Trojans Look to Build on Playoff Surge, Defensive strength

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Thursday, August 23, 2018, 9:11 am
Mark Meyer

AboveSenior tailback Kobe Hayward led the East Lansing offense last year with 985 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. The three-year starter is expected to play a major role for the Trojans this season, both on offense and defense.

Seeking to sustain the momentum that carried the team to seven consecutive victories and a berth in the Division 3 quarterfinals a year ago, the East Lansing Trojan football team opens the 2018 season at 7 p.m. Thursday with a home date against the St. Johns Redwings.

In the eyes of head coach Bill Feraco – now in his 15th year with the ELHS varsity – the players who gained significant experience in that late-season run will be counted upon to lead the Trojans out of the gate quickly in August.

“We have some very capable returners on whom we will trust the season,” Feraco said during a recent interview in his classroom. “We also have some very young, athletic kids who will be filling positions that became open through attrition or graduation.

“We’re hoping these younger players follow in the footsteps of those who had the experience. The quicker that occurs, the better the chances for our success.”

The Trojans return plenty of offensive firepower in the form of senior tailback Kobe Hayward, a three-year varsity starter who last year ran for 985 yards, averaged 4.7 yards per carry and scored 15 of the team’s 19 rushing touchdowns.

Jack Morse, also a senior, caught 21 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. As the team’s placekicker, Morse converted 35 of 39 extra points and made four of eight field goal attempts. This year he will add punting duties to his game-day list of responsibilities.

Senior Joe Benbraham and junior Sam Busch have shared time at quarterback during preseason drills, and Feraco was hesitant to tip his hand as to who will start against St. Johns.

“Joe brings tangible experience from last year, filling in when Connor Charamella was injured, and he knows our system better than Sam does right now,” Feraco said. “But Sam is a big kid – 6-foot-3, 205 pounds – and throws the ball very well.

“The goal will be to settle on one of them as the starter early in the season so that we can establish some offensive continuity.”

Defensively, the Trojans will be exceptionally strong at linebacker and in the secondary. In addition to Hayward (strong safety), senior linebackers Kaleb Elam and Justin Brown will be expected to anchor what Feraco calls his “back seven” defenders along with junior cornerback Jamar Mills (also a three-year starter) and junior Malakai Matthews, who won the starting free safety job.

The defense will be called upon early and often in the first half of the season. Weeks two and four call for nonleague road trips to Dearborn Divine Child and Portage Northern, respectively, in advance of CAAC Blue games at home against Grand Ledge and DeWitt in weeks three and five.

And, as Feraco and much of the Trojan football nation knows, the “I of Tradition” will be upon this year’s senior class.

“It’s their year. It’s their team to lead,” Feraco said. “How do they want to leave their mark?”

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