*In the Trust Fund Bowl, Grand Rapids Christian topped East Grand Rapids 49-35. Eagles senior QB Alex VanDeVusse connected on 20-of-27 throws for 336 yards and six TDs. Drake Harris caught 10 of them for 211 yards and four TDs. EGR is known for its workhorse running backs (Kevin Grady Jr. has the state record for career attempts), but none of them had more carries in a game than senior Jahaan Brown‘s 40 on Friday. He gained 347 yards and scored two TDs.
*Mattawan senior Trevor Sweeney has had an incredible senior season, but topped even himself with one of the top 10 TD games in state history against St. Joseph. He ran for five and had two TD receptions.
*Grayling’s Jake Swander is the top passer in the Lake Michigan area. The junior QB was 30-of-51 for 477 yards and three TDs as the Vikings remained undefeated with a 41-22 win at Elk Rapids.
*Not only is Grand Haven junior Isaak Newhouse a receiving, defensive and special teams standout, apparently he can run the ball two. He had three rushing TDs in the Bucs’ 32-21 defeat of East Kentwood, and also returned a fumble for an 81-yard TD.
*A mid-season transfer from Galesburg-Augusta, Bangor’s Jesse Ring ran 17 tmes for 238 yards in a 46-0 win over Fennville. This after 275 yards and two TDs against Gobles.
*Kalkaska topped Harbor Springs 42-28, as Zach Hill ran 14 times for 222 yards and three TDs.
*Lowell made five interceptions in their 42-24 comeback win against Forest Hills Central. Kyler Shurlow had two of them, and Reed Stormzand returned one for a TD.
*Kenowa Hills QB Cody Ritsema threw for three TDs and ran for two in a 47-26 defeat of Muskegon Reeths-Puffer.
Zeeland West’s offense is ridiculous. The Dux scored on every possession Friday night but the last, when they chose to kneel. That’s about the only time they weren’t running by Holland Christian, and won 66-36. First-year but veteran coach Jim Casserta will get this program going, but the Maroons’ tackling was as bad as when they played West last year. The Dux put 60 points on them then, which was a school record … until now.
It was a field day for West’s trio of running backs: junior Marcus Lambert 252 yards, three TDs; senior Jon Pung, 199 yards, four TDs; senior Braden Werley, 184 yards and one TD. Lambert is the breakaway threat, and found pay dirt with rusn of 72, 65 and 63 yards. Punt also covered HC’s star junior receiver, Kyle Steigenga, all night, and had an interception. Werley is the most rugged and versatile of the backs. Both he and Pung have futures in small college ball.
West’s defense has been suspect all year itself, and they lost two shootouts to open the season to Forest Hills Central and Zeeland East. With the Dux focused on slowing down Steigenga, Maroons senior QB Ross Schreuer picked it apart underneath and threw for 497 yards and two TDs, both to Steigenga, but with three picks.
The top two prospects in the game were in the junior class, West’s 6-6, 290 tight end/d-tackle Jordan VanDort, and the 6-4, 185 Steigenga. VanDort seems to have a knack for rising to the occasion. Just when you think maybe the big boy is getting disinterested, boom, he was the first one into the backfield to stop HC on fourth-and-one.
Steigenga had his fifth-straight game of 100+ receiving yards, with 166. His laconic demeanor belies big-time legs.
The following rankings are based on college potential. The designation “ATH” refers to a prospect who projects to at least three possible positions at the next level.
1. Drake Harris 6-4 180 Jr WR Grand Rapids Christian Michigan State
The Drake is the state’s top receiver prospect since Charles Rogers was getting forked at Saginaw, and the showpiece on what at least for the near future is the state’s most recruit-able program, you can keep that Cass Tech talk. Highly ranked receivers don’t always put up the numbers commiserate to their talents, given the circumstances of high school ball, but that’s not the case with Harris. He has caught at least one TD in every game this season, and gone for over 100 yards in all but the opening win against South Christian. He caught 10 balls for 211 yards and four TDs against East Grand Rapids. Even without the game numbers Harris would be recruited by everyone, because he has the body of the top 100 basketball recruit he is, with legit 4.4. speed. And since he can actually catch the ball, MSU probably wishes they had him right now.
