Ferris State ready for Chargers

BIG RAPIDS — A home opener on a Friday night against a nationally ranked team should provide plenty of hype for Ferris State’s game against Hillsdale.

The game, which is scheduled to kick off at 7:30 p.m., features the Bulldogs and Hillsdale, which finished tied for second in the GLIAC last season with a 9-3 overall mark and 8-2 conference record.

OPENING NIGHT: Kevin Guirand and the Ferris State football team are in action Friday when it hosts Hillsdale at Top Taggart Field. (Pioneer file photo)

Ferris State is looking forward to getting things going against one of the conference’s best teams, even though the game — scheduled as a non-conference contest — won’t count in the GLIAC standings.

Ferris State coach Jeff Pierce knows that won’t matter much on Friday.

“Hillsdale is a solid, fundamental football team,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of surprises with coach Otterbein, who I know really well. He does a nice job down there of just playing fundamental football.”

Otterbein, who is in his 10th season at Hillsdale, coached at Ferris State from 1986-94.

Because they are facing less complex schemes on offense and defense, Pierce knows the Bulldogs’ success will come down to execution.

“It’s more about us,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to have to adjust to some type of exotic offenses or defenses. It’s about us playing to our level of efficiency.”

Ferris State hopes this is the season it returns to the top of the GLIAC standings after a pair of seasons below .500. The Bulldogs return 19 total starters, including eight on offense and nine on defense and both specialists.

Having experience back on both sides of the ball will prove vital to the Bulldogs’ success this season, said senior captain and starting guard Jake Hancock.

“We’re going to have to play as a unit and talk a lot on offense,” he said. “I think the guys we have up front just need to stay with our guys. If we can control that, I feel like we can have success against (Hillsdale).”

Ferris State dropped the opener to Hillsdale, 35-17. The 18th-ranked Chargers return a strong running game led by All-GLIAC tailback Joe Glendening, who led the conference in rushing yards (1,485) and rushing touchdowns (15) in 2010. Hillsdale did lose quarterback Troy Weatherhead and receiver Andre Holmes to graduation.

On defense, the strength of the Chargers’ unit looks as if it will be in the backfield with a strong secondary that returns four starters, including cornerback Nick Hixson, who finished with 92 tackles in 2010.

On offense, Pierce said he hopes to see his team make strides in its second year of Chris Boden’s spread offense attack.

“We’re making the steps we need to make,” he said. “You start seeing people finishing plays and making plays, especially our No. 1 guys. They’re getting another huge stride forward with being in their comfort zone.”

Along with the Friday night start time, Ferris State also will be hosting “Community Day,” which will include a number of special activities in conjunction with the holiday weekend festivities. Lots will open for tailgating at 5 p.m. once on-campus afternoon classes have concluded.

The special Friday night kickoff activities coincide with the area’s annual Riverdays Festival and will begin with a Welcome Back Tailgate sponsored by Pizza King along with the Grunst Brothers Sport Center and Party Store. The first 100 students will receive a free koozie. Free schedule magnets also will be given to the first 1,000 spectators at the contest compliments of Dental Health Care Associates. Numerous local businesses will have tables inside the stadium entrance and will be handing out coupons to fans. A number of activities will also be offered for youth as three inflatables will be located in the north endzone of Top Taggart Field.

Kids also will have access to the turf practice field throughout the game in the northeast corner of the stadium. Halftime events will include a performance by the Reed City High School Marching Band. Students also will have an opportunity to win prizes in Minute To Win It contests throughout the game.

Single-game and season tickets for all FSU home contests are on sale and can be purchased by calling the FSU Athletics Ticket Office at (231) 591-2888. Adult single-game general admission tickets can also be bought via Star Tickets for $7 while seniors (ages 65-plus), FSU Faculty/Staff and students in grades K-12 are $5. Ferris State students are admitted free with a valid student ID card. Visit FerrisStateBulldogs.com for more ticket information.

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