Bullseye on Unbeaten Trojans as they Travel to Portage
Above: senior linebacker Justin Brown
The “Eye of Tradition” is but one magnifying glass currently focused on the undefeated East Lansing High School football team, which has quickly vaulted to No. 3 in Michigan’s Division 3 football rankings.
The No. 3-ranked Trojans – according to this week’s Associated Press poll – have reeled off consecutive victories over St. Johns, Dearborn Divine Child and perennial CAAC Blue kingpin Grand Ledge. Their fourth opponent, Portage Northern (2-1), recently unveiled its new Huskie Stadium which is fully equipped with a state-of-the-art scoreboard.
Many of the eyes in the Portage stadium Friday night will be focused on Trojans who have stepped to the fore in this early part of the season: senior tailback Kobe Hayward, senior quarterback Joe Benbraham, senior linebackers Justin Brown and Noah Ioasefa, and senior receiver/kicker Jack Morse.
Though those individuals have made several critical plays thus far this season, East Lansing head coach Bill Feraco knows that for the team’s success to continue there will be opportunities for many others to step forward and contribute.
“There comes a point in every season when you look to those who maybe haven’t played as much to rise up and answer the call,” Feraco said during Thursday’s practice. “This will be one of those weeks where next man up gets his number called.”
East Lansing may be without the full-time services of sophomore lineman Teaghn Hamilton (injured ankle) as well as starting defensive back Kaleb Elam, who last week was ejected from the penalty-filled Grand Ledge game for throwing a punch after a play in the third quarter.
“We addressed that matter immediately afterward (the next morning),” Feraco said. “We pride ourselves on being poised and disciplined, and for whatever reason we were nowhere near the level we need to be.”
The Trojans’ inability to maintain their poise nearly cost them against Grand Ledge. Leading 23-7 at halftime and having outscored the visiting Comets 20-0 in the second quarter, East Lansing relaxed just long enough to give its opponent some much-needed breathing room.
Lo and behold, Grand Ledge (0-2) kept chipping away in the second half and eventually scored the go-ahead touchdown with under two minutes to play by quickly turning a fourth-and-six play from its 29-yard-line into a 71-yard scoring strike from quarterback Logan Hylek to receiver-sprinter Aaron West.
“We’ve made some mistakes we need to clean up,” said Brown, “but I’m confident in my teammates. We’ll get it right.”
Northern dropped a 21-20 decision to crosstown rival Portage Central last week after having opened the season with decisive victories over Kalamazoo Loy Norrix (49-6) and Hudsonville Lakeshore (17-0).
“We know they have a running back who’s quick and likes to bounce to the outside (portion of the field), so our job will be to keep him contained the best we can,” said Brown.
And keep those emotions in check, right coach?
“We are concerned about our consistency, and about relaxing a bit after we’ve done something good,” Feraco said, “because then we allow the other team to do things against us as was evidenced against Grand Ledge.”