April 19 03:08 PM

Imlay hopes to even score

Spartans and Broncos square off Friday night in Imlay City

August 01, 2007
From the moment they set foot on the gridiron this Friday to the time the clock zeroes out at the completion of the fourth quarter, the Imlay City Spartans figure to be focused on the task at hand. The hoopla surrounding the Second Annual Alumni Football Game versus North Branch set for 7:30 p.m. isn't likely to distract the squad.

And the reason for that is simple, they will be looking to even their alumni series with North Branch at a game apiece.

The 2007 Imlay City Alumni Football Team. photo by Randy Jorgensen.

Last year North Branch, playing before an estimated crowd of 2,500 fans, earned a 21-18 win at Imlay City's expense.

This time around Imlay City will look to turn the tables on their gridiron rivals from North Branch.

"We are hoping to surpass last year's turnout," Rick Lee, one of the event's organizers, told The Tri-City Times. "It wouldn't be out of the question to have a crowd of between 2,500 and 3,000 fans on hand," he noted.

Imlay City's roster will include Rick Granata, a 1993 graduate. He did not suit up for the Spartans a year ago.

As Tri-City Area football fans may recall, Granata rewrote the record books in his final year at the varsity level. He was a tenacious ballcarrier, picking up yards in large chunks.

He finished his final campaign with 2,783 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns. Both were state records at the time. He also owned state career marks as far as rushing yards (5,674 yards) and touchdowns (89) were concerned.

His efforts helped a talented Imlay City team reach the Class B state championship game at the Silverdome. It was there the Spartans (11-2) dropped a 35-14 verdict to the Flivvers of Kingsford High School.

Granata would go on to continue his playing days at Eastern Michigan University and Pennsylvania University.

Quarterback/safety Matt Topie (Albion), safety/runningback Steve Lestage (Wayne State University), defensive end Chris Gilbert (Grand Valley State University) and linebacker Steve Cooke (Olivet College) also should figure prominently in Imlay City's plans once game night rolls around. Topie is a 1995 graduate; Lestage graduated in 1992; Gilbert is a 1994 graduate; and Cooke graduated in 1984.

"All of those players have excellent track records given they have played college ball," Lee said. "The presence of a large crowd isn't going to be a factor as far as they are concerned," he emphasized.

They will be joined on Imlay City's roster by quarterback Rick Lee (class of 1981), defensive end/guard Jeremy Homer (class of 94), cornerback Jeff Stryker (class of 1998), wingback Chad Stryker (class of 1995), tackle Mike Smith (class of 1981), tight end Paul Meier (class of 1988), tight end/linebacker Mark Stevens (class of 1991), Israel Kipper (class of 1996), safety Louie Aguinaga (class of 1995), noseguard Tom Schutz (class of 1985), defensive end Dennis Deitch (class of 1994), defensive tackle Jeff Mallets (class of 1994), tackle Steve Upleger (class of 1980), guard John Lee (class of 1975), cornerback Roger Romine (class of 1979), runningback Brent Granata (class of 1996), split end Kevin Vanderploeg (class of 2001), Scott Vanderploeg (class of 1985), tight end Bryan Buike (class of 1990), center/noseguard Chris Avouris (class of 1994), guard Jeff Land (class of 1991), center Dave Dueweke (class of 1991), linebacker Lavern Dean (class of 1967), cornerback John Seybert (class of 1983), wingback Jeremy Aguinaga (class of 1991), tight end Ted Reintjes (class of 1992), noseguard Jim Mauricio (class of 1992), linebacker Nick Monroe (class of 1998), safety Pat Land (class of 1989), linebacker/kicker Bill Brown (class of 1979), runningback Ken Taylor (class of 1983) and center/defensive tackle Darren Day (class of 1984).

While he admits the skills of those players with the college experience likely will be featured most often, Lee believes the outcome could boil down to which team has the best supporting cast of players.

"We have some top-notch players to utilize but so does North Branch," Lee said. I really believe it could be an unsung player who has a good night making the difference," he noted.

"I know I am excited to go at it one more time. The rest of our team feels the same way. It should be another good game."

Proceeds from the game will divided evenly by both team's athletic departments.

Sports Editor, Kevin Kissane has been covering sports for the Tri-City Times for over 20 years and is one of the most recognizable personalities in the area. Kevin when not covering anything from little league baseball to football, or softball to basketball, can be found on the links playing his favorite sport, golf.
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