(Hartland receivers: left to right- Matt Poches, Vonn Jones, and Jon Stevens)
(Chris Cagle is determined to get into the playoffs)
(Kyle Summerfield will lead the Eagle run game)
(Vonn Jones gets past a defender in a scrimmage)
Last year Hartland finished the year with a 3-6 record, but that record is very deceiving if you take a closer look. Four of those losses came against playoff teams and Hartland also held leads in five of those games. Last year it was Coach Marcus Dukes first year in charge of the program, and quarterback Chris Cagle was just returning to his hometown after spending two year's under the helm at Detroit Catholic Central. To make the learning experience even tougher Hartland had 33 juniors on the team, with 17 of them being starters.
Well now it's a new year and Hartland's 33 juniors are now experienced seniors. "We have a different mindset this year. Last year we were feeling each other out and learning what we could expect from each other; this year we are way ahead in practice and we don't have to spend so much time teaching," states Coach Dukes.
This year the mind set is to win and to get into the playoffs. While football is the true team sport Hartland's team starts with Cagle. Cagle is a natural leader with a rocket for a arm. Hartland has built their offense around Cagle, spreading it out, and giving him four and sometimes five receivers to throw to. Cagle also can make plays with his feet to buy time or simply take off for big chunks of yardage.
OFFENSE- Hartland will have one of the most high powered offenses in Michigan. They have weapons all over the field and they will utilize their speed in their spread offense. The Eagles also return four starters on the offensive line in Josh Theis (RT), Charles Putz (RG), Ryan Simancek (LT), and James Burroughs. Jake Warner will take over the center duties and adds another experienced player to that group.
DEFENSE- last year the defense had it's struggles, especially with the run game. But this year a majority of those players return and the Eagles plan to be stingier. "We are better than a year ago, we're experienced and that helps. I like our hustle, we really get to the ball," explains Coach Dukes.
The defense will be the key to Hartland's season. The offense will put up points but the defense will have to come up with those big stops this year. Hartland switches to 4-3 defense this year after using a 3-4 defense last year in hopes of containing the run game.
PREDICTION: 7-2 The Eagles are ready to make the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Playing in the new Kensington Lakes Conference will make things interesting because Hartland doesn't know too much about some of their opponents.
Hartland should find success against former Kensington Valley foes like Brighton, Pickney, Milford, and Howell but they will have their hands full against both Livonia schools (Churchill and Franklin).
Chris Cagle, QB- I know what the ranks say, but I still have yet to see a QB in Michigan run a team and make plays on a field like Cagle does. He knows how to read defenses and he can put the ball anywhere on the field. The most underrated football player in Michigan!
Vonn Jones, WR/C- last year's deep threat returns and looks to find the endzone even more. Now that he has some football experience he's not just playing on pure athleticism; now he knows how to run routes and read defenses. Jones will also handle kickoff and punt return duties.
Jon Stevens, TE/DE- Stevens is another Eagle fighting for a D-1 scholarship. The 6-5/220 pound receiver has decent speed and gives Cagle a big target down field. He moves from linebacker to D-end this season and should excel coming off of a 3-point stance.
Kyle Summerfield, RB/LB- 5-11/200 pound runner who excels when he runs north to south. Excellent tackler in the open field and can get sideline to sideline from his LB position.
Josh Theis, RT/DT-a mean and physical player. It doesn't take him long to get into the opposing backfield from his DT spot. The 6-3/260 pound lineman excels at both run and pass blocking.
Jake Warner, LB/C- Warner, a D-2 prospect, has bulked up this year and will be rewarded by being moved to center. He can get physical and stay low to the ground. Warner also will be a key member of the Eagle defense.
HELLO, MY NAME IS....Matt Poches the state is familiar with Poches on the hardwood but he might just be a better receiver. He has every trait you want out of a young receiver. Size at 6-4 with deep threat and brake away speed. Poches also has that gridiron toughness and takes pride in down field blocking. I predict Poches will find paydirt at least 10 times.