ESCANABA - The 2012 football season was productive for the Bark River-Harris jayvees as they finished 8-1, falling only to undefeated West Iron County 18-0 in the finale.
"We knew it was going to be a good game," said coach Al Stenberg. "Only, we weren't as well prepared as we should have been. We had no scouting report on them. We didn't block real well that night."
Among the Broncos' victories was a 36-14 triumph at Gladstone.
"Our kids were convinced we were going to beat them," said Stenberg. "We felt we'd be tough to beat this year, and the victory at Gladstone set the bar pretty high."
D.J. Malone, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound sophomore tailback, rushed for more than 200 yards in each of the first three games prior to being elevated to varsity in Week 4.
"He's a special runner," said Stenberg. "He's the type of runner who comes around only once every 5-10 years in a school our size."
Alex Mathias, a 5-6, 150 freshman, then shared tailback duties with sophomore Sam Martin and freshman Jacob Greenfield.
"All three of these guys had different running styles, which created problems for opposing defenses," said Stenberg.
Freshman fullback Nick Dwyer, who played the entire season with a broken finger, also helped the offensive backfield and was a defensive leader.
"Nick is a very tough kid," said Stenberg. "He has a great football mentality."
Greenfield served as quarterback in the first three contests. Sophomore A.J. Emmons then took over the signal-calling duties after starting the season at offensive end.
"A.J. is very intelligent and has a great football mentality," said Stenberg. "He also had plenty of help from our offensive line, which was the most experienced part of our team. Our linemen dominated until the last game. They were hard workers and very coachable young men."
Leading linemen were sophomore center Austin Berg, sophomore guards Troy Isetts and Dan Russell, sophomore tackle Curtis Labadie and freshman tackle Rob Broeders.
"Both of our guards are very fast and aggressive," said Stenberg. "As a team, we had an intelligent and tough group of players. They could motivate themselves. They have the potential to be successful at the next level. The key is to keep these kids involved in football and off-season workouts."
This season was a struggle for North Central, which forfeited three games and finished 1-6.
The Jets, who posted their lone victory at Newberry, were hindered by low numbers. They started with 17 players and had just 12 remaining for their last contest at North Dickinson.
"We had some injuries and brought some of the kids back before they were actually ready," said coach Jeff Rynesh. "It was nice to get the win at Newberry. Yet, we did a lot of things better the following week at North Dickinson. We had a seven-game schedule to begin with and decided to combine with the varsity after the North Dickinson game. We had a lot of freshman. This season was definitely a learning curve."
The Jets opened with a loss at Lake Linden-Hubbell, a contest in which they had seven turnovers.
"Defensively, we played pretty solid against them," said Rynesh. "We just didn't take care of the ball. We also lost to Bark River-Harris, which has a pretty good group of kids."
The Jets were led by freshman quarterback Brett Baird, who also played safety on defense.
"Brett was a good field general," said Rynesh. "He knew the plays. He was very good for not playing quarterback before. We couldn't have asked for a better player to be where he was."
His favorite target was 6-foot-3, 185-pound freshman wide receiver Caleb Martin, who also played linebacker and defensive end.
"Caleb was always around the ball," said Rynesh. "He's a good all-around athlete. Not too many jayvee players around here can jump to where he stretches his arms."
Main blockers were Brendan Gatien (5-10, 210 freshman) and Justin Stenberg (5-8, 170 freshman) and Evan Mack (5-11, 205 sophomore), the Jets' lone player from Carney-Nadeau through a co-op venture.
"When we wanted to run, we ran behind them," said Rynesh. "They provided solid blocking. With first-year players, you sometimes get those surprises. Evan wasn't afraid to try anything."