Two seasons ago, the Pioneers of Riverview Gabriel Richard were celebrating a 7-4 season, which included the program’s first-ever playoff victory.
Last fall, however, a young Richard squad went on to finish 3-6 overall. The team was outscored on the season, 211-151, which was a harsh recession from the numbers a year prior.
Pioneers Coach Tom Michalsen was at the helm for the big postseason victory in 2015, and his vision is clear for 2017.
“Our goals are to get back to the state playoffs and Prep Bowl,” he said.
“The Prep Bowl will be tough [to achieve], as defending league champion Cranbrook is very strong.”
Cranbrook, which finished 7-3 with a playoff berth last season, will meet the Pioneers on Sept. 30 in Riverview.
Richard is returning a handful of players that had an impact on the field last season, all while adding new faces that are expecting to strengthen the starting lineups.
Lineman Devin Slaughter will return to the trenches for his senior season after a standout performance in 2016. As a junior, Slaughter was named to the All-News-Herald Second Team after racking up 56 tackles and two sacks from the defensive line and acting as one of the top offensive linemen in the area.
Junior Nevin Hughes will return as an athletic and versatile force on both sides of the ball. In his sophomore season, Hughes made 77 tackles as a defensive end and ran for 416 yards with two touchdowns as a running back. He was named to the All-News-Herald First Team.
Sophomore Kenny Esquible will return to the offensive and defensive lines after having an impact during his freshman campaign. Senior wide out and cornerback Eric Wigginton will return for his senior season with the Pioneers.
New faces expected to contribute in 2017 include sophomore Nathan Palumbo and juniors Devin Durham and Max Hatty. Palumbo will see time at both running back and linebacker. Durham will be used as a defensive back, while Hatty will have an impact as a linebacker.
The season kicks off for the Pioneers on Aug. 25, at home, against Melvindale Academy for Business and Technology. The teams have met four times, and have split the series with two wins each.
Last season, the Gators beat Richard 38-14 in the first game of the year.