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Thank you for purchasing the 2012 Local Sports Journal special football section. Inside you will find in-depth coverage of your favorite area high school football team as well as schedules and several other football-related items. This section was written by a group of writers with more than 100 combined years of experience writing area sports. You also will find this 24-page publication to be the only one of its kind previewing area high school football teams. Our staff worked hard on this project and is proud to have been able to assemble this information and get it into the hands of diehard area sports fans.
Muskegon area set to reclaim supremacy By Mike Mattson Local Sports Journal Muskegon Catholic Central coach Mike Holmes knows first-hand the quality of Muskegon-area football. Holmes, the dean of area coaches who begins his 25th season at the helm, said he believes Muskegon is a special place for the high school game. “We play quality football and that becomes important,” Holmes said. “People have pride in general for this area and pride in their school. “I just think we have quality teams,” Holmes added. “In 2008, it was a culmination of the rest of the state looking at Muskegon and saying, ‘They
Fremont – Page 2 Fruitport – Page 3 Grand Haven – Page 4 Hart – Page 5 Holton Page 6 Mona Shores – Page 7 Montague – Page 8
play quality football there.’” In 2008, half the state championship trophies came home to Muskegon County. Muskegon (Division 2), Oakridge (Division 5), Montague (Division 6) and Muskegon Catholic (Division 8) were all crowned state champions. Muskegon County schools have racked up many state titles – Muskegon Catholic (8), Muskegon (5), Ravenna (4), Oakridge (3), Montague (2), Reeths-Puffer, (1) and Orchard View (1). MCC, Oakridge, Ravenna, Montague and OV also have finished state runner-up over the years. In addition, Spring Lake, Fruitport and North Muskegon have made appearances in
state-title games. And remember, Muskegon is the state’s winningest program and among the winningest in the nation. On Thursday, area teams will begin the next quest to reach Ford Field on Thanksgiving weekend. They will start by vying for conference titles. They will hope to qualify for the playoffs. And then, they will seek five straight wins to remain the lone team standing in their division. Indeed, new memories will be created this season for all area coaches, players and fans. Friday night football is the hottest ticket in town as thou-
sands of fans flock to their favorite stadiums for the big games. Music from marching bands and inviting scents from concession stands will fill the air. For sure, Muskegon football fans will turn out to support their teams because it’s a tradition. Nobody needs to remind Holmes this is a special place for high school football. “Certainly, there is excitement and anticipation,” Holmes said about the season. “People have pride in the county of Muskegon and in their football. We are a bluecollar town and people are proud of their kids and their kids’ efforts.”
Muskegon – Page 9 Muskegon Catholic Central – Page 10 Muskegon Heights Academy – Page 11 Schedules – Pages 12-13 North Muskegon – Page 14 Oakridge – Page 15 Orchard View – Page 16
Writers Mike Mattson Mark Lewis Ron Rop Shawn Liverance Dave Tomczak Jason Goorman Jim Moyes Photographers Rachel Resterhouse Cole Myhre Mark Lewis Ron Rop Shawn Liverance Design/Layout Warren Kent III Printer Hi-Lites Graphics, Fremont For more on the Local Sports Journal, see Page 23
Ravenna – Page 17 Reeths-Puffer – Page 18 Shelby – Page 19 Spring Lake – Page 20 Whitehall – Page 21 Other Schools – Pages 22-23 Sponsor Page – Page 24
FREMONT Packer Pieces
Rob Pouch, head coach Coaches: Rick Tank, Rob Wood, Mark Bridges, Mark English, Jason Robbins and Jake Kuck. Last year: 5-4. Returning starters: Offense 5, Defense 6. Strengths: Depth at the skilled positions will be a definite plus for the Packers, who have an experienced quarterback and a solid corps of receivers. Weaknesses: There is just one starting lineman back from last year’s team. There are plenty of candidates to fill those spots, but the experience just isn’t there yet. Offensive outlook: It’s no secret the Packers will spread the field with their strong-armed quarterback and 4-5 solid receivers. They aren’t superstars, but they are solid pass catchers. Notable: Pouch is heading into his fourth season as the Packers’ head coach… The Packers have seen an increase in players this season. That includes 12 seniors, 20 juniors and three sophomores… The Packers were in a position to not only win the league title last year, but qualify for the playoffs. However, they lost three of their last four games, and neither happened. Quotable: “If we keep getting better and we take baby steps, we can compete. Our goal is to continue to get better.” – Coach Rob Pouch Projected finish: Ludington and Fruitport are expected to be the front runners in the Lakes 8, but with an explosive offense, the Packers could find themselves in the thick of the league race. Playoff history: Qualified for the playoffs seven times. In those seven postseason appearances, Fremont has a 2-7 record. Their last appearance was in 2009. Stadium: Pine Street Athletic Field, located on Division Street, south of Main Street. 2011 scores: Sparta 23, Fremont 8 Fremont 21, Orchard View 6 Fremont 28, Spring Lake 13 Fremont 21, Grant 14 Fremont 33, Tri-County 22 Fruitport 21, Fremont 0 Fremont 14, Newaygo 7 Ludington 17, Fremont 0 Montague 41, Fremont 20
The top returning defensive leaders for the Fremont Packers include, from left, Jared Bacon, Troy St. Peter, Ryley Bradley and Kavan Russell. (Photo by Ron Rop)
Defense needs to dominate for Packers By Ron Rop Local Sports Journal
Leaders of the Fremont Packer defensive unit want to take the pressure off the offense this season. “Defensively, we want to give up 15 points per game or less,” said Kavan Russell (6-foot-2, 260). “We want to keep the score low and keep them to two touchdowns or less per game.” The Packers weren’t too far off from that goal last year, giving up an average of about 18 points per game. But in the latter stages of the season, the Packers were shut out twice and missed out on a chance at the Lakes 8 title and a berth in the playoffs. Fremont is confident it can put some points on the board this season. The Packers have a strong-armed quarterback in Christian Wade (6-foot-1, 185). Wade played most of last season on the jayvee team, but did perform quite well in two starts at the end of the year. His teammates know just what to expect from their young quarterback. “He’s got a good arm,” James Bacon (5foot-10, 165) said. Wade will be turning and handing the ball to junior Wyatt Campbell (5-foot-11, 190) much of the time. His teammates say he’s got some moves, and he’s shifty. “He’s got strength and good speed,”
WATCH FOR Christian Wade 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, sophomore, quarterback
Wyatt Campbell 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, junior, tailback/defensive back
• James Bacon, 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, senior, wide receiver/defensive back • Troy St. Peter, 6-foot-3, 190, senior, wide receiver/defensive line • Kavan Russell, 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, O-guard/D-line Fremont coach Rob Pouch said. “And he’s got good vision. He fits in very well in our speed offense.” Then comes the corps of receivers. Pouch said there are no superstars in the group, just guys with good hands who run good routes. That group includes senior Troy St. Peter (6-foot-3, 190), Bacon and Mike Siegel (6foot-4, 185). “This is the most depth we’ve ever had at receiver,” Pouch said. “They are above average kids who can catch.” Russell, a senior who spent some time at fullback earlier in his Packer career, will play guard on the offensive line. The other guard spot will be manned by Frank Strubble (6-foot-2, 200). At the tackle position, Pouch has three players, two juniors and a senior, battling
for the two starting spots. All three possess good size up front. The senior is Jared Meeuwenberg (6foot-3, 250) while the juniors are Caden Dombrowolski (6-foot-2, 240) and Jesse Powers (6-foot-3, 260). Pouch will have several two-way players. Russell and St. Peter will take up two spots on the defensive line. Ryley Bradley is a senior and Charlie Dakin (5-foot-9, 180), a junior, will play linebacker. In the defensive backfield will be Wyatt, Bacon and Jake Deur (5-foot-8, 165), who is a senior. “We know on offense we have speed and quickness,” Pouch said. “We have kids who can control the line of scrimmage.”
First-year coach aims for conference title
3 Trojan Tidbits
By Ron Rop Local Sports Journal Greg Vargas has the utmost confidence in his Fruitport Trojan football team. Vargas, a first-year head coach, has been part of some aspect of the program for the last 15 years. He took over for Steve Wilson, who stepped down after 23 years as head coach. “I feel very well prepared,” Vargas said. “Steve’s leadership and the way he did things was a great example for me, not just in football, but in life. “I truly feel I had a unique experience working with three potential hall of famers – Steve, Larry Rueger and Steve Horodyski.” And now it’s time for Vargas to prepare his first team for the battles of the regular season and beyond. “We have kids who fit well into what we want to do,” Vargas said. “We’ve got some veteran players in the skilled positions and for those who aren’t as experienced, there is a willingness to learn. “We have a few starters back on each side of the ball,” Vargas said. “We will be learning on the fly, but we do have some good athletes.” Senior quarterback Tyler Fehler (6-foot, 165) is a dual threat in the Trojan backfield. He has put in the work during the offseason. He passed for about 700 yards last season, which to some schools may not seem like a lot, but this is Fruitport, where “smash mouth” football has been the norm. The majority of the carries are expected to go to Dakota Gordon (5-foot-8, 150), a senior with good speed. Also in the offensive backfield will be Shawn Knox (5-foot-8, 140), who may be small, but has the quickness to make the first guy miss. Vargas expects to move him around in order to get the ball into his hands. Receiver Aaron Veihl (5-10, 153) will be a prime target when the Trojans opt to move the ball through the air. Vargas said he’s got good hands and “an innate skill at catching the ball.” Veihl is a senior. Another key target could be senior Amilio Flores (6-foot-4, 255) who is not only a big target with soft hands, but a solid blocker. Jacob Breese (6-foot, 187) also will be getting his hands on the ball on occasion. He could play tight end or slotback. Along the front line is junior Chris Hendricks (6-foot-5, 270), a transfer from Mona Shores High School. The Trojans are expecting major contributions from their newest player. Another key lineman will be senior guard Alan Jones (6-foot, 190). Defensively, the Trojans will be led by many of the same players from offense. Fehler and Knox are defensive backs, Gordon, Breese and Veihl are linebackers and Flores, Hendricks and Jones are defensive linemen. Other key defenders will be senior defensive back Matt Boroff, who is a hardworking, coachable and an athletic player. Sophomore Nathan Kriger (6-foot, 165) is an outside linebacker who Vargas calls a “hard working, no nonsense” type of player. Fruitport will open the season against its traditional rival, Reeths-Puffer. “We know Spring Lake is a crosstown rival, but we are set on Reeths-Puffer right now,” Vargas said. “In the league, I believe we are a clear-cut favorite.” Vargas also has the luxury of having a larger than usual roster. Last year, the team had about 35 players. This season, it’s 46.
Greg Vargas, head coach Coaches: Jay Stebelton, Shaun Danicek, Jack Nummerdor, Roque Ybarra, Tony Johnson. Last year: 7-3. Lost to East Grand Rapids in first round of the playoffs. Returning starters: Offense 4, Defense 4. Strengths: The Trojans have the athletes to move the ball when on offense. That includes an experienced quarterback who can run and pass, along with a solid tight end and wide receiver. The willingness to learn also has been a plus in the early going. Weaknesses: There are a lot of starting positions to fill from last year’s team. Some of the starters are being asked to change positions. Offensive outlook: Fruitport will remain a run-oriented team, like it’s been for many years. However, with a new head coach, there will be some new formations and wrinkles put into the offense. There will be multiple formations, not just a “pack it in” philosophy.
First-year head coach Greg Vargas will rely on veterans as Fruitport shoots for a Lakes 8 conference championship. Four players who will be called upon to have solid seasons are (clockwise from top left) Tyler Fehler, Jacob Breese, Aaron Veihl and Amilio Flores. (Photo by Ron Rop)
WATCH FOR Dakota Gordon 5-foot-8, 150 pounds, senior, offensive back/linebacker
Chris Hendricks 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, junior, O-line/D-line
• Alex Jones 6-foot, 190 pounds, senior, offensive guard Aaron Veihl 5-foot-10, 153 pounds, senior, receiver/linebacker
Amilio Flores 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, senior, tight end/D-line
• Nathan Kriger 6-foot, 165 pounds, sophomore, linebacker Jacob Breese 6-foot, 187 pounds, senior, tight end or slotback/linebacker
Tyler Fehler 6-foot, 165 pounds, senior, quarterback/defensive back
Notable: Coach Vargas has spent 15 years in the Trojan football program. He spent time with the eighth grade team, five years at the jayvee level and the last five as an assistant on the varsity… Fruitport will take on Muskegon Catholic this season. It’s the first matchup between the area teams since 1976… This is the 10th straight season the Trojans will open the season against Reeths-Puffer. Quotable: “I don’t care who we go to play, if you don’t expect to win, you might as well just hang it up.” – Coach Greg Vargas. Projected finish: Coach Vargas fully expects his team to finish atop the Lakes 8 race with big games expected with Ludington and nearby rival Spring Lake. Playoff history: The Trojans have qualified for the playoffs 13 times. They lost in the Division 3 state championship game in 2001. Stadium: Located on Pontaluna Road, behind the middle school. 2011 scores: Fruitport 28, Reeths-Puffer 7 Fruitport 30, Newaygo 10 Fruitport 42, Tri-County 13 Fruitport 49, Ludington 27 Spring Lake 7, Fruitport 6 Fruitport 21, Fremont 0 Fruitport 33, Orchard View 21 Fruitport 21, Grant 0 DeWitt 28, Fruitport 6 East Grand Rapids 49, Fruitport 28
G R A N D H AV E N
BUCCANEERS Buccaneer Background ‘New’ is key for Grand Haven offense By David Tomczak Local Sports Journal
Mike Farley, head coach Coaches: Dave Larkin, Jason Duram, Tim Tiefenbach, Mike Wilford, Nate Smith, Pete Young, Jeremy Wienbenga, Randy Poel, Jack Richardson. Last Year: 8-2, 6-1, 2nd in OK Red. Returning Starters: Offense 1, Defense 4. Strengths: Grand Haven will have a more inexperienced team than usual, but all the players have come up in the Bucs’ system and have a strong understanding of it. Weaknesses: The Bucs will have to replace almost all of the offense, including replacing quarterback Scott Staal, who set school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. Notable: Grand Haven will continue to compete in the tough OK Red Conference but will miss matchups with Muskegon and Jenison as both teams moved into other conferences. The Bucs may not have a rivalry game with the Big Reds anymore, but have added Mona Shores to their schedule. Quotable: “We’ve made the playoffs three years in a row, which has never been done by the school. We’ve put ourselves in the position now that we expect to get to the playoffs and take it to the next level.” – Head coach Mike Farley. Projected finish: The Bucs could challenge for the top of the OK Red Conference yet again but will have to overcome an inexperienced offense and league favorite Rockford. Playoff history: The team has qualified four times (1999, 2009, 2010, 2011). Stadium: Buccaneer Stadium, next to the high school at 17001 Ferris St. 2011 scores: Grand Haven 35, TC Central 10 Grand Haven 48, TC West 21 Rockford 42, Grand Haven 30 Grand Haven 38, Jenison 14 Grand Haven 28, Hudsonville 6 Grand Haven 41, Grandville 13 Grand Haven 57, East Kentwood 20 Grand Haven 35, Muskegon 21 Grand Haven 21, West Ottawa 14 Grand Ledge 21, Grand Haven 14
Grand Haven coach Mike Farley isn’t concerned with the inexperience his team will have on offense this season. He’s been through it before. New quarterback and new faces seemingly blend right into the Bucs’ way of doing things. But just to make sure that the Buccaneers’ offense can be as explosive as it has been during Grand Haven’s run of three straight playoff seasons, Farley is adding more firepower to that side of the ball. How? By adding a top player from the defense. Isaak Newhouse, a junior free safety on the Bucs’ defense, will now get a chance at wide receiver, adding another weapon for Farley’s offense. “He’s the best athlete we have,” Farley said. “We felt like we had to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.” As a sophomore, Newhouse was Grand Haven’s starting free safety, a position he will man again this year. He made the defensive calls for the Bucs and was among the team’s leading tacklers. “He’s our quarterback on defense,” Farley said. “But he’s adapted really well to (wide receiver). He’s very smart and very physical.” Newhouse, who also is the Bucs’ longsnapper and punt returner, is looking forward to joining the offense. “The coaching staff let me know this past winter that they wanted me at wide receiver,” Newhouse said. “I wanted to play on offense, and it’s been a fun transition.” With only returning one starter, Newhouse will be just one part of an overhauled offense, but he figures if great Grand Haven teams of the past few years can overcome the loss of seniors, so can this year’s squad. “We were in a similar situation like this last year,” the junior said. “But if we continue to work hard everything should work out.” He will be working with a new quarterback this season, looking to hook up with senior signal caller Mike Penlend on what the pair hope are numerous touchdown passes. Penlend takes over at quarterback for Scott Staal, who set school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns, and is already looking forward to throwing to Newhouse. “(Isaak is) one of the quickest learners on the team,” Penlend said. “He picked up the offense quick. He’s an all-around athlete and he’ll be a good target to have.” Despite the inexperience that he’ll be dealing with, Farley isn’t too worried about the Bucs clicking on both sides of the ball. Last year’s junior varsity team finished 8-1, and every player on the team has been through the system that has made Grand Haven so successful in the past three seasons. They finished third in the OK Red in 2010 and a game behind Rockford last year. Newhouse, who also plays basketball for the Bucs, said he feels the team can pick up where it left off. “We can compete and should strive for a (conference) title,” Newhouse said. “It’ll be a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but we’ll try to do everything that’ll help us win.”
