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Brutal schedule awaits Red Arrows

5:03 PM, Aug. 08, 2012 EDT

LOWELL, Mich. (WZZM) - If any team in West Michigan has a tougher schedule than the Lowell Red Arrows this season, the "13 On Your Sidelines" staff hasn't seen it.

The Red Arrows face non-conference matchups with powerhouses Rockford, Muskegon, and Grand Haven before settling into a strong O-K White schedule featuring East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Christian. The schedule also includes games with Jenison, Forest Hills Central, and Caledonia.

Lowell continues to be one of West Michigan's premiere programs as evidenced by three straight trips to the state finals. But head coach Noel Dean expressed displeasure about what he perceives as poor conference maneuvering. The O-K Conference realigned this year and Dean says Lowell has had increased problems scheduling non-league games against schools with similar enrollments. "I'm not sure what we're trying to accomplish in the O-K Conference with scheduling," Dean told WZZM. "Most people say it's not about football but if you look at the schedule it certainly must be about football. Anybody that didn't want to play us in football has called to schedule us in other sports. Jim Haskins (O-K Conference commissioner) thinks we're capable of playing teams twice our size. We're the furthest east team in the O-K Conference but we're playing three of the teams furthest west (Muskegon, Grand Haven, Jenison). So I'm not sure size and enrollment have anything to do with it."

Tough scheduling or not, Lowell figures to once again be strong in 2012. The team loses much of its starting lineup from 2011 including "13 On Your Sidelines" player of the year Gabe Dean. But others are ready to step into key roles. "We have depth, we have good players," says senior linebacker Shannon Massey. "People coming back, our defense is strong. We have a good offense that's coming back. We just need to be together as a team."

The Red Arrows open the season Thursday, August 23rd at Rockford. Join WZZM's "13 On Your Sidelines" all season with Tom Clyde, Dan Harland and Brent Ashcroft for West Michigan's most fun high school football show!