The Cambria-Friesland High School football team’s numbers may be low but their experience is high heading into the 2020 season. Veteran head coach Jim Bylsma enters his 38th season with just 24 student-athletes on his roster, but 19 of those players have varsity experience. Bylsma will see quite a few starters return to his roster that includes nine seniors and just five freshmen. He says usually there are in the mid-30s when it comes to players on his roster.
Leading the way for the Hilltoppers will be All-Trailways Small Special Teams Player Cade Burmania. The seniors may be the most explosive player in the area, and is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Also back is quarterback Kobe Smit who started most of 2019 under center after Joseph Pulver was injured. Up front on the offensive line, 6’3, 259 pound senior Eli Lehman returns as one of the bigger lineman in the league and fellow senior Austin Braaksma is back as a two-year starter.
The Toppers went 4-5 overall last season and 2-3 in the Trailways Small, which ended a six-year post-season run. If Cambria-Friesland wants to have a successful season this year, Bylsma says that they have to focus on assignments and details. He says that last season they lost three games by two points and pair of those losses came on scores when players didn’t pick up formation keys. He adds turnovers also killed them in a couple of defeat and it call comes down discipline and attention.
With the most unusual offseason, Coach Bylsma says that they really didn’t think they would be playing football this fall until mid-July and once they got the green light to play players started to get back into the weight room and coaches started looking at the playbook. He adds the team was happy to get started with practice this week, a bit anxious, and also a bit behind schedule in terms of conditioning.
As for the decision to play this fall, Coach Bylsma said “I’m old, and four people on my staff are in their mid-50s or older and my wife is a cancer survivor…I was 100% in favor of spring football, but when the Trailways decided to go in the fall, I realized it was time to strap them on and here we go.” He added “I had a long and serious talk with my wife, knowing that this could be life threating to myself, to my coaches and especially to her, but she’s a hall of fame wife and she said ‘Well this has been your life so, go ahead and coach football.’ But, so it’s fall and it’s full steam ahead, and here we go.”
In order to keep everyone safe, Bylsma says that masks are worn at all team meetings with spaced seating. He says teams are taking breaks at different times to make sure players are not congregating during water breaks. He says they also try to keep distance while instructing at practice as best they can.
The Hilltoppers will open up the season when they Kingdom Prep Lutheran on September 25th. Kingdom Prep, is a first-year varsity program from the Milwaukee area. They replace Deerfield on the schedule who decided to move their football schedule to the spring.
Click the link to hear a complete interview with Cambria-Friesland football coach Jim Bylsma
Click the link to watch the Toppers Cade Burmania return a kickoff 88-yards for a touchdown in a 34-27 win at Dodgeland on August 30th, 2019
ICYMI: Cambria-Friesland’s Cade Burmania’s 88-yard kickoff return.
Posted by Daily Dodge on Saturday, August 31, 2019
2020 Cambria-Friesland Football Schedule
9/25 – Kingdom Prep Lutheran
10/2 – Randolph
10/9 – @Waterloo
10/16 – @Fall River/Rio
10/23 – @St. John’s Northwestern Military – 4pm
10/30 – Lourdes Academy
11/6 – @Johnson Creek
If you have a question about this story or have an idea for a future local sports story, please email Wade Bates at [email protected]