Isaak Newhouse, a quality strong safety, has been pegged by head coach Mike Farley to be an offensive threat also. Newhouse, who is also a long snapper and punt returner, will get a shot at wide receiver. (Photo by Cole Myhre)
WATCH FOR Anthony Perrier Mike Penland 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, senior, tight end/D-end senior, quarterback • Matt Mulcahy, 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, senior, center/linebacker • Aaron Gordon, 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, junior, running back/linebacker • Conner Moynihan, 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, senior, defensive tackle •
Steve Hlady, head coach Coaches: Brad Francis, Dan Pineda, Pat Ferrier Last year: 2-7, 1-6 Returning starters: Offense 4, Defense 5. Strengths: A strong offseason workout plan, including attending football camps and an improved weight room program, should pay off on the field. The offensive line returns all but one. Senior leadership will be key for the Pirates who are following the guidance of head coach Steve Hlady. Seniors Tyler Oomen, Kyle Nielly, John Zarzoza, and Randy Facundo hope to bring a winning tradition to Hart. (Photo by Mark Lewis)
Pirates dedicate off-season to hard work By Mark Lewis Local Sports Journal There hasn’t been a whole lot to cheer about for Hart High School – at least when it comes to the football team. The school’s last winning season (5-4) was in 1997, and there haven’t been backto-back winning efforts since 1984-85. Prior to that, the Pirates went 15 years without a winning season. And yet, coaches around the West Michigan Conference are buzzing about this year’s squad from Hart, wondering if the usually reliable pushover might not be so easy to push over this year. And leading the charge, front and center, is third-year Pirate head coach Steve Hlady, whose friendly, yet driven, demeanor suggests he’d like nothing better than to shock what many consider to be the toughest small-school league in the state. But then, every former head football coach at Hart has wanted that. The difference this time, said Hlady, will be the consistency he and his staff provide. That is, consistency of message and consistency of purpose. “The expectation has been set,” said Hlady, over the sounds of a remodeling project going on just outside the classroom door. “We’ve installed off-season workouts, gotten into the weight room, attended camps. In the past, the stuff most teams do, we weren’t doing. And it showed on the field.” But the old excuses won’t work anymore, said senior Kyle Nielly, a two-way starter on the line. “(Coach Hlady will) drive you even!” Nielly said. “He’s the most dedicated person on this team.” To make the point, teammate John Zarzoza, a guard/linebacker with a neverending motor, takes it even further to make the point. “Coach Hlady, all the coaches, they never give up on us,” he said. “So we stay and give them everything we have.” Indeed, the commitment itself has paid off for everybody. “The seniors are stepping up, everybody is stepping up, and you can feel the dedi-
WATCH FOR Kyle Nielly senior, O-line/D-line
Randy Forcundo senior, halfback
• John Zarzoza, senior, guard/linebacker • Tyler Oomen, senior, quarterback • JR Hinojosa, junior, tight end/defensive line • Jim Moore, senior, running back/linebacker cation level rising,” said senior halfback Randy Facundo. “It’s different now.” “It’s time to start a new tradition,” adds Nielly, whom Hlady said “has never missed a single workout.” Senior Tyler Oomen will start the offense under center with Facundo and senior Alex Brown, who returns to football after a couple seasons off, taking most of the handoffs. Senior Aaron Hepworth will assist Nielly on the line, with junior JR Hinojosa at tight end and defensive line. The team also welcomes senior running back/linebacker Jim Moore, who has impressed the staff despite this being the first time he’s played varsity football. Joe Philips, a junior, will back up Oomen and start at safety. Despite all the help at running back, the key to the offense may just be junior Brandon Amstulz, who is charged with replacing allconference receiver Jordan Truxton, who burned the league’s best defenses in 2011. “Brandon’s very athletic,” said Hlady. “He will make a difference.” Hlady takes the position that a scarcity of players has actually helped the team. Due to the elimination of the JV team, eight players will now be playing their fourth season of varsity football. Combine that with the fact that four starters on the line return, and throw in a group of physical, punishing backs, and you could be dealing with dynamite. Hlady has been here before. As a player at Montague, Hlady played for a program that, over his first three years (1998, 1999, 2000) went 5-4, 0-9 and 3-6. “We went 10-2 (losing to Schoolcraft
42-38 in the regional final) my senior year,” Hlady said. “I saw how things turned around; we have to get our kids to buy in. It’s as simple as that.” Positivity aside, the Pirates’ schedule is a killer. Visits to Shelby in Week 5 and to Whitehall in Week 7 will be critical, as will home games versus Oakridge in Week 4 and Ravenna in Week 6. Oh, and Montague visits in Week 2. So, Hlady does what anyone would do when faced with a climb up Mt. Everest. Hlady keeps his eyes in front of him, keeps moving upward toward the goal at the top. He’s focused on Week 1 against Onekama. “How we start will determine how this season is going to go,” Hlady said. “In fact, the first third of the season will be critical for us. After the North Muskegon game (in Week 3), we will have a pretty good idea what we have and what we’ll need to do to get better.” But, with any team looking to form a sustainable tradition, winning is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. Earning respect on the field, said Hlady, will be this team’s reward. “We’ve given the kids plenty of challenges,” Hlady said, “and they’ve responded to them. Now, we’re all just hoping that these kids get what they deserve.” Facundo said doing the unthinkable isn’t out of the question. “Sure, we want to have a winning record,” he said. “But we really want to make the playoffs.” Then he added, “And it’s because of where this program is at that I think we can do that.”
Weaknesses: Again, numbers are sparse at Hart, requiring most starters to play both ways. If someone gets hurt, there is little depth to fill the vacuum. Notable: For the third straight season, the Pirates open the season against Onekama. Hart won both previous openers… Last season’s WMC victory over North Muskegon ended a 20-game losing streak in league play for the Pirates… Hart’s last season of .500 or better was in 1997 when the Pirates finished 5-4. Quotable: “We’ve done so much around here in the offseason. It’s a new experience for all of us.” – Senior quarterback Tyler Oomen Projected finish: With the likes of Whitehall, Montague, Shelby, and Ravenna being annual contenders for the title, Hart is once again expected to finish in the lower half of the league, possibly as high as sixth. Playoff history: The Pirates have never qualified for the playoffs. Stadium: 300 West Johnson St. 2011 scores: Hart 21, Onekama 12 Montague 55, Hart 14 Hart 21, North Muskegon 20 Oakridge 47, Hart 14 Shelby 46, Hart 26 Ravenna 50, Hart 20 Whitehall 42, Hart 12 Mason County Central 36, Hart 28 Kingsley 55, Hart 48
H O LT O N Red Devil Report
Chris Hilliker, head coach Coaches: Brad Casciano, Brett Younts, Jake Mitchell, Mark Jalovec, Geoff Martin, Jeff Pawlowski. Last year: 2-7 and 2-6 in the CSAA, which was good for a tie for sixth place. Returning starters: Offense 6, Defense 6. Strengths: The offensive and defensive lines will definitely be a strength for the Red Devils as will overall team speed. A second season learning the veer offense should also benefit the Holton offense. Weaknesses: Depth is an issue for the Red Devils as they have only 17 players on the roster. Injuries could decimate the Red Devils as most of their players play both offense and defense. Offensive outlook: The Red Devils will run the veer offense and rely on three-year starting quarterback Chase Smith to run the offense. A talented offensive line will look to open holes for some speedy running backs. Notable: Holton will look to post its first winning season since 2007 the last season before it entered the Central State Activities Association. The Red Devils scored 206 points last season the most since the 2007 season. Quotable: “I really feel my 11 guys can compete with anybody in our conference. We just need to keep them healthy and on the field.” – Head coach Chris Hilliker. Projected finish: The Red Devils have some talented experienced players. But with only 17 players, staying healthy is a must for the Red Devils. If they can avoid injuries, the Red Devils could double their win total from last season and move up in the conference race. Playoff history: Holton has qualified four times, with its last appearance being in 2007. Stadium: Red Devil Stadium is located next to the high school, 6477 Syers Road. 2011 scores: Hesperia 7, Holton 0 Chippewa Hills 41, Holton 13 Reed City 54, Holton 15 Holton 41, Lakeview 18 Holton 54, White Cloud 6 Morley-Stanwood 47, Holton 7 Central Montcalm 32, Holton 28 Manistee 54, Holton 35 Big Rapids 25, Holton 13
Although the Red Devils will take the field with just 17 players, senior Jeremiah Sergent, senior Nate Bennett and junior Chase Smith have their eyes set on winning the CSAA after placing sixth a year ago. (Photo by Shawn Liverance)
Despite small squad, expectations high By Shawn Liverance Local Sports Journal They may be short on numbers, but the Holton Red Devils football team doesn’t lack in confidence heading into the season. The Red Devils only have 17 players on their roster but believe they can compete this season for a conference championship and a spot in the playoffs. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and win a couple of games once we get there,” senior Jeremiah Sergent said. “We know we can’t afford many injuries though.” With very little depth, the Red Devils know staying healthy will be a key. “Our expectations are more wins this season,” junior quarterback Chase Smith said. “We have been working ten times harder this off season. We have some great athletes, and I think the best offensive line in the conference. We just need to keep everybody on the field.” Anchoring the offensive line will be senior left tackle Nate Bennett. “I can’t wait to get going,” Bennett said. “We have worked really hard. We expect to win games this season, and I know we can do that. We have some really good players.” The Red Devils enter their second season under Coach Chris Hilliker, who brought the veer offense from Muskegon High School. It will also be the second season Smith (5-foot-10, 170) has guided the Red Devils veer offense from his quarterback position. “I am feeling really confident running our offense,” said Smith, who became Holton’s starting quarterback his freshman year. “I am reading the defenses much better now.” “We have lots of speed on the edges,” Smith added. “But, we can also run it up the middle when we have to behind our offensive line.” A strong running game is key in the veer and fullback Sergent (6-foot-1, 180) will be a key to lead Holton’s rushing attack. “I am looking forward to running behind our offensive line,” said Sergent, who also
WATCH FOR Brad Epplett 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, junior, slot receiver
Austin Gillette 5-foot-10, 215 pounds, junior, defensive end
Corey Sokolowski 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, junior, outside linebacker • Caleb McCall, 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, senior, middle linebacker plays middle linebacker. “We have the backs and the line to move the ball.” Bennett (6-foot-3, 265), a senior, is coming off a separated shoulder he suffered last season but is healthy now and ready to contribute this season. “I am healthy and ready to lead our line this year,” said Bennett, who will play defensive tackle on defense. “I don’t care where I play on either offense or defense. I just want to be out there.” Also expected to contribute on both sides of the ball this season for the Red Devils will be senior Caleb McCall (5-foot-10, 180) at middle linebacker and juniors Corey Sokolowski (6-foot-1, 180) at outside linebacker and defensive end Austin Gillette (5foot-10, 215). Sergent, Bennett and Smith will all be looked upon to provide leadership for this year’s Holton squad. “All three are good kids,” Hilliker said. “Really, I have been impressed with the whole team’s willingness-to-succeed attitude they have.” Hilliker has set his season expectations on a week-to-week basis for the one of the smallest schools in the Central States Activities Association.
“We want to be champions every week,” Hilliker said. “If we are champions of each particular week, then we will be successful. Yes, depth is a concern, but if we stay focused each week, I think we will be just fine.” Defending league champion Reed City and Morley-Stanwood should once again be the top two teams in the conference, Hilliker said. “Reed City is probably the favorite,” said Hilliker, whose team opens the season against new conference opponent Newaygo. “They return quite a few guys from a 10-1 team last season.” Sergent said the time he and his teammates have put into off-season workouts will pay off this season. “Guys are buying into the system,” Sergent said. “We have been in the weight room and working out all summer. We want to win games this season.” The extra work the Red Devils have put in has Smith thinking that the Red Devils will surprise teams this season. “We are a very well-conditioned team,” Smith said. “That will help because most of us play both ways. I believe there is not a team in the conference we can’t beat.”
MONA SHORES Sailor Scoops
Matt Koziak, head coach Coaches: Todd Conrad, Aaron James, Mac Parker, Montrell Dockery. Last year: 1-8, 1-4. Starters returning: Offense 9, Defense 5.
In order for Shores to improve on last year’s 1-8 record, the offensive line will be key. Brandon Gue, Alek Jend, Collin Sullivan, Brandon Stafford and Jake Bordeaux will need to open holes for the backs and protect the quarterback. All are seniors except Sullivan, who is a junior. (Photo by Cole Myhre)
Offensive line strives for ‘nasty and bold’ By Mike Mattson Local Sports Journal Bad boys are lining up in the trenches at Mona Shores. According to Alek Jend, the Sailors want to be nasty and bold on the offensive line. “With Collin Sullivan at center and Brandon Gue and me, we plan to make some trouble for some defensive lines,” said Jend, a senior right guard. “I would have to say, with all the hard work we put in during the offseason, this year will definitely be one of the best lines ever at Mona Shores.” The O-line will be a key for the Sailors, who sputtered to a 1-8 record and averaged only 14.3 points per game last season. Four of the five interior linemen are returning senior starters – tackles Jake Bordeaux (6-foot-1, 230) and Gue (6-foot2, 265) and guards Brandon Stafford (5foot-10, 240) and Jend (6-foot, 230). Sullivan (5-foot-9, 225) is a junior and tight end Landon Kresnak (6-foot-3, 230) is a senior. “They live in the weight room,” Shores second-year head coach Matt Koziak said. “It will all start with these guys. I say, ‘We will hop on your backs and you guys carry us. It’s what you guys do up front that counts.’” Shores should be stronger with 45 players competing on a powerlifting team that finished strong at the regional competition. If the Sailors can open holes for Shores’ talented skill players, including sophomore quarterback Tyree Jackson, the offense should light up the scoreboard with much more frequency this season. Gue said it’s time for the Sailors to earn some respect up front. “We should be able to lead the way for all of our skill guys,” said Gue, a team captain along with Darnell Longmire, Lovepreet Singh and Jend. “Part of the reason we didn’t score much last year was because of the line. This year we are bigger, faster and stronger. We should be able to score a lot more points.”
WATCH FOR Darnell Longmire 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, senior, fullback
Jake Workman 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, junior, linebacker
• Landon Kresnak, 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, senior, tight end • Tyree Jackson, 6-foot-1, 170 pound, sophomore, quarterback • David Bloom, 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, junior, linebacker Koziak implemented the spread option veer offense last season. He predicts the offense will make vast improvements in his second year. “It is going to be exciting,” Koziak said. “We are a veer team, and we throw the ball, too. We are dynamic. If you load the box, we will throw. If not, we will run.” It will all start with Jackson (6-foot-1, 170), who is 30 pounds heavier and knows the offense inside and out. Last season as a freshman, Jackson completed 69-of-159 passes for 1,368 yards and 12 touchdowns. “He was a 13-year-old at 139 pounds we threw into the fire last season,” Koziak said. “He’s bigger and stronger. And he had a real good offseason.” Longmire (5-foot-9, 190) returns at fullback and will get his carries after rushing for a team-high 519 yards last season. Muskegon senior transfer Chris Bradford (5-foot-8, 170) also will be a key weapon at slotback with his 4.4 speed. Muskegon Heights junior transfer Asanti Brown (5-foot-11, 175) has good speed and hands and will fill the wide receiver void left by Aaron Doriot. Junior Logan Smith (6-foot-4, 200) is another big target at wide receiver. Defensively, Darrius Gooden (6-foot1, 290) will anchor the line at noseguard. Sophomore Carter Simpkins (6-foot-4, 210) is a key player at end and Kresnak and Jend are back at the tackles. Junior inside linebacker David Bloom (5-
foot-11, 200), who had 25 tackles last season against Holland, and linebacker Singh will be key defenders. Junior outside linebacker Jake Workman (5-foot-10, 190) and junior defensive back Cody Schneider (6-foot-1, 175) are other key defensive players. Koziak is pleased with the returning experience, but he said the attitude must change this season. “They are the big brother this year,” Koziak said. “The average age of the varsity last year was 15.5. We were like little brothers learning the speed of the game. I tell them, ‘Now, you are the big brother.’ They must know they are not the 1-8 team from last year.” Gue and Jend are ready to lead the way as Shores attempts to qualify for the state playoffs for the first time in school history. “Our main goals are to win the conference and make the playoffs,” Gue said. “We’ve had 90 kids in the weight room every day getting after it. I am just looking forward to the season and hope all the hard work pays off for us.” Jend said the Sailors have a better grip on the offense and blocking schemes. And, he adds, team confidence should be at an alltime high starting with the season opener against cross-town rival Muskegon Catholic Central. “Our team has really developed a lot since last year,” Jend said. “We have to put the pedal to the metal and finish each game 100 percent. I can’t wait for game one.”
