NEW BUFFALO — Although it’s likely to be delayed a week, the Red Arrow Raiders football era will kick-off soon.
The New Buffalo-River Valley eight-man co-op high school program will field both varsity and JV teams this fall, although the originally scheduled road opener on Aug. 26 at Bangor isn’t happening due to the host Vikings canceling their season (as of press-time a substitute contest had not been arranged).
The next game on the Raiders schedule is a “home” opener on Sept. 2 against Bridgman (home games will take place at either New Buffalo or River Valley). The junior varsity Raiders are slated to visit Bridgman at 6 p.m. Sept. 1.
Head coach Matt Johnson said there about 12 players on the varsity and 14 on the JV (goals for the co-op program included providing a junior varsity squad for younger players and giving River Valley athletes a chance to play varsity football for the first time since early in the 2019 season).
Players back from the 2020 New Buffalo varsity include Michael Bombin (the squad’s starting quarterback last season who also is expected to see some time at running back and be a starter in the defensive backfield), Anthony Lijewski, Ben Coffeen and Andrew Flick.
On the team from River Valley are Eli Thomas (who can play quarterback and receiver on offense and in the backfield on defense) and Chris Israelite (who has been practicing as a tight end, wideout and linebacker).
Also on the squad is first-year senior David Rubio.
Johnson said the team’s offensive skill players can play multiple positions such as slot and wideout.
He also said the four players expected to anchor the offense and defensive lines (Hunter Lynch, David Fairchild, Cameron Forker and Kaden Olson) have been doing well in practice.
“They’ve been working hard and I don’t feel there’s a New Buffalo and River Valley thing … These kids are out here because they want to play football,” Johnson said. “
Also on the Red Arrow Raiders coaching staff are John Visel, Brad Hoekstra and Rex Gotcher.
The Bees are coming off consecutive one-loss seasons (with both setbacks coming against Martin).
Head coach Aaron Locke said this year’s Bridgman High School eight-man team returns a lot of quickness and talent from last year’s squad.
Back for 2021 are receiver Jayce Warren, quarterback Reid Haskins and running back Nate Necas (all very fast and skilled at their positions according to Locke). Other skill position players on the roster include Christian Dinges, Tanner Peters, Kaden Lies, JaQuon Pierce, Wade Haskins, Travis Locke and Nolan Staniszewski.
Offensive line players include Zack Teed, Brady Roberts and Justin Kunde.
Among the Bees’ swift defensive line players are Harry Siewert and Clark Smith.
Warren and Dinges are expected to play the edge/linebacker positions on defense, with Lies and Necas both at cornerback and Haskins playing all over the field.
Locke said there are a total of 27 players out for JV and varsity.
Bridgman opened the 2021 varsity campaign at home against Fennville on Thursday, Aug. 26 with a resounding 60-8 victory (for more see next week's News). 2020 BHS spring sports teams were honored prior to kick-off.
2021 varsity schedules follow (games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise indicated):
Red Arrow Raiders – Sept. 2, home at New Buffalo vs. Bridgman; Sept. 11 (noon), home at River Valley vs. Try-Unity; Sept. 18 at Twin City Sharks co-op (6161 Cleveland, Stevensville); Sept. 24, at Eau Claire; Oct. 1, Home at New Buffalo vs. Maple Valley (Homecoming); Oct. 8, home at River Valley vs. Lawrence (Homecoming); Oct. 15, at Bloomingdale; Oct. 22, home at New Buffalo vs. Martin.
Bridgman Bees – Sept. 2, at Red Arrow Raiders (New Buffalo); Sept. 10, at Concord; Sept. 17, home vs. Mendon; Sept. 24, home vs. Try-Unity; Oct. 1, at Twin City Sharks co-op (915 Pleasant St., St. Joseph); Oct. 8, home vs. Eau Claire; Oct. 15, at Lawrence; Oct. 22, at Marcellus.