By MIKE BOGAN Tribune News/Sports Editor
Published: Wednesday, September 2, 2009 11:12 AM EDT
BAD AXE — Dave Rowland isn't sure how many more victories his Bad Axe football team will get this season.
The Hatchets might win a few more games. They might even make the playoffs.
Or, they might wind up 1-8.
But the Hatchets' third-year coach is certain of one thing, though.
"We're going to have fun, no matter what," Rowland said late Tuesday night. "The thinking is changing. It's like, 'OK, if we got the first win, why can't we get the second win?'
"The kids are seeing the benefits of hard work and dedication. It looks to me like they're not intimidated anymore. They are excited about playing."
Who could blame them?
Bad Axe won its season opener for the first time since 2001 last Friday night, getting a solid effort on both sides of the ball in a 28-6 decision over Harbor Beach.
Now, the Hatchets get a shot at a 2-0 mark when they travel to Vassar on Thursday night for the Greater Thumb West opener for both schools.
"This game is going to be an overall test to see where we are at," Rowland said.
Offensively against the Pirates, the Hatchets received strong efforts from Mitch Roth, Dillon Newell and Steve Salens.
Roth rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown. He also hit Salens on a 28-yard strike for another score. Newell added 106 yards and Bad Axe's two other touchdowns.
Rowland said he wasn't surprised about how Roth and Newell played in the opener.
"Both Mitch and Dillon worked very hard over the summer," he said. "I don't think they missed a day lifting. It certainly showed (Friday night)."
Quarterback Roth runs Bad Axe's modified version of the single wing.
Before Rowland took over the job as head coach at Bad Axe in 2007, he put in many hours studying the single wing offense, which was created by Glenn "Pop" Warner and was sort of the precursor to the modern spread or shotgun formations.
Today, the "Wildcat Offense" uses many of the single wing concepts.
"I have always wanted to run the single wing," Rowland said. "The kids love it and it's a lot of fun.
"We call it a single wing, but it does have a lot of variations."
Whatever the case, Bad Axe's offensive output last week was just the third time in the last 12 games it's managed 28 or more points.
Bad Axe's offense wasn't the whole story last Friday night against Harbor Beach.
The Hatchets' defense limited the Pirates to 186 yards on the ground and just 11 first downs. The last time an opponent scored less was in Week 8 of 2006 when Bad Axe blanked Saginaw Buena Vista, 62-0.
"I think our defense has improved, it's much better," Rowland said. "We're not starting freshmen and sophomores any more. Most of the kids who are out there have some experience."
Last season, the Vulcans rolled to a 51-16 victory over the Hatchets. It was the first time Bad Axe and Vassar had hooked up in a game since the old Thumb B Conference back in 1990.
"Offensively, we want to control the ball and have long and productive drives," Rowland said. "Defensively for us, they have a lot of speed on offense, so we want to pressure the quarterback. They are definitely going to be a test for our defense."
Whatever the outcome Thursday night, Rowland knows his team will have fun and be competitive.
"I think we're finally realizing we can play and be competitive," he said. "Now, we want to be the ones dishing out the hits. Before, we were the ones who were getting run over. And that isn't very fun
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