MORENCI GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Morenci’s varsity girls cagers have a tough opening schedule, but there’s one consolation, notes coach Jim Yatzek. The first five games are all at home.
“We have a great opportunity to get a jump on people,” he said, but the Bulldogs will have to play sharp to pull it off.
The opener against North Adams doesn’t exist any more. This time around, Morenci entertains the larger Blissfield team and follows that with a visit from the tough Hudson squad.
After that, league action opens with Madison, followed by Sand Creek and Deerfield.
The sixth game on the schedule, Kalamazoo Phoenix, was canceled.
Yatzek was impressed when his girls challenged the JV boys squad, but he knows it doesn’t mean much until game uniforms go on and the first game is played.
He’s getting assistance from his daughter Emilie and he thinks her prescence is adding some drive and spark to the team.
“There’s more of a sense of team,” Yatzek said. “It feels good playing together and there’s a better team identity.”
He’s seeing a lot of concern about how the team functions rather than how individuals do and that’s good to see, he said.
Returning seniors are Nicolette Swimmer, Amy Gillman, Jackie Paris and Jade Pfund, who missed last season due to surgery.
Junior Chanler McCaskey is back to bring the ball down court and Yatzek is seeing a lot more control in her play.
Other juniors are Mariah Bovee and Salena Keller. Sophomore members are Megan Smith and Tia Tompkins.
Yatzek this group knows how to play hard and they have a lot of drive. It’s going to be a good season even if the final record isn’t much different than last season’s 11-10 mark, although he thinks it will be better.
He expects a tough fight in a competitive TCC field, and he also remembers the games the Bulldogs gave away last year that should have gone in their own win column.
“They’ve got the potential to have a good year,” he said. “They just need to settle down and play.”
With fewer turn-overs and a little better shooting percentage, the Bulldogs could be in the thick of things.
• Morenci opens the season at home Friday against Blissfield. Hudson visits Monday. Both JV games start at 5:30.
MORENCI WRESTLING PREVIEW: To start off the season, Morenci’s wrestlers will give up only four weight classes.
Coach Scott Clark isn’t complaining; that’s an improvement over last season.
He might even cut that deficit down to three—providing no injuries or eligibility problems arise.
“It should be a good year for us,” Clark said. “All but two have some experience. That’s a lot different than some years.”
Seniors Jeff Nofziger (145 pounds) and Nate Grieder (152/160) have wrestled every year since seventh grade. Nofziger was a state qualifier last season and he hopes to take it step further this year with some victories at the finals.
Sam Majahowski also returns for a fourth season and he will battle again in the heavyweight division.
Senior Lucas Johnson (215) is back after taking two years off and he’s looking good, Clark said. Cody Clymer (145) wrestled as a freshman at Evergreen but he was out of action since then.
From the junior class, Dustin Roller returns at 130. He was one close match away from a trip to state last year.
Loren DelMonico (140) is out for the first year and showing some promise. Tyler Guelde (112) practiced with the team last season, but this year will be his first time to compete.
Sophomore Mitch Schmucker (152) started off the season last year, but had to stop due to an injury. Classmate Corey Williams (160) got in some experience on the middle school team.
Morenci has a 103-pounder for the first time in a long time with freshman Marcus Burciaga. Jordan Bach is also a freshman and he’ll compete at 189.
That leave openings at 119, 125, 135 and 171. There’s a possibility that 125 will be filled, but Coach Clark doesn’t see any prospects for the other three.
The Bulldogs gave up five weight classes last night at Grass Lake, but they’ll be at four Saturday when they compete at the Blissfield individual tournament.
In addition to Blissfield, the Bulldogs have a few other changes to the schedule: the big East Jackson Invitational, the Jonesville Invitational and a dual with Sand Creek that will include middle school wrestlers.
There’s only one home meet on the schedule, but Bulldogs will also play host to the team district tournament.
MORENCI BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Age doesn’t guarantee experience. Morenci varsity boys basketball coach Tim Bovee sees that every day at practice.
Six seniors is a gift that few coaches have, but in Morenci’s case, it’s not six experienced players. Two of the seniors have played in recent years and another missed most of last year due to an injury.
“We experienced, but not experienced,” Bovee said about the situation.
He expects that some time will be needed for his “new” seniors to get into the swing of things, and for his younger players to adjust to varsity basketball.
It could be a rough start, he said, but as his juniors grow into their roles, he expects to see an improved Bulldog team.
“There’s good effort and ability and that will take us somewhere,” he said.
Bovee’s three returning seniors are Anthony Tompkins, Trey Tompkins and Matt Hoadley. Josh Hauser is the player who missed much of last season.
Justin Benjamin and Zach Phillips didn’t play ball last season.
Also new to the varsity squad are juniors Jarrett Keller, Isaac Jeffers, Clayton Wolf, Nate Shaffner, Drew Tompkins, Chas Frey, Joseph Perez and Brock Klingensmith.
Sophomore Brett Bovee played part of last season on the varsity and Nick Wilson moves up from the junior varsity team.
“We had a good JV team last season and they played well together,” Bovee said.
Once they get acclimated to the other players on the squad and to the larger teams they’ll face, Bovee expects them to contribute to the team.
The squad isn’t very big, he said, but there’s some good quickness.
“We’re going to want to be up-tempo and create some scoring opportunities off the defense with some transition buckets.”
He sees the Tri-County Conference as competitive from the top to the bottom.
“We have to come out ready to play every night,” he said.
Summerfield, Clinton and Whitmore Lake should have the most returning talent.
The Bulldogs start off the season at home Tuesday when Fayette visits to avenge last year’s loss to Morenci—the first year of the renewed rivalry between the two cross border neighbors.
Addison is back on the schedule this season (Dec. 12), then league play opens at Sand Creek (Dec. 18).
Bovee knows he has some good athletes on the floor. For now, it’s all a matter of molding them into a good basketball team.
FAYETTE GIRLS BASKETBALL: Fayette girls coach Ashley Oyer liked what she saw from her team’s defensive in the season’s first outing last week at Liberty Center, but the offense sputtered.
The Tigers came through with a big non-conference win, 42-20.
“Defensively we played hard, but we struggled offensively,” Oyer said. “We were eight for 12 from the line and six for 38 from the field.”
Liberty took a 12-3 first quarter lead and extended that to 21-5 by half-time.
JeriAnn Lewellen led the way with 10 points. Danni Wyse added four, and Rachel Seiler, Amber Scott and Heather Cuff each scored two points.
Wyse’s four rebounds were tops for the Eagles. Seiler picked up three, while Brittany Seiler, Lewellen, Elisha Hartman and Scott each finished with two.
Both of the Seilers collected a pair of steals.
Rohrs led the way for the Tigers with 12 points, six of them from the line.
• The Eagles begin league play at home Friday against Edon.