In a game where points seemed as common as towheads amongst the 5,000 faithful in Zeeland Stadium, they were stressful and hard-earned when Zeeland East most needed them. They got ’em. The Chix came through clutch in a 60-52 double OT win over next door neighbor and defending Division 4 state champion Zeeland East.
Zeeland East’s senior quarterback Michael Custer converted a six-yard, fourth down pass in the second OT to junior Zach Hill, for what would be the winning edge after West couldn’t, finally, score on their ensuing possession. To even get to the first overtime East needed a 29-yard field goal from senior Gabe Boss as regulation time expired, tying it 44-44. Until that point in the game, Boss hadn’t even attempted a PAT.
Zeeland East is now 2-0, Zeeland West 0-2.
- The top-ranked college prospects in the game were both in the junior class, East’s 6-0, 205 running back/linebacker Spencer Viening and West’s 6-6, 285 tight end/lineman Jordan VanDort. There’s a lot to like about Viening running the ball, because he’s patient with his blockers, has vision for space, the size and strength to break tackles, the speed to get into the second tier. He ran for 171 yards and two TDs. And, in a game where there was a lot of hitting up front but not much defense, Viening was good in pursuit and able to plug holes a couple times. Viening will end up a rare four-year starter for East. At the next level he could be a safety, running back or linebacker. Custer does a terrific job of sharing the ball in East’s spread, so Viening is just one of the Chix’ weapons. Senior Josh Blawkamp had 179 yards and a TD and senior Levii VanOrman is perfect for the spread he caught balls out of the backfield for scores of 83 and five yards. Custer finished 19-of-33 for 281 yards and five TDs.
- VanDort played all over for ZW — both defensive ends, defensive tackle, special teams and tight end. He had just two catches, but both were huge. VanDort took a pass from junior QB Jordon Lambert 33 yards for the Dux first score, then went 47 yards to set up West’s go-ahead TD with under two minutes to play in regulation. VanDort is obviously a huge target, and has soft hands. There were two catchable balls thrown his way, and he brought in both of them. His best plays defensively came on the interior, where twice VanDort collapsed the line and found the ball-handler behind it leading to gang tackles. As a tight end, Jordan is already too big for the position for many schemes, and he doesn’t block much passion (though good speed when he pulled) so the seemingly natural move for an athlete of his size to offensive tackle might not be as obvious and easy as it was with a prospect like Oregon’s Jake Fisher, who similarly played just tight when at Traverse City West. If one had to make the call today, and it’s hard because VanDort is such a raw talent that can be molded in various directions, he projects as a Tyler Hoover-type defensive tackle.
- If there’s a better gig for a high school running back than fullback in the Wing-T, it’s fullback in John Shillito‘s Wing-T. For Zeeland West that job belongs to 5-11, 175 junior Marcus Lambert. He ran 17 times for 307 yards and five TDs. Three of them came in a third-quarter blitz, as he went on scoring runs of 58, 58 and 55 yards, to give West a 38-27 lead headed into the fourth (his other touchdowns covered 50 and 28 yards).
- While Lambert had the highlight plays, the senior next to him Braden Werley got the tough yards and first downs on third and fourth, while also playing safety, returning kicks and punting.
- West’s defense has obviously struggled. In two games they’ve given up 119 points. In the entire 2011 regular season the Dux allowed 132. The good news is, the teams that put them at 0-2 are the two strongest entries on Zeeland West’s schedule. They start O-K Green play Friday, Sept. 7 at Byron Center. Zeeland East’s rout is tougher, with Muskegon, Kenowa Hills and early surprise Mona Shores all awaiting in the O-K Black.
Friday, Aug. 31: Zeeland West @ Zeeland East
This one will no longer have O-K Green implications, as realignment finds Zeeland East in the O-K Black. But that shouldn’t minimize the emotional investment when these next-door neighbors hook up.