2. Kenneth Finley 6-4 265 Jr DL Muskegon
Top prospect from a line that has laid the hammer down on the running games of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Rockford and Lowell. We’ve been talking up Finley all season, including yes a Clay Matthews comparison, and apparently aren’t the only ones who have noticed his dominant play. He’s being recruited by Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois,Wisconsin, Indiana, Florida State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Washington, Arizona, Miami, Arizona State, Ohio State, Cincinnati, TCU, Pitt and Rutgers.
3. Spencer Viening 6-0 215 Jr ATH Zeeland East
Already a third-year starter for undefeated Zeeland East. The power option in East’s running game, with patience and vision to find the holes and the strong legs and trunk to traverse the garbage and break tackles. During the Chix’ 5-0 start, Viening ran for 669 yards and nine TDs on 109 carries. If not as a running back, Viening could project as a linebacker or safety in college as he’s good in pursuit and can plug holes.
4. Jordan VanDort 6-6 290 Jr ATH Zeeland West
U-M, MSU and Wisconsin have shown the most interest in VanDort, who intrigues as a piece of clay that at the next level can be molded in so many ways. A 6-6, 290-pound slab of clay. VanDort is best known as the big kid who made a 64-yard reception in the state finals against Marine City, showing the agility to keep his feet along the sideline, and the wheels to tag on much of the yardage after the catch. His duties have been widespread for the Dux as a junior. VanDort starts at tight end and plays both defensive end and tackle. As a defensive lineman, he looks like the next Tyler Hoover. More upside could be at offensive tackle — a gamble since VanDort hasn’t played the position in live games and never pass blocks in the wing-T. But given his body, fluidity and intelligence, college coaches are going to take that bet.
5. Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 Jr ATH Cadillac
The most dangerous skill position player in Northern Michigan. Brooks burst onto the state’s football consciousness with an exclamation point game in week 3 when from quarterback he ran for nearly 300 yards and six TDs in less than three quarters against Petoskey. Good size to speed ratio, running a 4.5 40. He’s already a playmaker as a QB, and continues to grow as a leader and passer. GLIAC schools would love to get him under center, while bigger schools like him as a receiver or defensive back.
6. Malik King 6-4 275 Jr OL Muskegon
Muskegon’s offensive line may be the state’s best. King is the only junior starting up front for the Big Reds, part of a unit that’s massive but can move. As more schools scout Muskegon junior defensive linemen Kenneth Finley, look for some to fall in love with King along the way. The word on the street is if he got an MSU offer, it would be all over.
7. Tommy Doles 6-5 240 Jr OL Grand Rapids Christian
He goes both ways for loaded GR Christian, projecting to the offensive line in college with offers from Michigan and Iowa State, and plans to be in East Lansing Saturday for the MSU-Ohio State game. Doles is athletic with both quick feet and hands, and balance; excels with technique rather than brute strength. Still, he has a big butt, the frame to add good weight and when he gets his heels can stone bigger linemen.
8. Kyle Steigenga 6-4 185 Jr WR Holland Christian
Like Drake Harris, a Christian school kid who first made his name on the hardwood but has blown up in the fall on the grid. Steigenga has scored 11 TDS (and thrown for another) and in each of the Maroons’ last five games and had at least 100 yards receiving. Has a great feel for where the ball is and is able to make plays in the air. Catches a high percentage of his targets and produces despite defenses shading him heavily. Steigenga is both a downfield threat or a guy who can take a short pass play and make things happen. He’s a loping long strider who will be that much more dangerous as his routes sharpen and he sprints like he means it on every play. Could block more, too.
9. Alec Stevens 6-4 265 Jr OL West Branch Ogemaw Heights
Stevens isn’t as well-known as some junior linemen statewide, because he was injured and didn’t make the summer camp circuit. He has the physical profile though — big, thick and square, but not fat. Doesn’t get moved off the line. Starting to play with a mean streak which will make him that much more dangerous.
