Northern Michigan Wolves gear up for Saturday opener | Local Sports
TRAVERSE CITY – It’s been two years since Will Noble posted snapshots for the wolves in northern Michigan.
It’s been eight years for Jordan Bradford since he even laid out soccer fields.
Both are preparing for the Northern Michigan Wolves’ 2021 semi-pro football season, which kicks off on Saturday with a pre-season trip to the Albion Warriors. The Wolves have 35 players this season and finished the 2020 season in second place.
Noble is returning to the Wolves quarterback seat after playing the same position in Kalkaska and for the Wolves in 2019.
“We look really solid,” said Noble. “We have a couple of returnees from a few years ago who played last year. We have new people from the hinterland who also want to play with old friends. “
Back in high school, Noble’s blazers thrived at the quarterback.
Noble led Kalkaska to back-to-back appearances in the district in 2012 and 2013 for the first time since the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs began in 1975.
During this time Kalkaska set a 13: 7 record in two seasons. The Blazers have since traveled into the postseason in 2016 and 2020, but not in a row.
Noble played one basketball season in Rochester after graduating from Kalkaska in 2014, but switched after one season.
That led Noble to the Wolves, where he secured a spot on the 2019 team. Named a week one starter, he then ripped open his ACL in midsummer 2019 and ended his season. Noble had to pause in rehab for the entire 2020 season.
What brought him back? “The love of the game,” said the 25-year-old.
“I just can’t give up even after getting injured,” said Noble. “It’s just a lot of fun. I missed the camaraderie of the team and I’m out here with the guys. “
The captain’s Noble includes wide receiver Darron Munson (Charlevoix), who is returning to the Wolves after a season with the Northern Michigan Panthers.
The Panthers were based in Petoskey last year.
“He (Munson) is sure to be very quick,” said Noble. “It’s kind of a quarterbacks dream.”
Evan’s wife, who spent many years with the wolves, is also the captain. Hayden Zimmerman, a broad receiver from Kalkaska who played for Hope, rounds off the Wolves’ offensive core.
Back to the point
Bradford returns to the Wolves after an eight year hiatus from football for strong security.
Originally from Lake City, he graduated from high school in 2010. Bradford and the Trojans made it to the districts in 2009 in his senior year under longtime area coach Tim Peterson. This marked the start of a six-year playoff run in which the Trojans went between 42 and 12 in 2012 and 2013 with two regional trips.
Bradford started playing for the Wolves in 2012 and returned in 2013. He was attending Northwestern Michigan College when he found out about the wolves on Facebook.
“I actually had a pretty bad injury and decided to hang it,” said Peterson. “This year a couple of people came back that I played with.”
One of them was the man who now owns the team: Pablo Bocardo Jr.
Bradford got his hands on Bocardo again and the rest is history.
He said he stayed active in the eight years he didn’t play, but quickly realized that there is a difference in how his body heals at 28 versus 19 or 20.
“I think it’s an opportunity to just keep this brotherhood,” said Bradford. “Football is a sport that gives you lifelong friends and relationships that you don’t make outside of the game – that’s what you really miss about the game.”
For two months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the Greater Midwest Football Conference was one of the few organized sports leagues that continued to play football.
After eight games in 2020, the Wolves are playing a 10-week schedule this summer against teams from Gaylord, Albion, Coldwater, Detroit and Battle Creek.
The playoffs begin in August, with the top four teams in each division completing the post-season set and ending with a championship game on August 21.
The Wolves lost a regular season game last season – a game without competition.
They were in the championship three years in a row and fell to the Tri-County Crusaders to end last year’s campaign.
Bocardo, the eighth grade coach at East Middle School, is handing the coaching over to Jesse Smith, originally from the Chicago area and now in seventh grade at the same middle school.
“We’ve been a championship-caliber team for three years,” said Bocardo, who coached, played and owned the team last year. He plans to play again sometime in the middle of the season.
“Jesse played college, he played semi-pro before, he coached Pop Warner, middle school … he did it all,” said Bocardo. “He’s really happy with the talent he has to use on the field and I’m sure he will use that on the scoreboard.”
The Wolves are based outside of Traverse City, but practice in a park in Rapid City and play at the Crawford County Sports Complex in Grayling. That’s because of a partnership with the Grayling Jr. Vikings and their flag football league, in which Wolves players volunteer for the concession booths at youth home games.
Bocardo said spectators will be admitted to the Wolves’ five home games. Their home game will take place on May 22nd at 6 p.m. against the Panthers
The wolves will start at 6pm on Saturday at Mac Gobel Field in Charlotte.
The Panthers playing at Gaylord High School this year will host the Southern Michigan Vipers on Saturday at 5:30 am.