ROGERS CITY-With only five bowlers, the Rogers City boys bowling team doesn't exactly have the biggest numbers.
But after winning the Division 4 state bowling title last season, low numbers haven't dampened the Hurons' expectations.
"We're short on numbers, we've only got five, but numbers aren't really a factor in bowling since you only need five to bowl," Sophomore Alex Darga said.
News Photo by James Andersen
Rogers City senior bowler Zach Hazel throws a practice shot on Tuesday. Hazel is one of three returning bowlers to a Rogers City team that won the Division 4 state team title last season. The Hurons open the season at 10 a.m. today at home with a match at Nautical Lanes.
Rogers City will begin the defense of its state title at 10 a.m. today at home at Nautical Lanes during a season-opening match in the Northern Michigan Bowling Conference, which includes Alpena, Sault, Gaylord, Cheboygan, Petoskey and St. Ignace.
Since the Michigan High School Athletic Association recognized bowling as a sport in 2004 and began a state tournament, the Hurons have one title to their credit and finished as team runner-up in 2004 and 2010.
Of the Hurons' five bowlers, three return from last year's championship team including senior Zach Hazel, who finished as runner-up in the Division 4 individual finals. Hazel also led the Hurons in the team finals with a score of 258. Hazel will likely be the team's anchor and has high hopes for a good season.
"I'm just focusing on just getting good shots off and doing as well as I can," Hazel said. "I think it's going to put a little more pressure on us, we have a younger team and we lost two seniors. I just hope we have a good season."
Along with Hazel, Darga and senior Chris Bark also return for Rogers City and both also qualified individually for the state finals, with Darga finshing as the top individual freshman in Division 4. Darga bowled a 196 at the team final and Bark bowled a 182.
Having a strong, experienced trio of bowlers will be of great help to the Hurons, particularly in baker games, where five bowlers rotate for 10 frames.
"Well we lost two kids that had been in the program for quite a while, but with three returning ones, that's a great nucleus in bowling because you're only bowling five, so with three kids coming back, we're feeling pretty good," Rogers City coach Brian Bannasch said. "(It's) one of those years where we'll grow and hopefully peak at the right time."
The two newcomers to the team, freshmen Bailey Budnick and Corey Grulke have bowling experience, but like Darga last year, will be getting their first taste of high school bowling and will be asked to contribute right away.
"The two that are joining us this year, are in the same position Alex was in," Bannasch said. "They're talented bowlers and they've been in our youth program for a while, but they have no varsity experience."
Heading into today's match, the Hurons are confident, but also know that they must grow as a team throughout the season if they hope to qualify for as individuals and as a team for the state finals in March
"We're not going to let it get to our heads. We just have to do what we do," Darga said. "Being state champs is nice, but we just have to go out and do what we did last year and hopefully we can get the same result."