Kicking off

Ferris State football’s defense gathers in the middle of the field following  a team scrimmage  during one of the Bulldogs padded practices.
Ferris State football’s defense gathers in the middle of the field following a team scrimmage during one of the Bulldogs padded practices. Michael A. Corn, Photographer
The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) will create another competitive season for the Bulldogs football program in the 2014 season.

Each pre-season, fans and analysts alike mull over who will be the front runner in every conference from junior high all the way to the pros. The same can be said about the GLIAC, the conference organization that the Bulldogs have played in since 1972.

“The GLIAC is always very competitive. It’s a league where if you lose one league game, that could be it,” senior defensive tackle Marcus Cribbs said. “I think it’s very important for us to take each game one at a time, and to make sure we don’t overlook any opponent.”

Last season, the Bulldogs just missed out on the post season, despite a 8-3 record, as losses to Saginaw Valley State University during homecoming week and Hillsdale, in the middle of the season, ultimately sealed their fate. Saginaw Valley has slowly become one of the conference’s front runners, along with Ferris State and DII powerhouse, Grand Valley State University.

The rivalry that has grown between the Bulldogs and the Lakers has grown over the years, as both teams have had their dominant runs against each other. Despite Grand Valley’s reputation, student body size and championship history, the Bulldogs have taken the last two meetings against the Lakers, and hope to make it a three-peat in 2014.

“We like to perfect what we do, and I feel as though we can stick to our game plan,” senior running back Jamaal Jackson said. “ We will come out victorious. We see the Ferris State Bulldogs on top, bottom line.”

Apart from the big three in the GLIAC, Michigan Tech was the only other team in the North division to finish with a winning record (6-4 overall). The Huskies have slowly made their bid to also become a solid contender, but have the same challenge as the Bulldogs in taking down both GVSU and SVSU in 2014.

The South division did not see the same tight race for the division title as the North did, as Ohio Dominican won each of their nine GLIAC games, sweeping their conference schedule. Finishing with a 10-1 record, the Panthers had the best winning percentage in the entire conference. Ferris State will face off against ODU in mid-October, adding to the difficulty of their schedule, and the overall stoutness of the conference.

Like most teams this season, Ferris will not be facing a conference foe for the first game of the season, playing at McKendree University to kick off the year. The Bulldogs will immediately pick up in GLIAC play following the first game as they are slated to face Northwood, Grand Valley and Saginaw Valley in the next three games, respectively.

“I think the key for us is to treat them all as just the next opponent,” Cribbs said. “We have gotten to a level where we no longer look at GV and say we can’t wait to play them. They are just another team in our way along with Northwood and Saginaw. I think if we go into that stretch with that mind set, we will be fine.”

Even though the Bulldogs early season games will be the most challenging part of their 2014 campaign, Ferris will still face a slew of formidable conference opponents later down the stretch. The Bulldogs will square off against Michigan Tech., Lake Erie, Northern Michigan, and Walsh to finish out the season against GLIAC teams.