On the road for the second straight week, the Sturgis football team takes on Gull Lake to open Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division play Friday. The Trojans survived a 34-33 thriller at Niles last week to improve to 1-1. The Blue Devils enter this weekend’s contest having lost their first two games, including last week’s home blowout by Stevensville Lakeshore (51-27).
A stomach bug kept senior quarterback Chance Stewart out of action Monday and Tuesday. He returned Wednesday and worked for an additional 30 minutes after practice.
Senior receiver/defensive back L.A. Vasquez suffered a shoulder injury at Niles and is expected to sit out this week. Ben Taylor did some shoulder damage this week in practice and will also miss Friday’s contest. Junior Jacob Cline, according to Sturgis head coach Jimmy Lamb, is likely next in line to replace Vasquez.
“We might be seeing some guys that have not seen a lot of reps,” Lamb said. “We’re going to look at Cline. He had some mistakes [in Week 1 against Portage Central], but I want to give him another shot. [Senior] Austin Smith is a possibility of playing there.
Junior wideout/lineman Jack Scheske is still out of commission after a concussion in the season opener.
Kalvyn Bowdish, a senior receiver/defensive back, could see time at linebacker Friday against a mobile tandem of Gull Lake quarterbacks.
“I want him on that quarterback in case they’re rolling out,” Lamb explained. “We’ll still roll him back into cover two.
“We’re still missing Jack Scheske; he’s not cleared yet. We’ll rotate some more kids in there to cover. I might rotate some of our inside linebackers out. Matt Phillips might go play some outside.”
Lamb has been brutally honest this year when it comes to assessing his team’s practice sessions, and he wasn’t pleased about the effort on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was a little better, he said.
“I might even have them call you to verify how bad practices have been,” Lamb said. “I said, ‘Did anybody have a great practice today?’ Not one hand went up. I don’t like practice either, but that’s where you get better. It’s understanding how to practice so they know how to play. I don’t like to talk much — they would probably argue with me on that one — but when I do say things, it’s usually the same two things: effort and technique.”
Scouting Gull Lake
Ryan Mutchler and Tyler VanderMolen have split time at quarterback for a Gull Lake offense that has struggled with its effectiveness and consistency. The Blue Devils were shutout in Week 1 against Portage Northern, but do present some challenges. Mutchler is 7-for-17 passing for 86 yards, one touchdown and an interception through two games. VanderMolen has completed 4 of 11 passes for 46 yards. Tailback T.J. Haas leads the team with 20 carries for 113 yards.
“Our formations are pretty much the same,” Lamb explained. “They look identical. We run similar routes. If their quarterback gets loose — either one of them — it can cause us some pretty big headaches. Watching on film, they started out with a left-hander, decent arm and a pretty good runner. They just kind of went back and forth because maybe the number of hits [the first] kid took. But it looks like designed runs for him to keep.”
Keys to a Sturgis victory
“We’ve got to stop their quarterback,” Lamb said. “They run sort of a dual-quarterback system The only thing they do differently is their tailback lines up about three yards [deep] and they fake dive him a little bit more.
Lamb also said it’s time for the Trojans to execute better on offense, starting up front.
“We moved that ball that first series against Niles, but like I showed them on film [Tuesday], we didn’t have one play where everyone did the right thing,” he said. “I would like to see us — just a series or a drive — where we go down the field and are flawless up front. I know that seems like I’m asking a lot. But really, we ran only one run play last week. All [Niles] showed us was different fronts. I really want our line to be there. I want it to be where people notice this line is moving people … creating holes for our tailbacks.
“We’ve got holes there; we just don’t block to the whistle. I’d like to see that. We got after it a little bit [Tuesday]. [Wednesday] was pretty good but it was a defensive day. So [today] I’m really waiting to see what will happen.”