ISHPEMING -- The Ishpeming Hematites football team knows a thing or two about winning. They brought national attention to the Upper Peninsula after being featured on Sports Illustrated, having Eric Dompierre and his family make history, and by winning a Michigan football state title.
The Hematites returned to the field for day four of practice. Thursday was the first day the team practiced with pads.
Even though place kicker Dompierre graduated from the team, many skilled players are returning to the starting lineup.
Quarterback Alex Briones is another year wiser. Ishpeming Head Coach Jeff Olson says it is nice to have a quarterback who knows the system.
"His fundamentals are good, he uses his athletic abilities to find plays and has experience," said Olson.
Other keys players returning on offense include senior running back Bobby Zhulkie, wide receivers Tyrus Millimaki and Noah Olgren, who will likely be making the most impact.
However, for Olson, playing solid defense is as much a key this season as it was last year.
"We really believe defense wins championships and we spend a lot of time with it,â?? Olson said. â??We've got a very energetic group this year. Theyâ??re intense, they get after the ball. In our conference, the tough teams that we play, plus if we do happen to qualify for the playoffs, you got to get a lot of guys around the ball.â??
â??Itâ??ll be a fun year, we have a good team,â?? said senior running back Bobby Zhulkie. â??We have a lot of starters coming back from last yearâ??s team and weâ??re just going to be good again.â??
Through the first week of practice, roughly 28 players battled for starting positions.
Ishpeming kicks off its season Aug. 30 against Iron Mountain.