10. Byron Bullough 6-2 195 Jr LB Traverse City St. Francis Michigan State
He’ll be the third Bullough brother, from the third generation of Bulloughs to play for MSU. So it’s not surprising he plays like he was born to be out there. Don’t be fooled though it’s more than the name, he can play. He has great football instincts and is a hard hitter. Also plays running back for the Glads. Bullough has good lateral quickness which will serve him well at the next level, where he should fit in nicely with the Spartans defense as outside linebacker.
11. Nick Padla 6-6 265 Jr OL Berrien Springs
Berrien Springs’ move to the Wolverine hasn’t been easy on the field, but Padla has held his own against some bigger schools. Padla has quick feet for his size and is a terrific pulling guard, and also starts at defensive end for Berrien Springs. Unlike some linemen who are happy go lucky big kids, Padla gets nasty when he puts on the pads and will play through the whistle. MSU is the leader, with interest from other BCS schools.
12. Connor Hayes 6-3 290 Jr OL Traverse City West
West is having a terrific season, and has to be optimistic for the future with some young skill position guys and their stalwart right guard Hayes coming back. He’s not overly athletic, but he’s a mauler and plays with really good pad level. He could actually play center or stay at his current guard position in college. Hayes already has offers from CMU, Indiana, Syracuse and WMU.
13. Will Hunt 5-11 205 Jr LB Muskegon
Hunt is a smart football player that doesn’t stay blocked. He’s never the most athletic player on the field, but makes a lot of big plays. Hunt is a throwback linebacker with great instincts, the kind of kid who eats, sleeps and drinks football. He’s a D1 prospect with Big Ten and MAC interest.
14. Jake Khoury 6-3 285 Jr DL Traverse City St. Francis
He’s a powerful defensive tackle that provides great push for TCSF on almost every play. But Khoury is more than just a run stopper. With his speed and quickness he gets to the quarterback often. He’s a master of how to use his hands to get off blocks and once he gets ahold of the ball-carrier it’s lights out. Khoury is a BCS recruit that’s drawing attention from Michigan, MSU, Notre Dame and Wisconsin.
15. Zach Evans 6-3 240 Jr DL Kenowa Hills
Started the season on fire before being slowed by a concussion. He’s a second-year varsity starter, but this is Evans’ first with his hand down and he’s excelled at right defensive end (also starts on offense at right tackle), with his motor and 4.8 speed. He’s quick off the ball and can make plays in space. Evans needs to work on his hands and strength to more readily free himself when it gets hectic in there.
16. Chris Hendricks 6-5 270 Jr OL Fruitport
He has all the physical tools, and is well-rounded as both a run and pass-blocker. The question from some coaches is, how badly does the former Mona Shores player want it?
17. Marcus Lambert 5-11 185 Jr RB Zeeland West
If you’re a running back in the Lake Michigan area, your dream locales are either as Peter Stuursma’s tailback at East Grand Rapids, or John Shillito’s fullback at East Kentwood now Zeeland West. Lambert is fortunate enough to be the latter, though he also shows his natural running ability as a kick returner. No back in the Lake Michigan area breaks the big ones with the frequency of Lambert and his reported 4.5 speed. Through six games he ran 88 times for 1091 yards and 15 TDS. Those come out to average 12 yards per carry for 181 yards and 2.5 TDs per game.
18. Jacob Howe 6-2 240 Jr LB Forest Hills Northern
Goes both ways for hard-luck Northern. Whether starting upright from either end or as a middle linebacker, Howe has a way of ending up in the offensive backfield. Moves like a linebacker despite being a junior with college size and could be college fullback because he can catch, has a nose for space and blocks with first-hit explosion. He ran 19 times for 123 yards and a TD against Sparta. Howe is high on the recruiting charts of the in-state MAC schools.
19. Mitchell Wynkoop 6-3 220 LB Traverse City Central
A veritable unknown we uncovered in Week 2 at Grand Haven, Wynkoop has gone on to be an impact guy for TC Central. He is the type of player that is a coaches’ dream because he plays one way — full speed! Wynkoop is a relentless pass rusher that lets nothing get in his way of getting to the quarterback. With good size, speed and productivity, expect him to start drawing the attetion of college coaches because the cat’s out of the bag: Wynkoop is a big-time playmaker.
