Ferris coach happy to be playing home on Saturday

Ferris State football coach Tony Annese

BIG RAPIDS —  Ferris State football coach Tony Annese has made it little secret he’d prefer coaching in warmer, sunnier weather.

But he doesn’t mind he’ll be coaching his 11-1 Bulldogs at home in Saturday’s NCAA Division II national quarterfinal game against Harding, Ark.

The game kicks off noon at Top Taggart Field. The weather forecast calls for dry weather with temperatures in the 40s in the first known Ferris home football game in December.

The Bulldogs are the higher of the two seeds. Ferris upset Fort Hays State 31-21 on Saturday in Kansas while Harding stunned Ashland. That turn of events gave Ferris its first ever home game for a quarterfinal round.

“Obviously, everybody aspires to have a home game,” Annese said. “When we played our first-round game, I thought that’d be the last time we’d play in Big Rapids. As things progressed last week, word came out Harding was beating Ashland and ended up beating Ashland. So we’re all saying, ‘wow, we get to play home again.’ Obviously, it’s a special opportunity for us to play for the home crowd again.”

The Bulldogs had to travel to Fort Hays State and played well. But being at home is still to Annese’s liking.

“There’s not as many distractions,” he said. “You’ve got the normal routine and the guys are in their same beds they are every week. It makes a big week, it’s a comfort zone.”

Annese smiled when told the weather forecast calls for a pleasant December day in Big Rapids on Saturday. It won’t be sunny and in the 70s. But neither will it be windy, snowy and in the 20s. The first-round playoff game on Nov. 18 presented rainy, cold weather at Top Taggart Field.

“It’s going to be a great Saturday here,” Annese said. “Our home fans got brutalized a couple of weeks ago and probably had a hard decision to make; ‘should I go watch Ferris play or stay where it’s warm. This week, they should have an easy decision to make. We should have a great crowd. It’s going to be a beautiful game and we’re the only game in Michigan.”

Despite being at home and the higher seed, the Bulldogs realize Harding is for real. Any team beating Ashland, which defeated Ferris early in the season, is not to be taken lightly.

“They’re really good,” Annese said. “Last year, they were in this round as well. It’s two years in the Elite 8 for them. They’re very well disciplined and very well coached. Philsophically, they’re a different style for us. We’ll have to be disciplined on defense. Wehave to be physical up front. We can’t blow anything big. They have a deceptive offense.”

Ferris is hoping for a return trip to the national semifinals on Dec. 9.



Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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