McBAIN — Expect big things from McBain.
The Ramblers follow up an undefeated regular season with a bit more of a postseason this time around.
In order to do that, McBain needs to develop its young skill players quickly, relying on a more veteran and large line led by 305-pound right tackle Mack Bontekoe, 230-pound left tackle Caleb Kamphouse and 315-pound center Spencer Reed paving the way.
“We lost most of our skills,” seventh-year head coach Pat Maloney said. “And the guys last year were two-year skill guys, so it’s just the rotation. We have to try and bring up our young guys and and bring up returners that weren’t starters to the speed of varsity and and work out the intricate part of executing the offense.”
Bontekoe, an all-state pick last year as a sophomore, Kamphouse and Brant Bontekoe return on the line, along with running backs Kalvin McGillis and Brock Maloney and senior tight end Duane Dewitt. Junior Braylon Pace steps in at quarterback.
Defensively, defensive backs Carsten Huttenga and Maloney return, along with McGillis at linebacker and Brant Bontekoe on the defensive line.
That defense gets an early test from Kingsley in Week One on Thursday. The Ramblers host the Stags at 7 p.m.
“We’re right into the fire Week One, so we’ll find out,” Pat Maloney said. “We’ll have a great measuring stick Week One.”
The Ramblers played well defensively in last Thursday’s scrimmage against Glen Lake, North Muskegon and East Jordan, facing exclusively spread offenses. They’ll see a similar Wing-T to what they run from the Stags.
“Defensively, we really shined against something that we will probably see most of the season,” Brock Maloney said. “Not our first game, but most of the season. And we did that on the fly when we’ve been practicing the other defense most of the other time. ... Throughout the day, we progressively got better and better and better. It shows that we will make improvements throughout games, practice, and probably the whole season as a whole.”
Kingsley won the last two matchups with the Ramblers after McBain took three in a row. Their tradition early-season game didn’t happen last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the start of football season.
“They’re a bigger school and we like the challenge,” Pat Maloney said. “It felt like a loss last year because we didn’t play them. They beat us last two years we played. It’s been a while, too long for us.”
McBain ended up 7-1 last year, losing a tight opening-round Division 7 playoff game to Evart, 34-31.
“We want to get to districts, that’s the goal,” Brock Maloney said. “Hopefully the Highland Conference in there as well. And beat Lake City. We have to beat them.”
The Ramblers started out last season’s schedule with a 30-0 win over the rival Trojans to kick off a seven-game win streak that included a perfect 5-0 Highland mark, although games against Roscommon and Houghton Lake were canceled.
“We’re a little stronger defensively because we have more returning,” Pat Maloney said. “You know, I think we have six returners on defense or close to it, guys that have come up in our program and understand what they have to do.”
Junior halfback Elijah Baker could see action in the Rambler backfield as well. The shifty back stood out on several plays in last week’s scrimmages, breaking a few long runs.
“Defensively, we gave us some big plays in the air, but we were running to the ball, chasing it and making nice open-field tackles,” Pat Maloney said. “I liked our physicality upfront offensively.”