Bridgman will look to a strong senior class as it makes another big change to its football program.
Bridgman will play eight-man football after a year as part of the South County Cougars, a cooperative 11-man team with New Buffalo. The Bees have seven seniors on their 12-man varsity roster.
“We’re very hopeful for this year,” Bridgman coach Aaron Locke said. “We have a lot of high expectations for our kids.”
South County finished 1-8 last year and was hurt by season-ending knee injuries to two Bridgman players, Hunter Adams and Donnie Necas. The pair of seniors are now healthy and ready to lead the Bees this season.
Adams is expected to start at quarterback, and senior Henry Branch is also an option under center after filling in for Adams there last year.
Necas, Branch, Kristian Dalton and Jackson Schmaltz form a strong senior group of wide receivers, along with sophomore Harry Siewert. Bridgman plans to throw the ball often to take advantage.
“I think we have designed our offense well for our personnel,” Locke said. “All our skill positions are pretty much stocked with seniors.
“I think 8-man’s going to set up well for the passing game. We want to run the ball, too.”
Sophomore Nate Necas will start at tailback and senior Andrew Pliley plays fullback. Senior John Davis, a four-year varsity player, will lead the offensive line at center. Also playing on the line are junior Jarrett Hess and sophomores Zach Teed and Justin Kunde.
Defensively, Locke expects corners Schmaltz and Donnie Necas to be a strength. Dalton, Branch, Adams and Nate Necas will play linebacker, with Davis, Pliley, Siewert and Hess up front.
Bridgman will compete in the newly-formed Southwest Michigan Eight-Man Football League.
“I think the team is capable of winning every game with the talent we have,” Locke said. “We just need to make sure we work hard with our focus and discipline. There’s definitely some good competition out there.”
Bridgman won’t be eligible for the playoffs this season, as its enrollment exceeds the state limit for eight-man teams. Despite that, the Bees are happy with their decision to make the switch.
“We had a town hall with our community last year, and a big thing they wanted was a (junior varsity),” Locke said. “We don’t want to put freshmen out there with seniors. That’s been our big drive has been to make sure we have a JV program.
“There’s schools a lot bigger than us going to it. We kind of wanted to get ahead of the trend.”
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