MESICK – After posting just five wins over the past four seasons, the Mesick football program is making history in its inaugural season of 8-player football.
Winners of three of their final four games, the Bulldogs clinched their first five-win season since 1999 and their second playoff berth and first since 1995.
Mesick (5-4) will travel to Central Lake (9-0) on Friday for an 8-player Division 1 regional semifinal.
“It’s just kind of been a neat opportunity, to be a part of something that hasn’t happened in so long,” junior Dalton Sabo said. “We’re just ecstatic at this point.”
After recording seven winning seasons over a nine-year stretch in the 90s, Mesick has struggled to field a competitive a team, winning four games in a season just twice since 2000. The switch to 8-man has given new life to the program.
“Over the course of a year we’ve been able to figure a few things out and obviously have a pretty special year, so it’s been a lot of fun,” coach Josh Crocker said.
“You know, we kind of thought at the start of the year just like most years, if we’re able to put pieces in the right, you know kind of positions and come together in the right ways, there’s a couple of games we figured we’d be competitive in. I think that everyone was a little bit surprised once things started going how many games we were competitive in. So it was a little unexpected.”
After dropping their first two games this season, Mesick rebounded to go 5-1 in the West Michigan D League, falling only to conference champion Marion, 26-16.
“We had a lot of high hopes that we could come to this,” senior Ethan Humphreys said. “In years past this has always been our goal and to finally achieve it, it’s been pretty cool.”
As for Friday’s opponent, Central Lake has debuted in 8-man with a splash, going 9-0 in the regular season and claiming the Midwest Central Michigan 8-Player Football Conference championship. The two teams met in Week 1, with the Trojans coming away with a 64-38 win.
“We were really nervous and we’ve since changed quite a few things since them,” Humphreys said. “We think that we’ve got a lot of things figured out and we match up really well with them.”
For a program that has had just 20 .500 or better seasons since 1950, the Bulldogs plan to savor every moment of Friday’s game.
“I think if they can get that sixth win in the postseason, and the first playoff win in school history, that would be really huge,” Crocker said.
Kickoff Friday is slated for 7 p.m.