CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. — It is all about the line of scrimmage again this fall for the Cedar Springs football program, as it has been for every year of Gus Kapolka's tenure, now entering year number nine.
"We obviously are an offensively line centric offense," he added, "so a lot of what we do are dependent on those guys, it's exciting to work with guys that have some of them 20-plus games of varsity experience coming into the season."
The Red Hawks will return four starters along the offensive line and three others who started at least one game last season as they look to win the battle in the trenches.
"Coach Kapolka says that football games are won 18 inches from the line of scrimmage so we feel like if we can win that line of scrimmage, we can win some games this year," said senior tight end, Blake Scheer.
Cedar finished the shortened 2020 season with an overall record of 5-3 but won a playoff game for the fourth consecutive season.
Kapolka is looking for this year's roster to take that next step in 2021.
"We have to play Cedar Springs football this year, there were times last year that I didn't recognize the team on the field," Kapolka said honestly, "that's ultimately on me, I have to do a better job of enforcing the standards that have been set by the teams that have played here before."
The returning experience and leadership has Kapolka confident that it could be the group to get the Red Hawks over that hump.
"We have a lot of experience up front, we return our leading rusher from last season in Antwuan Nichols and Aiden Brunin, who was our leading rusher two years ago, he was injured last year so excited about getting him back," said Kapolka.
The coaches and players both have had a lot of energy in the first two days of fall camp and the players are ready for game one.
More importantly, the Red Hawk players know who they are as a personnel.
"I mean that's just who we are, we aren't knowing for having the best star players and D1 athletes," said junior lineman, Josh Kriekaard, "we're known for playing hard and being teams without all of that."
Senior lineman Cam Heiss is confident in a deeper postseason run this fall.
"We're capable of a lot actually," Heiss said, "we can go pretty far in the playoffs, we're more of a family, the juniors and seniors this year there's more of a bond."
The Red Hawks know how tough the OK Gold is with defending state champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central at the top but Kapolka and his team are completely okay with that.
"We're always the underdog," he said, "I never want us to be out front getting chased, we always feel like we're overlooked and don't get respect but I think after last season we need to get some of that respect back."
Cedar Springs will open with a tough non-conference schedule, hosting Saginaw Swan Valley on August 26 before playing Rockford in week two.