LEROY — Tents were sprinkled across the Pine River High School grounds on Monday morning. But several yards from those tents, members of the Bucks varsity football were getting ready for their first football game of the season in less than three weeks.

The season opens at Kalkaska on Aug. 26. The first home game is Sept. 1 against Benzie Central.

Morning practices on Monday featured an offensive focus to be followed by a meeting and offensive practice. Players were using the tents for overnight stays.

“We keep them here Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night,” said Pine River coach Chad Phillips.

There were 27 varsity and 21 junior varsity players the first day.

“We’re up a few on varsity and down a few on JV,” Phillips said.

Several players had extensive summer seasons to prepare for the current practice slate. Players put pads on Thursday.

“That’s when we’ll see who likes the contact and who doesn’t,” Phillips said. “You can look good in shorts but this is the only three days we will be in shorts.”

The Bucks have a scrimmage Aug. 19 at Scottville-Mason County Central at 5 p.m.

“Thursday is important but Saturday we have an inter-squad where we’ll go up against ourselves,” Phillips said. “This week, that will be the biggest day in finding our stuff. Everyday is obviously important in the preseason right now. You’re installing your offense and defense. And you’re working on fundamentals.”

Zane Kanouse, a 6-0, 200-pound senior, will be a center and linebacker. He’s in his second varsity season.

The Bucks were 3-6 a year ago.

“Last year we had a pretty good season,” Kanouse recalled. “I thought we could have won a couple of more games. I wish we could have won more games.”

He had a busy offseason, lifting weights twice a week at two hours a time and also was involved with strongman competitions and passing leagues.

Kanouse, as a middle linebacker, expects to spend a lot of time watching the inside runs.

“I think we can go to the playoffs,” he said. “We have a lot of speed. Even though we lost some starting linemen, we have three new big linemen that I feel can contribute to this team.”

Another key senior is Abel Langworthy, a 5-foot-5, 140-pound running back. He saw plenty of action in the backfield a year ago.

He averaged about 4.8 yards per carry with 543 yards total.

“I had a great running season,” he said. “I do mostly wide stuff. I have to use my speed.”

Langworthy who also wrestles, tried to run as much as he could during the offseason.

On defense, Langworthy is a cornerback. “I’m decent at passes and stuff,” he said, “and at watching where (the play) is going, coming up and making plays if they go through the linebackers.”

Langworthy said his initial thoughts is that the team “was going to be OK. Now I think we’re going to be great. We’re going to make it to the playoffs. We have great potential on the line. Some of the toughest teams will be Beal City and McBain. You have to execute on every play and do the best you can.”