Defending Division 4 state champion West scored 58 points in its season opener with Forest Hills Central … and lost, by a point. That’s the msot school has ever allowed and particularly amazing considering in 2011 the Dux allowed 185 points — in 14 games. For its part last week, East rolled up up a 63-28 win over Holland Christian.
Both teams obviously had some silly stats from that one. East ran for 497 yards running behind senior center Andrew Bouwman and senior left tackle Patrick Banks. Junior all-state candidate Spencer Viening scored four TDs , Josh Blauwkamp two and QB Michael Custer two. For West, QB Jordan Lambert handles their renowned wing-T offense and ran for three TDs against Forest Hills Central while their two running backs, Braden Werley and Marcus Lambert, combined for 294 rushing yards.
If West’s defense doesn’t grow up a lot in the week after their first loss in over a year, it could be a rare win for the Chix in this rivalry. The Dux lead 5-2 since the series started in 2005.
Friday, Aug. 31: West Branch Ogemaw Heights @ Petoskey
This is the Big North Conference opener for both teams, as Petoskey begins defense of its league title. The Northmen have come to be known for a plodding but brutally efficient ,multi-back running game under coach Kerry VanOrman, and their 2012 edition looks no different. In their 21-0 season opening win against Sault Ste. Marie, senior Chase Ledingham ran for 155 yards and two TDs while Kurt Boucher, just a sophomore, had 71 yards and a score of his own. Directing the attack for Petoskey is senior Quinn Ameel, a returnee at QB.
Petoskey’s defense was the real star, though, standing stout to shut out the Sault while holding them to five first downs and under 100 yards of total offense. That can’t be particularly reassuring news to Ogemaw Heights, which lost last season to P-town 56-7. That was Ogemaw’s first-ever Big North game, however, and this should be a more battle-tested unit. Aside from the Petoskey loss, offense wasn’t the problem last year for the Falcons and it could again be a potent unit thanks in no small part to three college prospects — senior running back Brandon Bermac, senior receiver Jerome Hunter and one of the top junior linemen in Michigan, 6-5, 265 Alec Stevens. Ogemaw Heights beat Standish-Sterling last week 38-20. Bermac ran for 156 yards and two TDs and Hunter had 102 receiving yards and a TD.
To clear up any confusion, going forward these are the leagues and schools we’ll be covering.
Conferences: Big North, Central State, Highland, Lake Michigan, Lakeland, Lakes 8, Northwest, O-K Black, O-K Blue, O-K Bronze, O-K Gold, O-K Green, O-K Red, O-K Silver, O-K White, Red Arrow, Ski Valley-South, Southwestern-North, Southwestern-West, West Michigan, Wolverine B-North, Wolverine B-South
Individual schools: Constantine, Hackett, Kalamazoo Christian, Loy-Norrix, Manistee, Muskegon Catholic Central, Muskegon Heights, Parchment, Schoolcraft, Traverse City St. Francis, Wyoming Tri-Unity Christian
Class of 2013
15. Ryheem Stokes 5-10 170 DB Grand Rapids Catholic Central
Stokes is ably picking up for Kevin Vicari, who was a utility all-state player and is now at Grand Valley State. When you dominate East Grand Rapids on all three units, you’re legit. In CC’s 33-14 win, Stokes twice intercepted the Pioneers, blocked a punt, and ran for a 53-yard score. He’ll be a big-time rankings mover at this rate.
Class of 2014
9. Kenneth Finley 6-4 265 Jr DL Muskegon
Westside stand up. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s found out that the real Big Red certainly isn’t their garish home turf. Finley shut it down inside, keying a yeoman line effort that sent Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in defeat back to Oakland County. And that puddle they dare call a lake.
20. Zach Evans 6-3 235 DL Kenowa Hills
Kenowa Hills had four junior standouts on defense. But Evans was on a level of his own, with his motor going both ways, ears down big play ability and terrific 11th-grade frame.