Strengths: The Sailors have better depth and more competition for playing time with 39 players on the roster. Shores is stronger up front and should be improved on defense. There is good athleticism at the skill positions that will force opponents to defend the pass and the run. Quarterback Tyree Jackson is 30 pounds heavier and experienced after leading the Sailors last season as a freshman. Weaknesses: Koziak said a key for the Sailors is learning and expecting to win. A lot of players return with experience, but they have not had a taste of winning at the varsity level. Offensive outlook: The Sailors will employ the spread option veer attack. Shores should be much improved on offense and attack opponents with the run and the pass. Notable: Shores will have better leadership this season with 18 seniors on the squad… The Sailors’ schedule is friendlier without state powers East Grand Rapids and Lowell in the mix. The nonleague slate includes Muskegon Catholic, Spring Lake, Caledonia and Grand Haven. Quotable: “We got the kids to buy in last year and we have that experience back this year. I can’t talk enough about the off-season and what these kids did to prepare. Friday nights will pay off for them.” – Head coach Matt Koziak. Projected finish: Muskegon is the OK Black favorite, with Zeeland East, Kenowa Hills and Shores expected to challenge. Playoff history: Shores has not qualified for the post season. Stadium: Sailor Stadium, next to the high school at 1121 Seminole Road. 2011 scores: M. Catholic 48, Mona Shores 7 Greenville 59, Mona Shores 14 GR Northview 35, Mona Shores 7 E. Grand Rapids 61, Mona Shores 6 GR Union 26, Mona Shores 22 FH Central 48, Mona Shores 13 Kenowa Hills 41, Mona Shores 22 Mona Shores 26, Reeths-Puffer 22 Holland 31 Mona Shores 12
M O N TA G U E Wildcat Wisdom
Pat Collins, head coach Coaches: Denny Barnes, Dan French, Brian Jaekel, Brock Meyers, Craig Smith, Randy Mikkelsen, Jeff Stark, Bob Peterson Last year: 9-3, 5-2 Starters returning: Offense 3, Defense 3 Strengths: This unit will be faster with the ball and to the ball, so fireworks are expected from the offense with senior quarterback Brandon Moore, handling the ball on every play. Bruising fullback Jacob Marsh will be exposing weaknesses in the middle of opposing defenses. Weaknesses: Head Coach Pat Collins believes Montague’s two last-second league losses in 2011 came as a result of the team putting itself in bad positions. With even more youth on the field in 2012, it’s likely the squad could find itself in even more last-second decisions. Notable: All three Montague losses in 2011 were by a combined six points – 21-20 to Oakridge, 9-7 to Shelby and 22-19 to Ithaca in overtime in the regional finals… The Wildcats have made the playoffs 11 straight seasons, winning the past eight district titles and five of the past seven regional titles. The school won Division 6 state titles in 2008 and 2009. Quotable: “We have simplified the offense a little bit and made some adjustments to take advantage of who we have and where we have them. With so many new players (at new positions), we’re approaching things from a new perspective. We do know we have good team speed; the defense has lots of potential.” – Head coach Pat Collins. Projected finish: Though there isn’t a lot of returning experience, Montague always seems to field a solid, playoff-ready squad, and that should lead to a high finish in the league. A few conference losses shouldn’t deter them from reaching its eighth-consecutive regional final. Stadium: 4900 Stanton Blvd., behind the high school 2011 scores: Montague 20, Orchard View 8 Montague 55, Hart 14 Oakridge 21, Montague 20 Montague 38, Ravenna 7 Montague 30, Whitehall 7 Shelby 9, Montague 7 Montague 44, Mason County Cent. 6 Montague 19, North Muskegon 0 Montague 41, Fremont 20 Montague 21, Calvin Christian 18 Montague 20, Oakridge 0 Ithaca 22, Montague 19, OT
Senior Jacob Marsh and Brandon Moore, who shined as offensive lineman and wide receiver, respectively a year ago, have changed offensive positions to bolster the Wildcat offense. Marsh moves to the backfield where he will carry the ball while Moore will be handling quarterbacking duties. (Photo by Mark Lewis)
Two offensive threats change positions By Mark Lewis Local Sports Journal
With all the new starters taking the field, one may think this is going to be It’s been a heck of a an inexperienced squad. decade for Montague footHowever, because the proball. gram has made so many Two state titles, 11 deep playoff runs, the Tim Blackmer Brandon Stine straight playoff appearupperclassman, even if senior, slot/cornerback senior, linebacker ances, eight straight district they didn’t start last season, • Billie Welsh, senior, offensive lineman titles and winners of five gained plenty of experi• Alex VanVleet, junior, wide receiver of the last seven regional ence playing nearly an extra • Tristen Schultz, senior, linebacker titles. season of games over the So, obviously, Wildcat past three years. head coach Pat Collins knows a thing or two instead of catching the ball, I’ll be throwing Further, Collins seems to embrace the about reloading after graduation ravages his the ball.” change, taking the view that such drastic Marsh also relishes his new role. roster. upheaval every now and then is a good “I’m very excited to get the ball,” Marsh thing. And while Collins has certainly never shied away from making bold changes – said. “But really, it’s a new mindset, moving “When everything is cleared out,” he such as moving a player who played quar- from the line to the backfield, which takes a said, “it forces you to go back and rethink terback one year to running back or receiver little while to get a handle on. But, yeah, it’s things, to take a new approach. This is a the next year – the changes coming to the going to be great getting and carrying the clean slate for the guys and they’re really 2012 Wildcat offense will be more dramatic ball. I’m really looking forward to it, I can responding to challenge. And we like what tell you that.” than ever. we are seeing.” Nevertheless, graduation has taken a The team’s most dynamic player, the Though the team won’t be as physically lightning fast and athletic Brandon Moore toll on the Wildcats, requiring the squad imposing as previous years, Collins jokes, will move from receiver to quarterback, to replace both their offensive and defen- “There aren’t a lot of extra large jerseys giving Collins an opportunity to have the sive lines and offensive and defensive back- being handed out.” Slighter size allows the ball in his best player’s hands on every fields. Wildcats to play at a faster pace. Senior Billie Welsh, the line’s lone offensive play. “We will be all about playing a fast, upBut that’s not the only change in store for returning starter, will help anchor the offen- tempo game,” Collins said. “We’ll be very sive line, while Camre Hope, Sawyer Smith fast up and down the field.” the Wildcats. After plowing a path last year for run- and Ben Ruber will be called on to replace Montague opens the season with fourning backs, Jacob Marsh moves from the what Collins calls “The Big Three” on the straight road games – at Orchard View, at line to the backfield in 2012. Because of defensive line. That unit was led by Chen Hart, at Oakridge and at Ravenna. But Week Marsh’s obvious physical strength and size, Martinez. 5 begins a five game homestand, starting At the offensive skill positions, Kris with a Sept. 21 much-anticipated contest just the thought of facing Marsh after he’s gained a head of steam should give opposing Kieft, who blew out his knee last season, against rival Whitehall. Another key contest and who is, Collins said, “at about 80 per- will come Sept. 28 against Shelby. defenses fits. Collins sees this season’s changes as cent,” and Chris Caroll will see time in the This season, it isn’t all about what’s on required moves to get his best players into backfield, as will Tim Blackmer at the slot the field at Montague. This past summer, or H-back position. the spots they’re needed most. former Wildcat running back Iisaiah Townsel Junior Alex VanVleet and freshman drowned while swimming in Duck Lake. “Brandon’s excited to play there,” said Collins. “When I asked him about (playing Keenan Eiler will be the receivers. Preston Though he’d graduated in June, Townsel’s quarterback), he never backed down. He’s Kahl, a junior, will also see plenty of playing memory will be celebrated in 2012, with the time. jumped at the chance.” Wildcats sporting Townsel’s jersey number Defensively, Brandon Stine and Marsh sticker on their helmets. Townsel wore No. Moore, who is getting college looks in both football and basketball, tries to hide will man the inside linebacking positions, 33. his excitement for his new position behind with Tristen Schultz holding down the They have also named one of their weakside linebacking spot. Dylan Lohman CrossFit workouts in Townsel’s honor. a veneer of calm. “I’m looking forward to playing a new and Blackmer will be at the corners, and “(Townsel) was such a hard worker,” said role on this team,” he said. “It’s a chance Caroll and Kieft will round out the sec- Collins, “that when the kids do that routine, to move our team ahead, that’s how I’m ondary. As in previous years, Moore can be they know not to mess around. It’s one way looking at it. It’s a chance to help out in a brought in nickel and passing situations as a of remembering him and what he brought to new way. Really, the only change is that cover corner. our program.”
MUSKEGON Big Red Basics
Shane Fairfield, head coach Coaches: Brent White, Justin Ego, TracyLewis, Tony Terrell, Don Poole, Matt Bolles, Shawn Cook, Richard Mendez, Ted Bartholomew. Last year: 8-3, 5-2. Lost to Lowell 36-7 in the district championship game. Starters returning: Offense 7, Defense 5.
The offensive front line for the Big Reds have dubbed themselves the “Brothers of Destruction.” The group includes Antwan Billings, Malik King, Quincy Crosby, Noah Tozer, Ontario Hampton and Chandar Ricks. (Photo by Cole Myhre)
‘Brothers of Destruction’ focused for playoffs By Mike Mattson Local Sports Journal Quincy Crosby and Antwan Billings shook hands for the first time as freshmen football players at Muskegon High School. It was one of those uncomfortable meetings between two proud linemen. “I hated this dude,” Crosby recalled with a smile. “He came here from the Heights and I thought he was trying to take my spot. I realized later he just made me better.” Today, Crosby and Billings share hugs, laughs, food and “pancake blocks” as senior leaders of the Big Reds. They anchor a big, talented offensive line that should pave the way for a potent offense this season. Crosby (6-foot-3, 280) and Billings (6foot-3, 275) are both hungry for success before they head off to college next year. “I’m looking forward to the season because this is my last year,” said Billings, who returns at right tackle. “I’m guaranteed nine (games), but I want 14. There is no doubt in my mind we can win all of our games.” Crosby shares Billings’ high expectations for Muskegon, the state’s winningest prep football program. “When you choose to come to Muskegon, you choose to win a championship and have a hard work ethic,” said Crosby, who returns for his third season at center. “If you choose anything less, it’s unacceptable. My boys and I are ready to put this team on our backs and take this team to Ford Field.” Muskegon’s offensive line is a tightknit group. Behind the scenes, they refer to themselves as “Brothers of Destruction.” Joining Crosby and Billings up front are senior left guard Noah Tozer (5-10, 252), senior left tackle Chandar Ricks (6-foot-4, 275) and junior right guard Malik King (6foot-4, 265). Seniors Dalvin Walton (6-foot-2, 240) and Ronald Jenkins also may see action up front for the Big Reds. Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield will have plenty of quality skill players, but he gushes more about his offensive linemen “You can’t ask for a better five guys,” Fairfield said. “Not only are they big, physical and athletic, they are intelligent and
WATCH FOR John King senior, running back/linebacker
Demetrius Brown senior, slot/linebacker
• Sherman Hodges, senior, receiver/cornerback • Marcus Smith, senior, slot/cornerback they like each other. “I think we have a bigger Tonka truck than anybody else. We will put the plow down and plow the road ahead. People will get a glimpse of old-time Muskegon football. We will force people to guard the whole field because of the work (the linemen) have done.” Offensively, Muskegon will have a new quarterback. Junior Deshaun Thrower and senior Jalen Smith have been engaged in a heated preseason battle for the starting job. Thrower, a Heights transfer, has the stronger arm, but Smith has been a better decision maker in the veer rushing attack. Seniors John King and Javontae Langston will be the primary threats at running back to fill the void left by all-stater Juwan Lewis. Both are physical hard-nosed runners. Muskegon is loaded at the slot position with four explosive players – Marcus Smith, Demetrius Brown, John Hall and E’monte Briggs all expected to contribute. The wide receiver corps is headed by returning starter Sherman Hodges (6-foot, 179). Keondre Craig (6-foot-3, 200), a tight end last season, and Heights transfer D’Vonte Dockery (6-foot-2, 180) are two other big targets on the perimeter. Defensively, the Big Reds will have good size and quickness. The defensive line should be a strength, led by junior defensive tackle Ken Finley. “He has a motor and can move sideline to sideline,” Fairfield said. Junior Jacob Sims (5-foot-6, 200) is a converted linebacker who will create havoc at noseguard. Fairfield is excited about his defensive ends – Heights transfer Jenkins and Walton.
They are both strong and athletic. King returns as inside linebacker after a solid junior year. All-stater Angelo Corona’s inside linebacker spot will be filled by talented junior Will Hunt (6-foot-0, 215). Brown is back at one outside linebacker position and is always a threat to rush the quarterback. Hall is penciled in for the other outside linebacker spot and has good size, toughness and smarts. Briggs is back as an experienced free safety in the secondary. He battled some injuries last season and missed the Lowell playoff game. Kijhana Lattimore, Jordan Ware, Hodges, Smith and Dockery should all see time at cornerback while Thrower also will be in the mix in the secondary if he doesn’t start at quarterback. Muskegon will play another attractive schedule, starting with four straight nonconference games. Defending state champion Orchard Lake St. Mary’s will visit Hackley Stadium for the season opener, followed by contests against Sylvania Southview (Ohio), Rockford and Lowell. Six of Muskegon’s nine opponents are playoff teams from last season. “We were in search of a tough schedule because we knew we were getting out of the Red,” Fairfield said. “We wanted to be tested in the regular season. Our goals around here and our tradition are we want to be playing on Thanksgiving weekend.” Crosby likes the attitude of the team in preseason. He believes any success will start with the “Brothers of Destruction.” “I love these dudes,” Crosby said. “I look in their eyes and I know they want everything I want.”
Strengths: A big, strong, experienced offensive line will lead the way… The receiving corps is the best since the 2008 season… The Big Reds have plenty of team speed on both sides of the ball… There is good depth at all positions and senior leadership stands out. Weaknesses: Team chemistry and getting new players to buy into the unselfish, team-first attitude will be a focus. Limiting fumbles and penalties also will be a point of emphasis. Offensive outlook: Muskegon will run the potent spread veer attack. There is great potential to throw the ball effectively this season and a more balanced rushing attack. Notable: Muskegon has one of the toughest non-league schedules in the state. The Big Reds face defending state champion Orchard Lake St. Mary; Sylvania Southview, Ohio; Rockford; and Lowell before starting conference play. Quotable: “(Former coach) Tony (Annese) built this race car, and it’s my job to get it back on track. This is my third season. The expectations are there, and it’s a program again.” – Head coach Shane Fairfield Projected finish: Muskegon is favored to win the OK Black with Zeeland East, Kenowa Hills and Mona Shores expected to challenge. Playoff history: Muskegon has qualified 20 times, with state championships in 1986, 1989, 2004, 2006 and 2008. The Big Reds have made 12 straight playoff appearances. Stadium location: Hackley Stadium, next to the high school, 80 W. Southern Ave. 2011 scores: Muskegon 56, Macomb Dakota 28 Muskegon 50, Muskegon Heights 12 Muskegon 34, Hudsonville 18 Muskegon 36, East Kentwood 16 Rockford 29, Muskegon 26 Muskegon 20, Jenison 12 Muskegon 27, West Ottawa 21 Grand Haven 35, Muskegon 21 Muskegon 49, Grandville 33 Muskegon 40, Mattawan 19 Lowell 36, Muskegon 7
M U S K E G O N C AT H O L I C
Senior backfield motivated for success By Mike Mattson Local Sports Journal
Mike Holmes, head coach Coaches: Mike Ribecky, Scott Fodrocy, Steve Czerwon. Last year: 9-2. Lost to eventual state champion Mendon 28-21 in the district title game. Starters returning: Offense 3, Defense 5. Strengths: The Crusaders will feature a balanced rushing attack, led by quarterback Zach Campbell and halfback Jessie Anderson. MCC will have good speed at the skill positions. The secondary also will be solid on defense. Weaknesses: MCC will lack depth with only 24 players. Seven sophomores and three freshmen are expected to contribute on a young team. The offensive line – usually an annual strength – will be young and likely unsettled for a while. Offensive outlook: The Crusaders will use multiple formations, but rely on a balanced, option-style rushing attack with four quality runners. Notable: Holmes begins his 25th season as the Crusaders’ head coach and has 203 victories… The Crusaders face many new opponents, including locals Orchard View, Fruitport and Grant. State power Traverse City St. Francis also is back on MCC’s slate. Quotable: “The best 11 people on offense and defense have to play. We need to win as many games as we can to make the playoffs. We don’t have enough depth and experience to protect anybody.” – Head coach Mike Holmes Projected finish: MCC’s goal is to win at least five games on its independent schedule to have a chance to qualify for the Division 8 playoffs. Playoff history: MCC has qualified 23 times with eight state championships. Stadium: Kehren Stadium, located next to the high school at 1145 W. Laketon. 2011 scores: M. Catholic 48, Mona Shores 7 M. Catholic 31, Kingsford 6 M. Catholic 48, Sacred Heart 14 M. Catholic 31, McBain 14 M. Catholic 24, GR West Catholic 21 M. Catholic 41, Allendale 14 M. Catholic 21, M. Heights 6 FH Northern 20, M. Catholic 13 M. Catholic 35, N. Muskegon 0 M. Catholic 28, Saugatuck 0 Mendon 28, M. Catholic 21
Beware of Muskegon Catholic Central’s 1-2 punch. The Crusaders feature two of the area’s most explosive players – senior quarterback Zach Campbell and senior running back Jessie Anderson. They are experienced and motivated by a district championship loss at Mendon last season. “This is my last year and I want to go out with a bang,” said Anderson, an all-state running back as a junior. “It was heartbreaking to lose the Mendon game by a touchdown. I felt I let the team down last year. Now, I will do all I can and leave it on the field.” Mendon went on to capture the Division 8 state title, and Campbell said he knows MCC could have done the same. “It was a tough loss, but we learned a lot,” Campbell said. “We have to never give up and play to the last whistle. I want to win state so badly. We are trying to get back to the state championship.” Anderson (5-foot-7, 185) and Campbell (5-foot-11, 170) – who both possess 4.5 speed – will be featured options in MCC’s offense. Junior fullback Alex Lewandoski and sophomore running back Tommy Scott also will get carries in the Crusaders’ option attack. Anderson will draw plenty of attention from opponents after rushing for 1,446 yards (6.6) and 16 TDs as a junior. Campbell rushed for 546 yards (5.4) and 10 TDs, while completing 45-of-101 passes for 801 yards with five TDs and six interceptions. Anderson was the workhorse back last year with 216 carries, but he’ll have more help with Lewandoski and Scott in the backfield. “We have four quality runners and we’ll be able to move the ball around this year,” MCC coach Mike Holmes said. “Jessie may not get as many carries. Last year, he was the guy. We’ve put in more plays for the fullback.” Holmes also is excited about the return of Campbell and his improvement in the passing game. “This second year should be easier for him with not as much pressure,” Holmes said. “I tell him, ‘Use your athletic ability.’ We will throw the ball. He has a strong arm.” Lamar Jordan (5-foot-11, 180), Anderson and Scott will see time at wide receiver during the season. Senior Cari Campbell and Phil Mesker are the top candidates to play tight end. Holmes has no worries about his offensive backfield, but there is early concern up front. MCC’s offensive line will be inexperienced and young. Holmes has been considering different options to put the best line together and admits it could be a work in progress. “The five interior guys, we are looking for people to step up,” Holmes said. “We have three freshmen and five sophomores. We are just trying to put people in place to help us be a better football team.” Senior Tom Mitchell or freshman Nate Jones are vying for the center position, with Mitchell also in the mix to play guard. Senior Eli Vihtelic and Mesker also are being considered for the guard positions. Sophomore Mike Caughey (6-foot-1, 260) appears to have one tackle spot locked up, with senior Michael Garzelloni and freshman Jacob Holt (5-foot-10, 230) vying for the other tackle job.
