MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Marquette Football team had their share of growing pains last season.

“Last year, I don’t want to say it was a rebuilding year because it’s high school and every year you’re typically rebuilding every year in high school, but that’s kind of what it was,” said Eric Mason, the head coach for Marquette. “We got through it and the kids hung in there and they’re back this year and we’re excited.”

Coach Mason said while his team played hard each week, the inexperience caught up with them.

“We struggled,” said Mason. “We were young last season. We had a number of young players and our offensive line was very young. We had a lot of kids with limited experience playing there and found out real quick without a defensive and offensive line.”

Entering 2023, Marquette’s weakness now becomes a strength.

“The biggest depth we have has been on our offensive line,” said Mason. “That’s gotten significantly better. I’m excited to see what they’re going to do and we’re going to make them a focus the way it should be.”

“I think our team strength is going to be our offense,” said Dasan Smith, a senior lineman for Marquette and a Central Michigan commit. “Our offense really picked it us since last year. We also got a bigger and better o-line this year. I would say that we have a lot more athletes and our team is well bonded.”

On the outside, Marquette will look to replace two big time playmakers.

“Our key departures were Peter Closner who was an all-state linebacker for us,” said Mason. “Nate Benninger, who was a wide receiver, running back, safety, whatever we needed him to do. Those will be our key losses.”

With 46 total kids coming out for this year’s team, Mason is confident he has the personnel to fill in those roles.

“Our skill kids, we always have above average skill kids and we do again this year” said Mason. “We have two quarterback that are young but are very talented.”

“Tucker Welch is a good leader and Wyatt Lakenen,” said Smith. “Those two are the skill position leaders and they have the hustle that a leader requires.”

“Overall, the skill would be on the offensive and defensive line at this point,” said Mason. “But our skill kids are right there. We’re just excited to have depth, a lot of team speed, and a lot of team size.”

Marquette will join Escanaba in a move from the Great Northern Conference to the Big North Conference this season.

“We’re keeping Gladstone, Kingsford, and Escanaba on the schedule,” said Mason. “The Sault is on the schedule, too. We haven’t played them in a couple of years but they’re back. People think there’s going to be a lot more travel involved but really there’s not. The last few year’s we’ve been consistently going downstate at least twice during the regular season to play and it’s no different this year. Really the only team that we lost from our regular schedule is Menominee.”

Marquette will kick off their season on August 25th at Gladstone.

“Honestly, I really want the 9-0 record,” said Smith. “Just have a fun year again like last year and just win this time.”

“Coach (Al) Ness has really brought the program along,” said Mason. “Last year, they went quiet deep in the playoffs. I don’t care if it’s 2023 or 1993, Gladstone is always a physical team. They’re going to come at you hard, they’re going to hit and I expect a really hard hitting game and just a good contest between two good teams.”