Evart football team hopes to be Highland Conference contenders

EVART — Evart football coach Pat Craven isn’t holding back on what he expects from his Wildcats this season: A Highland Conference championship.

Craven’s 2011 team was 5-4 overall and 3-3 in the Highland Conference.

“We are contending for our league crown,” Craven said. “We expect to compete with all of the schools in our league and put ourselves in a position to fight for the league championship.”

But in the Highland Conference, the Wildcats won’t have an easy task in their bid for first place.

“The top three teams will be McBain, Lake City, and Beal City,” Craven said. “We will have to compete with them and play well against the rest of our league in order to compete for the league championship.”

Key players that graduated from last year’s team were Jarek VanOrder at tight end and defensive end, Jesse Lang at quarterback, Brady Hasse at running back and cornerback, Andrew French at offensive guard and linebacker and Logan Prichard at defensive tackle.

“Our graduating seniors set the tone for this fall’s squad,” Craven said. “Having said that, they are hopefully on to bigger and better things and we must move on and become the best 2012 team possible.”

Key players for the Wildcats this season expect to be Devon VanOrder at defensive end and offensive tackle, Austin Grein at running back and line backer, John Danley at running back and corner back, Jake McKinstry at center and Larry VanBuren at linebacker.

“This team is deep and talented. We are expecting to be very competitive with the top teams in the league,” Craven said. “We must continue to get better on a daily basis and strive to be more consistent in every aspect of the game.”

Promising newcomers for the Wildcats include Derek Bowen at linebacker and running back and Dean Marsh at offensive tackle and defensive line.

“Our team is full of great kids who love to compete and represent their school and community,” Craven said. “When you have that combination, kids want to be at practice and want to be around each other and the coaches. This atmosphere creates a healthy environment that can lead to success on the field.

“We simply need to be more consistent on a weekly basis.”

George Sims returns after a year’s absence as one of Craven’s assistant coaches.

Craven had a busy summer with his team including 7-on-7 passing sessions at home and at Pine River.

Practices began on Aug. 6 with a Midnight Madness session at the team’s game field. The season starts Aug. 24 at home against Suttons Bay.