Football team kicks off 2014 spring season

Ray Bressette

The NMU football team is in the midst of spring season, which consists of 15 practices before their game at the end of April.The team’s practices run from Tuesday, March 18 through Friday, April 11. The ’Cats will also hold a scripted scrimmage on Saturday, March 29 and a full scrimmage on Saturday, April 5, both at 8 a.m. The team’s annual spring game will take place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12. All events are open to the public and are located at the Superior Dome.

Freshman Shaye Brown will return to the NMU quarterback position. (Anthony Viola/NW)
Freshman Shaye Brown will return to the NMU quarterback position. (Anthony Viola/NW)

Head coach Chris Ostrowsky said he’s seen signs of optimism for the team’s future in their spring practices.“This team’s energy has just been unparalleled right now,” Ostrowsky said. “There’s a lot of great energy and great passion in practice, players are flying around and everyone is enthusiastic. We’re early in spring so it’s tough to determine, but through our winter conditioning and the way they’ve went about their work has been different, which has been great to see. I really like the overall approach that this program is heading toward.”

The Wildcats finished last season with a 3-7 record under Ostrowsky’s second season as head coach. Ostrowsky said the team can’t dwell on the past if they’re going to move forward. “This is a new year,” Ostrowsky said. “Every team is at the top of the conference right now, you start all over again. We can’t rest on what we did the year before. We worry about ourselves, and if we do everything the way we perceive is the right way, we’ll become one of the top tier teams in the GLIAC.”

The Wildcats finished the 2013 season in 11th place of the 15 teams in the GLIAC. Ostrowsky said his team knows where their room for improvement is if they plan on finishing at the top of the conference this season.

“We have to have stability at the quarterback position,” Ostrowsky said. “We can’t go through three quarterbacks again this season. We have to be better up front with each other as players; we talk a lot about great symmetry between our offensive and defensive lines. We’re still a young team, but we’re not in-experienced anymore. I think every day we grow a little bit and get closer as a team, and that’s the difference in terms of how you progress, how you’re able to retain and develop as a team.”

The Wildcats started three different quarterbacks throughout this past season. Sophomore Ryan Morley was ruled out with a shoulder injury before the beginning of the season. Senior Cody Scepaniak and junior transfer Dustin Thomas suffered injuries midway through the year that ended their seasons. Freshman Shaye Brown took over the final five weeks of the season, and will return to the team for the 2014 season. The Wildcats have also signed Jaranta Lewis from Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Fla. to the 2014 roster.

Ostrowsky said he’s confident at the quarterback position heading into next season.

“Shaye Brown played for us at the end of last year and did a really great job,” Ostrowsky said. “He’s a smart kid, and we’re excited to see him grow and progress through the program. I think he’s a winner, and the players love to be around him. He’s a prototypical passer, who we’re all excited to see grow.“Lewis is a young player who graduated high school early from south Florida, and has overwhelming potential for us. Both guys we have at the position should be here and be good for times to come.”

Brown finished last season with seven passing touchdowns, 1,194 yards and six interceptions in six games. Brown said it will help his mindset knowing he’s the starter heading into next season.

“It definitely gives me another incentive to work hard,” Brown said. “I want to have a good season just as much as anyone on our team. I know I’m the guy right now, and I’m going to do everything I can this spring to make this team better.”The Wildcats will also be hosting a youth clinic for all kids from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, April 12 at the Superior Dome before the spring game.

Ostrowsky said he hopes  the community will come out to support the ’Cats spring football.“I think as a student, college football is part of the culture of Northern Michigan University,” Ostrowsky said. “I think you can celebrate your fellow student athletes or get out and support your school, and what it means to be a Wildcat.”

Brown said he’s looking forward to the crowd support at the spring game in April.“We’d like to see a lot of fan support this spring because I think we’re going to win a championship this year,” Brown said. “We have the pieces in place here, and I think everyone’s going to want to come out and see this team early on. It’s going to be a really great year.”