By Dan Hardenbrook
Nearly four full years. Almost 1,500 days. That’s how long it’s been since an Engadine Eagles football team enjoyed a winning record…until now. Following their 42-20 win over the Bellaire Eagles at home on Saturday, Engadine is now starting a new count.
How about four? That’s the number of wins in a row for the Eagles who are now back above .500 in the regular season for the first time since week 9 of that 2019 season. They finished 8-1 and went on to lose to Pickford, the only team that had beaten them that year, in the opening round of the playoffs.
Since then, the football program sometimes had no JV team, went through three head coaches, and were outscored 352-46 in the shortened 2020 COVID season. Last year, when they broke through and picked up a pair of wins during a 2-6 season, they struggled against bigger teams in the conference while a new young coach continued to learn the ropes and start building his former team back up.
Now look how far the Eagles have come.
A rebuilt offseason program, a change in philosophy, an overhauled schedule based on school size, and the sacrifice of conference stability has led Engadine back to their winning ways. With remaining games against a winless Superior Central team that has forfeited its last two games and a Bear Lake squad that just won their first game of the season to go to 1-5, the Eagles could wind up 6-2 on the season.
Early losses to Rapid River and Onaway might keep them out of the playoffs, but there’s much to like about an Eagles team that should return plenty of talent next season, and may be able to have a JV program next year after re-establishing its middle school program in recent years.
Eagles junior Hunter Cameron has been through every step of the journey. He has emerged as one of the top area players and is one of several key leaders that have been credited with changing that culture.
“This feels amazing! It’s great being a part of a team that works so well together,” said Cameron, who returned the credit to his coach for turning things around. “The best part has been having a coach and other members of the coaching staff that inspire me and others to give it all that we have and more!”
Cameron says that having more teammates involved is the biggest reason the Eagles are flying high once again. He also said past low numbers making it nearly impossible to field a team was the toughest part to overcome and now that more kids are coming out for football, it’s been a big change.
“It definitely helps and now everyone that is a part of this team has their own niche that makes them amazing, and it’s making us as a team better together,” he said.
As for the kid who has been described by some as the heart and soul of the Eagles, he says leading the way makes it that much better of an experience.
“I try my hardest to make sure that everyone knows their worth on the field,” he said. “I’m just out there trying to have a great time with my teammates.”