Dexter football program faces hard realities as season goes on

Dexter's defensive line and Chelsea's offensive line prepare for the snap during the second quarter of a Sept. 11 game at Dexter. Chelsea won, 45-0. Photo by Taylor Smith

As the years go by, constant frustration strikes the students and players of Dexter’s High School football team. For too long, the Dreads have been plagued with a lack of wins and seemingly little hope for a cure. Students throw blame to the players and coaches, but they may be accusing the wrong people.

For the past three seasons, including this year, the Dreads haven’t had the personnel to put together a freshmen team, a junior varsity team, and a varsity team at the same time. Due to a lack of personnel, the Dreads were forced to scrap a JV team this season. On top of that, the 14 sophomores in the program are all forced to play at the varsity level with kids who are two or three years older.

Junior Alex Strang believes that is one reason it’s hard for the team to improve.

“I think if coaches and players can recruit more kids to play, our program will definitely improve,” Strang said.

However, recruiting more people won’t solve the root of the participation problem. The lack of participation in the program is a result of the lack of agreement between coaches. At the middle school level, Coach Ken Koenig has a set of requirements for the middle school coaches to abide by. He wants to make sure that there are eleven starters on offense and eleven different starters on defense.

He didn’t want kids in middle school playing both sides of the ball and wanted to limit playing time to make sure every kid played. If middle school coaches respected those rules, then the football program would have depth and experience at each position at all levels in the program.

“With the lack of kids playing, there are also less-experienced subs for the starters. As the game goes on, the starters get tired,” Coach Koenig said. “With some playing both sides of the ball, it makes it harder for the starters to get their stamina back.”

Despite these rules, the middle school coaches still played current seniors, juniors, and sophomores on both sides of the ball while the majority of the other kids sat the bench during middle school play. Deterring kids away from the football program, the middle school coaches successfully slimmed down a chunk of kids from each class. For example, there were 40 sophomores playing middle school level football in recent years. Currently, there are only fourteen sophomore players in the Dexter program.

This drop-off in kids has a huge effect on the football program. With the lack of numbers, it makes practices more difficult, and since lack of players also means lack of experienced players, it is harder for the experienced players to get better with practice. This leads to little athletic growth among Varsity football players.

“In football, you need another quality back-up squad to go against the starting squad,” Coach Koenig said. “If you have this, it provides a good look to prepare for the next team.”

The lack of participation is not only affecting DHS, but other schools across Michigan as well. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, eight percent of Michigan schools have cancelled eleven-man football.

“We have 38 kids at the 8th grade level, and 36 kids at the 7th grade level,” Coach Koenig said. “Participation is definitely on the up slope.”

However, Coach Koenig doesn’t anticipate this statistic affecting DHS anytime soon. With the newer coaches in place, the participation in the football program should return to normal and bring more hope to the win-deprived Dreadnaughts.

This article is written by Squall staffer Nick LeBlanc, special to

Dexter Head Coach Ken Koenig gives the Dreadnaughts a pep talk before an opening offensive series. Photo by Taylor Smith
Dexter Head Coach Ken Koenig gives the Dreadnaughts a pep talk before an opening offensive series.
Photo by Taylor Smith
Junior Seamus McCurren (17)  looks to avoid a Chelsea defender after catching a pass from senior quarterback Nick Winston. Photo by Taylor Smith
Junior Seamus McCurren (17) looks to avoid a Chelsea defender after catching a pass from senior quarterback Nick Winston.
Photo by Taylor Smith
Dexter players huddle before their rivalry game with Chelsea on Sept. 11. Chelsea won, 45-0. Photo by Taylor Smith
Dexter players huddle before their rivalry game with Chelsea on Sept. 11. Chelsea won, 45-0.
Photo by Taylor Smith

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  • Dexter, we CAN do this! We should be proud of our boys, they fight their guts out every week. Myself and my young boys go to every game. We’re not that far off from turning this around. Our youth program has tremendous participation. If we keep these young men supported and enthused, we will be a different story sooner than later. I’m personally giving a little spare time to the program, and look forward to I increasing that role as I get more time. Fight on boys, your community is proud of you!

  • I went to some middle school games last year and saw that the “stars” played most of the game and the rest of the majority played sparingly. Watching a game against Chelsea, Chelsea routinely rotated kids in and out, and pretty much had a completely different set of kids playing the second half…but Dexter held tough and kept playing the same kids.

    The other issue that may be diminishing numbers across all of Michigan is head injuries and the long term health effects. Then there is the overall reduction in total student count by 250,000+ kids in the last decade. Not only are schools losing athletes, the overall student count is going down.

    All schools are affected and are playing with what they have…just as Dexter is. Coach Tom had his “reasons” and now we have Coach Ken giving his reasons. When you point the finger, there are always three pointing right back at you.

  • You should be embarassed that you deleted the post referencing this article from your Facebook page.

    Myself and others took time to provide thoughtful commentary on the article in hopes of sparking a debate on the state of our football program…not to point fingers, but provide additional context and observations that could be helpful in formulating solutions.

    Those who don’t want to have this discussion are doing a disservice to all involved, including the community this site professes to love.

  • Rob, the post was not deleted. Facebook’s ongoing effort to monetize their social media platform has introduced a host of bugs and malfunctions that cause all kinds of problems for those who operate business pages, like we do.

    The post vanished due to those issues. This is not the first time this has happened, and it always happens with very popular posts with lots of engagement and comments, as is the case here.

    We’ve instituted a temporary solution by “highlighting” that Facebook post, which will pin it to the top of our page’s news feed. We are attempting to contact Facebook today for a proper solution to this issue, since keeping that post at the top of our feed in order to keep it visible permanently isn’t acceptable.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  • That’s not quite how it works Sean. Assuming that was the case that would only affect it’s visibility on your timeline…it would not affect my ability to view it from a saved link. My ability to view it from a saved link would only stop working if the post was deleted or hidden…since it has magically reappeared, we’ll go with hidden instead of deleted.

    And these aren’t bugs introduced by Facebook…they are algorithms that were put in place to highlight popular posts and de-emphasize unpopular posts (the opposite of what you suggest).

  • I have no stake in football, but I recall a middle school parent telling me the exact same thing shortly after I moved here about four years ago. That only a few middle school kids play, and that they play on both sides of the ball. Seems an obvious problem with an obvious solution. Dwindling numbers due to concussion issues aside. Hoping for a bright future. Go Dreads!

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