Quarterback Zach Campbell and running back Jessie Anderson, both seniors, will be an explosive 1-2 punch for the Crusader offense. Last year, the two combined for 1,992 yards and 26 touchdowns. (Photo by Cole Myhre)
WATCH FOR Alex Lewandoski junior, fullback/safety
Phil Mesker senior, tight end/linebacker
• Tommy Scott, sophomore, running back/D-back • Cari Campbell, senior, tight end/defensive end
• Eli Vihtelic, senior, offensive guard Tom Mitchell senior, center/D-tackle
Overall, Holmes thinks the Crusaders should be efficient on offense once the line gets settled. “We will be as versatile as we can with the four backs,” Holmes said. “We’ll try to get on the perimeter and do some optioning to get the ball in Zach’s hands and other backs’ hands to make us tough to defend.” Zach Campbell knows the line will be young and inexperienced, but he’s not worried about running room. “They are smart,” Zach Campbell said. “They will be physical and will pop you in the mouth. They know their assignments. Our line will open up holes for us.” Defensively, Mitchell and Garzelloni are back at the tackle positions in MCC’s 4-4 scheme. Cari Campbell returns at another defensive end, with Dominic Midkiff, Holt and Caughey expected to see action at the other end spot. The inside linebackers appear to be set with Mesker and Jordan, with senior Brant McCollum and sophomore Nick Holt pegged
• Michael Garzelloni, senior, O-tackle/D-tackle
for the outside linebacker spots. Holt also is MCC’s backup quarterback. The secondary should be solid with Zach Winzer, Zach Campbell, Scott and Anderson seeing action at cornerback. Lewandoski will patrol the field at safety after making 74 tackles as a linebacker last season. Holmes knows the underclassmen must mesh quickly with the veterans as the Crusaders pursue at least five victories and a state playoff spot. “We have kids who are going from junior high football to varsity football,” Holmes said. “If we didn’t think they could do it, we wouldn’t bring them up.” Anderson is anxious to start the season and doesn’t mind the Crusaders being under the radar. “I am ready for the first game to show everyone all the hard work we put in,” Anderson said. Former MCC quarterback Steve Czerwon also is back on the varsity coaching staff. He replaces Dean Jewett, who will be assisting his son, Kyle Jewett, at Reeths-Puffer.
M. HEIGHTS ACADEMY TIGERS
Heights charters new football waters
By Mike Mattson Local Sports Journal Expectations were sky high after Muskegon Heights finished 4-4 last football season. Most of the team was returning and Coach Tony Blankenship had a full year of implementing his new system to the Tigers. But then financial problems hit the public school district. And it was recently turned into a charter school operation called Muskegon Heights Public Academy System. The good news: football will continue this season at Heights. The bad news: many talented players off the 2011 team transferred to other neighboring school districts. Seniors Thomas Chandler and Donnell Covington are back as the experienced returning starters at Heights. They aren’t sure what to expect on the field, but they plan to lead the way. “I’m happy to be here,” said Chandler, a left guard and defensive tackle. “I didn’t plan on transferring. We had a big season lined up. It’s a new refocusing. This is the first year as a charter school, and we have to start it right.” Covington doesn’t dwell on what could have been, either. He’s looking ahead to the opportunity to help the team as a running back and linebacker. “It hurts a little, but at the same time, we look at it as we have to get better than we were last year,” Covington said. “We’re trying to keep our focus and keep the young guys on task.” Blankenship will work with a young, inexperienced team. His numbers are good with 30 players out for the varsity. Blankenship is thankful for Chandler and Covington in his huddle on both sides of the ball. “I’m looking for these guys to be coaches on the field and give these young guys perspective,” Blankenship said. “Their experience is imperative for them to lead us. What we are looking for will have to go through them.” Taking over at quarterback will be senior Quincy Parker (5-foot-9, 175), who is athletic and can run and pass. Blankenship likes Parker’s maturity and ability to handle the offense. Junior Maleek Briggs (5-foot-9, 205) and Covington (5-foot-10, 195) will be counted on for most of the carries in the backfield. “They will give us power and will take the pressure off the young kids,” Blankenship said. Wide receiver will be an inexperienced position for the Tigers. Junior Jamarius Rule (6-foot-1, 180) should be a good possession receiver and senior Rashaun Moffett (5-foot-10, 165) will use his athleticism to get free on the perimeter. Blankenship likes his big target at tight end, sophomore Marquis Grissom (6-foot-4, 215). He has good hands and should be an effective blocker with his size. Chandler (5-foot-7, 228) may make the switch to center to help solidify the offensive line. Junior DeMonty Johnson (5-foot-9, 225) is a projected starter at guard. The offensive tackles will be big – senior Lavert Green (6foot-5, 270) and sophomore John Maynor (6-foot-4, 250). Defensively, the line will feature Chandler, Johnson at the tackles and Grishom and Green at the ends. Covington, who was the leading tackler
Tony Blankenship, head coach Coaches: Jimmy Purnell, Fred Waller. Last year: 4-4. Starters returning: Offense 2, Defense 2. Strengths: Look for the defense to be a strength, especially early in the season. The Tigers have good size up front and will be athletic at most positions. Weaknesses: With only two returning starters, overall varsity experience is lacking. The passing attack is very unproven and will need to progress for the Tigers to be effective on offense. Offensive outlook: Heights will operate from the pro set with various options. Donnell Covington and Maleek Briggs are two powerful runners who should give the ground attack a boost. While some of the teammates from the 2011 season transferred due to the uncertainty of the Muskegon Heights School District, seniors Thomas Chandler and Donnell Covington return in hopes of leading the Tigers toward the playoffs. Chandler will play left guard on offense and defensive tackle while Covington will be a running back and linebacker. (Photo by Rachel Resterhouse)
WATCH FOR Quincy Parker 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, senior, quarterback • Rashaun Moffett, 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, senior, receiver
Jamarius Rule 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, junior, receiver
DeMonty Johnson 5-foot-9, 225 pounds, junior, offensive guard
last season, will be the ringleader at inside linebacker. Briggs is pegged as the other inside linebacker. Senior Michael Stewart (5-foot-11, 170) will step into the strong safety position and Parker likely will play free safety. Other defensive positions were still being solidified in preseason. Heights is scheduled to start the season in Week 2 with a trip to Henry Ford Academy on the east side. Blankenship expects his defense to be ahead of the offense early in the season. “If we can be a good tackling group, and be in position to make plays, we can get people stopped,” Blankenship said. “We will be aggressive on defense. We will fly around and hit people on defense. You will know you played us.” Chandler said there will be no excuses this season. “We have young athletes,” Chandler said.
• Maleek Briggs, 5-foot-9, 205 pounds, junior, running back
“It will be up to the veterans and Coach B to get them ready.” Covington said it won’t be easy coming together as a team after a summer of not knowing if football would be offered. But that’s the goal, and he said he hopes it happens quickly. “The biggest challenge will be building team chemistry,” Covington said. “I think the community will still be behind us 100 percent,” he added. “We still have to build team chemistry. We have to stay focused. We are out here working hard and giving it all we’ve got.” The expectations won’t be as high as coming out of last season. Still, Chandler hopes the Tigers can make some memories for the community. “We can have a winning season,” Chandler said. “I want the team to bond. I want us to build something. I think we’re ready.”
Notable: Heights will have a roster of about 30 players… The Tigers have a seven-game schedule, including recent addition Henry Ford Academy on the road in Week 2. Quotable: “I don’t know how good we’ll be, but I think we have some potential. The size we have helps us. I feel good about what could happen this year.” – Head coach Tony Blankenship Projected finish: The Tigers will play an independent schedule and hope to win at least four games to have a chance at making the state playoffs. The biggest game will be the Week 7 matchup against cross-town rival Muskegon Catholic Central. Playoff history: Heights has qualified five times, including a run to the Class B state semifinals in 1992 and the Division 5 state semifinals in 2009. Stadium location: Phillips Field, behind the high school, 2427 Jefferson St. 2011 scores: Oakridge 16, M. Heights 0 Muskegon 50, M. Heights 12 M. Heights 34, BC John Glenn 21 M. Heights 49, Inkster 0 Mason 34, M. Heights 22 M. Catholic 21, M. Heights 6 M. Heights 28, Gary Bowman 8 M. Heights 44, MP Sacred Heart 19
GRAND HAVEN Aug. 24: vs. Traverse City Central, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at Traverse City West, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Lowell, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Mona Shores, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Grandville, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. East Kentwood, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Holland West Ottawa, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Hudsonville, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Rockford, 7 p.m.
FREMONT Aug. 24: vs. Sparta, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at Fruitport, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Howard City Tri-County, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Orchard View, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Grant, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Spring Lake, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Leslie, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Ludington, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Montague, 7 p.m.
FRUITPORT Aug. 23: vs. Reeths-Puffer, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Fremont, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Spring Lake, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Howard City Tri-County, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Ludington, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Grant, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Orchard View, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Muskegon Catholic, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at DeWitt, 7 p.m.
MONA SHORES Aug. 24: vs. Muskegon Catholic, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Spring Lake, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Caledonia, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Grand Haven, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Grand Rapids Union, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Muskegon, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. GR Kenowa Hills, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Zeeland East, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Reeths-Puffer, 7 p.m. MUSKEGON Aug. 24: vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, 7 p.m. Aug. 31: at Southview (Ohio), 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Rockford, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Lowell, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Reeths-Puffer, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Mona Shores, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Grand Rapids Union, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at GR Kenowa Hills, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Zeeland East, 7 p.m.
GRANT Aug. 24: vs. Shelby, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at Ludington, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Muskegon Catholic, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Spring Lake, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Fremont, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Fruitport, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Howard City Tri-County, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Orchard View, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Whitehall, 7 p.m.
REETHS-PUFFER Aug. 23: at Fruitport, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Hudsonville, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Jenison, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at East Kentwood, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Muskegon, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at GR Kenowa Hills, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Zeeland East, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Union (Houseman Field), 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Mona Shores, 7 p.m.
LUDINGTON Aug. 24: vs. Manistee, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Grant, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Orchard View, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Cheboygan, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Fruitport, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Howard City Tri-County, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Spring Lake, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Fremont, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Mason County Central, 7 p.m.
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ORCHARD VIEW Aug. 23: vs. Montague, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Howard City Tri-County, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Ludington, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Fremont, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Spring Lake, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Muskegon Catholic, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Fruitport, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Grant, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Oakridge, 7 p.m. SPRING LAKE Aug. 23: vs. Coopersville, 7 p.m. Aug. 31: at Mona Shores, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Fruitport, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Grant, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Orchard View, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Fremont, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Ludington, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Howard City Tri-County, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Shelby
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HART Aug. 24: vs. Onekama, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Montague, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Oakridge, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Shelby, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Ravenna, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Whitehall, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Mason County Central, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Kingsley, 7 p.m.
MASON COUNTY CENTRAL Aug. 24: at Benzie Central, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Oakridge, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Ravenna, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Shelby, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Whitehall, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Montague, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Hart, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Ludington, 7 p.m.
MONTAGUE Aug. 23: at Orchard View, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at Hart, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Oakridge, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Ravenna, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Whitehall, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Shelby, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Mason County Central, 7 p.m Oct. 12: vs. North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Fremont, 7 p.m.
NORTH MUSKEGON Aug. 24: vs. G’ville Calvin Christian, 7 Aug. 30: vs. Shelby, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Hart, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Whitehall, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Mason County Central, 7 p Sept. 28: at Oakridge, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Ravenna, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Montague, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Maple City Glen Lake, 7 p.
Local historian tells about the spectacula A recent request from Local Sports Journal columnist Mark Lewis grabbed my attention. He wanted his fellow contributors to this desperately needed website to list their top football games witnessed over the years. I have to put my thinking cap on and go off the top of my head to recall a few of my most thrilling encounters of King Football in our area. I am currently baking in the sultry heat down here in the Sunshine State and have no access to any of the old clippings. Here’s hoping this septuagenarian’s recollections are mostly accurate as I give you my top picks accompanied by a thumbnail sketch of each memorable contest. During my more than 50 years working for the media, first as a cub reporter for the ‘daily’ Muskegon Chronicle back in 1956, and
Greatest Games Ever Seen By Jim Moyes
the many years as a play-by-play announcer on the radio, I have been fortunate to have witnessed more than my share of ‘cliffhangers.’ To say that one game topped them all would be impossible so lets begin with my games that tie for first place: 1971: Muskegon 20, Traverse City 18: Has it really been more than 40 years since this Class A ‘mythical state championship’ game was played? In the ensuing 41 years, there has never been a game played in Muskegon County that topped the attendance for this game. It was No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state during Week 7 in the pre-playoff era. This game lived up to its billing. After Traverse City took a lead into halftime, the big play of the game was decided on a punt, albeit a short punt. Larry Sahosky picked off the short Trojan punt as the overanxious TC coverage team went sailing past, expecting the punt to travel a much farther distance. A surprised Sahosky caught the pigskin and rambled, untouched, deep into Traverse City territory. That set up the deciding touchdown in the victory. Two weeks later. the Big Reds were unanimously crowned the Class A state champs. 1985: Traverse City 22, Muskegon 21: The same two teams, but this time it was Traverse City that pulled a miracle out of its hat with a stunning last play of the game touchdown. With less than a minute to go in the final quarter, Muskegon’s Donald Banks stepped in front of Traverse City receiver Joe Durocher and raced more than 90 yards for an apparent game-winning touchdown. Traverse City returned the ensuing kick off back to close its own 40-yard line and there was only time for one last desperation play. Trojan quarterback Chris Hathaway’s pass to Durocher about 10 yards downfield was complete. As the Big Red secondary was ready to pounce on Durocher for the kill, the senior receiver calmly flipped the ball back to Tim Lautner on a set play, and the once deafening packed house at historic Hackley Stadium was eerily silent, futilely watching Lautner
running untouched coach Jim Ooley w placement to send But no, the craft this time, complete moments earlier ha would then go on t 1992: Reeths-P this game more tho fall, but this was an Muskegon prep fan The Rockets, co week over heavily about 47 of the 48 at the Pontiac Silve The Rockets had and needed a last-s first, and only, state called for a gadget But it worked. Rocket quarterb after seemingly abo ended up with the b The Rocket qua downfield as far as Rocket end John B Shockingly eno The pass was defle in the right place a Starr. Starr was more rambled into the en Rocket fans, (and m serk. 2008: Muskego
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OAKRIDGE Aug. 24: at Forest Hills Eastern, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at Mason County Central, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Montague, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Hart, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Ravenna, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Shelby, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Whitehall, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Orchard View, 7 p.m. RAVENNA Aug. 23: at Kent City, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Whitehall, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Mason County Central, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Montague, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Oakridge, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Hart, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Shelby, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Howard City Tri-County, 7 p.m. SHELBY Aug. 24: at Grant, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Whitehall, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Mason County Cent., 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Hart, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Montague, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Oakridge, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Ravenna, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: at Spring Lake, 7 p.m.
