As a teacher and coach, Bill Bellers knows the importance of tests – some are more important than others. This week’s four-way scrimmage in South Lyon won’t show up on the Pioneer’s won-loss record at the end of the season but Bellers knows that this preseason test is pretty important.
The Pioneers always have talented football players but sometimes the pieces just don’t fit – like last year’s 3-6 record shows. Bellers has about 45 pieces to work with this season and he will get his first chance at seeing how they fit on Thursday in a four-way scrimmage with host South Lyon, Woodhaven and Plymouth.
“Camp has been going pretty well and the energy has been good which you always like to see,” said Bellers on Tuesday afternoon. “I coached a lot of these guys on JV so they know my expectations and how we do things.”
Bellers says early in camp he’s focused not only on fundamentals, getting players in game shape and going over plays and formations, but playing with a bounce in your step and with passion on every snap.
“We’ve been focusing on ourselves and getting better every day,” he said. “I’m really looking for a lot of energy and bringing back that excitement to playing football. The kids have been very upbeat and showing that excitement we want to see.”
In his first year coaching the varsity after five as the JV coach at Pioneer, Bellers knows the players well. And just as important, they know him well. That should certainly help in the chemistry department.
“I know the players I have and I know there is talent there,” he said. “We have a very strong senior class that understands they are being counted on as leaders of this team. They need to show the other players that we do what is best for the team and not the individual. Team goals come first and the seniors know that. It’s a really good and special group of kids.”
The roster is still in flux and the days of cuts are long gone.
“Anyone who wants to play we want them here,” said Bellers, who teaches history at Pioneer HS. “I believe in what we are doing. For us, it’s more than just football. We use the game of football to teach life lessons these kids can take with them.
“We have put together a great staff with several who also are teachers in the building and they are positive influences on these kids.”
Pioneer opens the season on Aug. 25 at Muskegon. The Big Reds, who defeated Pioneer 51-14 in last year’s season opener, reached the state championship game before losing 29-28 to Orchard Lake Saint Mary’s in the Division 3 finals at Ford Field.
It will be a big test on the road against one of the best teams in the state. But first comes Thursday’s preseason exam.