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Return to the Gridiron: Rogers City’s 2018 team

Rogers City running back Kaleb Budnick

News Sports Editor James Andersen is taking a look back at football teams from the last 10 years, offering his view of the best team from each of the nine schools in The News’ coverage area in the span.

Preseason Outlook: Rogers City coach Jesse Fenstermaker: “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. My main goal is to have a team, when they walk out on the field, they’re ready for anything.”

Final Record: 8-2

Season in review: With a new coach and a new level of focus and a senior-heavy roster, the Hurons were a team on a mission. They began the year with a 20-17 victory over Whittemore-Prescott and then reeled off wins against Tawas, Mio and Mancelona. The Hurons fell to Oscoda, but ended the year on a four-game winning streak with wins over Alcona, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Ignace and Manton.

With an 8-1 record, Rogers City punched its first playoff ticket since 2009. Unfortunately for the Hurons, their playoff stay was a short one as they lost to Iron River West Iron County in the first round of the Division 8 playoffs.

Nine different Hurons were honored by the North Star League and eight Rogers City players–J.D. Ellenberger, Kaleb Budnick, Ethan Hincka, Caleb Bade, Michael Karsten, Lewis Fleming, Griffin Bredow and Braden Idalski–were all named to the All-Alpena News team.

James’ take: Maybe it was seeing the Hurons belting out “Amos Moses” after winning their regular season finale. Maybe it was seeing the signs around town and seeing business decked out in orange and black. Whatever it was, Rogers City’s road to the playoffs was just plain fun. I’ve often thought of Rogers City’s program as a sleeping giant and after several years of frustration, Fenstermaker finally helped the Hurons reap the rewards of their hard work in a season where players could hold their heads high around town and fans were thrilled to see a winner.

The Hurons averaged just over 24 points a game in 2018, but they had talent all over the field and it seemed like a different player stepped up every week with a big play: Kaleb Budnick’s 95-yard touchdown run against St. Ignace; Caleb Bade converting late on fourth-and-inches for a go-ahead touchdown against Sault Ste. Marie; Rogers City’s defense forcing three turnovers to win on homecoming night against Manton. Week after week, Rogers City simply got the job done.

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