Bangor revives college football team with 11-man return to play

BANGOR, MI — Tough times for Bangor’s football program got even tougher last year, when the school decided to cancel its varsity season in favor of a JV-only schedule.

With three seniors and no juniors on last year’s roster, Bangor would have fielded a team full of sophomores and freshmen, and that hasn’t served the program’s best interests in the long run.

RELATED: Bangor’s decision to cancel college football season aimed at building future of program

This year the Vikings are still young, with just a handful of seniors, but a strong junior class has allowed Bangor to field two levels of football in the 8-man game, with hopes a revived varsity team will spark even bigger things. in the future.

“We know our ultimate goal is to develop players and get back to 11-a-side football next year, so we want to make sure we continue that mission because that’s kind of the mission given to me by the administration. “, said the new said head coach Tom Matthews. “We want to keep recruiting and retaining players, improving ourselves and just improving our football skills to develop ourselves.”

With an enrollment of 349 students, Bangor exceeds the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s limit of 215, making the Vikings ineligible for the playoffs.

Although more Michigan high schools are moving to 8-player play, it’s unclear when MHSAA will raise the enrollment cap or by how much.

Heading into the 2022 high school football season, Bangor is one of 17 teams ineligible for the playoffs, but the Vikings hope to be out of that list by next season.

Barring attrition, Bangor is expected to have a strong group of senior football players next year, and Matthews said youth programs in the community are in good shape, with 20 to 25 kids playing college football this fall. The launch of a Rocket program this fall aims to get more fifth and sixth graders onto the field, and the community is considering a flag football program for third and fourth graders, Matthews said.

These developments should stabilize the high school program down the line, but winning some games will also help, and that’s something the Vikings have struggled with in recent years.

Bangor enters the 2022 season on a seven-game losing streak dating back to 2019, when the Vikings closed out the season with a 26-14 win over Eau Claire.

“It’s a real problem. We won one game in six on Friday night,” Matthews said. “Another difficult aspect of recruiting is that they went through coaches so quickly, and everyone wants to see the proof before they go out. They want to see some success and they want to see some consistency.

While Bangor has no players with college experience this season, the Vikings have talented players with plenty of potential.

Junior Zach Hayes is fresh off an all-state wrestling season, and his combination of size (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) and athleticism will make him the anchor of Bangor’s offensive and defensive lines.

Likewise, junior Yrral Campbell has good size (6-3, 180) and speed and promises to be one of the team’s best weapons for an offense led by junior quarterback Eloy Martinez, who at 5-foot-7 and 140 pounds may not be ideal size, but he’s quick and tough to take down in the open field.

Bangor junior quarterback Eloy Martinez. (Photo provided by Tom Matthews)

In his first season coaching the 8-man game, Matthews said he plans to run a spread options offense to maximize his athletes’ potential.

“We will try to take advantage of these three athletes that we have,” he said. “It’s going to be a learning process. From the first scrum, I learned a ton about how they play defense and what to look out for.

Follow us for more information on this year’s Bangor football team.

The Head Coach: Tom Matthews, 1st season

Key players: Zach Hayes (Jr. OL/DL), Yrral Campbell (Jr. RB/WR/S), Eloy Martinez (Jr. QB/CB), Liam Mortensen (Jr. FB/DL)

Outlook 2022: Bangor opens the season with a pair of opponents who have struggled similarly, starting with the Twin City Sharks, who went 0-9 in their inaugural season as a co-op program. Week 2 foe Vandercook Lake is coming off a 3-6 season and just saw its roster drop from 241 to 200, and the Jayhawks have just 12 players on the varsity roster this season.

“The first two weeks are going to be very important as we maintain good attitudes, continue to be coachable and don’t get frustrated with the process,” Matthews said.

The rest of the schedule is a bit tougher, with the perennial powerhouses of Martin and Mendon mixed in, along with a few up-and-coming teams in Fennville and Gobles.

With a new coach and a largely inexperienced roster, there will certainly be some growing pains, but Matthews will hope his team’s athleticism, particularly in defense, can handle the load.

“I think we’re athletic and have a really good size that can run,” he said. “I think we have a chance to be good defensively, which might be an oxymoron in 8-a-side football, because of our size and our athleticism if we continue to improve and develop our footballing skills. “Other schools that have been playing college football for 20 years are developing kids and they’re getting better. We’re playing a lot of kids who probably should still be playing Thursday night, but I think we have a chance to be a pretty good defensive team.”

2022 timetable:

Thursday, August 25: at Twin City Sharks

Wednesday, August 31: vs. Vandercook Lake

Friday, September 9: at Les Gobles

Friday September 16: against Martin

Friday, September 23: against Fennville

Friday, September 30: against Marcellus

Friday, October 7: in Mendon

Friday, October 14: against Bloomingdale’s

Friday, October 21: in New Buffalo

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