Fenstermaker hoping to turn Hurons into winners

ROGERS CITY–Jesse Fenstermaker has seen the Rogers City football team go through a lot of ups-and-downs in the last five years.

Now that he’s in charge of the Hurons, Fenstermaker is ready to make the Hurons consistent winners again.

Rogers City’s new man in charge isn’t making any playoff guarantees in his first season, but the Hurons have the talent to make a run at it and their new coach is going to make sure they’re prepared every week.

“Winning and losing will come down to whether or not we execute properly. I don’t want any excuses that the kids weren’t ready,” Fenstermaker said. “My main goal is to have a team, when they walk out on the field, they’re ready for anything.”

Fenstermaker steps into his role as varsity head coach after four years as the Hurons’ JV coach and five seasons as a varsity assistant. He’s served under previous head coaches Tim Nagy and Cory Malocha and said he’s ready to put the lessons he’s learned from them to good use.

He was announced as Rogers City’s new coach in April.

“I think that’s done nothing but help me. I learned a lot from Coach Nagy. I’m forever grateful to him because he got my foot in the door. He gave me my shot to become a coach,” Fenstermaker said. “(Coach) Malocha, since I was hired he’s been very inviting since I was hired as a volunteer assistant in 2012. I learned a lot of things from him and now I’m ready to put that stuff to work.”

As he puts his new system to work, Fenstermaker will have strong leadership at his disposal as Rogers City has nine seniors, many of whom will fill some of the most important positions on the field. Fenstermaker coached this group of seniors as freshmen and sophomores on the JV team and likes their preparation, chemistry and desire to compete.

Senior quarterback Caleb Bade returns for his second center under center and will have plenty of experience around him to work with. Senior Michael Karsten, Rogers City’s leading rusher from a year ago, returns in the back field and senior Austin Cook will also take some handoffs.

At wideout, senior Kaleb Budnick will likely be one of Bade’s favorite targets and senior Ethan Hincka returns at tight end. Budnick’s versatility gives Fenstermaker some options and Budnick could line up at tight end or fullback depending on the situation.

“He’s a hard-headed boy. He just has the ability to do multiple things on the field, but he has an attitude about him that he wants to go all the time,” Fenstermaker said of Budnick. “Whether it’s running the ball, catching the ball, he is at 100 percent or more all the time.”

Cook could also line up at tight end and juniors Jeff Ellenberger and Lewis Fleming could also be in the mix at wingback.

On the offensive line, senior Bredow will be the anchor at center and seniors Grant Ryan, Austin Blackmer and Braden Idalski are also in the mix.

Defensively, those in the offensive line rotation will be anchors on the other side of the trenches as well. Hincka will step in at middle linebacker with Lewis Fleming and junior Nick Toth lining up on either side of him.

In the defensive backfield, Bade and Karsten are in the mix at cornerback and Ellenberger will play at safety.

Regardless of who plays where, Fenstermaker plans to keep a tight rotation going to keep players as fresh as possible. Defensively, the Hurons are installed a new system with the help of new varsity assistant Jim Haack.

Haack brings defensive and line coaching experience and Matt Ponik will serve as a varsity assistant this year as well.

Corey Brege will lead Rogers City’s JV team as its new coach with Fenstermaker and Haack serving as assistants.

The Hurons went just 2-7 last season, but experience, a love of competition and preparation could lead to better things in 2018. Rogers City plays four Class C/D teams who finished with two wins or less last season, so its experience could allow them to get the upper hand this season.

Fenstermaker isn’t looking past Week 1 though and knows the Hurons will have to work hard if they want wins. Rogers City’s schedule includes a matchup with Class B Sault Ste. Marie, the return of traditional Class D power St. Ignace as well as North Star League matchups with Oscoda and Alcona, who both made the playoffs last season.

“I have confidence that we’re going to go out and compete every single game. We’ll be in every single game with a shot to win at any given moment,” Fenstermaker said. “I know on paper the schedule looks pretty tough, but talking to the boys, it’s going to be one game at a time. All of our focus is going to be on our opponent for the week.”