Injuries took their toll on North Summit's football team last season. With a chance to start over again, the Braves are seeking redemption.
"We've got to earn our way," said Braves coach Devin Smith, whose team slipped to 2-5 in region and 2-8 overall last season. "We struggled last year and have to earn our way back to where we think we belong. Expectations are high, but we have to earn it, too. We've worked hard in the offseason."
The Braves' fortunes took a blow last season when starting quarterback Ben Stephens was injured in the first game. Sophomore Ryan McMichael took over and performed well. He begins this season as the starter.
"He's a great athlete and does a good job running our triple option and throwing it, too," Smith said about McMichael. "He makes good decisions."
Trevor Hale is expected to see the majority of carries at running back and doubles as a linebacker. Carson Richins also figures into the backfield mix.
Defensively, the Braves will attempt to iron out things. North Summit allowed an average of 30 points per game while scoring 16 last season.
"Last year we struggled with turnovers," Smith said. "We left other teams in good field position in tough parts of the game. Trying to be more versatile will help our offense. We want to put points on the board and keep the ball in our possession. A good offense is a good defense, too."
Third-year varsity right tackle Austin Simister is expected to lead in the trenches.
North Summit does have some good experience returning. And others who didn't play last season have come out this year, Smith said.
After reaching the state quarterfinals in 2011, the Braves have added motivation the school is celebrating its centennial this year.
"The kids are excited about that and want to live up to the tradition that has been established here," Smith said. "We're hungry."
North Summit open at Altamont on Aug. 23.
North Summit Braves
ASSIGNMENT • Class 2A North
LAST YEAR • 2-8 overall, 2-5 Class 2A North
KEY RETURNERS • Ryan McMichael, QB, Trevor Hale, RB/LB, and Austin Simister, OL/DE. Big things are expected from these athletes.
PLAYER TO WATCH • Carson Richins, RB/S. Has very good speed and hates to lose. Is an extremely tough competitor.
BIGGEST HOLE • While there are very capable players, most lack full-time varsity experience. There aren't a lot of returning starters.
NEED TO KNOW • The school will be celebrating its centennial this year, and the players are hungry to live up to the tradition that has been established.