By MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY — Every year when the Traverse City Wolves take the field for the first time, the dream of returning to the game of football is realized for plenty of first-year players on the team.
Ryan Salisbury and Nick Rademaker were among the first-year Wolves to experience that last weekend.
"It was fun," Salisbury said. "A dream come true. It's fun getting back to the team concept, having a whole bunch of guys around you, working for the same goal."
"It was fun," Rademaker said. "I love playing this sport. It was a great feeling and I couldn't ask for anything more."
The Wolves opened their fourth season with a 28-0 win at the Southeast Michigan Mercenaries.
Salisbury, a weakside linebacker who graduated from Marion in 1996, and Rademaker, a former TC Central and Central Michigan lineman who sees time on both sides of the ball, both contributed in the defense pitching the shutout.
"The defense has been the Wolves' story since Day 1," Salisbury said. "Our coaching staff obviously had us prepared well. We know what it takes to get it done and it was a hell of a feeling to put a shutout on a semi-pro team."
Today, the Wolves play in Traverse City for the first time this season. They face the Lakeshore Cougars at 5 p.m. at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.
"They have one heck of a linebacker," TC coach Rick Micham said. "From what I've seen on the semi-pro web sites, he's probably the best linebacker in Michigan right now. He comes downhill, hits hard and reads well. We're going to have our hands full with him."
The Cougars will also have some former Wolves in the mix.
"Two years ago when we had coach (Brad) Haney up here, he brought a number of players with him," Micham said. "A handful are now on the Cougars team. (Quarterback) Aaron James is no longer with them, but his brother, Holsey, is a quarterback and defensive back. I'm not sure if he's starting on Saturday, but there's a good chance we'll see him at the quarterback position."
Last year, the Cougars beat the Wolves twice and went on to win the Northern Division.
"We're hungry to get back at them this season," Micham said. "The good thing is we know they're a challenge, so we're going to bring everything we have and play them tough. We're not going to take them lightly."