The 2012 Grand Valley State Laker football team poses for its team photo.
GVSU junior quarterback Heath Parling (center).
GVSU senior wide receiver Charles Johnson.
ALLENDALE, Mich. (WZZM) - The unthinkable happened for the Grand Valley State Laker football team in 2011. For the first time in eleven years, it missed the Division 2 playoffs. Three losses in the Lakers' first four games doomed their postseason hopes despite an outstanding finish that saw GVSU win seven straight. "Missing from last season was obviously the playoffs," says junior quarterback Heath Parling. "8-3 is not good enough. Never has been and never will be."
Grand Valley put up some big numbers despite missing the playoffs. The team averaged more than 42 points per game and Parling was Division 2's national leader in passing efficiency. Still, early-season mistakes hurt the Lakers as they lost three straight games by a combined ten points. They vow to not make those mistakes again. "It was really difficult at times but it wasn't really what our opponents were doing," says senior wide receiver Charles Johnson. "We were stopping ourselves and turning the ball over. Not converting on fourth and one or third and one. The little things killed us. We've really been focusing on the little things this year like tempo of the game, ball security, alignment, assignment. We know we have the talent to do the big things but the little things are what killed us last year so we have to focus more on those."
Third-year head coach Matt Mitchell says the Lakers have an offensive unit that will probably carry the team in the early part of the season. "We have a lot of high expectations for them. We led the league in rushing, we led the league in scoring, our leading receiver is back. A lot of pieces to the puzzle are back. That's definitely going to be the strength of our team early on. We have some guys coming back on defense but some of the guys coming back on defense didn't make plays in 2011."
The Lakers open the season with a road trip to Western Oregon University, a team GVSU hammered 44-20 last season in Allendale. "It's going to put some pressure on our team, the flight, the time zones," says Mitchell. "This is not like we're taking a road trip up to Ferris State or something. This is a massive undertaking getting all these guys on the plane. That's going to force us to focus on the details of that. I think it's a good challenge for our team and I'm looking forward to it."
The Lakers' home opener is September eighth against Notre Dame (Ohio).