GLADSTONE, Mich. (WJMN) – Our first “Game of the Week’ of the 2022 season takes us to Gladstone for a week 2 Great Northern Conference showdown between the Braves and the Kingsford Flivvers.
“They got one of the best traditions in the U.P,” said Craig Ness, the head coach for Gladstone. “They look very dynamic and obviously they can make the big play. Looking back, I don’t think we’ve beaten Kingsford since 1998. The last few years we’ve played, we played them very soundly. To actually play well and win this game would be a huge feather in our cap. ”
“This Gladstone football team is good, there is no doubt about it,” said Mark Novara, Kingsford’s head coach. “We’ve had close games with them the last couple of years and I’m expecting the same.”
Kingsford is coming off a convincing 56-0 win over Green bay East last Friday night in front of their home crowd.
“We were just overly impressed with our overall effort by our kids,” said Novara. “Just the tenacity of following through on blocks. We had a couple of defensive scores and you just saw guys flying around and doing the extra things which are huge in this game.”
Kingsford will carry that momentum on the road as they head to Gladstone where Novara says he’s expecting a much tougher test. The Flivver’s focus will be slowing down Gladstone’s offensive backfield. That includes quarterback Nate Young and running back Cole Potier.
“They’re impressive players,” said Novara. “Defensively, they’re an aggressive team and they like to fly to the football. So there are some things that we definitely didn’t see last week that we’re going to see this week that we’re getting ready for now.”
The Flivvers will rely heavily on their collection of talented skill players. Nic Nora and Cole Myllyla are two players Novara mentioned the team will lean on. Myllyla is coming off a 3 touchdown performance while Nora impressed with a punt return TD.
“For us to win this game, those guys have to shine,” said Novara. “Those are our guys. Those are our skill guys and they’re fast, they’re put together, and they’re strong. We want to make sure that they’re doing their workload for sure.”
One Flivver to keep an eye on is Elizen Rouse. The Junior runningback flashed in his debut last week rushing 5 times for 40 yards and one score. His physicality on both sides of the football set the tone for the Flivvers.
“Man, he’s one of those guys that I think everyone is going to get to know his name,” said Novara. “Just one of those old school, physical, tough guys. He’s only a junior, but man, he is physical and he’s just a great football player. He’s an old-school tough kid and I’m just happy he’s with us.”
The Gladstone Braves are coming off an impressive season-opening performance. The Braves topped Calumet 42-13 at home in head coach Craig Ness’s coaching debut.
“I was just happy that the kids played so well and they got their first victory,” said Ness. “They’ve been busting their butts and it showed. From the first guy to the last guy, it showed and they left it all out on the field.”
On Brave that stood out in the victory was Nate Young. The senior quarterback was poised in the pocket throwing 8 for 11 for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. His favorite target was senior receiver Tyler Darmogray who proved to be a legit playmaker after missing last season with an injury. Young also ran 8 times for 84 yards and another score.
Young will have to replicate that performance if Gladstone wants to keep up with the high-powered Flivver attack.
“It’s only been one game but he had complete control of the Calumet game,” said Ness. “Nate is very smart and he’s picked up the offense and he knows the in’s and out’s. He also knows the limitations so he doesn’t try to push the envelope.”
Both coaches say this game may come down to limiting mistakes and winning the turnover battle.
“Don’t turn the ball over,” said Novara. “We had one turnover last week which is okay. We got to be great tacklers and we’re aggressive to the ball as well. We got some real nice skill players and some defensive players that are really sound, but getting to the ball and being great tacklers is huge for us.”
“We have to take care of ourselves,” said Ness. “Limit our turnovers and just execute our game plan both offensively and defensively. If we take care of ourselves we’re going to be in most games.”
While a defeat this early in the season won’t define the year for either team, a win would give them a jumpstart in what is looking to be another crowded race to the G.N.C. crown.
“If we’re going to make any noise in the conference, you don’t want to lose the first one,” said Novara. “We were in that spot last year when you’re waiting for other people to beat people and that’s not a good spot to be in. I think this conference is up for grabs for anybody,” said Novara. “On any Friday night somebody can do down and we want to make sure it’s not us.” “
“Anytime you can get the first win and start on the plus-side it would be a huge bonus,” said Ness. “Looking at Esky, Marquette, and Menominee, year in and year out the G.N.C. is pretty tough. To get after Kingsford and Maybe even get a victory would be, not only a moral win but a spiritual win. It would really ignite the kids and show them what they are capable of.”
Our Game of the Week between Kingsford and Gladstone kicks off at the Marble Athletic Field in Gladstone on Thursday night at 7 pm eastern.
“Going to Gladstone, it’s just a different environment,” said Novara. “You leave school, you get down there and it’s a different environment. It’s more of a hostile environment and I’m sure they will have a great crowd down there. We travel really well with our people, too. So, I’m expecting a great atmosphere.”
“I don’t think we’ve played Kingsford at home for like 5 years,” said Ness. “So, for them to come to our house and for us to get to play in front of our own fans and just have a normal day with no bus ride, relax, just come to the game and play football, I just think it’s going to be a great atmosphere. I’m hoping we can pack the house and be worthy of the Game of the Week.”
We’ll have highlights and post-game reactions from our Game of the week Thursday night at 10:30 eastern on Local 3 Sports.