HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — It's officially game week for high school football here in the state of Michigan.
The Hudsonville football team will have a bit of a new look to it this season with just six returning starters from a season ago.
The Eagles will need to replace three year starting quarterback Brennan Hayes and four starting offensive linemen up front from a season ago.
"We're really happy with where we're at and just really excited to play another team on Friday," said head coach Brent Sandee.
Dylan Ham will return as one of the most dynamic playmakers in West Michigan after a breakout junior campaign in 2020.
As one of those six returning starters, Ham is hoping to take more of a leadership role this fall.
"I just want to play the best I can this year and make people better around me," Ham said. "I hope I can do better than I did last year as far as yards and touchdowns but just hope I can spark our team every game."
Cade Buiskool is another returner at linebacker and runningback.
"I expect myself to be a leader along with the five other returning starters," Buiskool added. "I'm just to bring the energy every game and hope to bring the team to victory and want to bring us closer together."
However, the Eagles are confident outside of the returning starters, the program's junior varsity program went a perfect 6-0 last fall and have done a great job filling some big voids.
"Those kids are confident," Sandee said. "That junior class is used to winning and of course our senior class only lost two games last year that we played, so they all expect to win when we get on the field, which is huge."
Sandee enters year number four at the helm for the Eagles and will need to get his team prepared for a huge stage on Friday in game one.
The Eagles will open the season against state power Saline at the Big House in Ann Arbor at 3:30 PM.
"It's a cool opportunity for 16, 17, 18-year old kids to play in a venue that most of them won't be able to do again in their lifetime," Sandee said, "so we're excited to enjoy that piece of it."
Ham says it's important for the team to show up against a steep competition from the east side of the state.
"I'm looking to go out there and show them what west side football is all about," Ham said. "It's not every day we get to go to the east side and play those teams."
While there's no easy way to prepare for an environment like the Big House, the team is locked in this week and excited to hit the field.
"When the whistle blows and you put your foot on the ball to start the game, I mean we're playing Saline, one of the best teams in the state of Michigan and it's just football at this point," Sandee added.
And the players have a bit of a chip on their shoulders as an underdog going in.
"People say oh it's the east side, you guys will get whacked, no, you haven't seen how the west side players play," Ham said when asked about the mindset going into the game.
The Eagles will also host Orchard Lake St. Mary's in week two at Eagles Stadium before kicking off OK Red play in week three.