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September 13, 2012

Grosse Pointe North football near top of MAC Blue

By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer

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Grosse Pointe North football near top of MAC Blue
Grosse Pointe North running back Tod Long carries the ball against Macomb L’Anse Creuse North. Long had a 95-yard touchdown run earlier this season, which coach Frank Sumbera said broke a school record.

Three games into the football season, Grosse Pointe North already has half as many victories as it had all of last year.

North currently sits at 2-1 overall, 1-1 in the Macomb Area Conference Blue Division, which puts it just one game in back of Grosse Pointe South (3-0 overall, 2-1 MAC Blue) for the top spot in the league.

Prior to last week’s 7-6 loss to Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, the Norsemen had posted two shutouts, beating St.Clair Shores Lakeview 35-0 to open the season and then a 28-0 victory over Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse North.

Coach Frank Sumbera believes that North’s victory against Utica Stevenson in its season finale last year helped to play a role in the team’s solid start, as the Norsemen were able to carry that momentum into the early part of their 2012 schedule.

Sumbera also credits the contributions the team has received on both sides of the ball have for North’s strong start to the season.

“We’ve been playing excellent defense,” Sumbera said while preparing for the L’Anse Creuse North game. “We expect to be pretty good at defense because we got our entire secondary coming back, including Chris Hamilton, Robert Tillman, Taiwan Wiggins and Jack Guest. Steve Elliott, our inside linebacker, has been playing really solid.

“What I didn’t expect is (for) us to move the ball quite as well as we have because we got a very inexperienced offensive line. Everything’s been good. When you score about 30 points a game and shut your opponent out, that’s a good start.”

Sumbera recently pointed out that some of his players may not have even been born the last time North made it as far as the state semifinals, which was in 1996. He is hoping that his current squad can help make some new history for the program.

Before they are in a position to make that happen, there is some other business Sumbera would like for the Norsemen to attend to. His ambition for the 2012 campaign is for the Norsemen to beat Grosse Pointe South in their Oct. 5 showdown, win the MAC Blue championship and make the playoffs.

As South also currently resides in the MAC Blue, it may be a team the Norsemen have to get through in order to make their goal of winning a division championship a reality. But however it may come, Sumbera understands the tough road that likely lies ahead in his team’s pursuit of a league title.

“Our arch rival South’s in it,” Sumbera said of the MAC Blue. “L’Anse Creuse is a very good football team. Port Huron Northern was second in the league last year. It’s going to be very competitive.”

Sumbera has seen enough winning football to have a pretty good idea as to what a strong program looks like, and what he has seen from his current squad gives him a reason to be optimistic about North’s future.

“You’re always looking for solid seniors and a good underclassmen group. We have that,” Sumbera said. “Tod Long is our junior tailback; he’s kind of the leader of that junior class and everybody looks up to him. It’s a good group. You watch us play, and they block and tackle to the best of their ability, and that’s all you look for as a head coach — kids to play hard for you (and) block and tackle.”

The Norsemen are next scheduled to be in action at 7 p.m. Sept. 14 in a road game against Clinton Township Chippewa Valley.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mark Vest at mvest@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1112. Twitter Follow Mark on Twitter.