Cardinals' Shimel finding confidence following travel baseball season
JOHANNESBURG – When Gaylord Baseball Club wrapped up its travel season last week, first-year coach Dwain Koscielniak said the most-improved player on the team was Johannesburg-Lewiston senior Tanner Shimel.
And that's saying something because Koscielniak is an assistant coach at rival St. Mary. Shimel improved his defensive fielding, developed a more fluid batting stance and, most importantly, became more confident in his athletic abilities.
That should pay dividends when Shimel takes the field as J-L's quarterback this football season. Last year, the Cardinals, who went 6-4, graduated a slew of senior leaders and some of their best athletes. They'll need Shimel to be on top of his game while running their offense.
Shimel can no longer be just a role player. His summer baseball experience should be a boon for the Cardinals in making him a star.
"It does translate to football," J-L coach Joe Smokevitch said. "Baseball was a good experience for him.
"He's turning into a better leader. He's not a vocal leader – and if you get two words out of him, that's a lot – but he'll look good (playing QB back there)."
Shimel took over the starting QB duties from Brandon Huff last season. He didn't run as much as Huff, nor did he have as strong of an arm, but he showed he's competent in running the offense and making the right reads when he's asked to. He's capable of rushing for a first down when the down and distance favors his skill set to tuck the ball and get a yard.
He's excited to see what he can do after such a great summer.
"I feel confident right now, and I definitely was confident at the end of the baseball season," he said. "Baseball was a lot of fun, and I got a lot better.
"Now with football, we're coming along. Everyone is going to have to be a part of the offense, and it feels good (being a leader). This year, I'm trying to teach the younger kids because we're a younger group, but it's a pretty good feeling at practice right now."
It'll help Shimel having a Division I recruit like tight end Tyson Claeys catching his passes. Claeys holds offers from Cornell University and Michigan Tech already.
"I was very happy to see Tanner did well during baseball season, and I really hope he continues to improve," Claeys said. "Last year, it was his first year playing varsity QB, and I know it can be nerve-wracking.
"But he's evolving, getting bigger, better and faster, and you can see that in camp. He's faster and making plays. You can definitely see more kids following him this season. The kids follow him because he's being a leader. And that's important to this team."
The Cardinals open the season Friday, Aug. 24, at Manton.
Claeys' recruiting heats up as Cardinals prep for new season
By Brandon Folsom - Gaylord Herald Times Sports Editor
JOHANNESBURG – Tyson Claeys is putting the recruiting trail behind him.
The high school football season is here. He's made his college visits. He has his offers (Cornell University and Michigan Tech).
Now it's time to go win games with his Johannesburg-Lewiston teammates and put enough film together to reel in some more offers in the fall.
The Cardinals, who were 6-4 but lost to Lincoln Alcona in the Division 8 playoff opener last fall, open the season Friday, Aug. 24, at Manton.
"I really just want to win games," said Claeys, who is being recruited by Division I and II schools as both a tight end and defensive lineman. "I don't care how we do it, where we do it and when we do it. I just want to win all the games we can.
"I want to see our guys have as much fun as we can this year. We enjoy having fun, and that's what it takes to win games, too."
Claeys visited several Ivy League schools on the east coast this summer. While Cornell has already offered, a few more want to see some of his senior highlights before they pull the trigger on the 6-foot-4 senior.
"They've all expressed a lot of interest and say that I could fit in on their rosters," Claeys said. "It's just a waiting game right now, especially with the other Ivy schools. You got to wait for some of the admission stuffs to take care of itself. They're all high-academic schools. It's just a waiting game now."
Claeys has put a full-court press on football since the basketball season ended in March. He's been to camps and 7-on-7s. He's even been helping some of his Cardinals teammates in Johannesburg. He's adding to the abilities that he already has and working on his weaknesses.
"(A lot of the colleges) like that I'm as big as I am, but I can also move well, too," he said. "I'm not overly fast, but I'd like to think that I play faster than I show at camp or at a combine or in a drill. I just work really, really hard on the field, and they can see that on the tape."
That extra training has paid off, too, and several people have taken notice of it.
During a 7-on-7 against Mio, the team kept calling him "high school Gronk" after New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
"He's got that big body and when he gets it into space, he runs people over," J-L coach Joe Smokevitch said. "We need to run him outside more and get fade passes to him. That's what they did in that 7-on-7 league in Saginaw, and we need to do that, too.
"He'll be a mismatch nightmare. We're looking to get him free and clean down the field. We're going to work on stuff within our passing game to get him open."
While Smokevitch didn't reveal any secrets, he's going to make alterations to the passing attack with quarterback Tanner Shimel.
"The normal stuff we used to do was just predictable with our pass routes," he said. "We want to switch it up so the same guys aren't always running the same routes all the time. We need to get our QB to look for (Claeys) a lot. He's 6-4, for God's sake."
Claeys doesn't have a timeline for when he'll pick his college. But, for right now, he's hitting pause on all the recruiting talk.
It's time to have fun with his friends.
2018 Season Outlook
2017 Record: 6-4 (4-1 NMFL-Legacy)
2017 Finish: Lost to Lincoln Alcona 28-12 in D8 pre-district
Key Losses: DB Kyle May, DT Devin Koscielniak, LB Jacob Marsh
Key Returners: TE Tyson Claeys, QB Tanner Shimel, LB Sheldon Huff
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