Fenton Football Team Hoping to Build on Last Season
Playoff run, returning players give the Tigers high expectations.
At its season-opening midnight public practice Monday, the Fenton football team got a chance to share a common theme for the upcoming season: excitement.
"Everybody was here ready to go (at the practice)," said coach Jeff Setzke. "We got some work in, but it was more to get them ready to go to set today's (Monday afternoon) practice up as a better practice. We got some of the excitement out of them, got some work in, and the kids had fun with it. That's really what it's all about—the excitement of the season."
Coming off last year's best postseason run in school history that saw the Tigers advance deeper into the postseason than any Flint-area team and upset the No. 6 and No. 7 teams in the state in Division 2 in consecutive weeks, Fenton returns several players from that squad who are primed to build on the accomplishments of last season.
"The season definitely starts with an expectation," Setzke said. "The kids really went beyond where anyone (from Fenton) had ever gone last year. Now they want to get back to that level and get beyond it. A lot of our off-season preparation was to get ready for that next level."
Fenton's players have had a full summer of work, including conditioning and participating in a 7-on-7 passing league. Setzke believes a strength of the team is simply the sheer number of contributors who are back again.
"We have 32 kids who won letters back," Setzke said. "We had a number of sophomores play. Nine of them actually played in the regional-final game, so we have a lot of experience with 21 seniors on this team. That's a definite strength, the leadership by kids who have been a part of this program for a long time."
The Tigers open the season at Lapeer West on Aug. 26, and with practices under way, getting ready for a team that is usually among the league's best is the priority now.
"Our job is to get them ready to play game one—we're on the clock now," Setzke said. "We basically have our first game two weeks from Friday, so all we can do is get them prepared. Our focus is completely on Lapeer West."
West started last season slowly. Fenton beat the Panthers 24-6 in the season opener last year, but West improved significantly, winning its final five games of the season after an 0-4 start.
West is just one of several teams Setzke expects to be a tough test in a competitive Metro League that also includes perennially tough Linden as well as improving programs at several other schools.
"West obviously found some things that were good (in their winning streak). I expect them to be good, they always are," Setzke said. "I expect Linden to be good—they're always at the top of the league. Swartz Creek was young last year and has a lot of kids returning. Lapeer East was in the playoffs last year, and Holly has a lot of returning kids and they were a playoff team, too. As a whole, the league is getting better."
With several Metro League teams improving in recent years, along with individual players having success post-high school—former Lapeer East player Jake Long was the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, and former Fenton standout Tyler Hamilton is playing Big Ten football at Michigan State, for example—Setzke believes increased playoff success by all Metro teams will help people around the state further realize the high level of competition in the league.
Although Fenton's playoff run last season was perhaps unexpected, Setzke and the players know that the only way to prove otherwise is to continue to improve.
"Some people maybe think last year was luck," Setzke said. "Now it's our job to go out there and show them that this is where our program has grown to, that it's not luck."