On the Lake Michigan horizon
This category covers players whose performance warrants a shot at the next 2013 player rankings. Matthew Hall, a 6-0, 210 Grand Rapids Christian senior, is a playmaker for the Eagles’ D at middle linebacker. He led them with nine tackles in their win against South Christian and returned a fumble for a TD. He did the same thing last year against Northview. Hall will hit to cause fumbles, too, and is a consistent threat to break through into the offensive backfield. A typical effort from Hall Saturday at Cincinnati Moeller will go a long way towards helping the Eagles’ compete.
Two sophomores are already impact quarterbacks. Grand Rapids Christian came into the season a consensus top 10 pick and a roster double-digit deep with college prospects. All South Christian’s 6-2, 180 soph QB Jon Wassink did in his high school debut, a 10-point losing cause agaisnt the Eagles, was complete 12-of-24 throws for 227 yards and three TDS, while running for 145 and another TD. “He didn’t make a bad decision … he never forced the ball anywhere,” South Christan coach Mark Tamminga said.
Tyree Jackson is already a second-year starter for Muskegon Mona Shores. The 6-0, 165 sophomore loves the long ball, but Mona didn’t really need it in a 42-6 dismantling of injury-ravaged Muskegon Catholic Central.
*In Kingsley’s 18-0 win over Traverse City St. Francis, the Stags’ defense held the Gladiators to 78 yards of total offense, and no first down in the second half.
*Junior lineman Kenneth Finley forced a fumble in the end zone spearheaded a Muskegon defense that held Orchard Lake St. Mary’s to under 100 yards rushing and seven first downs in the Big Reds’ 21-14 victory.
*Chase Ledingham rushed 154 yards and two TDs for Petoskey, a 21-0 winner at Sault Ste. Marie.
*Forest Hills Central junior QB Justin Chopp went 20-of-28 for 329 yards and five TDs in a 59-58 shootout win over Zeeland West.
*Niles Brandywine senior Courtlan Gordon had 209 yards and four TDs on the ground in a 40-6 rout of Lawrence.
*It came in a losing cause to Grand Rapids Christian, but the debut of South Christian sophomore QB Jon Wassink served notice that he’ll be a force for three years to come. Wassink threw for 227 yards and three TDs and ran for 145 and another score.
With only one offensive starter — third-year center Matt Mulcahy — back from a record-setting 2011, no one was expecting Grand Haven to put up 30 in their season opener. It took awhile for quarterback Michael Penland to find a rhythm in his first varsity start, but the 6-3, 180 senior discovered it at the right time. He led the Buccaneers on a 64-yard drive in the game’s closing minutes, ultimately connecting with senior Jake Lovett for a 17-14 win over Traverse City Central, Friday at Grand Haven. TC Central missed a 46-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds.
*Grand Haven’s Isaak Newhouse, a 6-0, 185 junior, has been labeled the heir apparent to all-state receiver Danny Cotter, now at Butler. He caught one touchdown, but in this game Newhouse’s major impact came on the defensive side. He straight out yanked away a TD pass from the hands of a TC Central receiver late in the first half. Earlier, he showed off his tackling skills by stoning one-on-one TJ Schepperly, the Trojans’ shifty senior QB. Offensively, Newhouse got a good break off the line and showed requisite straight-line speed for the position.
*The breakout player for Traverse City Central was 6-3, 210 outside linebacker Mitchell Wynkoop. You won’t find this junior on any recruiting charts now, but that will change. He twice stopped Grand Haven running backs behind the line of scrimmage, and in the third quarter laid a hit on Penland that resulted in an interception. Wynkoop was strong in coverage against the Bucs’ tight end, 6-4, 215 senior Anthony Perrier, but was a bit stiff and upright dropping back with wide receivers. That said, no passes were completed on him.
