson, “Nick Yarmuth is a returning first team, all-conference kid. He stepped in Week 3 and filled some shoes last year. He really came on as a young guy and really came on the scene big. This year, he has done a tremendous job learning not only what his job is, but the guys in front of him, who make his job easier.”
Others to watch will be slotbacks Wyatt Crego and Fisher Morris.
“They are two really fast kids who — when the ball gets in their hands in space — they’re dangerous,” Robinson said.
One of the biggest keys will be controlling the line of scrimmage on offense and Robinson is happy with the way his offensive line is progressing so far.
“It’s the most important part and I think any good coach puts a premium on the offensive line and makes them a focal point of their program,” Robinson said.
Senior center Alex Holmes (6-1, 280) will anchor the line along with fellow returners Alex Schwab (6-3, 230), Mike Daniels (6-0, 215) and Jacob Lloyd (6-2, 225).
The team motto, “Turn the Page,” seems perfect for 2019 as Corunna begins its first year in the Flint Metro League Stars Division. Corunna played the last five seasons in the Genesee Area Conference Red Division, and before that spent seven seasons in the Capital Area Activities Conference White after a 45-year run in the Mid-Michigan ‘B.’
The Cavaliers have the smallest enrollment of the six teams in the Flint Metro Stars. Corunna (612) will compete against Owosso (860), Ortonville Brandon (825), Clio (827), Goodrich (741) and Lake Fenton (703).
Looking into his 2019 crystal ball, Robinson said that Goodrich is the league favorite, with Brandon and Corunna also fighting for a spot in the top tier.