GLADSTONE, Mich. (WJMN) – The numbers are strong in Gladstone with 27 students coming out for this year’s football team. They’ll be led by first-year head coach, Craig Ness, who takes over for Jeff Hansen.

“The emphasis is to get them established and to get them to play together,” said Ness. “The big question marks would be, who steps up? You always got your kids that are working out, but it’s the unknowns, the 2-3 that show up and you didn’t expect and I think we got a couple that showed up and is ready to play.”

“Yeah, I’ve known Coach Ness for many years and I’m just excited to see what he’s going to bring to the table,” said Nate Young, a senior quarterback, and safety for the Braves. “Toughness is something he’s really pushed so far and I think we’re going to respond to that.”

One player who took advantage of his opportunities last year was quarterback Nate Young. Young took over for Cam Kelly who went down with a season-ending injury in the middle of last season. Ness expects Young to make a jump as a junior after getting six games of experience under his belt as a sophomore.

“He’s really hit the ground running,” said Ness. “He’s got an understanding of the offense. We’re not much of a variance from last year so he has really picked it up and he’s actually making suggestions on what we need to do.”

“Nate is a good player, I’ve played with practically my whole life,” said Tyler Darmogray, a senior receiver and defensive back for the Braves. “He’s strong, he’s got a good arm, he’s fast, and he can read the defense and make good plays.”

Young has not only established himself as the clear-cut #1 signal caller but he also has stepped up as a leader on and off the field during the summer.

“We have a weight room over here and he got the guys together and we painted the weight room inside and out,” said Ness. “It was all team-led and he was the leader of the group. We had about 8-9 kids who showed up and painted the weight room. He’s not a verbal guy but he leads by action and that’s what you want.”

“Yeah, being a leader is definitely something that is not easy,” said Young. “Just keep the guys in spirit, keep everybody on a positive level and go from there.”

Another player who will be looked at to lead the Braves this season is senior, Cole Potier. Last season as a junior, Potier rushed for 988 yards and eight touchdowns.

“Cole Potier is definitely a leader,” said Ness. “He’s one of our seniors, we don’t have many, but the seniors who have come out have all excepted a leadership role along with Nate and they’re stepping it up and so far so good.”

“Cole, he’s a dawg man,” said Young. “He’s the hardest worker there is and I’m excited to see what this year brings.”

“He’s a good running back, he’s very strong, fast, and quick,” said Darmogray. “I’ve played with him my whole life, he’s in my grade and he’s just overall a very good player and anything else he has to play.”

Ness says the team’s strengths lie within their speed and aggression on both sides of the football and in order for them to find success it will take a full team effort.

“It takes eleven,” said Ness. “The five up front to protect, on defense they attack, you know, if we can do that we’re going to be fine.”

Gladstone opens up their season at home against Calumet on August 26th.