20. Asantay Brown 6-1 175 Jr DB Mona Shores
The rare Muskegon Heights transfer that didn’t end up at Muskegon High. Brown’s been so good, he would’ve made an impact wherever he ended up. He’s the leading receiver for the best Mona team in over 20 years, and has two games with three interceptions.
21. Mitch Stanitzek 6-3 215 DL Grand Rapids West Catholic
A two-year starter at defensive end with 4.9 speed who was out with an injured back when we saw West Catholic against South Christian. There’s a good chance Stanitzek will be moving up the rankings.
22. Austin Labus 6-6 285 Jr OL Portage Northern
Line play has been a plus for the Huskies, with Labus showing the most upside next to some solid seniors on a unit that has opened the way for three different backs who average over 5 yards per carry. He’s put on 15 pounds since last season but like Padla, Labus gives a taller, lankier look than the other linemen on the list. Runs a 5.3 40.
23. Jake Kaczynski 6-5 240 Jr ATH Ludington
A “jumbo athlete” who plays tight end, H-back and linebacker for Ludington. As such, he’s their leading receiver, leading tackler and third on the team in rushing yards. This kid is a load, and delivers hits both as a tackler and runner. 40 times in the spring could be crucial to the level of college ball he ends up playing.
24. Isaak Newhouse 6-0 185 Jr WR Grand Haven
Were Newhouse playing in the Grand Haven offenses of recent vintage, his receiving numbers would be right up there with those of Drake Harris and Kyle Steigenga. Newhouse also excels in the defensive backfield and as a kick returner, and threw a TD pass against Grandville. Newhouse has been huge on special teams. He had a 75-yard punt return for a TD against Grandville, and against Mona Shores returned a blocked field goal for a score.
25. Drew Marion 6-2 190 Jr QB Lake City
He had a terrific sophomore debut when he threw for 1,217 yards and 13 TDs while running for 846 and 13 TDs, and has been even better this time around leading Lake City to a 5-0 mark headed into their Highland showdown with Beal City. Marion’s best game thus far was against Pine River, when he was 16-of-20 for 343 yards and four TDS while running 14 timers for 123 yarsd. College size for his position with 4.8 speed and sometimes looks like a man amongst boys in Class C ball. Plays with four- and five-receiver sets, and has nice touch on his deep ball. Not sure of Marion’s arm strength if he has to zip one in across the field.
26. Dwayne Barfield 6-1 170 Jr ATH Grand Rapids Christian
He was off to a great start before being injured in GR Christian’s game at Cincinnati Moeller, and is now back in action. Projects as either a receiver or defensive back. Tough, athletic, coachable kid.
27. Nick Swore 6-2 185 Jr QB Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
He’s been fighting a hand injury, so didn’t play quarterback when we saw NorthPointe play at Hopkins. Swore did play safety though, and looked good with his reads and closing speeds, so add athlete to coach’s son.
28. Lucas Walesky 6-4 265 Jr OL Grayling
Grayling is undefeated, and should only get better as QB Jake Swander, like Walesky, is a junior and there are key sophomores also starting for the Vikings. Walesky finished in the top 10 in the bench press at our July combine in Traverse City. He’s a technique guy who can beat his man to pad level. There’s a lot of pass blocking in Grayling’s offense, but Walesky can also drive and grind it out. If he can figure out the trick of improving his speed while putting on weight, Walesky is a scholarship lineman.
29. Tristen Fleet 6-2 275 Jr OL Mancelona
A second-year starter for one of the top small school teams in the Lake Michigan area, as Mancelona is on pace for its second-straight undefeated regular season. The strength of the line is inside with Fleet and center and 6-2, 230 senior Dalon Sulz at guard, helping senior running back Wyatt Derrer put up all-state numbers. While a few linemen on this list could become centers, Fleet is the only one currently at the position.
