HILLMAN-The Rogers City football team (2-1, 0-1 North Star League) has been turning a lot of heads this year, winning two games to start the season and holding its own against Alcona squad in a 30-12 defeat last week.
These wins have caught the attention Hillman (2-1, 1-0 NSL), who won't take Rogers City for granted when the two teams play in Hillman tonight at 7 p.m.
"You have to give credit where credit is due, and Rogers City has been doing a pretty good job this year," Hillman coach Bill Koenig said.
The Tigers have outscored their opponents 129-104 this year, with a 55-54 win over Gaylord Saint Mary providing an early highlight to the season.
"We're expecting a pretty physical game. They held Alcona to 30 points, and we're expecting them to come at us pretty hard. Our offensive line has been pretty physical all year, and if we use our speed along the outside offensively, we should be fine," Koenig said.
On the ground, Hillman has relied on the speed of running back Kenny Kolcan who has 478 rushing yards and has scored nine of Hillman's 11 touchdowns.
Hillman has gone to the air more often this year, relying on the arm of quarterback Ty Jones, who has 460 passing yards and seven touchdowns.
"Ty's spread the ball around real well. We have four good receivers that have picked up good yards. Mason (VanPamel) is real tall and has a great vertical jump. (Dylan) Ross and (Travis) Powers are good inside receivers and Mike Klein is real fast," Koenig said.
Mason VanPamel leads Hillman with 250 receiving yards for six touchdowns and Ross has 98 yards on nine catches.
Ross, Powers and Klein will likely shore up Hillman's defense for the game. Ross and Powers lead their team with 12 solo tackles, while Klein has assisted on 20.
Rogers City coach Tim Nagy believes he knows what to expect from Hillman.
"I know they're quick, they got a couple of quick backs. I think they'll be a good match up for us. They won't be overpowering, they're about the same size as us with the same talent level. They beat us pretty good last year, but we've improved a lot since then," Nagy said.
The Hurons have relied a lot on the skills of Chris Lopez, who had 155 passing yards and 56 rushing yards last week playing at quarterback. Both starting quarterback Quintin Kelly and running back Jacob Malocha missed last week's game and Nagy is uncertain of their status tonight.
"It's pretty hard when you have your top quarterback and running back out of the game. But, I think the boys did a good job of filling in the gaps," Nagy said.
Defensively, the Hurons have changed up their approach from last year, focusing on a slot- based approach. They have already seen improvement from last year with wins over Au Gres and Onaway.
Although Rogers City and Hillman are not traditionally big rivals, a win could give both an important league notch-in-the-belt.
"I keep telling the boys that it's a big game for us. It'll be a good test for our defense. We know Hillman likes to throw down field and they have a good quarterback and some good receivers. If we focus on shutting them down, and maintaining our own offense, it should be a real close matchup," Nagy said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.