WHITEHALL Aug. 24: at Wyoming Kelloggsville, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at Ravenna, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Shelby, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Montague, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Mason County Central, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Hart, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Oakridge, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Grant, 7 p.m.
NEWAYGO Aug 23: at Holton, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Remus Chippewa Hills, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Lakeview, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Reed City, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Hesperia, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at Central Montcalm, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. White Cloud, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Big Rapids (Ferris State), 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Morley-Stanwood, 7 p.m.
MUSKEGON CATHOLIC CENTRAL Aug. 24: at Mona Shores, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. GR Catholic Central, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Grant, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at McBain, 7 p.m. Sept. 22: vs. HFA School for Creative Studies, 3 p.m. Sept. 28: at Orchard View, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Muskegon Heights, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Fruitport, 7 p.m. Oct. 20: at Traverse City St. Francis, 7 p.m.
HESPERIA Aug. 24: at White Cloud, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Big Rapids, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Morley-Stanwood, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: vs. Holton, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Newaygo, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Lakeview, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: at Reed City, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Remus Chippewa Hills, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Central Montcalm, 7 p.m.
MUSKEGON HEIGHTS ACADEMY Aug 30/31: vs. Henry Ford Academy, TBA Sept. 8: vs. Harper Woods, 1 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Manistee, 7 p.m. Sept 29: at Theo Bowman Academy, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Muskegon Catholic, 7 p.m. Oct. 13: vs. Melvindale Academy, 1 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Mt. Pleas. Sacred Heart, 7 p.m.
HOLTON Aug. 23: vs. Newaygo, 7 p.m. Aug. 30: at Lakeview, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: vs. Reed City, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Hesperia, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: vs. Central Montcalm, 7 p.m. Sept. 28: at White Cloud, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Big Rapids, 7 p.m. Oct. 12: at Morley-Stanwood, 7 p.m. Oct. 19: vs. Remus Chippewa Hills, 7 p.m.
BALDWIN Aug 23: vs. Hale, 6 p.m. Aug. 30: vs. Coleman, 7 p.m. Sept. 7: at Vestaburg, 7 p.m. Sept. 14: at Manistee Catholic, 7 p.m. Sept. 21: at Brethren, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Onekama, 7 p.m. Oct. 5: vs. Big Rapids Crossroads, 7 p.m. Oct. 13: at Traverse City Christian, 5 p.m.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN Sept. 1: vs. Ala. (Cowboys Stad.), 8 p.m. Sept. 8: vs. Air Force, 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15: vs. Massachusetts, 3:30 p.m. Sept. 22: at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6: at Purdue, 4 p.m. Oct. 13: vs. Illinois, 3:30 p.m. Oct. 20: vs. Michigan State, TBA Oct. 27: at Nebraska, 8 p.m. Nov. 3: at Minnesota, TBA Nov. 10: vs. Northwestern, TBA Nov. 17: vs. Iowa, TBA Nov. 24: at Ohio State, noon MICHIGAN STATE Aug. 31: vs. Boise State, 8 p.m. Sept. 8: at Central Michigan, 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15: vs. Notre Dame, 8 p.m. Sept. 22: vs. Eastern Michigan, TBA Sept. 29: vs. Ohio State, TBA Oct. 6: at Indiana, noon Oct. 13: vs. Iowa, noon Oct. 20: at Michigan, TBA Oct. 27: at Wisconsin, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 3: vs. Nebraska, TBA Nov. 17: vs. Northwestern, TBA Nov. 24: at Minneosta, TBA GRAND VALLEY STATE UNIV. Sept. 1: at Western Oregon, 4 p.m. Sept. 8: vs. Notre Dame (Ohio), 7 p.m. Sept. 15: at Tiffin, 1:30 p.m. Sept. 22: vs. Ohio Dominican, 7 p.m. Sept. 29: at Michigan Tech, 6 p.m. Oct. 6: vs. Ferris State, 7 p.m. Oct. 13: at Northern Michigan, 1 p.m. Oct. 20: vs. Northwood (H-coming), 7 p.m. Oct. 27: at Hillsdale, 2:30 p.m. Nov. 3: vs. Wayne State, 7 p.m. Nov. 10: at Saginaw Valley, 1 p.m.
ar scenes he’s witnessed on the football field
d into the end zone. Surely legendary Trojan would go for the conservative point after from the game into overtime. ty Ooley went for the two pointer and Hathaway, ed the same pass play to Durocher that just ad been returned by Banks for the TD. Traverse to win their second Class A state title. Puffer 21, Walled Lake Central 18: I will cover oroughly in a future Moyes’ Memories story this nother dandy with another joyous ending for ns. oming off a shocking semifinal upset the previous favored East Lansing, were less than sharp for minutes of this state Class A championship game erdome. d given up the football five times on turnovers second ‘Hail Mary’ if they were to win their e football title. Hall of Fame coach Pete Kutches play that perhaps fooled nobody.
back Jeff Zietlow took the ball from center and, out a half-dozen laterals, Zietlow ultimately ball. arterback stepped back and unloaded a heave s he could throw in the general direction of Boersma. ough, Boersma was drawing just single coverage. ected by the Walled Lake defense, but standing at the right time was Rocket backfield ace Stacy
than happy to catch this deflected pass and he nd zone with just seconds left on the clock as the my broadcasting sidekick Gene Young) went ber-
on 38, Davison 35: Certainly no top listing would
be complete without mention of this classic in the Division 2 state semifinals. I doubt if I will ever see another comeback in my lifetime to match the implausible ending to this thriller. Former Big Red coach, and now current head coach of the Ferris State University Bulldogs, Tony Annese, will never let me forget how I had started to congratulate the Big Reds on an outstanding season when they trailed by about four touchdowns in the final quarter. I wasn’t the only one who thought the Big Red season was coming to a close. After the Big Reds had pulled off the improbable comeback, I was told by Annese a couple of days later of a moving story from a local minister who had left the game early, thinking that all was lost. The minister was shocked when, while having dinner on the way home from East Lansing, he was informed by a late-arriving Big Red fan that Muskegon had pulled off the impossible, recovering a couple of onside kicks and escaping with a victory. The minister ditched his scheduled sermon to his congregation the following morning and gave a moving apology on how he had ‘quit’ on his beloved Big Reds and had learned a valuable lesson. I really believe that when the Muskegon players had heard the text of this moving sermon, it inspired them the following week. No miracles were needed for the Big Reds as they pummeled Warren DeLaSalle in the finals to win their third state title during the Annese years. The four above-mentioned games certainly topped my list but, in no particular order, here are some others dandies that I was so privileged to witness during my love affair working local high school sports over the years. 1954: North Muskegon 12, Manistee 12: North Muskegon was undefeated, time for one last play. NM’s brilliant running back Stan Guy goes 70 yards for a TD only to have the play nullified by a clipping penalty. Old time Norse fans (like me) are still wondering ‘where was the clip?’
1992: Montague 7, Battle Creek Pennfield 0: Montague shuts out the state’s all-time leading scoring team in a gigantic state semifinal upset. 2006: Muskegon 32 Detroit DeLaSalle 30: Rojo (Ronald Johnson) strips DeLaSalle’s Donald Fowler at the 2-yard line as Muskegon wins the state Division 2 state championship. 1950: Muskegon Heights 13, Muskegon 6: My first Big RedHeights viewing, and it was a classic as I wrote in an earlier Moyes’ Memories story. 1995: Muskegon Catholic 13, Ravenna 8: The Mud Bowl! Ravenna’s punter goes to his knee to field a punt on the quagmire of Citizens Field and Muskegon Catholic nips Ravenna. MCC then breezes to the Class C state title. 1988: Ravenna 33, St Ignace 20: This semifinal blowout victory over the state’s No. 1 ranked team set the stage for a Bulldog dynasty for many years. 2001: Fruitport 42, East Grand Rapids 30: Over the next decade, East Grand Rapids would lose less than a handful of games. The Trojans used this win to inspire them all the way to the state championship game before losing to one of this states most powerful all time teams: Farmington Hills Harrison and future MSU and NFL quarterback Drew Stanton. 1981: North Muskegon 9, Iron Mountain 7: Sam Parker’s closing moments field goal gives the Norse their only state semifinal victory and a trip to the Silverdome. And my all time upset: 1980: Muskegon 19, Muskegon Catholic 15: This scenario likely never happened before or will again: The Muskegon win would be their only victory of the entire season while the loss proved to be the only defeat incurred by the Crusaders’ 1980 Class B state championship squad. There have been many other thrillers over the years as I’m sure our very knowledgeable group of fans will bring to my attention. Jim Moyes is a columnist for Local Sports Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
NORTH MUSKEGON Norse Notes
Seniors hoping to put wins on the board By Shawn Liverance Local Sports Journal
Mike Belmonte, head coach Coaches: Phil Friesner, Al Karaba, Scott Wynsma Returning starters: Offense 3, Defense 4. Strengths: The Norsemen should be strong on offense, especially up the middle. Those same offensive linemen should anchor a strong defensive line. The defensive secondary also will be a strength with several seniors. Weaknesses: From the offensive guards on out, the Norsmen have some unproven players at those positions. Breaking in a new quarterback, senior Adrian Anderson, will be a concern as well as will two new linebackers. Offensive outlook: The Norsemen will employ a multiple scheme offense that will be series based. Anderson is an athletic quarterback who played running back last season, and he will be the keystone of the offense. An experienced offensive line should help the Norsemen offense move the ball. Notable: North Muskegon was outscored 254-62 last season and were shutout five times… The Norsemen will have four Western Michigan Christian players on its roster as part of the cooperative agreement. Quotable: “It is all talk until we start winning some football games. We are focused on ourselves and limiting our mistakes. If we do that, then I think we can turn things around.” – Head coach Mike Belmonte Season outlook: The Norsemen look to rebound from an extremely disappointing season in 2011. North Muskegon has talent, but a lack of depth could hurt. Look for the Norsemen to get into the win column this season, but a .500 season would be a huge accomplishment. Playoff history: Qualified 16 times, including the last time in 2009. Top finish was a Class C runner-up in 1981. Stadium: Fred Jacks Field is two blocks east of the high school off Ruddiman. 2011 scores: Calvin Christian 14, North Musk. 7 Shelby 12, North Muskegon 0 Hart 21, North Muskegon 20 Whitehall 37, North Muskegon 0 Mason CC 42, North Muskegon 28 Oakridge 39, North Muskegon 0 Ravenna 35, North Muskegon 7 Montague 19, North Muskegon 0 Muskegon Catholic 35, North Musk. 0
There is only one way to go for the North Muskegon football team this season and that is up. The Norsemen suffered a winless season last year, and that didn’t sit too well with Adrian Anderson and Chase Cooke. The two seniors come in adamant that last season will not be repeated. “We are coming into this season with a big chip on our shoulders,” Cooke said. “We have lots to prove this season. We want to make North Muskegon proud of us and bring back North Muskegon football.” Anderson echoed those same sentiments. “We can’t have what happened last year happen again,” Anderson said. “We fully expect to be in every game this year and win those games.” Changing the attitude this season is a common theme running throughout the North Muskegon program, and that is never more evident than the sacrifice Cooke has made. The backup quarterback last season, Cooke will move to tight end so Anderson can play quarterback. “At first, I was a little disappointed, but I want to do anything I can to help us win games this year,” Cooke said. Anderson (6-foot, 200) will take over at quarterback after playing fullback a year ago. “It is a big move, but playing quarterback is something I always wanted to play,” Anderson said. “I think I picked it up pretty quick. It has come naturally to me and Coach (Phil) Friesner had really helped in the offseason.” First-year coach Mike Belmonte’s philosophy is a simple one. “We need to put our best athletes in positions that will make us more successful,” Belmonte said. “We feel the best chance for us to win games is moving Adrian to quarterback. “Adrian is great athlete and has really picked up the position change well. But, I can’t say it enough how Chase handled the change. He handled it with so much class.” Cooke (5-foot-11, 175), who will also play cornerback on defense, has had to adjust to his new tight end position in preseason workouts. “It is a position I am not used to, but I think I picked things up pretty easy,” Cooke said. “I think it will be fun to play a new position this year.” Anderson and Cooke will be key components to North Muskegon’s offense, according to Belmonte. “Those two will be key for our offense this year,” Belmonte said. “We are going to run multiple formations and be a seriesbased type of offense.” Senior Nick Duplissis (5-foot-8, 170) returns after suffering an injury last year and will be counted on to provide rushing yards from his fullback position. The offensive line, which will be counted on to open holes for NM’s running game and to also protect Anderson in the pocket, will be anchored by guards Christian Brower (6-foot-1, 225) a senior, and junior Aidan Rhyndress (6-foot, 220) and junior center Justin Fairfield (6-foot, 240). “I think we have some skill on offense,” said Belmonte, who will be assisted by Phil Friesner, Al Karaba and Scott Wynsma. “We have some experience up front, but we need to avoid injuries as we don’t have much depth.”
Seniors Adrian Anderson and Chase Cooke will attempt to get the Norsemen back on the winning track after North Muskegon went 0-9 in 2011. Anderson takes over the quarterbacking duties while Cooke, the fifth boy in his family to play for the Norse, will be a tight end. (Photo by Ron Rop)
WATCH FOR Jack Gautraud 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, senior, defensive back • Logan Waller, 6-foot, 175 pounds, sophomore, linebacker
Holden Vanderweele 5-foot-10, 205 pounds, junior, linebacker
Nick Duplissis 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, senior, fullback/D-back
Defensively, Belmonte will employ a 52 scheme and thinks the defensive line and secondary will be NM’s strengths. Joining Cooke and Anderson in the secondary will be senior Jack Gautraud (5-foot9, 160) and Duplissis. Linbackers Holden Vanderweele (5-foot10, 205) a junior and sophomore Logan Waller (6-foot, 175) could be the key for NM’s defense. “Those two (Vanderweele and Waller) have little varsity experience, and they will need to step up for us to be successful on defense,” Belmonte said. Changing a losing culture is what Belmonte is striving for this season. “We want to return the North Muskegon football tradition to where it was,” said Belmonte, who has spent 22 years as an assistant coach at several local schools. “We are only focused on our first game right now and improving week to week. We are empha-
• Aidan Rhyndress, 6-foot, 220 pounds, junior, offensive guard
sizing senior leadership, which we have this year. They all have a hunger, which is good to see.” That senior leadership is led by Anderson and Cooke and they both want to leave their mark on the North Muskegon program. Cooke, who is the last of five brothers to play football for North Muskegon, said he wants to go out a winner. “I hear it from my brothers all the time on much they miss football,” Cooke said. “I want to enjoy my senior season, but also want to go out a winner.” Anderson, who also is a standout baseball player for the Norsemen, can’t wait for the season to begin. “There is nothing like running out on the field on a Friday night,” Anderson said. “I think the guys have bought into what we want to accomplish this season. We don’t want to go through what we did last year, and we expect to win this year.”
OAKRIDGE Eagle Edict
Cary Harger, head coach Coaches: Tim Parker, Nate Danicek, David Randall, Tim Odette. Last year: 9-2. Tied for conference title with Shelby but lost in the district finals to WMC rival Montague. Returning starters: Offense 5, Defense 7. Strengths: With seven starters back from a defense that posted four shutouts, the Eagles will be tough to move the ball on. Offense has several big play threats, including running back Dan Shoop who could see plenty of carries this season. Weaknesses: The lack of a kicking game could hurt the Eagles in a close game.
