GLADWIN – Be honest. Did you think that we would get to this point? With all of the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic I have to admit that I was worried, but here we are. Both Beaverton and Gladwin start their playoff run this week and as an added treat both are hosting games. Leroy Pine River travels to Beaverton on Friday night and Hancock makes the long trip down from the Upper Peninsula to play Gladwin on Saturday afternoon.
The uncertainty of the situation last summer led the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) to make two big changes to the playoff format this year. Because the season was shortened the decision was made to allow all 11-player teams into the playoffs. The second change involved the creation of Districts made up of eight teams. The matchups for the first four weeks were then set based upon regular season playoff point averages. Throughout district play and the regional semifinals the highest-ranked team will host the game. That is how both Beaverton and Gladwin got the opportunity to play at home.
Beaverton is the second ranked team in their district, which means their first round opponent is the seventh ranked team, Pine River. If the Beavers win they would also host either Oscoda or St. Louis the following weekend. I had the opportunity to talk to Beaverton head coach Aaron Seiser this weekend as the Beavers began their preparation for Pine River. He mentioned that they had already exchanged game tapes with the Bucks because by Friday evening the teams knew that they would be playing each other.
“They look a lot like us from 2012-13 when we were strictly a pistol veer team,” said Seiser. “Because of that, we are pretty familiar with the offense they run and the complimentary plays they run off of the veer.” He went on to say that they like to put the ball in the air so it looks like they are fairly aggressive offensively.
“Defensively they run an odd man front which we run so we are also familiar with that,” added Seiser. “They are pretty aggressive in the box with their movement and flow. We have a lot of things in common so hopefully it will make it easier for us to prepare.”
The Beavers are in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year so the players know what to expect. “Any time you are in the playoffs you know that it’s a blessing even though this year is a little different. We have to take advantage of the opportunity,” continued Seiser. “Fortunately we put ourselves in a position that we can have at least a couple of home games if things go the way that we hope. It is all about our attitude, our focus, and our ability to prepare. If we have the right mindset we can go into every game and feel pretty confident about our chances.”
Gladwin is the third ranked team in their division, which also allows them to host at least one game. Their opponent, Hancock, is somewhat of a mystery though. It is hard to discern how good they may be based on their record, 2-3-1. Two things are certain, they defeated 43-6 in the first game of the season and lost to Calumet, 34-18, in their only other full game. They have two forfeit losses in early October when all the schools in Houghton County were forced to close due to a COVID spike. A forfeit win came against Houghton. They also played to a 0-0 tie with Houghton early in the year in a game arranged at the last minute when both teams lost opponents due to COVID exposure. A lightening delay at halftime lead to that game not being finished.
I also had the opportunity to talk to Gladwin coach Marc Jastfer over the weekend. After watching the limited film that was available he said, “they look like they have good size and a couple of good athletes, but its hard to tell because of their lack of playing time.” He went on to say that they try to be “physical.”
“Offensively they run a traditional I formation with a lot of fullback traps, power leads, iso leads and occasionally a quick toss. They try to over power you,” he continued. The Flying G’s have played several opponents that employ this style so they should be well prepared. Jarstfer isn’t taking anything for granted though. He thinks that Hancock is a “dark horse” and probably better than their record indicates.
Gladwin is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2014 and is excited for the opportunity. “The goal is to improve every week and to ultimately be playing your best at the end of the year,” said Jarstfer. “We were doing that even with the close losses, I still felt we were a very good football team and were just a play or two away. We now have the opportunity to show it.”
Both coaches are excited for the playoffs to begin and shared the same sentiment at the end of our conversation although they worded it differently. Seiser described it as “survive and advance” while Jarstfer said “win or go home.” No matter how you word it we are entering the most exciting time of the football season with both of our local teams hosting a game.
When was the last time that happened?