Evart football team fell short of some goals

Justin O'Dell (4) was among Reed City's top players. (Herald Review photo/John Raffel)

Justin O'Dell (4) was among Reed City's top players. (Herald Review photo/John Raffel)

EVART -- Pat Craven completed his 21st year on the Evart football coaching staff and 16th as head coach with a 4-5 overall record and 3-4 Highland Conference mark.

The Wildcats started out at 3-0 overall and lost five of their last six games.

"We fell short of our team goals this year," Craven said. :Many of our kids did everything we asked of them to prepare for this season. Those that did, had outstanding results and put us in a position to compete with the top teams in our league. We have to continue to strive to make ourselves more competitive from an entire team approach. This will only come through hard work, dedication, determination and a sound understanding of the game of football.

"We were picked by many to finish last in the league this year. Our expectations were much higher as we expected to compete for a conference championship and playoff berth. We did not meet those football goals. Outside of football, our team learned a great deal about itself and how to push through adversity and learn from mistakes."

The 3-0 start and a late-season win over Roscommon were some key highlights.

"There were moments of highlights on the field," Craven said. "Big defensive plays followed by exciting offensive plays were electric for our team and fans. I think the dedication in the weight room with many of our kids and their willingness to sacrifice for the overall good of the program was a tremendous highlight for our team. It may not seem like much to those simply spectating, but the positive mental attitude of our entire program started to finally take a turn for the better because of the work of our kids.

"Certainly, losing an 18-point lead to McBain and a tough two-point loss to Harrison were disappointments. However, our kids responded to these disappointments and showed great resiliency."

Craven pointed to Justin O'Dell and Donavin Reagan as having had "great off-season progress. We were so proud of them for the work and leadership they exhibited. They led a solid group of kids through 6 a.m. off season workouts from February all the way through August and you could really see their physical growth on the field.

"Dominic Malicki was another senior who had a tremendous off-season and was one of the top offensive linemen in the area. His work in the weight room, along with his team-first attitude, made him a strong senior leader as well."

Craven also cited Cameron Brasington.

"He was an all-around warrior for us this season," Craven said. "He rarely came off the field, led the team in receiving, and was a top defensive player in the league. He returned an interception for touchdown against McBain and a fumble for a touchdown against Houghton Lake. His offensive numbers really took off after his quarterback got healthy. Cameron is a tremendous competitor."

Key graduates are Justin O'Dell, Donavin Reagan, Cameron Brasington, Dominic Malicki and Isaiah Johnson

Key returners are Danny Witbeck, Haidyn Simmer, Reese Ransom, Kamrin Grein, Brayden Cass, Nick Robinson, Pierce Johnson and Sam Bailey.

"Our next year will look eerily close to our off-season weight room attendance," Craven said. "Those numbers seem to correlate every single season."

Members on the Highland Conference All-Conference team are O'Dell at linebacker, Brasington at defensive back, Malicki at offensive line and Reagan at tight end. Ransom and Simmer at linebacker were honorable mention. Witbeck at quarterback was special mention.