30. John Hall 6-0 180 Jr DB Muskegon
Hall was terrific in the off-season two years ago at Sound Mind, Sound Body, and has translated that to live football as one of the Muskegon Heights transfers who has fit right in and helped the Big Reds return to the championship form of the past decade. Starting in the defensive backfield now, he should have some big running numbers as a senior.
With less than seven miles separating them, the matchup between Traverse City West and Traverse City Central is a marquee game for both schools each year. But this year’s crosstown rivalry game looks to be epic. With both schools entering this weekend’s game with undefeated conference records (and their best starts in years), an estimated 10,000 fans are expected at Thirlby Field this Friday night.
For TC Central, success starts up front with their two big tackles, Tyler Gildersleeve and Mitch Brien. At 6-7, 280, Gildersleeve is one of the top tackles in Northern Michigan. He will be paving the way for the two TJ’s – speedster T.J. Schwannecke and dynamic dual-threat quarterback T.J. Schepperly. Schepperly is the key to Central’s offense with his ability to make great plays with his legs and through the air. His number one intangible is leadership, which has served the Trojans well.
The Trojans have a very stingy defense with a strong front seven. They feed off of the experience and leadership of tackles Jordan Lutze and David Chauvette, along with linebackers Nick Bonaccini and Nate Pupel. The sleeper of the group is junior defensive end Mitchell Wynkoop. At 6-3, 220, he’s been able to get to the quarterback all season. He doesn’t have a household name yet, but opposing quarterbacks are quite familiar with him.
The Titans will counter Central’s stout D with great speed on offense. West has a stable of good backs led by Geordan Carter and Griffin Forrester. They will also benefit from the return of freshman fullback Grant Ellison, who missed last week due to injury. But the bigger story on offense this season has been the emergence of senior quarterback Donny Cizek. Cizek is a quick and shifty quarterback who is completing nearly 70% of his passes. His top target is Tyler Johnson, a smooth-running wide receiver with good hands. Paving the way up front is junior Connor Hayes, a future Division I guard.
On Defense for the TC West Titans, everything starts with middle linebacker Derrick Diver. Diver is the catalyst with his sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability. The Titans defense, as a whole, may be a bit overshadowed by the high-powered offense, but this group is talented. Coming off a strong defensive game over Cadillac last week, keep your eyes on Storm Eagle, Matt Lowe, and Dustin Tucker to make their presence felt against the Trojans.
With so much talent on each sideline, it’s sure to be a great game. Beyond the game, however, is a deeper significance that seeks to unite a community rather than divide. This game marks the first-annual T.C. Patriot Game, which will honor military heroes from Northern Michigan who have lost their lives while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. With all of the emotion, honor, and pride, Friday’s rivalry game is sure to be one for the ages.
Mona Shores @ MuskegonThese are two of the top three teams in the O-K Black, along with Zeeland East. For the host school, a 5-0 mark and No. 1 state ranking is a return to historical form of the 21st century’s first decade. For Mona Shores a brave new world, the Sailors’ 4-1 start their best since their O-K Red days in 1989. Hackley Stadiuim, however, is not unknown territory to Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak. He was the head man on the Big Reds’ sideline in 2009, when they went 7-4, and was an assistant on state championship teams in 2006 and 2008.
At the skill positions it’s a wash. If GR South Christian’s Jon Wassink isn’t the Lake Michigan area’s top 2015 quarterback prospect, then it’s 6-1, 170 soph Tyree Jackson. As good as he has been as Jackson’s favorite target, 6-1, 175 junior Asantay Brown has been incredible on defense with two three-interception games, against Grand Haven and Grand Rapids Union. An intriguing possible matchup could come with Brown at receiver against Muskegon junior DB 5-11, 175 DaSean Thrower. They were teammates last season at Muskegon Heights. Jackson has another talented junior receiver to work with, 6-1, 160 Marquon Sargent. Mona Shores will have no choice but to pass. Led up front by 6-4, 255 senior Ronald Jenkins and 6-4, 265 junior Kenneth Finley, and 5-11, 215 junior linebacker Will Hunt, Muskegon has wiped out the typically potent running games of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Rockford and Lowell. It will be the toughest test yet for Mona’s battle-tested senior line of tackles 6-2, 265 Brandon Gue and 6-1, 230 Jake Bordeaux, guards 6-0, 230 Alek Jend and 5-9, 225 Brandon Stafford, and center 5-9, 225 Collin Sullivan.
