Another Season of Transition for TCC Football

By DOUG DONNELLY

It’s another new look for the Tri-County Conference, which enters the season with just seven teams as Britton Deerfield has transitioned to 8-Man football and is playing in a new league.

It’s also a year of transition for the league because there are new coaches at Erie Mason, Madison, Morenci and Sand Creek.

The league consists of two Division 6 teams in Erie Mason and Madison and five Division 8 teams.

Here’s a capsule look at the Tri-County Conference this season:

ERIE MASON

Last season: 7-1, lost to Clinton in second round of playoffs

Head coach: Steve Bowers, 1st year

Enrollment: 382

Playoff division: 6

Roster breakdown: 14 seniors, 9 juniors, 6 sophomores, 1 freshman

Returning starters offense: 3

Returning starters defense: 8

Players to watch: Bryce Diehl (WR-DB), Blake Shipp (WR-LB), Cooper Kinsey (RB-DE), Gavin Larrow (LB), Elija Araiza (LB), Trent Herrera (DB), Bryce Gardner (OL), Aiden McMullen (RB-LB).

Probable starting QB: Vaughn Brown, sophomore

Strengths: The defense returns most of its starters from last year, including Cooper Kinsey, who made 22 tackles for loss and four sacks. Offensively, Mason can mix it up with several playmakers who have speed. Sophomore Vaughn Brown gets the nod as the starting quarterback after a solid camp.

Notes: Mason is coming off its best season in years and is the defending TCC champion.

Coach says: “Our young men know they have some huge shoes to fill from the 2020 TCC Championship team. A combination of returning starters and role players from a year ago join some varsity newcomers and a few underclassmen to accept the challenge to get better every day, compete each week, and leave their own legacy at Erie Mason.”

Schedule analysis: The Eagles open against Saranac in a game that will be played at Olivet College. A Week 6 game at Pontiac Notre Dame prep is another big test. The Fighting Irish have won 16 games over the past two seasons.  

Schedule

Aug. 27 vs. Saranac at Olivet College

Sept 2 at Hudson

Sept. 10 Summerfield

Sept. 17 at Madison

Sept. 24 Morenci

Oct. 1 at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep

Oct. 8 Sand Creek

Oct. 15 at Pittsford

Oct. 22 Whiteford

MADISON

Last season: 6-2

Head coach: Scott Gallagher, 1st year at Madison

Enrollment: 388

Playoff division: 6

Roster breakdown: 11 seniors, 12 juniors, 4 sophomores

Returning starters offense: 4

Returning starters defense: 4

Players to watch: Dante Cerasuolo (RB), Mario Garcia (RB), Xavier Soss (DL), Isiah Casaerz (RB), Dominic Regalado (OL-LB)

Probable starting QB: Haydn Stover

Strengths: Madison’s backfield looks like the strong point of the team. Cerasuolo rushed for more than 500 yards in limited action a year ago and Isiah Casarez is a hard runner. Mario Garcia at wingback is also solid and Hadyn Stover will get a lot of carries in the Single Wing offense.

Notes: Madison is coming off its best season since 1980.

Coach says: “Our offense is progressing. We are farther ahead than I anticipated. The kids have picked it up. Each of our running backs bring a little something different to the table. We had a competitive scrimmage.”

Schedule analysis: The Trojans are still looking for a Week 1 opponent after Adrian canceled. Outside of that, it’s an interesting schedule with six home games. Madison’s last road game is at Morenci on Oct. 1.

Schedule

Aug. 27 TBD

Sept. 2 Royal Oak Shrine

Sept. 10 at Whiteford

Sept. 17 Erie Mason

Sept. 24 Summerfield

Oct. 1 at Morenci

Oct. 8 Pittsford

Oct. 15 Dearborn Advanced Tech

Oct. 22 Sand Creek

MORENCI

Last season: 2-5, lost first round of Division 8 playoffs to Dansville

Head coach: Stefan Wilkinson, 1st year

Enrollment: 195

Playoff division: 8

Returning starters offense: 3

Returning starters defense: 3

Roster breakdown: 9 seniors, 7 juniors, 2 freshmen

Players to watch: Landon Mansfield (QB), Carsyn Varga (RB), Braylon Stover (WR), Trey Nieman (L), Owen Blaker (LB).

