Matt Tjapkes 2017-08-23 01:15:55
When Joe Nelson was named the Grand Haven head football coach late last year, the longtime Buccaneer assistant had a pair of immediate goals set to help move the program in the right direction. “My first goal was to recruit kids,” the 1989 Grand Haven graduate said. “We needed athletes. We had no JV team last year, so doing nothing different from our 3-6 team last year that is exactly the same, we just lose all the seniors that were most of the production. That’s not a very good equation. “We made a very intentional effort at recruiting our students. My message has been, I hope, loud and clear to everybody and anybody I’ll talk to that will listen. We want athletes, not just football players. I want the lacrosse, baseball, basketball, hockey - I want those athletes to come and try football. And we got a bunch of them, and other kids that didn’t play last year for whatever reason.” Nelson knows one of those reasons kids may have stayed away from the football program is the revolving door at head coach. Nelson is the 3rd head coach in 3 years for the Bucs, and the 5th in the last 6 years. “My second charge was we needed to take care of these kids, and we need to make sure that the coaching staff that we put in place will take care of these kids,” he said. “We have great adults that are leading our kids. I’m just as excited about our coaching staff. They have a high demand and they’re not jerks. The kids are really responding.” Nelson has turned to a senior class of 29 to lead the way this season, with three players from that class being named captains - Parker Kingma, Carter Williams and Adam Nelson. Kingma, a 6-4, 300 pound lineman, will be charged with protecting the quarterback from the left tackle position this year. “He’s worked himself into a spot where he’s gaining a lot of respect from his teammates,” Nelson said. “He’s preforming really well, getting off the ball really well. To see his attitude shift and improve has been awesome.” Williams is another lineman on the team who saw valuable playing time as a junior. “He loves to bring an attitude with him,” Nelson said. “He’ll hit somebody and just drive and drive them, and it gets everybody excited.” Nelson saw most of his time on defense last year. The son of the head coach will spend most of his time on the field this year under center. “He’s not a real rah-rah guy, but he’s not afraid to step up and talk to the team,” coach Nelson said. “He does have a good arm and has good vision. He’s been watching film since he could walk. He loves that part of it, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.” In addition to Kingma and Williams, the Bucs will count on Nate Podein, Jack Plowman and Charlie Brown to protect and open up holes for the backs. Many players on the offensive line will also see time on defense. Charlie Young and Malic Love are among those Nelson is counting on to carry the ball this season. “Charlie Young is really looking good,” Nelson said. “He’s got great speed, his vision is improving every day. Malic Love is really showing some leadership as well and wants to be perfect, he keeps working on things, he wants the feedback. Seniors Brandon Diaz and Ryan Mattson will lead the Bucs defensively, but both will also see time on offense. The Bucs also added seniors Logan Naperala (defensive line) and Kellum Bridgeforth (defensive back), who both are expected to contribute this season. The Bucs open the season with nonconference games against Reeths-Puffer tonight and next week at Traverse City West before moving into the O-K Red Conference play. “I want these kids to have the greatest experience that they’ve ever had in football,” Nelson said. “We’re going to learn what it takes to work hard and be accountable and have integrity and to be a great teammate and be able to lead other kids. Those are the things as an educator that I want them to get out of football. Obviously I want to win football games, and I’m as competitive as anybody. If we take care of all those things I mentioned, our football program is going to be where people want to be part of it, and winning will take care of itself.”
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