Oakridge will rely on seniors and three-year varsity players Francis Decker, Zack Murphy and Jacob Shepherd to once again contend for the West Michigan Conference championship. (Photo by Rachel Resterhouse)
Trio seek to leave legacy on football field By Shawn Liverance Local Sports Journal Francis Decker, Zack Murphy and Jacob Shepherd have had plenty of success on the football field for the Oakridge Eagles. As sophomores playing on the varsity, the three were part of an Oakridge team that won nine games and lost in the regional semifinals. Last season, they were members of an Eagles team that also won nine games before losing in the district title game. This year, the trio begins the season as the face of the Oakridge team. “We all got to play with guys like Jamie Potts and Nick Eely and many others,” Decker said. “We learned things from all of them and now we want to be the leaders for the younger guys.” “We want to leave our mark on the Oakridge program,” Murphy said. “We are motivated to win a state championship and leave our legacy on the Oakridge football program.” Shepherd, who transferred from Fruitport before starting high school, quickly learned about the tradition of Oakridge football. “When I got here, guys took me in,” Shepherd said. “They showed me what it took to win. That is what I want to try to show the younger players during my senior season.” All three will be counted on to provide senior leadership and also production on the field this season for the Eagles. Decker (5-foot-9, 145 pounds) should be a playmaker from his slot position on offense. “I am looking forward to seeing how our offense moves the ball this season,” said Decker, who will play cornerback on defense. “We have some experienced players and I think we should be able to do quite a few things offensively.” “Francis is a great athlete,” Oakridge coach Cary Harger said. “He is an impact
WATCH FOR Dan Shoop 5-foot-10, 172 pounds, junior, back
Derek Masterman 6-foot, 163 pounds, senior, back
• Mike Whittaker, 6-foot-1, 249 pounds, senior line • Kaleb Cook, 5-foot-11, 213 pounds, sophomore, line • James Abriatis, 5-foot-11, 206 pounds, junior, back player that will be a big part of our offense.” Providing the blocking for Decker and an offense that returns five starters will be Murphy and Shepherd. Murphy (6-foot-4, 211) will play center on offense and tackle on the defensive side of the ball. “I think we will be able to move the ball on offense,” Murphy said. “But, I really like our defense and what we are going to be able to do.” “Zack has done a ton growing up over the past three years,” Harger said. “He really has given it his all for this team.” Shepherd (5-foot-11, 245) will play guard and tackle for the Eagles this season. “We all have played together for two or three years on the varsity, and I think that experience will help us this season,” Shepherd said. “We need to play as a team and if we can do that then I think we can have a great season.” “Jacob is such a coachable kid,” Harger said. “He has kind of been a utility guy for us playing several positions and never once complained.” Decker, Murphy and Shepherd will have plenty of help on both sides of the ball this season. Junior Dan Shoop (5-foot-10, 172), who rushed for nearly 600 yards and scored
eight touchdowns last season, should be the workhorse running back for the Eagles this season. Senior Mike Whittaker (6-1, 249) will also be a key linemen on both sides of the ball, and senior Derek Masterman (6-0, 163) will get some carries in the backfield. Junior James Abriatis (5-foot-11, 206), a transfer from South Haven, will see playing time at fullback and linebacker while sophomore Kaleb Cook (5-foot-11, 213) will get playing time on both lines for the Eagles. “I definitely think our experience is one of our strengths this season,” Harger said. “I really think our defense is going to be very good.” Defense could be the key this season if Oakridge is going to contend again for the West Michigan Conference championship as Montague, Shelby and Whitehall are all expected to be in the title hunt. Oakridge and Shelby tied for the conference championship with 6-1 records, but Montague knocked out the Eagles in the district finals. “We definitely are looking to challenge for the West Michigan Conference title,” Harger said. “We are hungry after last season. We were three points away from being 9-0, and three plays hurt us in our playoff loss. I think the guys are using that as motivation for this year.”
Offensive outlook: The Eagles will look to move the ball on the ground behind an experienced offensive line. Shoop should lead a group of talented running backs. When the Eagles do decide to throw the ball, Francis Decker will be the main target and a deep threat. Notable: The Eagles will be looking to earn a share of their third straight WMC Conference championship and make their eighth straight playoff appearance… The Eagles replaced Muskegon Heights as their opening game this season with Forest Hills Eastern. Quotable: “I might be the head coach, but I have such a great staff that head coach is really only a title to me. Everybody is so involved and brings something different to the table.” – Head coach Cary Harger Projected finish: As usual, the Eagles will once again be one of the favorites to win the conference championship. A very stout defense could lead to a long playoff as well for the Eagles this season. Playoff history: Oakridge has made 21 playoff appearances, with state titles in 1997, 2005 and 2008 and runner-up finishes in 1990 and 2003. Stadium: Jack Schugars Field at Russell A. Erickson Stadium, next to the middle school at 251 S. Wolf Lake Road. 2011 scores: Oakridge 16, Muskegon Heights 0 Oakridge 49, Mason County Central 0 Oakridge 21, Montague 20 Oakridge 47, Hart 14 Ravenna 22, Oakridge 20 Oakridge 39, North Muskegon 0 Oakridge 22, Shelby 8 Oakridge 42, Whitehall 14 Oakridge 42, Orchard View 0 Oakridge 18, NorthPointe Christian 0 Montague 20, Oakridge 0
Seniors determined to ring victory bell By Ron Rop Local Sports Journal
Joe Tanis, head coach Coaches: Larry Porter, Corey Chandler, Gerald Gamble. Last year: 1-8. Returning starters: Offense 3, Defense 3. Strengths: The Cardinals have some highly skilled athletes at the skill positions. Although the quarterback is just a sophomore, the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in his abilities. Weaknesses: With slightly more than 20 players on the roster, there is a lack of depth. Both offensive and defensive lines are young. Offensive outlook: The Cardinals will employ multiple formations in order to get the ball in the hands of their most skilled players. They’ve good speed in the backfield and at wide receiver. Notable: Coach Tanis is beginning his first stint as a head coach at any level. He played at Grandville High School and at Olivet College… While the Cardinals won just one game last season, they hung tough with Montague, lost to Newaygo by one point and were leading late against Grant… There’s a new opponent on the Cardinals’ schedule this season – Muskegon Catholic Central. The last time the Cardinals battled the Crusaders was in 1982, a 39-0 MCC victory. Quotable: “This is a great school with a great tradition. We just want to prove that we can be better than expected.” – OV first-year head coach Joe Tanis. Projected finish: While the Cardinals may not be quite ready to hang with the top teams in the Lakes 8, there is hope the Cardinals will be competitive. The potential to sneak up on some teams is certainly possible, but the Cardinals must remain healthy. Playoff history: Qualified 14 times. Lost in the state finals in 1995 and 1999. Captured the Division 4 state championship in 2004. The Cardinals’ last appearance in the playoffs was 2008. Stadium: Cardinal Stadium is located on Sheridan Drive just north of Marquette Avenue. 2011 scores: Montague 20, Orchard View 8 Fremont 21, Orchard View 6 Ludington 35, Orchard View 20 Newaygo 35, Orchard View 34 Grant 32, Orchard View 23 Spring Lake 49, Orchard View 16 Fruitport 33, Orchard View 21 Orchard View 46, Tri-County 43 Oakridge 42, Orchard View 0
There’s a bell just beyond the south end zone at Cardinal Stadium. Last season, there just wasn’t enough ringing of that bell as the Orchard View Cardinals struggled through a 1-8 season. They lost their first seven games in a row, narrowly defeated Tri-County in Week 8 and lost to Oakridge in the season finale. If you ask head coach Joe Tanis about that rival just to their east, he’ll just point in that direction or say “the school down there.” It was a painful season in more ways than one for the Cardinals. The roster was decimated by injuries – the team had 13 players when the season ended. And when someone went out with a minor injury or a cramp, it was usually out one or two plays and back into the game. But there’s a new optimism, a new coaching staff and a clean slate as the Cardinals look toward the upcoming season. “We didn’t have a big team to start with,” running back Justin Hunter-Smith said. “Nobody wants to go 1-8. It’s about as bad as you can get.” But enough about last season. Coach Tanis steps into his first head coaching job, and he’s ready to bring OV back to where it’s accustomed to being. “The transition has been really smooth,” said Tanis, who played football at Grandville High School and Olivet College. “The kids have responded well. This is a school with great tradition.” In order to get OV back on the football map, Tanis is relying on a special group of skilled players. That starts with senior Hunter-Smith, an all-state hurdler in track, and a physical specimen with a lot of talent. Senior wide receiver Corey Pierce (5-foot-9, 165) is very quick and will be a key target in the offense. Hunter-Smith (6foot-0, 195) has speed, power and size. On the line, there’s Sloan Bowen (6-foot-3, 275), a two-way lineman who will be a dominant force. “We will try to get HunterSmith as many possessions as possible to be as successful as possible,” Tanis said. “We have to utilize his skillset.” Those three senior leaders will be counted on to lend a hand to their young quarterback, sophomore Kris Wells (5-foot10, 165). “We have senior leadership; those are the key guys,” Tanis said. “They have bought in right away. We are trying to make it a great senior year for them.” Wells, the jayvee quarterback a year ago, is very mature for his age, according to Tanis.
With a little more than 20 players, Orchard View will rely on (clockwise from top left) seniors Justin Hunter-Smith, Corey Pierce and Sloan Bowen to lend a hand to sophomore quarterback Kris Wells in hopes of rebounding from a 1-8 season in 2011. (Photo by Rachel Resterhouse)
WATCH FOR Sloan Bowen 6-foot-3, 275 pounds, senior, OL/DL
Justin Hunter-Smith 6-foot, 165 pounds, senior, receiver/D-back • Kyle Cunningham 6-foot, 190 pounds, senior, back/linebacker His speed will help make the offense go, and if needed, he can fire a pass downfield with Pierce being a key target. If anyone on the roster is hungry for success, it’s Bowen, who had a rough junior year. On the Monday after last season’s opener against Montague, Bowen suffered an injury, and he never returned to the field. “We are making sure everything gets done,” Bowen said. “As captains, we are making sure everything is tight.” Besides those four standouts, the Cardinals are banking on others to help get them back into the mix of the Lakes 8 race. Senior fullback Kyle
Corey Pierce 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, senior, receiver/D-back Cunningham (6-foot, 190) brings toughness to the backfield. Also expected to make significant contributions is senior tight end Jake Kriger (5-foot10, 190). Key players along the line include junior center Cordell Bernard (6-foot-1, 280), sophomore tackle Zach Patitucci (5foot-9, 265) and guard Colin Weaver (6-foot, 190). Patitucci, who bench presses 350 pounds, is the strongest player on the team. He also is expected to handle the kicking duties. The Cardinals have plenty of two-way players. That does not
• Jake Kriger 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, senior, tight end/linebacker include Wells, who is expected to just concentrate on his duties as the quarterback. Hunter-Smith and Pierce will man the secondary. Kriger, Weaver and Cunningham will play linebacker, and Bowen, Bernard and Patitucci will anchor the defensive line. “The seniors are really keeping on the underclassmen,” Hunter-Smith said. “We have a young team, but the seniors are ready to get at it and pick up the slack.” The Cardinals open the season against their usual Week 1 opponent, Montague, before heading into the Lakes 8 portion of the schedule.
R AV E N N A Bulldog Bytes
David Smith, head coach Coaches: Randy Helsen, Scott McFarren, Randy Deal. Last year: 5-5. Lost in first round of the playoffs to Pewamo-Westphalia, which lost to Saginaw Nouvel in the Division 7 state championship game. Returning starters: Offense 4, Defense 4. Strengths: The Bulldogs are very big, but they have some speed, especially in the offensive backfield with quarterback Todd Brown and sophomore running back Gabe Zimmer. The coaching staff has been impressed with the work ethic and coachability in their 21-man squad.
After playing tailback during his career, senior Todd Brown will take over the signal calling for the Ravenna Bulldogs. (Photo by Ron Rop)
Brown prepares to lead ‘Dogs as QB By Ron Rop Local Sports Journal Todd Brown has never taken a snap at quarterback at any level of his football career. That is about to change for the senior at Ravenna High School. After spending most of his time taking handoffs, Brown will now be doing the handing off for the young Bulldogs. His trial by fire began with some meetings with the coaching staff to get ready for his new position. “I think I’m doing all right,” Brown said. “We’ll be running some options and some other stuff. I’ve been working all summer on it – ever since school got out.” Ravenna coach David Smith knew he was asking a lot of Brown when he approached him with the idea of changing spots. “It’s the kid’s senior year, and he’s played tailback every season,” Smith said. The Bulldog program is known for its workhorse tailbacks over the years. “He was open to it, he’s a leader on this team and he’s doing a great job,” Smith said. “People will underestimate him as a thrower.” Last year, Brown was taking handoffs from Zach Courtade. This season, Brown will be handing off to sophomore Gabe Zimmer, who is expected to turn heads throughout his career at Ravenna. “We’re going to be fast this year,” Brown said. “That’s one thing we do have.” What the Bulldogs don’t have at the present time is Nick Timlin, who was burned in an explosion at a bonfire several weeks ago. Timlin suffered burns to his feet, legs and one hand when the fumes exploded and sent a group of people running for safety. “Some of the kids that were there put some gasoline on the fire, and they used too much,” Timlin said. “I was standing nearby talking to friends and was not aware they were going to light it. I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
WATCH FOR Brett Postema senior, end/safety
Joe McKenna 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, senior, guard/tackle
• Gabe Zimmer, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, sophomore, tailback • Alex White, 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, sophomore, tight end When the explosion occurred, Timlin turned to run, but stumbled. “It’s more flash burns, but I do have second degree burns on my feet,” Timlin said. Smith is hoping to see Timlin, a team captain along with Brown, back in action within the first two games of the season. “He’s strong, he’s a hard worker and he has a 4.0 grade-point-average,” Smith said. Timlin (6-foot-2, 180) is a senior who is a three-year varsity player. The pain from the burns was bad enough, but Timlin is feeling the effects even more. “Probably the worst pain is not being there with my team,” said Timlin, who is expected to do some blocking from the backfield and play linebacker or end on defense. In the meantime, the Bulldogs are getting ready for their traditional opener against Kent City. Looming in Week 2 is Whitehall, which is considered a league favorite for this coming season. The Bulldogs will line up with Zimmer (5-foot-10, 185) at tailback. His skill running the ball is the reason Smith feels comfortable putting Brown at quarterback. A rarity at Ravenna is having a big, skilled tight end, and this year they have sophomore Alex White (6-foot-4, 210). He is expected to not only be a key target when the Bulldogs opt to pass, but a solid blocker in the running game. Another key player in the passing game will be Brett Postema, an end and someone
who Smith considers a “go-to” guy. He also will be returning punts. Up front, the Bulldogs will feature senior Joe McKenna (6-foot-1, 230) at power guard, junior tackle Kyle Ruiz (6-foot-0, 225), junior center Jake Seid (5-foot-10, 195), senior Dalton Jacobs (5-foot-9, 195) at guard and senior tackle Griffin Danhoe (5-foot-10, 205). Many of the players will go both ways for the Bulldogs. White will play defensive end while McKenna and Ruiz are the tackles. Junior Nick Anderson (5-foot-9, 185) is a defensive end, and sophomore Scott Hudson (5foot-10, 175) is the noseguard. In the defensive backfield, watch for Brown and Postema at cornerback and safety, respectively. The linebacking positions will be manned by Seid and Timlin. “We’ve got 21 guys right now, including four sophomores,” Smith said. “We have to stay healthy. We’ve got a really good nucleus, and we just have to improve every day, every game.” Smith considers Whitehall and Oakridge to be frontrunners in the always-tough West Michigan Conference. Montague and Shelby also are expected to contend. “We will sneak up on a lot of people,” Smith said. “We’ve put in our time in the weight room, and we’ve got a good attitude.”