Key additions:

Probable starting QB: Mansfield. “He is a leader on offense and defense. Landon is a dynamic player in space that can hurt on the ground as well as through the air. He is also a physical strong safety on defense with a nose for the ball,” Wilkinson said.

Strengths: Morenci has good size up front and experienced running backs. Mansfield is sliding into a new position and two-year starter Stover is moving to receiver. “Our backs have good speed and vision,” Wilkinson said.

Notes: Morenci has 18 players on its roster.

Coach says: “We are looking to be competitive in the TCC and find a way to win the close games. We are replacing a large senior group but return many players with some varsity experience. We can have success if those players step up into their new roles.”

Schedule analysis: Morenci opens with three non-league games then hosts Whiteford in its TCC opener.

Schedule:

Aug. 26 at Hanover-Horton

Sept. 2 Stockbridge

Sept. 11 East Jordan

Sept. 17 Whiteford

Sept. 24 at Erie Mason

Oct. 1 Madison

Oct. 8 at Summerfield

Oct. 15 at Sand Creek

Oct. 22 Pittsford

PITTSFORD

Last season: 0-7, lost first round Division 8 playoffs to Sand Creek

Head coach: Mike Burger, 11th season at Pittsford (55-33)

Enrollment: 127

Playoff division: 8

Roster breakdown: 9 seniors, 2 juniors, 10 sophomores, 7 freshmen

Returning starters offense: 7

Returning starters defense: 7

Players to watch: Kaleb Spahr (QB), Kaleb Harrison (RB), Xavier Hodos (WR), Gunnar Leggett (WR), Lane Lewis (C-LB), Gage Core (TE-DE), Eli Brown (OL-DL)

Probable starting QB: Kaleb Spahr

Strengths: Spahr returns at quarterback and gives the Wildcats some experience. “He is a key for us for all the obvious reasons,” Burger said. “He runs our engine and the decisions he makes on the field will go a long way in determining the success of our season.”

Notes: The Wildcats went 0-7 last year in its first year in the TCC.

Coach says: “We hope to improve from last season.  We have had a good off season.  The kids have worked hard, but the TCC is such a tough league its hard to say if it will be enough to make us competitive.”

Schedule analysis: Pittsford has an open date Sept. 24. One of the new teams on the schedule is Whitmore Lake, a former TCC member who is back to Division 8 after a couple of seasons playing as a co-op program which put them into a much higher division.

Schedule

Aug. 27 Reading

Sept. 2 at Whitmore Lake

Sept. 10 Sand Creek

Sept. 17 at Summerfield

Sept. 24 open

Oct. 1 Whiteford

Oct. 8 at Madison

Oct. 15 Erie Mason

Oct. 22 Morenci  

SAND CREEK

Last season: 8-2, lost Division 8 regional final to Centreville

Head coach: Marc Spicer, 1st year

Enrollment: 265

Playoff division: 8

Roster breakdown: 13 seniors, 7 juniors, 1 sophomore

Returning starters offense: 6

Returning starters defense: 6

Players to watch: George Hillard (QB), John Alexander (RB), Tylan Waltz (WR-S), Tommy Perkey (OL-DL), Jeremy Osgood (OL-DL), Jack Pifer (FB-LB), Carter Hulett (DE)

Probable starting QB: George Hillard

Strengths: Alexander is one of the fastest players in the county and the Aggies have good team speed from top to bottom. Five of the six offensive lineman are returning starters.

Notes: Spicer will make his debut as the Aggie football coach and there are a couple of interesting matchups. In Week 5, the Aggies play at Whiteford, which is coached by Spicer’s high school coach, Jason Mensing. In Week 9, Sand Creek is at Madison, coached by former Aggie coach Scott Gallagher.

