It’s rivalry week, and that means Port Huron Northern head coach Larry Roelens has taken a few strolls down memory lane.
Expect his memories from the playing days are colored in blue and yellow. Not at all, actually.
More than 10 years ago Roelens was on the other side of the field as a Big Red, taking down the Huskies in 2003 as a quarterback to end a six year losing streak. A Big Reds victory in the matchup was pretty rare back then too as Northern took the victory in a whopping 17 of the previous 18 matchups before the 2003 Big Reds win.
“It’s fun, it’s a community game and it’s during week nine for a reason,” the first-year head coach said. “We love having this game to end our season, it’s a culmination of the whole season for both teams and we get to put on a show at home.”
A decade later, Roelens is focused on snapping another win streak in this rivalry but, once again, it’s not in his favor. Northern has lost the last four matchups to Port Huron, but Roelens knows from experience when the teams take the field, anything can happen.
“It’s not like any other game,” Roelens said. “You throw the records out the window, and it’s just great memories for everybody. No matter if you graduated in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or whenever, this is a game that’s going to stick with you forever.”
This Friday’s game at Memorial Stadium will also keep Northern in the playoff hunt. Coaches and players admit that a would-be 5-4 record would still give them a small chance to make the playoffs, but just that glimmer of a shot has cranked up the intensity of this rivalry.
“We have a slim chance of making playoffs, but we are guaranteed one week,” senior lineman Mike Mahaffy said. “Coach has been saying all week to play with no regrets, so I’ve been trying my hardest to leave it on the field.”
Playoffs or no playoffs, this season has been a step in the right direction for the young Huskies. For the first time since 2011 Northern is still technically in playoff contention, and that’s let the season-long energy of the 29-year-old head coach’s players to flow right through them.
“Probably the biggest difference is coming out and wanting to be here,” senior Shane Sheridan said. “Just the attitude around the team has been a lot better.”
For outsiders, it’s hard not to think how electric the Huskies can be next season too. They’ll return eight starters to the defensive side of the ball, and on offense the corps of playmakers in Billy Fealko, Travis Hughes, Steve Mason and Colby Nabozny will be returning as well.
“We’re not thinking about next year at all,” Fealko said. “We’ve got PH this week so we are only thinking about that.”