*In his quarterback debut, Penland finished 14-of-31 passing for 184 yards. The man getting him the ball, Mulcahy, is a smart, tough two-way player at 5-11, 210. In addition to his duties at center, from linebacker he led Grand Haven with 10 tackles.
*6-7, 280 senior Tyler Gildersleeve was impressive at right tackle for Traverse City Central. He has an explosive lower body and good reach. Rare for the O-K Red, Grand Haven is a finesse team and had no one who could physically match up with Gildersleeve, and despite his lack of upper body strength he repeatedly mauled them in the running game. Liked how he always kept the legs churning. Right tackle is a good fit for Gildersleeve, as he doesn’t have the nimble feet for the left side. With improved strength and awareness in the passing game, and he could go MAC on signing day.
*Schepperly makes good things happen with his legs. He’s be even more dangerous if the Trojans had a power running game to set up his jaunts around the end, but he made do. At 5-8, 175, quarterback is obviously not his natural position, but he’s a tough, rah-rah, team-first type who can rally his guys and get them going. TJ looked good on punt returns, which could be his ticket to the next level.
Apparently even a school as big as Rockford can experience depth problems when the injury bug runs wild. Down to their third string QB, and without top player KC Zenner, the Rams just didn’t have the manpower to stand up to the stalwart defense of Lowell, losing 16-6. It’s the second-straight season opener the Red Arrows have won against Rockford.
*Lowell’s defensive efforts were led by two seniors, Pierce Watson and Reed Stormzand. Watson showed great instincts and athleticism at defensive end. His pass rushing moves were equally impressive for a high school player. At the next level, his size will probably dictate a move to outside linebacker. Right now, however, he’s simply a baller any time he’s on the field. Stormzand showed great speed at linebacker and made a lot of critical plays, including a sack that caused a safety. He benches 225 for 15 reps and has great speed and power. Stormzand will be a steal for someone at the next level.
*On the other side of the field, Lowell’s offense was sparked by first-time starting QB Titan Anderson. He dominated the ground with a rushing attack and found a big targer through the air in Zach Huver, connecting on a timely TD.
*Rockford’s only TD came from running back Connor Darby. The 6-0, 195 senior ran well and was active on defense all night.
*Rockford has one of the state’s top junior inside linebacker duos in Brent Showers and Randy Garvin. Showers showed good lateral quickness and made plays sideline-to-sideline all night. You can tell he has a high football IQ. Showers’ running mate, Garvin, has a nose for the ball as well and made his presence known. They keyed a Rams defense that played relatively well until fatigue settled in in the fourt quarter. Rockford’s lack of offensive production just kept its defense out there too long.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Ryheem Stokes entered the season as our No. 15 ranked senior, and looked every bit of it on both sides of the ball in the Cougars’ head-turning 33-14 win at East Grand Rapids. Stokes made two interceptions, blocked a punt and ran for a 53-yard TD.
Our No. 7 2014 prospect, Cadillac junior QB/DB Jalen Brooks, has one more season to run behind the Great Wall of the North. With Ferris State there to scout him, he did so against Lansing Eastern to the result of 200 total yards with three rushing TDs and one passing. The Vikings won 33-20. The Quakers have a tough running QB themselves, senior Santiago Mendez.
A week before, Brooks and Cadillac scrimmaged at Montague and their similarly athletic senior QB Brandon Moore. The former receiver, our No. 3 2013 prospect, had 187 total yards with two TDs rushing and one throwing. Montague rolled Muskegon Orchard View 49-0.
Paw Paw beat up South Haven 62-21. Senior QB Justin McCauley credited Paw Paw’s offensive line for the dominance, as they racked up 629 yards.
Grayling junior QB Jake Swander threw for 285 yards and three TDs. The Vikings beat Roscommon 28-20.
Baldwin senior Andon Ware ran up 214 yards and three TDs in a 37-26 win against Hale.
Only a sophomore, Ravenna’s Gabe Zimmer rushed for 198 yards and three TDs in a 28-21 defeat of Kent City.
