So it begins again.

Monday marked the first day of prep football practice across Michigan as teams set their sights on rivalry games, conference titles, the playoffs and for a select few — the 11-player state finals Thanksgiving weekend at Ford Field in Detroit or the 8-player state finals the weekend before at the Superior Dome in Marquette.

The regular season begins Aug. 29-30, meaning just one game will be played before Labor Day this year instead of two.

Here's a look in at three local teams on their first day.



After a rough 2018 that saw the Vikings slip to 1-8, a much larger senior class and better numbers overall have resulted in some optimism.

"Our record doesn't really show a lot about our team," senior Isaac Heyd said. "Most of our games were really close so when it comes down to it, we need to finish games."

Fellow senior Julian LaMonde was ready to start Monday morning.

"It's been way too long since we got the pads on and we're moving some real weights around now," he said. "We want to make the playoffs. We're coming off a one-win season so we've really got to turn it around.

"It's about playing as one team. We've got 11 guys out there at a time and we've got to have one goal…that's how we're going to win."

Heyd, who was a key part of Cadillac's surprising run to a baseball regional final in spring, said it's gone by in a blur.

"It's real practice (today) but at the same time, it's doesn't feel real that almost four years have gone by and I'm starting my last season.

"I'm ready to get going and get everyone else going so it's a great season."

Cadillac returns a number of skill players but will be working to fill holes along the lines.

"We did a lot of speed training (this summer)," Heyd said. "We're not the biggest team so we've got to work on things to be faster."

Cadillac opens with Lake Fenton Aug. 29 at home.



Expectations are pretty high around McBain for a team that returns a number of players from a young squad in 2018.

The Ramblers went 8-3, falling to rival Lake City in a Division 7 district title game.

"We have very high expectations this year," senior Gavin Sieland said. "We don't want to just make the playoffs this year. We want to win at least a district championship and go as far as we can.

"It takes being focused all year."

McBain put in a good amount of work through the summer to get ready. That made Monday go a little smoother.

"I'm excited and it's also just another Monday," Sieland said. "We've been working all summer but it's fun to be back."

Fellow senior Owen Bontekoe was ready to start his final year of high school football.

"It's just another day of practice but it's starting to get real that it's my last year being able to do this," he said. "It makes it feel like we've got to buckle down and practice seriously.

"We want to win the conference, make it to Ford Field and win the county back, too. That's one of our goals, too."

McBain opens Aug. 29 at Kingsley.


Pine River

There's a solid sense of optimism at Pine River, as well.

The Bucks bounced back from a rough 2017 to go 6-4 in 2018, falling in a Division 7 district opener to McBain.

"I've been waiting for this since we lost in the playoffs last year," senior Lane Ruppert said. "I'm looking forward to my senior year with a great group of guys.

"We want to host our district this year and win out in the conference."

The Bucks return some solid skill players, including Ruppert and fellow senior fullback Brock Nelson, but they've also got some young kids to bring along, especially along the line.

"We have a lot of younger kids coming up so we're going to have to do a lot of developing with our linemen to get them to where they need to be.

"We've got a lot of speed and a lot of potential."

Being a senior is starting to sink in for Nelson.

"It's a different feeling being a senior," he said. "It's a whole other energy being a leader on the team and knowing this is your last shot to give it your all.

"It gives us a sense of urgency. We've got to be able to stay focused and do the tasks we need to do come game time."

Pine River opens Aug. 29 at Kalkaska.

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