REED CITY – The defending Central State Activities Association champions are off to a 1-0 start but will have the challenge from another arch-rival at home Thursday night against Morley Stanwood.

Running back Garrett Benson, a senior, and quarterback Chad Samuels, a junior, were among the offensive leaders in Friday's 14-6 win over Big Rapids to open the regular season.

It's Benson's second year on the varsity. He served the 2011 season frequently as a lead blocker for Trent Sims and has come into this season ready to take on more of an expanded role.

“I got the ball a fair amount for a junior,” he said. “I got a couple more carries (Friday night). We have a lot of good backs and a lot of guys going both ways and a lot of guys getting chances.”

The Coyotes struggled in the first half against Big Rapids.

“We came out kind of flat,” Benson said. “At halftime after making changes on the blocking scheme, we got a lot stronger. I think we're a lot farther ahead of where we were last year. I know the offense more and techniques better.”

Against Morley Stanwood, “they look tough and have a couple of guys we'll have to keep an eye on,” Benson said. “They lost a lot of their big guys (from last year) but they're not to be taken lightly.”

The key to win “is for everyone to do their own job and not worry about who gets credit,” he said.

Samuels shared time at QB as a sophomore with Michael Barton last year but is at No. 1 by himself this season. Barton has graduated.

“I think it was good experience and bringing that into this year and not being as scared and nervous,” Samuels said.

Over the summer, Samuels invested a heavy amount of time in football to get ready.

He feels he's equal in ability as a passer and runner.

“Whatever they need me to do, I'll do it,” he said.

As a safety on defense, “I think I can tell when it's run or pass and I react to that,” Samuels said. “I can run up and make the tackle, if I have to, or guard the receiver.”

Against Big Rapids, “I think we struggled on offense a little bit,” Samuels said. “We had turnovers...But our defense stepped up and played tough.”

Against Morley Stanwood, “we just have to play hard again,” he said. “Morley Stanwood is always a good team.”

But Samuels is excited with his team's prospects.

“We want to go 9-0 again but we know that will take hard work,” he said. “We don't want to look at last year's season. I think we have the ability to do it.”