With a new coach, Battle Creek Central seems to have refreshed attitude when it comes to football and the hope is the Bearcats can use that energy to improve a struggling program.
After BCC went 0-9 last season, former longtime Bearcat coach Doug Bess stepped down and Lorin Granger stepped in as the new head coach and has tried to create some excitement in the program.
“The team wasn’t having much fun the last few years. I feel like now they are excited about having the opportunity to redeem themselves a little bit. We have a small group of seniors, but they have been here and they want the opportunity for redemption this year,” said Granger, who had been a longtime assistant coach with BCC before taking over the top job.
Before BCC went winless for the first time in 50-plus years last season, the Bearcats only went 2-7 the two years prior. So the current group of seniors are hungry to see some change.
“The attitudes have changed the most and that is what is going to drive our team,” said senior Malyk Laws. “Everybody loves our new coach. He has been here a long time and we all respect him and we all have such a positive attitude this year.”
BCC is hoping that feeling can feed on itself as the young team will have to grow throughout the year. Last season, the Bearcats often found themselves on the short end of some one-sided scores and didn’t fight through some bad times, getting outscored 307-97 on the year.
“The main thing is that I want the kids to be able to handle adversity. We know we will face some bad things during the season and I don’t want us to fall back in that down spiral that hit us last year,” Granger said.
As with any rebuilding projects, BCC will have to build from the ground up as it will rely on its most experienced unit — the offensive line.
With only a handful of experienced players on the team, many of those are on the line, which will be led by seniors Malyk Laws, Jumoke Guy, Keifron Griffin and returning starters Jace Trevino and Tim Pike.
“Our offensive line is probably our most experienced unit. We are excited about our line. We have kids there that are easy to work with and will do what we ask them to do,” Granger said. “We have good, big kids that move well and work hard.”
Running behind that line will be a stable of running backs as BCC is going back to a more basic, running offense this season.
“We are returning to a more smash-mouth football mentality. For years, we were running a lot through the tackles and getting the tough yards and we are trying to get back to that mode,” Granger said. “We are going to stay real basic and make sure we are getting things right.”
Rotating through in the backfield will be running backs Victor Conley, Phil Robinson and Floyd Woodruff, who was out of the program the last few years, but showed promise when he was a freshman. Joining them will be Tyris Brazier, who will line up at fullback.
On the outside, BCC has some quality skill position players at receiver, including returners Mike Thompson and Joe Bowser as well as Curtis Trigg, who didn’t play last year, but is back in the program.
The Bearcats still have questions as to who will be getting all of those players the ball as BCC could have three players rotating at quarterback, including Tre’Vahn Hale, Malik Thompson and Anfernee Boykins.
On defense, BCC will run a 4-3 and will depend on those same experienced down linemen to give that unit some foundation, although the rest of the defensive unit will be inexperienced.
On the defensive line, BCC will look to use Pike, Trevino, Guy, Griffin as well as D’Quarius Yore.
Laws, who was a standout defensive lineman last year before getting injured, could be used as a linebacker to give that young group some experience. Another returner at linebacker is Tourean Lane. Other potential linebackers include Brazier, Boykins and Khalil Lee.
BCC will be looking at a lot of new faces in the defensive backfield as well with Thompson as the only experienced corner returning. The Bearcats are also high on the return of Woodruff, who will line up at safety.
BCC feels like it has the tools to bounce back this season and be competitive again as it opens with longtime rival Kalamazoo Central and advances through a solid Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division schedule.
“I want these kids to win, but more than anything I want them to bond as a team. We had some division the last couple of years, so I want them to bond and come together this year,” Granger said. “If that happens, with the size and talent we have, I feel like we can have some success and good results.
“For me, high school football was the time of my life and I want that to be the case for them, too. And I want them to operate with pride on the field and have fun doing it.”