Long awaited GV football returns for 50th season


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Holly Bihlman, Sports Editor

After over a year of empty stadiums and cancelled season schedules, the Grand Valley State University football team is finally ready to storm the field again. This Sept. 2, 2021, marks the first game since the 2019 season, kicking off right here at home in Lubbers Stadium against Edinboro. With a new set of recruits that have been training and practicing for over a year now with veteran players and a school full of students that are more than ready to get back to the stadium, the 50th season of GVSU football is going to be electric.

Head coach, Matt Mitchell, is taking on his 11th season at GVSU with defensive coordinator, Jim Louis, and offensive coordinator, Matt Vitzthum. One of the most exciting things about this 50th season is the schedule, released by the NCAA in February, which includes a total of seven home games for the Lakers. The first three games of the season will take place at Lubbers Stadium, starting with Edinboro, followed by a highly anticipated game on 9/11 commemorating the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Colorado State-Pueblo will be traveling to Allendale and the night will include several special events honoring veterans and remembering 9/11. The third game of the season will be against Wisconsin-Lacrosse on Sept. 18, and then the Lakers will finally hit the road for their first away game against Michigan Tech on Sept. 25.

“Heading into the first game, there is going to be quite a bit of excitement,” Mitchell said. “We’ll have a line share of players who have never played a game at Grand Valley that will be stepping onto the field for the first time in over two years.”

Some of those new players include junior wide receiver, Hunter Rison, transferring from Michigan State and senior wide receiver, Juwan Johnson, from Midwestern State, who will both be on this season’s starting lineup. A few more new faces will also be starting like sophomore quarterback, Cade Peterson, sophomore linebacker, Abe Swanson, and junior defensive back, Antonio Strong. Both the offensive lineup and defensive lineup have a fair share of returning starters, so now it’s just a matter of making sure each new name on the roster feels strong and secure in their position.

“First priority right now is focusing on fall camp,” Mitchell said. “We did a lot of practicing the previous year—we had over 1,700 reps of 11-on-11 football, but we also have not had full contact football since the scrimmage on March 13, so consequently we got to get the guys back into some physical fitness, techniques, fundamentals, and prepare them for the opener.”

With a combination of both new and old faces on the team, the athletes have had quite a long off-season to build up the relationships that all great teams have on and off the field. The biggest difference between returning players and new recruits is the level of experience that they’ve had playing college level games, so one of the most important things come game time is going to be support out on the field.

“We have right now 92 players that are back here since the Fourth of July that are doing voluntary workouts, and these guys are putting a lot into it,” Mitchell said. “My expectations are for continued improvement through experience, so I don’t know that we’ll be our best in game one, but we will continue to grow and improve as the season unfolds.”

Courtesy / Chris Dumond

After the trials and tribulations of missing out on a whole year of playing time, there’s quite a bit of catching up to do when it comes to full contact games. The good news though, is that with all the extra time spent in the workout room and a recent trip together to play a scrimmage game, the team has had a huge opportunity to build trust and gain the support that some of those new players will need at kickoff. Experience is key, but experience playing together is even more beneficial.

“We have the acronym WAWG in our building which is ‘We All We Got,’ and I think that was really enforced and strengthened and hopefully will manifest itself on the playing surface,” Mitchell said.

With the season start just five weeks away, the athletes have quite a bit of time left to prepare for their first game, and they’re expecting a huge turnout for this year’s home games after a long awaited return of football season. As an added bonus to another stellar season, the 50th season will also be incorporating commemoration for some of GVSU’s best decades of Laker football at each home game, starting with 2010-2019 at the first home game, followed by 1980-1989 for the 9/11 home game, and so forth. GVSU is also unveiling Tailgate Town, for the 50th season which consist of rentable units in Irwin Donor Black Lot ‘B’ for pregame celebrations.

Amidst all of the excitement and preparation for the season to come, it presents us with the great opportunity to look back on what we endured together and move on to celebrate the safe and invigorating season ahead.