By Paul Costanzo
Special for Second Half
Dale Hofmeister knew the physical part of a big competition wouldn’t be an issue for the Essexville Garber boys bowling team.
The Dukes are talented and have had ample practice time with the lane conditions they’ll see as the meets get more important and competitive.
But with some new blood in the starting lineup this season, he wasn’t sure how they’d handle pressure.
During the Bay County Championships, the Garber assistant coach got his answer. When faced with pressure, they laughed in the face of it.
“They all really did handle themselves really well,” said Braedyn Hofmeister, Dale’s son and a junior on the team. “We weren’t really nervous. Even in the final match, we were all having fun and laughing.”
Garber won the tournament earlier this month, claiming its first Bay County title since the 2009-10 season. Now, armed with a trio of returning juniors who are backed by plenty of squad depth, the Dukes are looking to carry that momentum into the rest of the season.
“The boys, they started off slow, but I tell you what, they have a lot of talent on that team,” said Jim Tesner, head coach of the Garber boys and girls programs. “They should do well in Regionals this year.”
While Tesner is in charge of the Garber bowling program overall, he said he mainly oversees the girls team, which itself is having a successful season winning its first six dual meets and taking second in the county after losing by just 10 pins in the final match against Bay City Western.
Dale Hofmeister, the pro at Alert Lanes in Essexville, oversees the boys program, which is 6-2 on the year.
“We’ve had decent teams the last few years, but I think this year the team is a little more balanced,” Dale Hofmeister said. “It’s hard to sit somebody out. I have to sit somebody out that’s bowling good. We try to spread the games out and let them all get playing time, but any one of them can bowl good on any day.”
They certainly bowled well on the day of the county meet, as they defeated Bay City John Glenn 389-377 in the final. That day, Braedyn Hofmeister was joined by Nick Brody, Michael Carr, Logan Forbing, Zach Moore and Jonah Przepoira in the lineup.
Brody, Hofmeister and Moore are the three juniors who returned from last year’s team. The three were bowling together before they entered high school, but it wasn’t until they arrived at Garber that they took their games to another level.
“I personally didn’t really take it that serious until my freshman year in high school,” Braedyn Hofmeister said. “By the time we got into high school, I think we all knew what we could be and what we could do for Garber. Then we kind of all shot up from there.”
As sophomores, they helped the team qualify for the MHSAA Division 3 Finals for the first time since 2016. The Dukes didn’t make it out of the qualifying round, but the experience gained was invaluable.
“It helps a lot, because they want to get back there,” Dale Hofmeister said. “They’re helping the new guys out, too, because they haven’t actually been to the Regionals yet. As far as lane conditions go, we’re used to playing on the Allen pattern (used for the MHSAA postseason), so they’re going to be ready for that. It’s just the atmosphere, and I think the county championship helped with that. When they get to the elimination matches, it just gets a little bit louder, but they actually played better during the elimination rounds.”
Braedyn Hofmeister said the team knew from the first practice that it could be in for a good season. While the county championship is a big step in the right direction, he knows there’s plenty left to do.
“It’s a lot different bowling against people at (the state) level than normal high school matches,” he said. “Every shot counts.”
The Regional, to be held Feb. 28 or 29, figures to be tough. It includes a Corunna team that was third in Division 3 a year ago and runner-up the previous two seasons. The top three will qualify for the MHSAA Finals on March 6 in Jackson, and the Dukes will have the luxury of bowling at their home – Alert Lanes – in the Regional.
That, combined with the way they’re bowling, could make for a special end to the season for the Dukes. They’re certainly shooting for the ultimate prize.
“Winning (an MHSAA title),” Braedyn Hofmeister said when asked for the team’s goal. “Definitely making the cut (for the quarterfinals). After all, anything can happen at one tournament.”
Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.
PHOTO: The Essexville Garber boys bowling team celebrates its Bay County championship earlier this month. (Photo provided by the Garber bowling program.)