Another 10th-grade back, Allendale’s Ethan Hovingh had 251 yards and 2TDs in a 14-7 win against Hudsonville Unity Christian.
Kenowa Hills scored the game-winning TD, a 17-yard bullet over the middle from Cody Ritsema to fellow senior Dylan Smith, with 1 minute 16 seconds to play, giving the Knights a 16-12 opening night victory over Traverse City West.
That score erased West’s first lead, which came on a TD plunge from junior Grant Balino less than 90 seconds previous, set up by a 39-yard run by Titans freshman Grant Ellison. He had a number of big gains, his high school debut made all the easier by the presence of a future Division 1 guard, Connor Hayes, partnering well with junior center Wilson Unke in consistently opening fullback-sized holes.
Already with offers from CMU, Indiana, Syracuse and WMU, Hayes continues TC West’s streak of offensive linemen that includes Oregon sophomore tackle Jake Fisher and former U-M center Rocko Khoury. Hayes doesn’t immediately wow you physically quite like Fisher. In Game of Thrones parlance, if Fisher is the Mountain That Rides, then Connor is younger brother The Hound — still a renowned killer. There’s little doubting Hayes’ strength for the position. When the 6-3, 292 junior made contact, Kenowa had no push on the interior. One he locked on, it was Hayes doing the moving, helping West pile up 422 yards of offense, 365 of it on the ground. Generally kept his hands inside, other than once when he just tackled a Kenowa defender (no flag). The only time he was clearly beat, it was just an old-fashioned whiff. Would like to see him get lower when run blocking. Hayes’ feet and speed were solid, as a couple times he reached his second blocking assignment. In addition to his four offers, he’s being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota.
*Connor Hayes came into the game as The Lake Michigan Football Report’s No. 6 2014 prospect. On the other side of the ball, 6-2, 240 Kenowa Hills junior Zach Evans checks in at No. 20. If he plays like this the rest of the season, that’s probably too low. This is his first year playing with a hand down. He started at right defensive end and right offensive tackle, and rarely left the field. He moved well in space, got off the line quickly, but can stand to get stronger to free himself from traffic. He had three sacks. On the second one Evans came in untouched from the blind side, forcing a fumble from West senior QB Donny Cizek. 6-2, 200 junior Travis Breuker started on the other end and had a play-making knack himself. 6-0, 195 junior linebacker Chase Dunneback led the team with 12 tackles. 6-3, 180 junior Josh Fransted has good safety size and sealed the deal with a late interception. These four are clearly a defensive group to follow the next two seasons.
*West’s top senior prospect is linebacker Derrick Diver. The GLIAC likes him, with good reason. Diver isn’t an explosive hitter, but he’s a smart, smooth read-shed-and-wrap guy with terrific size at 6-3, 218 and sub 5.0 40 speed. Diver was credited with eight tackles and recovered a fourth-quarter fumble that led to the Titans’ go-ahead score.
*Kenowa Hills dominated the special teams play. Senior kicker Vinner Mendez put all three of his kickoffs into the end zone and put through both PAT. West didn’t convert on three two-point attempts (the “successful” one nullified by a 15-yard chop block) and gave the Knights an early 2-0 lead when a West snap went over the punter’s head into the end zone.
*Traverse City West’s underclassman talent was impressive. Ellison is the starter at fullback as a 6-0, 175 freshman. 6-1, 180 sophomores Zack McGuire was good in cover situations, moving well for his size and age with 4.7 40 speed. The Titans’ top young prospect, one who is expected to succeed Hayes in the offensive line tradition, is still on the JV, 6-4, 270 freshman Thiyo Lukusa.
*He wasn’t featured until the two minute drill, but Kenowa Hills’ 6-1, 180 senior receiver Dylan Smith could be a solid small college prospect.
*Wilson Unke played well at center for West, but unfortunately was carted off the field late in the game with a leg injury.