Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 27, 2009

Three Wolves coach in high school ranks

Preps one night, semi-pro the next

BY MIKE ECKERT

TRAVERSE CITY -- This weekend, Brian Maurer will experience the biggest game of the young football season -- twice.

On Friday, Maurer will be on the sideline as an assistant coach at Glen Lake, as the Lakers begin the Jerry Angers era with a home showdown with East Jordan.

Then on Saturday, he will travel to Racine, Wis., as a defensive back for the Traverse City Wolves in a huge North American Football League clash with the Raiders.

"I committed to Jerry Angers at Glen Lake about six months ago, and I don't know if I fully realized how much time it was going to be," Maurer said. "My life is football right now."

Not that that's a bad thing.

"It's great, I love football," Maurer said. "And actually, it's (playing for the Wolves) making me a lot better coach. I'm getting out here and actually being able to see what I'm teaching the kids. I get to see some of my weaknesses, which I can try to coach them up on."

Maurer is one of three Wolves also involved with high school football. Bryan Travis is an assistant coach at Suttons Bay as well as a tight end and team captain for the Wolves. And Dave Freet is the first-year head coach at Mesick, as well as the wide receiver/running backs coach for Traverse City.

"I wanted to broaden my horizons," Freet said. "I have a couple of buddies coaching in the NFL and I wanted to take it to the next level."

Like Maurer, Freet will have a huge weekend as he makes his head coaching debut with Mesick Friday night in a rivalry game against Manton. Then, he will be on the 6 a.m. bus leaving for Racine.

"Friday can't come soon enough," he said. "The kids are anxious, I'm anxious. What a way to get your feet wet."

Suttons Bay opens the season at Alma College against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, meaning Travis won't travel with the Norse in order to be ready for Saturday.

"This week they'll have somebody else inside the box other than myself, but I should be able to make the rest of the season," Travis said, adding that he will attend the Wolves team dinner Friday while getting updates on the Norse.

Ironically, all three Wolves involved with prep football coach in the Northwest Conference. That has already led to some friendly banter around practice.

"There will probably be a little smack talk," Maurer said of Glen Lake's Sept. 18 meeting with Travis' Suttons Bay. "But all in good fun. It's all friendly competition. We respect Suttons Bay and I think they respect us. It will be a fun week."

Freet said he's been able to incorporate some things he's seen in Wolves practice into his Mesick program. But he also has to be careful about how much he talks about his high school team.

"We do talk a lot of high school football at practice, so I have to be careful," he said. "I'm not going to give too much away."

While friendly banter has been common among Maurer, Freet and Travis, the three will put that aside on Saturday when the 5-0 Wolves meet the 7-1 Raiders.

"You've got to approach it just like any other game," Travis said. "Obviously, if you look at the records it's really the biggest game we've played so far, but every game is the biggest game of the year. We respect Racine, but we feel like we've got a pretty good team ourselves and we're going to go test ourselves against the best."

Wolves owner/head coach Daniel Skibbe said among Racine's strengths are quick linebackers and an athletic secondary.

"They're loaded," Skibbe said. "They have 55 years of minor league experience and seven national championships. And Saturday is alumni night, so there's a little pressure there. We hope to be as good as they are 10-15 years down the road, as far as tradition."

After outscoring opponents 197-23 in the first five games, a test may be a welcome challenge for the Wolves.

"We've been waiting to be tested all year," Maurer said. "We've had some teams be competitive, but this will really show what we have and where we're at. It's a measuring stick."

While Racine is expected to have a large crowd on hand for Saturday's game, the Wolves will also have supporters making some noise. A fan bus will accompany the team for the weekend trip.

"For a nine-hour bus ride, we are going to have a lot more fans there than people expect," Travis said.