HILLSDALE – American amateur football clubs are taking root in many states across the United States. Many of these semi-pro football leagues offer former high school or college athletes another chance to play the game they still love. Several amateur club leagues are found in the state of Michigan, and one club seeks to earn its place in Hillsdale County sports history.
The Hillsdale County Red Raiders were officially formed as the first amateur club of its kind within the county limits. The club was founded by club owner Daniel Shearer and other football enthusiasts in 2021. The club has worked steadily to commit to a full season of matches. Shearer and the rest of the club’s owners, who also play for the club, have sought to publicize their efforts and attract potential players to Hillsdale communities.
The Red Raiders are looking for players to join their 35-man roster for the upcoming football season. Entrants must be 18 years or older and only need to pay an entry fee to play. The fees are used to buy equipment and jerseys. The Raiders sport a gray and red color scheme for their uniforms. The Red Raiders will play a full season of games in the Central Michigan Amateur Football League. The CMAFL is made up of several Michigan State amateur clubs, including Lansing teams.
The Raiders have already played one pre-season game against amateur club Albion Warriors. The team will be looking to improve their conditioning and player count to help them compete this season. For interested participants, practices take place this summer on Thursdays and Sundays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Daniel Shearer, a 2008 Hillsdale graduate, saw an opportunity to get back into the game he loves and organized the original start-up with friends. “We wanted to bring something fun to the community,” said Daniel Shearer. “It was around March of this year that things really took off. We are committing to the league in September. We will need the help of the community to make this happen and to help organize a host site potential.”
Head Coach Mark Titus joined the club this summer. A graduate of North Adams, Titus saw it as an opportunity to help promote a community organization that seeks to accommodate players of all skill levels and backgrounds. Coach Titus believes the team can be an opportunity to provide a safe and fun community program that can grow and evolve into something special. Titus said the opportunity to coach the team will allow him to help community members beyond just football.
“We are all figuring this out together and everyone is working together to make it happen. We have a great group of players who are working hard to improve with every training. We range from 18-year-old players to 40-year-old players. years. It’s an opportunity for people to get a second chance to play the game.”
Assistant coach Ted Jermeay said the team has attracted a variety of participants looking to find a way to experience the game in a way similar to how they band together. Coach Jermeay said many members are working jobs and taking time out of their schedules to get to practices.
“A lot of these players have families and this team gives them something their family is looking forward to. Somebody’s kid can say ‘There’s my dad playing football’. It makes it more special for their families. to see them play. These people want to do it. They want to push themselves because they want to play the game.”
The inaugural season will begin this fall. Shearer and the other club owners are looking for community sponsors to help raise funds. Shearer says sponsors will be key in helping them get to a full season of games. The Raiders are looking for local grounds to use for home games, but will play away games until they lock down a potential host site.
Players interested in joining the team can contact the organizers on the group’s Facebook page or Daniel Shearer directly at (517) 425-2373. The player fee is $150.