Gielczyk: Brethren Reflects on Historic Season
Although its stay in the eight-man football playoffs was an all too brief one, Brethren can take solace in the knowledge that its program certainly seems to be on the rise.
It was the Bobcats’ second consecutive appearance in the post-season, a program first, after reaching the regional championship game a year ago where it lost to Manistee County rival Onekama, 52-0.
The Portagers played in the state championship game last year, and play for the Division 2 regional title this weekend against Climax-Scotts, the team that ended Brethren’s run, 26-6 in the pre-regional last Friday.
Brethren got off to a hot 3-1 start as it tried for a repeat at Western Michigan D League champion.
Unfortunately, the Bobcats struggled the rest of the way, eventually losing to Mesick, 42-12 to surrender its league title to the Bulldogs. It was the Bobcats’ only loss in six conference games.
Despite finishing 2-3 over its final five games of the regular season, the Bobcats went 5-4 and qualified for the playoffs. Before going 7-4 last season, the Bobcats had not posted a winning season since 2005.
It’s the first time Brethren has had back-to-back winning seasons according to records dating back to 1964, although they were 5-5 this year including the playoff loss.
Two of their losses were to Suttons Bay (49-8) and Gaylord St. Mary (53-14) out of conference, arguably two of the best teams in eight-man football this year.
“Both have great football traditions, something we’re trying to build here,” Randall said. “It was good for us to play them. The kids saw the kind of level we want to get to.
“We have lost only one game in two years in the conference, and 11-1 in the conference in two years is pretty impressive. We have good groups coming up.
“Our middle school program is strong, and we had a junior varsity program. Not many schools around the area have a JV program. Then our Pop Warner team had an undefeated season.”
Skylar Wojciechowski, Troy Macurio, Mason Stapley and Garrett Fraly were the Bobcats’ major contributors this year.
The Bobcats averaged 50 points in conference and 44 overall, taking advantage of the athleticism of its skilled players at quarterback, and the offensive line of Anthony Beccaria, Fraly and Noah Bradford did a great job putting them in space.
Brethren moved last year’s starting quarterback Macurio to wide receiver and running back and installed Wojciechowski under center this season to make better use of Macurio’s athleticism in space, and Wojciechowski’s passing accuracy.
All the personnel moves paid off in Randall’s opinion.
Defensively, the Bobcats knew they couldn’t go head-to-head with a lot of the teams on their schedule, but they were able to fly around the field and make open field tackles.
The offense had to put points on the board to put pressure on the opponents.
Now that they’ve put together back-to-back successful seasons, the Bobcats are expecting to win more of than they lose.
Randall expects to be getting a good sophomore class coming up off the junior varsity next year, and has five of eight starters returning, and nine coming back in all.
“Next year, we expect to be in the playoffs again,” Randall agreed. “We told the kids after the playoff loss to remember the feeling. We want them to remember what we’re working for when they’re in the weight room.
“The kids need to remember what we need to get better at to make that run in the playoffs.”
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas.