Class of 2013
Trevor Sweeney 5-9 170 Sr RB Mattawan
Even though he’s our No. 1 ranked senior running back, Sweeney is still a bit of a unknown player outside the greater Kalamazoo area. But that should change soon because he’s been nothing short of spectacular this year for undefeated Mattawan, with many big games including a seven TD effort against St. Joseph. For the season he’s run 81 times for 1,071 yards and 20 TDs, with 1,642 in total yardage and 23 TDs. Sweeney is a shifty runner with good speed and great elusiveness. He’s a big play threat every time he touches the ball. Not only is he a good football player he’s also a great student with a 3.9 GPA and 27 on his ACT. Mattawan coach Matt Stephens spoke highly of his tailback: “I’ve been coaching for 20 years and I’ve never coached a player like him.”
Friday night linebacker prospects: Otsego’s Brandan Campbell & Paw Paw’s Jack Jennings
These guys are two of the Lake Michigan area’s highest rated senior linebackers, though Campbell is playing defensive tackle. Campbell and Jennings go both ways, so they’ll be running into each other Friday when 7-0 Paw Paw goes to 6-1 Otsego. Campbell is 6-0, 225. He made his reputation as a workout warrior with an uncanny combination of speed and power, who has now made himself into a legit football player. Even during this season, you can see his running technique improve, as he keeps his pad level lower, makes a smaller target. He’s fast enough to turn the corner on pitch outs then deliver contact for extra yardage, and can also get the tough interior yards because of his strength, balance and churning legs. He moves the pile and has a knack for falling forward. While Campbell is being recruited as a linebacker, his strength and motor allows Otsego to play him as an interior lineman.
Jennings is 6-2, 220. He’s good at maintaining his position and not biting, and is able to slip blockers and avoid contact and slide to ball-carriers to make plays. Plays upright so is faster than he looks, and is able to go sideline-to-sideline. Jennings has also thrived as a wide receiver for undefeated Paw Paw. The traits that make him successful on the defensive side of the ball are also relevant here, as he’s a big target who runs disciplined routes and has a knack for finding open space. Jennings may be on the verge of getting an Illinois State offer. How he can turn flexibly and fast to cover wide receivers as well as play the position, could be the difference between Jennings ending up at a ranked FCS program like Illinois State or the GLIAC, and the MAC.
West Ottawa receivers: Ato Condolee & Ryan VerHelst
West Ottawa continues to get better and is a win away from the playoffs. Senior QB Tyler VanTubbergen has some weapons to work with, especially Condolee a 6-1, 180 senior and VerHelst a 6-1, 170 senior. An all-state long and high jumper, Condolee is more compact and powerful. He gets into top speed with just a few steps and makes plays over the middle, adding yards after the catch as he can both break or elude tacklers. He also has lined up at running back. Facing fewer double-teams than his teammate, the thinner, lankier, long-stride VerHelst is by no means slow. He’s the deep threat, WO’s Jordy Nelson to Condolee’s Greg Jennings. Starting at corner, VerHelst makes more plays in the defensive backfield than Condolee, and rarely leaves the field because he’s a threat as a return man. Against Rockford VerHelst caught a TD pass, returned an interception for a score and had a 95-yard punt return TD called back because of a block to the back. He returned a punt 85-yards for a TD against Hudsonville.
Class of 2014
Zach Evans 6-3 240 Jr DL Kenowa Hills
We fell in love with him the very first day of the season, an August Thursday Kenowa Hills win over TC West. Evans moved from being a standup linebacker to projecting as an outstanding six- or seven-technique guy who gets off the ball well and is tough in pursuit. He’s a secret no longer, and is scheduled to be in Ann Arbor for Michigan’s homecoming gamed with Illinois.
Brandon Childress 6-2 170 So QB Baldwin
A dual-threat quarterback who has been living in the shadow of teammate Andon Ware, a star tailback for the Panthers. Childress is completing over 60 percent of his passes and has multiple games with rushing and passing TDs. With a strong arm and a high football IQ, Childress is the leader of the 5-2 Panthers squad and he’s only a sophomore. He’s also a college prospect on the hardwood.