Weaknesses: There isn’t a lot of experience on the roster, which consists of four sophomores. Several of those could be two-way starters. Having 21 players means there is a lack of depth and the need to stay healthy. Offensive outlook: Ravenna will look to utilize their speed with the Power I offense. Coach Smith said they will add wrinkles into their base offense to keep teams off balance. When needed, Brown won’t be afraid to put the ball in the air. Expect to see Zimmer as the featured back. Notable: Ravenna has had a .500 record or better in each of the last five seasons and 12 of the last 13 seasons… Smith, entering his third season as head coach, has a 14-9 record. Quotable: “We’re going to be fast this year. That’s one thing we do have.” – Ravenna quarterback Todd Brown. Projected finish: The Bulldogs are hoping to sneak up on a few league foes, including league favorites Whitehall and Oakridge. Montague and Shelby also will be formidable foes in the always-tough West Michigan Conference. Playoff history: Qualified for the playoffs 18 times with state titles in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2003. Stadium: Citizen’s Field, located next to the high school, 2766 S. Ravenna Rd. 2011 scores Ravenna 40, Kent City 26 Whitehall 26, Ravenna 14 Ravenna 21, Mason Central 0 Montague 38, Ravenna 7 Ravenna 22, Oakridge 20 Ravenna 50, Hart 20 Ravenna 35, North Muskegon 7 Shelby 23, Ravenna 6 Cheboygan 47, Ravenna 21 Pewamo-Westphalia 33, Ravenna 7
REETHS-PUFFER Rocket Review
New coach begins rebuilding process By Mark Lewis Local Sports Journal
Kyle Jewett, head coach Coaches: Dean Jewett, Jeff Uganski, Joe Perri, Don Ketner Last year: 2-7, 1-4 in the OK Black Returning starters: Offense 3, Defense 4. Strengths: With the arrival of first-time head coach Kyle Jewett and the addition of new players from Muskegon Heights and Puffer, there is a freshness to the Rocket program. There is plenty of talent at the skill positions, and if the defense comes together, like it should, the Rockets will have success. Weaknesses: So much newness to the Rocket program means it’s going to take a little while to come together. Expect some early growing pains before the roster solidifies and begins to improve. Though numbers are good, the relative size of this year’s Reeths-Puffer football team is on the small side. Notable: Joining Jewett on the staff is his father, longtime area coach Dean Jewett, who has held positions at Mona Shores and Muskegon Catholic… Kyle played for his dad during his time at Muskegon Catholic… The Rockets’ last playoff appearance was in 2007, when they fell to Hudsonville 36-10 in the opening round… This year marks the 20th anniversary of Reeths-Puffer’s lone state football title. The Rockets capped their perfect 13-0 season with a 21-18 victory over Walled Lake Western… That team, coached by area coaching legend Pete Kutches, will be marking the anniversary at the Rockets’ Oct. 7 Homecoming. Quotable: “Rebuilding this team, it helps that Reeths-Puffer was such a powerhouse in the past. That past will help us lay a foundation for a future tradition of winning.” – Head coach Kyle Jewett Projected finish: The Rockets should finish behind at least Muskegon and Zeeland East in the conference. While it’s clear the Rockets are going in the right direction, with so many new players learning a new system, the Rockets could struggle throughout the season. Stadium: 1545 N. Roberts Rd., behind the high school. 2011 scores: Fruitport 28, Reeths-Puffer 7 Reeths-Puffer 40, GR Creston 24 Lowell 24, Reeths-Puffer 7 GR Christian 62, Reeths-Puffer 10 FH Central 48, Reeths-Puffer 0 Holland 40, Reeths-Puffer 3 Reeths-Puffer 21, GR Union 0 Mona Shores 26, Reeths-Puffer 22 Kenowa Hills 49, Reeths-Puffer 22
After years of relative football futility, Reeths-Puffer is looking in 2012 to make a statement to the entire Muskegon area. By tapping first-year coach Kyle Jewett, who comes from an impressive coaching tradition, to lead the program, the Rocket community is hoping that the bygone days of consistent success in football will return. Jewett noticed early on in his tenure that there was as much talent at Reeths-Puffer as any other area school. It’s just that some of those talented athletes weren’t coming out for football. “I realized right away that we had to get creative to find ways to get those players not yet in the program involved with what we are trying to do here,” said Jewett, at 29 is one of the state’s youngest big-school head football coaches. “We needed a way to reach out to those kids and let them know we have a place for them on the football team. We needed to aggressively recruit our own school,” said Jewett, who quarterbacked the 2001 Muskegon Catholic Central team to a state runner-up finish, and more recently was running backs coach at Grand Rapids Community College under Tony Annese. What followed were a series of pickup games, such as dodge ball and basketball, in an attempt to meet some of those kids on their own turf. While that stuff is fun, said Jewett, what he really noticed was that meeting the kids face-to-face had the greatest impact. “Getting to know some of them, talking with them and just being there, it made all the difference,” he said. “We were able to help them get a feel for what we were trying to do.” Senior Kevin Polk, known more around the school for basketball skills, was one of Jewett’s first “gets.” Polk, who could have a big impact at the wide receiver position, has never before played varsity football. “The kid comes out as this basketball player, and now, he may be starting both ways for us. Obviously, that’s talent we may not have known about had we not made the effort to reach out,” Jewett said. Then there was the uncertain future surrounding Muskegon Heights. When the school closed for good earlier this summer – before finding new life as a charter school – most of its student-athletes were left to scramble for alternate opportunities. The Rockets landed two players from the Heights, Marquis Livers, who may end up starting at tight end and linebacker, and Jewell Glover. Livers, a big, strong kid, said that after a brief period of transition, he now feels like he’s just one of the team. “The chemistry was off at first,” said Livers, who wears No. 1. “But I adjusted and now I know this is where I belong. It’s been a learning thing for everybody.” Livers, who also plays basketball, said that he knew Coach Jewett was the right man for the job when he saw how he conducted himself. “He’s going to be a great head coach,” Livers said. “He has a plan for us, and when there’s a plan, we can see how things go from where we are now to where we want to be.” Likewise, Jewett said his new players needed some time to adjust to his approach. “I think they needed to get used to our coaching style, the way we want to do things,” Jewett said. “I think most of them,
Senior Marquis Livers, a transfer from Muskegon Heights, could play key roles on both offense and defense for the Rockets, who will be led by first-time coach Kyle Jewett. Livers could see action at both tight end and linebacker. (Photo by Mark Lewis)
WATCH FOR Dede Blake senior, recveiver/D-back
Kevin Polk senior, receiver/D-back
• Garrett Blanshine, junior, quarterback • Corey Plichta, junior, fullback/linebacker • Matt Hoover, junior, offensive guard/D-line • Drieus Bett, senior, running back/D-back • Jewell Glover, senior, running back and this includes kids who have been here all along, were a little shook up at first, because of what we demanded of them. But everyone has conformed pretty well to what we’re doing here.” Junior offensive guard Matt Hoover will be an anchor on the line, while Drieus Bett should be a standout at running back. Fullback Corey Plichta will do plenty of blocking, while junior Garrett Blanshine is slated to take over at quarterback. Hoover will occupy a spot on the defensive line as well, with Plichta and Livers at the linebacker spots. Bett, Glover and Polk will be manning spots in the secondary. Needless to say, with so many players playing both ways, life could be tough for the Rockets in the newly configured OK Black Conference, which now includes Zeeland East and perennial powerhouse Muskegon.
Forest Hills Central and Holland have moved to the O-K Red. But then, those were teams Reeths-Puffer lost to a year ago by a combined 88-3. At any rate, Jewett looks at the tough schedule as a chance to play with, and learn from, the best. “When you’re a top team, you’re going to play a lot of good teams anyway, especially as you make your way through the playoffs,” Jewett said. “We look at (the schedule) as an opportunity to play against some of the strongest programs in the state. That’s where we want to be, so there is no reason to try to duck them now.” With such a tough conference schedule looming, Jewett is laser-focused on the opener. “Fruitport is going to be an important game for us,” he said. “We want to go hard right out of the gate.”
SHELBY Tiger Trivia
Lorenzo Rodriguez, head coach Coaches: Phil Fortier, Tom Brozek, Steve Naumcheff Last year: 8-2, 6-1, conference co-champs Starters returning: Offense 6, Defense 6. Strengths: Shelby returns both offensive and defensive lines. The team also returns one of the league’s top linebackers, Ben Schroeder, while the other linebacker spot will be filled by Forest Courtright, brother of last year’s team MVP Mason Courtright. If tackling has anything to do with DNA, the Tigers should be very strong at the second level.
Running back Nathan Lentz, quarterback Spencer Peters and lineman Jeremy Lambrix will be counted on to lead the Tigers to their first back-to-back-to-back winning seasons since 1987-90 when Shelby had four seasons with a better than .500 record. (Photo by Mark Lewis)
Shelby shooting to be football school too By Mark Lewis Local Sports Journal
Shelby has long been thought of as a basketball school. Head football coach Lorenzo Rodriguez couldn’t understand why the school couldn’t field a respectable football team as well. “This school has a great sports tradition, including football,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez points to the team’s success in the 1970s, when the school had just two losing seasons, and sported an unblemished 8-0 record in 1975. “Surely, there are athletes here that could get the job done on the football field too,” he said. Still, playoff wins for Shelby are a rare thing, having won just one playoff game – a 24-13 victory over Shepherd in 2001 – since the playoffs started in the mid-1970s. And then there is the fact that, prior to Rodriguez’s arrival, Shelby had – from 1991-2006 – just three winning seasons and seven seasons with two victories or less. Things started back in the right direction in 2007, with the Tigers putting together five-straight winning campaigns, including last year’s share of the conference title, their first since 1977. For Rodriguez, and perhaps the rest of the community in Shelby, the past half decade is proof-positive the team is making concrete progress toward a consistent, winning tradition. “First off, the rise of this program is a group effort,” Rodriguez said. “The kids have done all that we’ve asked; the staff has worked its tails off; the community has been on our side every step of the way. The progress we’ve made has been nothing short of tremendous.” An offseason strength program has been the difference for the Tigers. True, Rodriguez said, the athletes were there all along. They just weren’t physically
WATCH FOR Ben Schroeder senior, linebacker
Kyle McGrew senior, tackle
• Jeremy Lambrix, senior, offensive lineman • Nathan Lentz, senior, running back • Shane Kajtazi, junior, receiver • Forest Courtwright, junior, linebacker strong enough to keep up with the competition. “That won’t be an issue anymore,” said senior tackle Kyle McGrew, his size indicating the truth of his statement. “We’re looking to keep this thing going,” senior quarterback Spencer Peters said. “Making it to the playoffs is a step. Now we are looking to take the next step.” McGrew will be joined in protecting Peters, who replaces last season’s signal caller Kody Plummer, by a veteran crew of linemen, including Jeremy Lambrix, who makes all the line calls, Gram Herring at left tackle and Dylan Ackney at right guard. Running back Nathan Lentz will be a huge piece of the offense, as will receivers Shane Kajtazi and Devin Mussel. Defensively, along with the crew of twoway linemen, the Tigers’ defense will be led by linebackers Ben Schroeder, who finished with more than 100 tackles last season, and Forest Courtright, who replaces his brother, Mason, in the middle. Peters will lead the defensive backs. “Up front, everybody returns,” said Rodriguez, “So, we are going to move a lot of people.” Nevertheless, consistency at the skill positions will be critical to the team’s success, Rodriguez said. This is where the offseason work will be particularly noticeable.
“We have some athletes to replace, but we are replacing them with athletes, so I don’t anticipate much drop off in that area,” Rodriguez said. “Really, I think this offense is ready to take it to the next level. So far, it looks really good.” The schedule opens with Grant and North Muskegon on the road, and then the team travels to its first big contest of the season, at Whitehall on Sept. 7. “It’s going to be a good, early-season test for us,” Rodriguez said of the Whitehall contest. If Shelby does weather that gauntlet, the playoffs will present another challenge for the team. “The expectation is to move beyond the first round,” said Rodriguez. “The first goal is to win the conference, preferably outright. Then our focus will turn to how we can be more successful in the playoffs.” While success will be determined by their play on the field, Rodriguez said the Tigers’ success will somewhat be shouldered by himself and the rest of the coaches. “The kids have done the work, they’ve put the ball in our court,” he said. “Now it is up to us, as coaches, to not let these kids down. “We’ve set some pretty high expectations. Now it is up to all of us, our staff included, to take the team to the next goal.”
Weaknesses: There’s a new quarterback taking over which means consistency could be an issue in the early going. The Tigers’ numbers are slight, so a few key injuries could derail Shelby’s success. Notable: Just one of Shelby’s first five opponents had a winning record in 2011. Success in those games will set up huge games versus Montague, Oakridge and Ravenna in Weeks 6-8… The Tigers have a chance to put together the program’s first back-to-back-to-back winning seasons in more than 20 years, when Shelby sported a combined record of 24-12 from 1987-90. Quotable: “The conference will be as tough as ever to win. Oakridge, Montague and Ravenna are always going to give you a game, and Whitehall could be the best team out of all of them. But we believe we match up with all those teams. ” – Head coach Lorenzo Rodriguez Projected finish: The Tigers have all the weapons to win the title if they can make it past Whitehall in Week 3 and are still at full strength for Montague, Oakridge and Ravenna. Playoff history: The Tigers have made the playoffs four times since the playoff system was installed in the mid-1970s. Two of those appearances have come in the past two years. Shelby has one playoff win, a 24-13 victory over Shepherd in 2001. Stadium: 641 North State St., just south of the high school 2011 scores: Shelby 29, Grant 7 Shelby 12, North Muskegon 0 Shelby 29, Whitehall 22 Shelby 40, Mason County Central 8 Shelby 46, Hart 26 Shelby 9, Montague 7 Oakridge 22, Shelby 8 Shelby 23, Ravenna 6 Shelby 46, Coloma 6 Morley-Stanwood 10, Shelby 7
SPRING LAKE Laker Lore
Jerry Rabideau, head coach Coaches: Leo Rosencrants, Len Grimmer, Jim Goodburn, Darold Pellegrom, Brett Detwiler, Brian Bench. Last Year: 6-4, 6-1. Returning Starters: Offense 4, Defense 4. Strengths: The Lakers have tremendous team speed. They have two strong quarterback candidates, both with the ability to tuck the ball and run or make tough passes. Weaknesses: Spring Lake does not have much size and will be inexperienced on both the offensive and defensive lines. Notable: The Spring Lake football program will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this season. The team will welcome back all former players throughout the season and will wear throwback jerseys. Quotable: “We’ve very excited about it (50th anniversary). It’s a honor for our players to be part of. For people who have lived 50, 60 years in Spring Lake, this is a great thing for them. A lot of (players) are coming back.” – Head coach Jerry Rabideau. Projected finish: The Lakers are looking for a share or outright claim of their 4th straight Lakes 8 Conference title. They should battle Fruitport and Fremont for that honor. Playoff history: Spring Lake has qualified nine times, reaching the 2000 state finals and finishing runnerup. The Lakers fell in the first round last year, 37-0 at Comstock Park. Stadium: Grabinski Field, located behind Spring Lake Middle School, 345 Hammond. 2011 scores: Whitehall 33, Spring Lake 31 Spring Lake 50, Ludington 27 Fremont 28, Spring Lake 13 Spring Lake 69, Tri-County 40 Spring Lake 7, Fruitport 6 Spring Lake 49, Orchard View 16 Spring Lake 30, Grant 24 Spring Lake 26, Newaygo 16 Coopersville 49, Spring Lake 35 Comstock Park 37, Spring Lake 0
Cody Berkobien, a two-way starter at fullback and linebacker, will be counted on to lead the Lakers to their fourth straight Lakes 8 championship in this, the 50th year of Spring Lake football. (Photo by Cole Myhre)
Lakers hoping that history repeats itself By Dave Tomczak Local Sports Journal It is going to be a historic season for the Spring Lake football program this year – on the field and off. The Lakers are celebrating 50 years of football, bringing back former players all season long, including some from the first Spring Lake team. On the field, Spring Lake will be vying for a piece of its fourth consecutive Lakes 8 Conference title, the first time since the mid80s that the team has accomplished that. So you could say expectations for this year’s squad are high. “Yeah, there’s a little bit of pressure,” Lakers coach Jerry Rabideau said. “(But) the kids know it and what a great opportunity to be part of the 50th Anniversary. We just have to take things week-by-week, game-by-game, and hopefully, we prevail.” Spring Lake returns just eight starters from last year’s team that finished 6-4 overall and 6-1 in the Lakes 8 Conference. One of the players the team will rely on is linebacker and fullback, Cody Berkobien. The senior will lead a defense that may not be the most intimidating, but has plenty of speed that will be quick to the ball. And on offense, it should be more of the same. “Our backfield has a lot of athletes,” Berkobien said. “Despite our size, we’ll be as good or better than last year.” At 5-11, 195 pounds, Berkobien has done most of his damage from his linebacking position while getting a few carries on the offensive side of the ball. But this season, the coaching staff thought it would be best if the senior saw the ball more often, and Rabideau isn’t shy about what he thinks Berkobien can do. “I expect 1,000 yards rushing from him
WATCH FOR Jake Chittenden 5-foot-10, 160 pounds senior, quarterback/safety
Jeff Marod 5-foot-8, 165 pounds, senior, receiver/cornerback
Jonny Mundt 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, senior, cornerback • AJ Lisman, senior, tight end • Billy Belcher, 6-foot-3, 280 pounds, senior, center • Mark Williamson, 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, sophomore, quarterback/D-end this season,” the coach said. “He’s a good kid and a great athlete. (And) he’s going to be as fine a player in this league as has ever played.” For Berkobien, the challenge isn’t to lead the league in the statistics department but to lead his team back to the top of the conference standings. “It’s exciting, but there’s pressure too,” he said. “Anything less than another conference championship will be a disappointment, and it being my senior year, I have to make sure that happens.” While there is a commitment to let Berkobien run wild out of the backfield, Spring Lake’s offense will also look to attack through the air more often, and that task will fall on a couple of players. Senior Jake Chittendean and sophomore Mark Williamson are in line for the quarterback job with Chittendean looking to be the
opening-game starter. “I have two really good quarterbacks, and I’m going have to find one to play,” Rabideau said. “(Jake) has great speed and quickness, and Mark is very good at running the ball. He’s a big boy and very athletic.” With a schedule that begins with a home game against Coopersville, then a road game at Mona Shores before the conference opener against Fruitport, Rabideau said he hopes his team is ready to go. “It’s an interesting schedule. I don’t think Spring Lake and Mona Shores ever played before,” the coach said. “We’re not a big team; we’re going to be small and very athletic with a lot of team speed.” If the Lakers are set at quarterback come the season’s start, with their team speed and leadership of Berkobien on both sides of the ball, history may repeat itself in Spring Lake this year.
