EDWARDSBURG, Mich. — A year ago, Edwardsburg ran the regular-season table, then lost in the first round of the Michigan High School football playoffs.
That group of Eddies were dominant, especially on the offensive line, and most of those players graduated and many moved on to the college football ranks.
Edwardsburg opens the 2014 campaign Thursday, Aug. 28, at Three Rivers.
Aug. 28 — at Three Rivers
Sept. 5 — Allegan
Sept. 12 — at Vicksburg
Sept. 19 — Plainwell
Sept. 26 — at Paw Paw (c)
Oct. 3 — South Haven (c)
Oct. 10 — at Dowagiac (c)
Oct. 17 — Berrien Springs (c)
Oct. 24 at Coloma (c).
(c) — Wolverine Conference West game.
Returning letterwinners include seniors Justin Alexander, Dillon Cline, Robby Cline, Austin Deitch, Jackson Gaideski, Tyler Lutz, Alan Miller, Devon McGrath, Daniel Snell, Michael Thomas and Dustin Vires and juniors Zach Plummer, Dante Razzano and Ben Robertson.
"We're a completely different type of team this year," said Kevin Bartz goes into his 20th season as Eddies head coach with 14 returning letterwinners from a 9-1 squad that claimed the Wolverine B Conference West title then lost 21-17 to Dowagiac in pre-district play. "This year, I believe our strength is in our offensive backfield."
Bartz, who is 114-68 in 19 seasons with 11 playoff appearances, including the past four seasons, shares three things to watch for in 2014:
"Jackson Gaideski will be a big factor both running and blocking," says Bartz of a power-T formation attack. "(Sophomore) Isaiah Miller, who is up from the JV, gives us a whole new dimension in speed that we haven't had in awhile. Dustin Vires is at fullback.
"Dante Razzano returns at quarterback. He's bigger and strong and is throwing the ball better as well. This year I don't have the ability to rotate my quarterback (to keep them fresh after carrying out fakes and running 20 or 30 yards on every play) so Razzano will take all the snaps this year."
"Razzano, Gaideski, Zach Plummer and Tyler Lutz will probably play on both sides of the ball. We've got a lot of places where people need to step up. We have a move-in from South Dakota, (senior) Mason Tinch, that is about 6-3, and 240 and we've turned him into a tight end and he adds a good dimension.
"I was pleased with the aggressiveness in our scrimmage. We're doing a lot of cross-training and getting people used to two or three different positions on offense and defense."
"We've got to replace all of our linebackers. But our defensive backfield is looking pretty good right now.
"(Our defense) is designed for the free safety to make the majority of our tackles filling in. I've been pleased with what our linebackers have done already."
Steve Krah is a sportswriter for The Elkhart Truth. Follow him on Twitter @eTruthSports or @SteveKrahTruth.