Onaway football ready for first test with Gaylord St. Mary

News Photo by Ben Murphy Onaway head football coach Eddy Szymoniak watches the action during Saturday’s home win over Mio.

ONAWAY — Onaway’s 3-1 start to the football season has certainly been one of the better stories this fall. The story has a chance to get even better today (Friday), when they welcome in Ski Valley Conference foe Gaylord St. Mary. The Snowbirds have a 3-1 record themselves, and should prove to be quite the challenge for the Cardinals.

“Of my short coaching career, this is our biggest test by far,” Onaway coach Eddy Szymoniak said. “I have to step up my game along with everyone else on the team.”

Szymoniak stepped into the role as head coach of Onaway after Josh Bigby stepped down from that role just days before the team’s first game. While that situation forced the Cardinals to forfeit their week one game to Inland Lakes, they haven’t missed a beat otherwise, with wins over Bellaire, Engadine and Mio.

“That just shows that these kids were well prepared,” Szymoniak said. ‘They’ve been working hard all summer for this moment. Even with me stepping in, I think we created a great atmosphere, with my assistant coaches and the team. These guys are confident in everything that they do. Things might have been rough at times and things could have gone south for us, but they trust our coaches and me when they step onto that field. We’re a team and we’ve been playing well together.”

St. Mary opened the season with a 40-22 loss at Pickford. Since that time they’ve defeated Central Lake 38-0, won via forfeit over Forest Area and taken down Bellaire 58-0.

“As happy as I am with the way we have played, I think that we have won three games that we should have won,” Szymoniak said. “This one is a different story, it is going to be a battle.”

The Snowbirds are led by Dillon Croff, a speedy, yet physical running back. Brett Koscielniak and Jake Butler will also see carries out of the backfield, and are threats to break off big runs as well. Their quarterback Daniel Jacobson is an accurate passer, and also has had games where he has rushed for over 100 yards.

“St. Mary is well-coached and no doubt this is going to be a good team,” Szymoniak said. “They have athletes all over the field and a couple tough runners. We are going to have to have everyone do their job. I definitely think is going to be a grind all game.”

Of course, the Cardinals have been proving to be a challenge for their opposition as well. Sophomore quarterback Brady Gapczysnski has thrown the ball well in his three starts so far. Brendon Brewbaker has come up with some huge receptions. Jackson Chaskey and Justin Kramer-St. Germain have shown themselves to be a good one-two punch running the ball and Lelin Splan has been making plenty of plays at linebacker.

“We spread the ball around so well,” Szymoniak said. “That doesn’t happen without a group of boys that work hard. That means a lot to me, I don’t think we are sitting here with three wins right now if they don’t trust me and believe in what we are doing.”

There’s still four weeks left of the season after tonight’s game, so regardless of the outcome there’s plenty of football left. However, this one definitely has a big-time game feel to it.

“It is going to be a fun atmosphere for both teams and hopefully our playmakers can make something happen,” Szymoniak said. “The team has been working their butts off and it shows. We are definitely starting to bring some excitement back to Onaway football.”


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