TRI-CITY AREA — It is hard to believe another high school gridiron campaign is just around the corner.

Action begins tomorrow (Thursday, August 24) when Almont hosts Marysville and Imlay City takes on visiting Hazel Park. Those matchups list 7 p.m. starting times.

The following day sees Dryden entertain Carsonville-Port Sanilac at 6 p.m. and Capac hosts North Huron at 7 p.m.

Here is a glimpse at who teams lost to graduation, their top returnees and the outlook for the upcoming season:

At Almont, James Leusby returns for his ninth season as head coach.

His squad will look to best last year’s 6-4 overall record. That included a 4-2 showing versus BWAC adversaries, good for second place.

Chase Battani, of Almont, looks to pick up a first down during his team’s Blue Water Area Conference clash versus Imlay City in 2022.

Almont would earn a spot in the Division 6 state playoffs.

It was there they bowed out with a 21-14 loss to Ovid-Elsie at home.

To add more wins to their total, Almont will have to overcome the graduation losses of Trenton Kruse (quarterback), Matthew Measel (runningback, cornerback, safety), Bryce Ferman (runningback, linebacker), Connor Nascivera (end), William Kalmar (tackle), Antonio Nedelkovski (defensive end), Cody Koval (defensive end), Tyler Filinger (linebacker),Caydon Nascivera (cornerback), and Carson Wood (defensive back).

Of that group, two players have moved on to the collegiate level. Ferman now plays for Trine University and Connor Nascivera now competes for Alma College.

Cole Walton (receiver), Chase Battani (runningback), Noah Campbell (center), Isiah Bankston (guard), Yousif Abu-Joudah (tackle), Ayden Ferqueron (linebacker), Jonny Gjoka (defensive tackle) and Jacob Fuller (defensive back) are Almont’s top returnees.

Leusby believes his ballclub should be in the thick of the BWAC title race once again.

“Our goal is a BWAC championship and a long run in the playoffs,” Leusby said.

“Like every year in the BWAC the title can be anyone’s to win. Our motto is, ‘why not us this year?’”

Almont opens the 2023 season this Thursday when it entertains non-league counterpart Marysville. That matchup lists a 7 p.m. starting time.

In Imlay City, Dave Brown starts season number two as head coach for the Spartans.

His team will try to improve on last year’s 1-8 overall mark. That included a 0-6 Blue Water Area Conference showing, good for seventh place.

Brady VanderPloeg (quarterback/linebacker), Latham Perry (offensive line/defensive line), Dalton Sands (wide receiver/defensive back), Julian Rojas (runningback/linebacker), Anthony D’Ambrosio (runningback/linebacker), Hunter Hill (offensive line/defensive line), George Antos (runningback/defensive back), and Joe Bieganowski (offensive line/defensive line) were Imlay City’s biggest losses due to graduation.

Danny Newsom (wide receiver/defensive back), Travis Dupont (wide receiver/defensive back), Nick Chind (offensive line/defensive line), Jerry Zheng (offensive line/defensive line), Jayden Hall (offensive line/defensive line), Tanner Land (running back/defensive back), Kade VanderPloeg (tight end/linebacker), Brady Redd (runningback/linebacker) Mitchell Lemier (tight end/linebacker), Andrew Cezik (runningback/linebacker) and Brody Spreeman (offensive line/defensive line) are Imlay City’s top returnees.

Brown declined to predict a team that would be considered the BWAC title favorite, instead waiting to see how the race winds up.

“I am extremely excited for the season and opportunity to coach these amazing young men.”

Imlay City begins the 2023 season this Thursday with a home contest versus non-league foe Hazel Park. That encounter is scheduled for 7 p.m.

At Capac, Rob Novy returns for his fifth season as head coach.

His squad will be aiming to improve on last year’s 3-6 overall mark. That included a 2-4 showing versus NCTL Stars Division fifth, which was good for fifth among eight teams.

To accomplish their objective of securing more triumphs, Capac will look to offset the graduation losses of Blake Baden (defensive end), Derek Mason (defensive back), Zach Langmesser (runningback) and Aden Uribe-Arce runningback).

Carlos Uribe-Arce (quarterback), Matt Lee (runningback), James Meadows (center), Brian Canelo-Rodriguez (offensive line), Max Klein (offensive line), Wyatt Hurley (defensive end), Peyton Franckowiak (linebacker) and Sam Schneider (free safety) are Capac’s top returnees.

Novy casts Kingston in the role of league title favorite this fall.

After that, he believes Atherton, Brown City, Deckerville, Dryden and Mayville, Oakland Christian and Capac all have good athletes.

“We will have to come to play every week,” Novy commented. “We will be much more physical and have greater depth than we did in 2022,” he emphasized.

“We played five playoff teams a year ago and got a lot of experience in our first year of eight-man football. “Our goal is to take care of business every week and be in the hunt for the league title at the end of the year.”

Capac opens the 2023 campaign this Friday when it entertains North Huron. That matchup lists a 7 p.m. starting time.

In Dryden, Hunter Gall begins season one as their head coach.

It will be Dryden’s first campaign having its own team in five years

Dryden has recently participated as part of a co-op program with Imlay City.

The 2023 edition of the Dryden varsity football team has a total of 18 players, including three freshman performers with experience at the junior high level a year ago.

Gall is leaning toward Gianni Coscione (quarterback), David Insley (runningback), Sonny Coscione (receiver), Luke Taylor (receiver), Owen Gall (tight end), Josh Harris (center), Drew Raymond (guard) and Preston Kuligowski (guard) as his probable offensive starters.

On the opposite side of the football, he says Harris (linebacker), Gall (linebacker), Gianni  Coscione (safety), Sonny Coscione (cornerback), Insley (cornerback), Brandon Woolner (line), Raymond (line) and Kuligowski line) currently have the inside track to start defensively.

Though it is still too early to tell, Gall pegs Kingston as a team that may be considered the NCTL Stars Division preseason league title favorite.

“This year is going to be a huge learning curve for all involved,” Gall commented. “We are a young and inexperienced team with a lot of talent,” he noted.

“I think our speed and athletic ability will make our offense dynamic. The goal for this season is learn, improve and hopefully shake up the league with some wins. As a first-year coach, on a first-year team, my goal is to bring a team to the season who is hungry to win and excited to play.”

Dryden begins the 2023 season this Friday when it hosts Carsonville-Port Sanilac. That contest is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Kevin Kissane

Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.