WHITEHALL Viking Vittles
Cliff Sandee, head coach Coaches: Brent Sandee, Mark Hebb, Nate Aardema, Keith Stratton Last year: 6-4 (4-3) Starters returning: Offense 7, Defense 5. Strengths: No doubt, the Vikings are loaded on both sides of the ball. Experience at the skill positions should help the unit overcome opposing schemes. Senior back Antwan Burks could get most teams out of the toughest of situations. Both lines are big and strong, the linebackers athletic and the defensive backfield should allow fewer big plays. Seniors Joe Sika, Steven Sika and Antwan Burks are just a few of what coaches hope are Whitehall’s game breakers this coming season. The trio may be among the best in the league at their respective position. (Photo by Ron Rop)
Relaxed Vikings seek another playoff run By Mark Lewis Local Sports Journal The way the rest of the league sees it, Whitehall could very well be the best team in the West Michigan Conference. That is to say, the squad is stacked with returning talent, including a tough, physical offensive line, an experienced quarterback, perhaps the best running back in the WMC, and a big, aggressive defense. And, after making the playoffs last season for the first time since the 2006 campaign in which they finished 9-2, it’s not tough to say Whitehall could do plenty of damage in the postseason this time around. But you’d never know the Vikings were feeling any pressure at all, what with the way teammates tease each other at every turn. “Come on, Sikas,” called out senior Antwan Burks – a galloping running back with plenty of moves and surprising strength – to twin brothers Steven and Joe Sika. “They are always late. Even when they’re early, they end up being late.” While Burks’ claim may be true off the field, once the twins are on the field, they’re seldom late for anything. Steven, the shyer of the two, turned a rough sophomore season, in which the team won just two games with him under center, into one of the area’s best run/passers in 2011. Joe suffered some bumps as a sophomore, but emerged last season as a wrecking ball at the safety position. The trio goofs around some more, but they, along with the rest of their teammates, carry the relaxed confidence of a champion just waiting to get the season started. Spend 10 minutes with the Vikings and there will be little doubt as to where this relaxed confidence originates: Head coach Cliff Sandee. Sandee, who also coaches wrestling at Whitehall, can seem at first to be exclusively a jolly fellow with a love for joking with his players and staff. Yet, that all changes when he stalks the sidelines during practices and games, turning from a loveable lug into a
WATCH FOR Tyler Goerbig senior, defensive lineman
Travis Friend senior, center
• Devonte Simms, senior, linebacker • Derrick Brandish, senior, linebacker • Logan Morningstar, senior, offensive guard fierce competitor. “Coach Sandee is more than just a coach,” Steven Sika said. “He’s pushed us to be better. He’s pushed us to go harder.” And now there are two Sandees stalking the sidelines: Cliff’s big brother, Brent Sandee, joins the Vikings this season as cohead coach and offensive coordinator. “He might be a little smaller than me,” Cliff said with a laugh, “but there is still some of that ‘big brother’ stuff going on.” Brent Sandee, a teacher at Hudsonville, has been offensive coordinator at Grand Rapids Union and, most recently, at Kenowa Hills. Cliff said getting Brent was quite a land for Whitehall. “I told the guys that we’re pretty lucky to get him,” said Cliff, “because he is the best coach I’ve ever coached with. It’s pretty cool that we’re together again. When the opportunity came up, we both knew we had to do it.” The effort to keep Steven Sika and Burks’ uniforms clean will be led by senior center Travis Friend and senior guard Logan Morningstar. On the defensive side of the ball, Joe Sika will be joined by senior linebacker Derrick Brandish and senior defensive lineman Tyler Goerbig. If Goerbig, who was injured last year, returns to form in 2012, he’ll continue to draw plenty of college looks. Senior Devonte Simms, who saw significant playing time last year, will join Brandish on the linebacking corps, while junior Javon Gonser is figured to be a force on the defensive line. The defense, however, must find a way
to replace Logan Potter and John Beeghly; the duo did a good job of containing the ends, forcing plays toward the heart of the defense. “It’s a must in this conference,” Cliff Sandee said. As critical as that is, Cliff Sandee knows he’s got something special on his hands. “This is a big, physical group,” Cliff Sandee said. “They all act like they have chips on their shoulders.” Cliff Sandee has been known to separate his seasons into fours: each third of the regular season and then the playoffs. The thinking is, have a bad first quarter of the season and there’s still a chance at redemption. Or, have an outstanding first quarter, and you still have some work to do. But this year, Week 1 against Kelloggsville has Sandee’s attention. That’s because beyond the Rockets lies at Ravenna, home against Shelby and North Muskegon, and at rival Montague in Week 5. The fact that four of his first five opponents made the playoffs in 2011 doesn’t escape him. But it also doesn’t scare him. “Talking with the seniors,” he said, “we said, “It’s disappointing that at Whitehall, just making a playoff appearance is considered a successful season. We’ve talked a bit about wanting more than that.” It seems to have made an impression. “I don’t know if we were as conditioned last year,” said Burks. “Losing (to Sparta 25-18 in the opening round of the playoffs) has made us work harder.” “We’re more disciplined,” added Joe Sika. “We want to go further.”
Weaknesses: Youth at the edges could leave the defense vulnerable to sweeps and floods, from which conference opponents Montague and Shelby would certainly benefit. Making it through the regular season without major injuries will be vital if the Vikings want to move beyond last year’s first-round playoff loss. Notable: Prior to last season, the Vikings hadn’t made it to the playoff since 2006’s Ryan VanBergen-led squad… With 663 high school students, Whitehall is the biggest school in the West Michigan Conference. North Muskegon is smallest at 283… Whitehall’s Week 1 opponent, Wyoming-Kelloggsville, defeated the Vikings 44-42 in 2004. The two schools’ only other meeting, the previous season, ended in a 34-6 Whitehall win. That same year, Whitehall lost to Big Rapids in the regional finals… Quotable: “I think it’s still the big guys, Oakridge, Montague and Shelby. We just hope to be competitive with those guys. We’re looking to be competitive in every game we play. We want to be in it every time.” – Head coach Cliff Sandee Projected finish: One would be wise to take an ‘I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it’ approach when it comes to Whitehall. They have the talent to finish strong in the WMC – possibly win it – and make a playoff run. Stadium: 401 Elizabeth, next to the middle school. 2011 scores: Whitehall 33, Spring Lake 31 Whitehall 28, Ravenna 14 Shelby 29, Whitehall 22 Whitehall 37, North Muskegon 0 Montague 30, Whitehall 7 Whitehall 48, Mason County Central 0 Whitehall 42, Hart 12 Oakridge 42, Whitehall 14 Whitehall 34, Grant 16 Sparta 25, Whitehall 18
ORIOLES, TIGERS, SPARTANS & LIONS
Four schools looking to make strides toward playoffs LUDINGTON – Charlie Gunsell is hoping last season’s success will carry over into the 2012 campaign. Gunsell, the Orioles head coach, led his team into the playoffs last season, and the Orioles return several starters after their first appearance in the playoffs since 1999. Ludington’s offensive line has three returning starters and that bodes well for quarterback Chad Large. Starters up front include Michael Heinricht at tackle, Jake Kascenski at tight end and Josh Razminas at center. Defensively, watch for defensive back Trevor Wahr, safety Trevor Overhault and Dylan Sorenson at linebacker. However, depth will be a concern since the Orioles have a rather small roster. “You hope last year’s work ethic trickles down into the locker room,” Gunsell said. “This year’s players feel it and want to be the man now. They know they have to work to get that and it is resonating throughout the program.” GRANT – The Tigers face a daunting schedule in 2012. But things are looking rather promising for the Tigers and Coach Jim Stickney. The Tigers’ offensive line should be strong with Dan Upton, Drew Rau and Chad Wilson returning. Defensively Rau will man the line along with Brandon Bouwkamp, Trevor Boyd and Greg Davison. Brennen Bonter and Justin Bull will patrol the field as outside linebackers. Kicker and punter Andrew Dent returns after his all-conference 2011 season. Grant also will be able to use the big
body of Justin Maybin, who transferred in from Illinois. The quarterback position will be the biggest question mark, at least in the early going. Grant has three guys are competing for the spot, Stickney said. “Things look promising, but our league is tough, and our non conference is just as tough,” Stickney said. “We added Shelby, Muskegon Catholic Central and Whitehall. This is the toughest schedule Grant has had to play.” MASON COUNTY CENTRAL – Mason County Central knows what it is up against week after week in the West Michigan Conferece. Afterall, many consider it to be the toughest small conference in the state. Coach Scott Briggs is looking for his returning starters to lead the way. Beto Ramirez and Riley Jolly will be leading the defensive line, Allen Barnhartt returns as a defensive back, Mark Sloan will be a linebacker and Nathan Stinnett will be a leader in the defensive backfield. David Anderson is taking on duties as the quarterback duties. He has a couple of experience linemen in front of him in Douglas Wyamn at center and Alex Esquivel at guard. The Spartans will have their work cut out against Oakridge, Montague, Whitehall and Shelby, but Briggs doesn’t think they can be over looked this season. “I really really don’t think any team can over look anyone this year because of the caliber of teams all the way through,” Briggs said. “This is a product of the competitive-
ness of this league. Everyone is working hard because there is no alternative if you want a shot at being competitive in the WMC.” NEWAYGO – New surroundings bring a new challenge for Newaygo. First-year coach Andy Busch and his Lions will be heading into the Central States Athletic Association after battling for years in the Lakes 8. Newaygo will face new opponents, but they’ve got some familiar faces to face the challenge head-on. Weston Butler is back at quarterback. Running back Brandon Foster, along with wide receiver Zach Knight will be expected to be solid contributors in the offense. Zach Cantu is a two-way lineman. On defense, Connor Bradey is back at safety and Max Harrington is a defensive end. Busch sees a lot of positives with his new team, which should be explosive and hard hitting. A lack of size also is of some concern to Busch, but that just means his team will make up for it with quickness. “I think teams might underestimate us when they see us running on the field,” Busch said. “But we will use that to our advantage with our explosiveness.” Busch took over as coach several weeks ago after Dan Holden moved to Byron Center to become the athletic director. Busch was an assistant on Holden’s staff. “New coach, new conference, and I’m looking forward to it,” Busch said.
Coaches: Charlie Gunsell (head coach), Steve Brockelbank, JP Deines, Rich Kirby, Mike Nichols, Brent Gillett, and Bill Wellzein.
Coaches: Jim Stickney (head coach). Jerry Bomay, Paul Kies, Jeremy Nelson, Ruben Juarez, Devon Conley and Ryan Schultz.
Last year: 6-4, 5-3 in the Lakes 9.
Last year: 3-6, 2-5.
Coaches: Scott Briggs (head coach). Don Thomas, Jack Stibitz, Jim Schulte, Carl Shaser, Patrick Wiese, and Randy Wyman.
Returning starters: 7.
Starters returning: 9.
Last Year: 2-7, 2-5.
Strengths: Three returnees on the Orioles’ offensive line are smart and have quick feet. Ludington’s run option will be tough to manage. Chad Large is a big quarterback surrounded by solid skilled players.
Strengths: Defensively, the front eight is strong with experience and speed. Offensively, returning three starters on the line will be a big help. Special teams should be consistent, and there is a solid core of senior running backs.
Returning starters: 8.
Weaknesses: Depth is going to be a challenge. Despite making the playoffs last year, the Orioles had low numbers at tryouts. Defensively, there are a lot of new faces. Notable: Last season’s playoff berth was Ludington’s first since 1999. Gunsell hopes that excitement from last year raises expectations to continue that success. Quotable: “Our seniors last year had a tremendous work ethic and did whatever you asked. They showed our returning kids that when you come to practice, it carries over to Friday night. This year’s players feel that and want to be the man now.” – Head coach Charlie Gunsell Projected finish: Ludington can compete but will have tough battles against Fruitport and Spring Lake. Stadium: Tinkam Avenue 2011 scores: Manistee 40, Ludington 39 Spring Lake 50, Ludington 27 Ludington 35, Orchard View 20 Fruitport 49, Ludington 27 Ludington 24, Newaygo 21 Ludington 28, Grant 14 Ludington 55, Tri-County 0 Ludington 17, Fremont 0 Ludington 33, Mason County Cent. 0 Escanaba 35, Ludington 21
Weaknesses: The quarterback position is up in the air with three kids competing for the job to run the veer offense. Quotable: “This is probably, to my knowledge, the toughest schedule Grant has had to play, and we have to be up to that task. Our goal is to make the playoffs and to make that our expectation every year.” – Head coach Jim Stickney
Mason County Central Spartans
Strengths: Team unity. The Spartans have done a lot together in the offseason and have gone out of their way to build on that. Weaknesses: Having just 23 kids on the team makes it tough if injuries hit. Notable: The Spartans last made the playoffs in 2006. They were eliminated by Menominee, which won the state title. Quotable: “You got to have a real passion for the game to take off in this league. We have the program to be successful, and it’s just the matter of getting everyone to buy into it.” – Head coach Scott Briggs
Projected finish: Grant looks to be near the top this season. Plenty of coaching changes in the league, and that means you never know what to expect from them.
Projected finish: The Spartans can finish in the middle of the pack, but will struggle against Oakridge, Montague, Whitehall, and Shelby. The league is going to be competitive, and no team should overlook anyone this year.
Stadium: Located at 231 State St.
Stadium: Located at 300 West Broadway St.
2011 scores: Shelby 29, Grant 7 Grant 20, Tri-County 14 Newaygo 40, Grant 0 Fremont 21, Grant 14 Grant 32, Orchard View 23 Ludington 28, Grant 14 Spring Lake 30, Grant 24 Fruitport 21, Grant 0 Whitehall 34, Grant 16
2011 scores: Benzie Central 22, M. Central 6 Oakridge 49, M. Central 0 Ravenna 21, M. Central 0 Shelby 40, M. Central 8 M. Central 42, North Muskegon 28 Whitehall 48, M. Central 0 Montague 44, M. Central 6 M. Central 36, Hart 28 Ludington 33, M. Central 0
Newaygo Lions Coaches: Andy Busch (head coach), John Goodin, Joe Barrette, Tom Gracik, and Mark Wright. Last year: 4-5, 3-4 in the Lakes 8 Returning starters: 6. Strengths: The Lions will use their quickness, hard hits and explosiveness to keep teams at bay. Strong-armed quarterback and the offensive line have a lot of experience. Weaknesses: Newaygo is playing in a new conference, moving from the Lakes 8 to the CSAA. Playing teams the Lions have not seen and having little game tape will be a challenge. Size will be Newaygo’s biggest hurdle this season. Notable: First-year coach Andy Busch has some experience behind him. Assistant coach John Goodin has coached more than 40 years of high school football and coach Tom Gracik has 20-plus years. Busch teaches at the middle school and is the varsity wrestling coach. Quotable: “We are a small program, but we are a proud program. It’s awesome to see the community support and parent support. That’s a strength I’m going to lean on.” – Head coach Andy Busch Stadium: Located at 200 East St. 2011 scores: Alma 35, Newaygo 28 Fruitport 30, Newaygo 10 Newaygo 42, Grant 0 Newaygo 35, Orchard View 34 Ludington 24, Newaygo 21 Newaygo 43, Tri-County 8 Fremont 14, Newaygo 7 Spring Lake 26, Newaygo 16 Gladstone 39, Newaygo 13.
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Hesperia set to take field with just 17 on its roster By Jason Goorman Local Sports Journal
Hesperia knows it’s facing some stiff challenges this football season. With a roster of 17 players, the Panthers know staying healthy is a must. First-year head coach Todd Myers does have some key players returning. Kyle Spanek (5-foot-7, 170) is a key returnee who will play noseguard on defense and halfback on offense. Also returning is Lee Siersema, a linebacker and fullback. His speed and work ethic are vital to the Panthers. Leaders on defensive are Elvon Graham, Eddie Coronado and Gilbert Castillo. Kaleb Macaree will lead at the quarterback spot with Wyatt Conkle, Elija Olsen, Brett Salisbury and Graham following. “Last season we were eight points away from finishing at 7-2 with close losses to Central Montcalm (7-0) and Lakeview (14-13),” Myers said. “We tell the kids it’s both ways football in Hesperia. You are going to play on special teams, defense and offense. You have to be stronger-willed than the team across from you and keep principally sound on the basics.”
Hesperia Panthers Coaches: Todd Myers (head coach). Rick Witteveen, Doug Heaven, Jamie McAree. Last Year: 5-4, 4-4 Returning starters: 10. Strengths: Football knowledge. The Panthers have experience since many started playing on varsity as sophomores. Senior leadership is strong with a good balance of juniors. Weaknesses: With only 17 kids on the team, staying healthy is vital. Notable: Perseverance, work ethic and community support have driven the Hesperia program for many years and the reason why the program has sustained itself through low numbers and rough years.
Quotable: “If we do well in the league, the playoffs will take care of itself. We have nine league games this year so every game matters.” – Head coach Todd Myers Projected finish: Hesperia looks to compete for a league championship. But knows it will have its work cut out with Central Montcalm, Big Rapids and newcomer Newaygo. 2011 scores: Hesperia 7, Holton 0 Reed City 28, Hesperia 0 Central Montcalm 7, Hesperia 0 Hesperia 32, Big Rapids 12 Hesperia 21, Centreville 6 Lakeview 15, Hesperia 14 Hesperia 37, White Cloud 0 Morley-Stanwood 48, Hesperia 14 Remus Chippewa Hills 31, Hesperia 8
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