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PREP FOOTBALL: Strength and conditioning regimen has brought Coleman to next level

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At the core of every football team lies its strength and conditioning program.

It’s in the weight room during the offseason and summer that athletes develop both physical and mental toughness.

Sure, games are won and lost on the gridiron, but it’s more often than not that the teams that garner the most success are the ones that place a heavy emphasis on conditioning.

Coleman High School is one of those teams that have demonstrated just that this fall.

“We’ve made changes not only in our strength level, but in our mindset,” said Coleman head coach Chad Klopf. “Late in the game last week, we’re going back and forth with Carson City, not sure who’s going to win the game. We were able to stay mentally focused and mentally tough. These guys have been through some hellish workouts, so that when we get into a game, it’s not as tough as the summer workouts.”

The “hellish” workouts that Klopf refers to are the ones that his players conducted with David Lawrence, founder and CEO of Michigan Elite Conditioning for Athletes, a strength and wellness facility based in Wixom.

Lawrence was a free safety on Central Michigan University’s Mid-American Conference Championship squads of 2006 and 2007.

“Dave put us through training and a workout once a month,” Klopf said. “He gave us our monthly lifts, and that changed a lot of the ways that we did things. It has helped us a ton.”

The wellness program combines both weight training and nutrition, and it has paid off for Coleman.

Klopf says all but one of his big men dropped significant weight with the program, while many of his smaller players gained significant amounts of weight and muscle.

With the new strength and conditioning program in place and with a talented group of athletes, the Comets (4-1) have already matched last season’s win total, doing so in Week 4.

Despite suffering a 50-48 loss in the final seconds to undefeated Carson City-Crystal last week, Coleman still finds itself very much in contention in the Mid-State Activities Conference South championship race.

The MSAC South is arguably one of the most balanced conferences in the area this fall, with two teams carrying undefeated conference records into today, while two more, including Coleman, have just one blemish.

“If you look at our school and team sizes, the conference has been so competitive this season,” Klopf added. “Montabella is down in its win-loss record, but the team is not down. They are still pretty young. Carson has a few more kids to play than others and Vestaburg is loaded again. Ashley is young, but they will still give you a fight. Sacred Heart is still Sacred Heart as well. They are always there at the end.

“It’s probably one of the toughest conferences in the area. If you ask a Class A school, they may say no, but if you’re matching up with schools our size, it is.”

After losing 2012 honorable mention All-State running back Tim Anderson to graduation, Klopf and Coleman have placed an emphasis on the passing game this season.

Junior quarterback Adam Stremlow has been impressive for the Comets. Stremlow, who has completed 77-of-147 passes for 1,346 yards and 16 touchdowns with just four interceptions, is on pace to eclipse the 3,000-yard mark for his career this week.

“We rely on his arm, but we balance it out with the run,” Klopf said. “Lars (Murray) is not the same back as Tim was last year as well, but if you’ve seen us play at all, he does run hard and he puts a hurt on the kids that he does hit.”

Murray, a senior, leads the Comets with 404 yards and four touchdowns on 75 carries, while fellow senior Zach Frazer has rushed for an additional 181 yards and two scores on 29 carries.

Stremlow has also benefited from a talented receiving core.

Junior Mitchell Franklin leads Coleman with 421 yards and five touchdowns on 22 receptions, while Frazer ranks second with 377 yards and six scores on 20 grabs.

Senior Matt Warner is another standout wideout, corralling 18 receptions for 375 yards and five touchdowns. Warner had a breakthrough in last Friday’s loss with 244 yards on eight receptions.

Defensively, the Comets have created havoc for opposing offenses.

Coleman has registered 20 takeaways (11 fumbles, nine interceptions) and eight sacks.

Senior Hunter Gross leads the Comets with 60 total tackles along with one sack and a fumble recovery.

Ryan Yeager and Murray have also combined for 113 tackles and four takeaways.

“We take advantage of our three strong kids up front,” Klopf added. “We switched to the 3-5 last week because we knew we needed more up front, and we still needed more, but we’ve done a nice job. We’ve had a lot of takeaways…We’ve got a good takeaway defense and a lot have been picks and forced fumbles. They just basically fly to the ball. There are not a lot of rules in our defense to make them think. Our strength is that we’ve got some pretty athletic kids.”

With their original goal of completing an undefeated season now out of the equation, the Comets have focused their efforts on punching their ticket into the state playoffs.

“Going in early, we had the undefeated goal of course,” Klopf said. “There’s also the chance that someone can knock off Carson City and we can have a chance at the conference championship. The guys expect to make the playoffs too. The whole reason for going undefeated was to host a home playoff game. That’s something that people have been waiting for around here for a long time, so if that opportunity comes, it comes. We just want to increase our win totals and get in the playoffs.”

Coleman celebrates its homecoming Friday by hosting Ashley in another important MSAC game. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

Last Updated: 10/3/2013 5:10:25 PM EST