GLADSTONE, Mich. (WJMN) – Last season, the Gladstone Braves hosted their first playoff game in over a decade. It capped off a season full of adversity.
“You know, Covid really hurt us a lot,” said Payton Gingrass, a senior linebacker for Gladstone. “We had a lot of setbacks. Our starting offense last year had to quarantine at the beginning of the season, so we had to wait a while. We only had a week or two before our first game. So, it was kind of hard but we got all the guys together and we’re all here now not worry about any setback, so it feels good.”
“The adversity we faced last year with covid, I mean, we were sent home a couple of times,” Cam Kelly, a senior quarterback for the Braves. “We didn’t get a week one. So, I mean what we faced last year we’re kind of carrying that into this year. So, I think that will be our biggest asset.”
The Braves are back to work and have dedicated themselves to the grind early in camp.
“I’ve always been a guy who believes in putting in the work, and hopefully that kind of mentality goes to the players and we’ll have a really tough team,” said Travis Wiltzius, the offensive and defensive line coach for Gladstone.”It’s what I hope to have. These kids have known each other for a long time, they like each other, they like to play for each other. So, I think that’ll be our biggest asset is the ability to play for one another.”
“We just got to be very conditioned because we have to be able to go four quarters and not give up,” said Gingrass. “Yeah, our coaches are putting us through it so we make sure we get there.”
The tone will be set by this year’s senior class.
“Last year I struggled a bit with reading defenses and throwing,” said Kelly. “So, this summer I worked a lot on throwing with my receivers and also reading defenses. So, my receivers have been great all summer. They put a lot of work in with me, so we’re excited.”
“We have expectations here and they’re high,” said Wiltzius. “They want to make sure that everyone here that’s an underclassman understands that. You know, you never know when you’re last snap is going to come. So, it’s something that I always tell the seniors is play like it’s your last snap, you never know what’s going to happen so make sure you get out there and get after it because you never know what’s going to happen.
And there is no limit on how far or high they can go this season.
” I want to reach for the skies here,” said Wiltzius. “A big part is to go out and get success in the Great Northern Conference. It’s a very tough league and we don’t have an easy schedule by anyone’s means. We probably got one of the tougher schedules in the state. So, get these guys their confidence and really build on it, and really come together as a team to make it a really special thing for these kids.”
The Braves kick off their season on the road at calumet on Friday, August 27th.
“I was coaching college football up there so I go to watch them here and there,” said Wiltzius. “They’re a stout group and they’re always tough. So, we got our work cut out for us. We got to get out there, we got to look through the film, we got to figure out what our game plan is going to be for that. We talk on about on daily basis about calumet and our objectives about going up to the copper country and what we want to get done.”
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