MONTAGUE, Mich. — The Montague football program is heading back to Ford Field for their second state championship appearance in the past three seasons.
"Having that experience of being there is big for being there and going back in 2020, or 2021," Collins laughed regarding the unprecedented football season.
Successful programs like Montague are always reliant upon senior leadership, which the Wildcats once again are. However, it's the sophomores that have been a pleasant surprise as they've made a huge impact.
"They just happened to be a good chunk of sophomores that we felt were best at that position at the time," Collins said. "We put them in there to give them a shot and let them grow throughout the season and now they've turned into mature players."
Youth is served as Montague marches back to Ford Field!— FOX 17 Blitz (@FOX17Blitz) January 20, 2021
Sophomores have stepped up to get Cats within reach of 3rd State Title. pic.twitter.com/lrK808IsvJ
Making the jump to varsity football as an underclassman can be overwhelming and defensive back Izac Jarka admits he felt a lot of those expectations.
"I felt a lot of pressure because I didn't want to be that one young kid that messed everything up," Jarka said. "But I think I've filled my role pretty good."
And that would be an understatement. In 11 games this season, Jarka has recorded nine interceptions to lead the Wildcat defense.
"No, I think the most I've had was maybe three in eighth grade," laughed Jarka when asked if he's ever had nine interceptions in a season.
Meanwhile at the outside linebacker position, Rodney Brassfield has filled a big role and is a big reason why the Wildcats have remained unbeaten thus far.
"There's definitely pressure but it's not too bad, we do our part, it's a really great opportunity," Brassfield added.
Jarka and Brassfield are two of three sophomore starters along with Owen Petersen and all three give a lot of credit to the seniors for showing them the way.
"They had big shoes to fill," Collins admits, "but the senior leadership really helped them along. They were right there by their side helping them and assisting them and it was great maturity out of the seniors to bridge that hole and build the kids up and make them feel confident."
Seniors like quarterback Drew Collins had the same experience as an underclassmen two years ago, as the Wildcats made the trip to Ford Field.
"They're really good leaders," Brassfield added about the senior class, "when we need something explained, they're there and that's a big help."
As freshmen, the sophomores up on varsity last season experienced a heartbreaking loss to Glen Lake in the state semifinals.
"After coming up short last year, it's really exciting to go back," Jarka said.
And Jarka says they're all focused on making sure the seniors can go out with a state championship to their names.
"From the motivation of wanting to do this for them this year, it's all coming down to us to do the same."
Montague will face Clinton on Friday at 4:30 PM at Ford Field in the Division 6 state championship.