Coach says: “We are excited about our upcoming season we will be led by a very experienced senior group that is also very talented. Our offensive and defensive lines are big, strong, and experienced.

Schedule analysis: Sand Creek will open at Quincy, then hosts Blissfield in Week 2. The other non-league games is against Niles Brandywine.

Schedule

Aug. 26 at Quincy

Sept. 2 Blissfield

Sept. 10 at Pittsford

Sept. 17 Niles Brandywine

Sept. 24 at Whiteford

Oct. 1 Summerfield

Oct. 8 at Erie Mason

Oct. 15 Morenci

Oct. 22 at Madison

SUMMERFIELD

Last season: 4-6, lost regional final to Clarkston Everest Collegiate

Head coach: Alex Lipka, 3rd season at Summerfield, 8-11

Enrollment: 179

Playoff division: 8

Roster breakdown: 8 seniors, 7 juniors, 2 sophomores

Returning starters offense: 9

Returning starters defense: 6

Players to watch: Roman Iott (RB-WR-DB), Drew Dafoe (TE-LB), Brandon Thompson (WR-DB), Jacob Prati (OL-DL), Nathan Herrmann (WR-DB), Deshaun Martin (OL-DL), Tyler Shelden (OL), Jacob Whaley (OL).

Probable starting QB: Bryce Kalb

Strengths: Roman Iott is an outstanding athlete who gives Kalb plenty of options out of the backfield. Thompson, Herrmann and Dafoe are playmakers as well. The Bulldogs are coming off a great playoff run that should add momentum to the program.

Notes: Summerfield won as many playoff games (two) as regular season games (two) last year.

Coach says: “We had an awesome summer. I’m ready to get going.”

Schedule analysis: Summerfield opens by playing Lipka’s alma mater in Allen Park Cabrini then go to Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, who was winless a year ago. Flint New Standard closes out the regular season.  

Schedule

Aug. 27 Allen Park Cabrini

Sept. 3 at Waterford Our Lady

Sept. 10 at Erie Mason

Sept. 17 Pittsford

Sept. 24 at Madison

Oct. 1 at Sand Creek

Oct. 8 Morenci

Oct. 15 at Whiteford

Oct. 22 Flint New Standard

WHITEFORD

Last season: 6-3, lost to Summerfield in district final

Head coach: Jason Mensing, 10th year at Whiteford, 82-22

Enrollment: 257

Playoff division: 8

Roster breakdown: 8 seniors, 7 juniors, 2 sophomores

Returning starters offense: 10

Returning starters defense: 8

Players to watch: Noah Bauman (OT-DT), Shea Ruddy (QB-DB), Jack Andrews (C-DE), Cole Giesige (RB-DB), Levi Hillard (RB-LB), Jake Iott (RB-LB), Ty Ruddy (TE-LB).

Probable starting QB: Shea Ruddy

Strengths: Whiteford was as young as ever last year and the payoff should start this year. Ruddy returns for his third season at QB and Bauman is a two-time All-State offensive lineman who will probably play defensive line in college. Andrews led the team in pass receiving last year after being converted from center to end. Giesige is a playmaker and Hillard led the team in tackles last year.

Notes: Whiteford has qualified for the playoff a TCC-record nine consecutive seasons.

Coach says: “We had an awesome summer. I’m ready to get going.”

Schedule analysis: On paper this is one of Whiteford’s toughest schedules ever. Back-to-back opening games with Blissfield and Ida are a big test, plus playing Division 1 Kalamazoo Loy Norrix will be a handful.   

Schedule

Aug. 27 at Blissfield

Sept. 2 Ida

Sept. 10 Madison

Sept. 17 at Morenci

Sept. 24 Sand Creek

Oct. 1 at Pittsford

Oct. 8 Kalamazoo Loy Norrix

Oct. 15 Summerfield

Oct. 22 at Erie Mason.

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