For its part, Muskegon’s offensive line may be the state’s strongest, and make the Big Reds’ ground game so formidable. 6-3, 275 senior tackle Antwan Billings and 6-3, 280 senior Quincy Crosby lead a unit that includes 6-4, 275 senior Chandar Ricks, 6-4, 265 junior Malik King and 5-10, 252 senior guard Noah Tozer. Behind them, senior Jalen Smith does the ball-handling at quarterback in Muskegon’s veer triple option, and senior backs Marcus Smith and John Hall are both capable of big games on the ground.
Muskegon is just too big, strong and talented where it matters most, and will win the game on the line, barring some miracle play-making by Jackson.
Class of 2013
Derrick Diver 6-3 218 Sr LB Traverse City West
The kind of true competitor who will knock your teeth out then shake your hand when the game’s over, and mean both with as much sincerity. Diver controls the middle of the field for the Titans and also is the team’s emotional leader. He’s an old school middle linebacker with great football instincts and a motor that doesn’t quit. He’s also an ace in the classroom with a 3.6 GPA and 26 ACT. Diver is drawing interest from Division 1 and Division 2 schools. It’s telling that in TC West’s big win over Cadillac, when there were any number of D1 prospects on the field, Diver was out there making plays and turning heads.
Trent Karcher 6-1 185 Sr WR Chippewa Hills
Karcher is one of the few high school wide receivers that consistently catches the ball with his hands and not with his body. He has great speed — track guy who runs a true 4.5 — and good body control. He has been a major offensive weapon this year for the Warriors with nearly 700 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in five games. He’s drawing interest from D1 and D2 schools and could be a player that contributes early at the next level.
Class of 2014
Chris Hendricks 6-5 265 Jr OL Fruitport
Hendricks is one of the myriad D1 lineman prospect in the Lake Michigan junior class. While it would’ve been nice from a scouting perspective had he stayed at Mona Shores, where he could be seen against the likes of the line from Muskegon, Mona’s Friday opponent, no one can say the move to Fruitport has gone poorly. Fruitport is 5-0 with Hendricks starting at left tackle and on the D line. Fruitport has a decent run-pass ratio, so Hendricks is able to practice both disciplines. He has a nice kick when pass blocking, while just swallowing Lakes 8 defenders in the run game. It’s no coincidence that in Dakota Gordon‘s 13 carry, 133 yard game last Friday in a win against Ludington, the majority came on the left side. With his 5.1 speed, Hendricks is able to get to the second level and keep plays alive, helping Fruitport be a big-play offense with Gordon and senior QB Tyler Feler. Hendricks’ best attribute: Balance. Needs work: Explosive hitting through his man, both offensively and defensively.
Jake Kaczynski 6-5 240 Jr TE Ludington
Last week we talked about a big, all-around athlete, Plainwell’s Tyler White, who is somewhat overlooked because he doesn’t get many touches, just plays his role. Kaczynski is the opposite. Playing tight end, H-back and linebacker for Ludington, he tops the Orioles in tackles and receiving, and is their third leading rusher. In Ludington’s only win, against Muskegon Orchard View, Kaczynski ran for two TDs and caught another. Catching the ball, he’s rarely brought down by either the first or second hit. He probably projects as a MAC recruit if: as a linebacker, he can turn and cover; as a tight end, he can get a respectable 40 time at a combine. For his size, Kaczynski doesn’t look to have a particularly long or smooth stride like you see from a down-field tight end threat.
Malik Smith 5-10 190 Fr ATH Boyne City
Smith is a really good two-way player, a physical specimen starting at fullback and linebacker for undefeated Boyne City. On offense, he runs with power but also has really good feet and enough speed to break away. On defense, Smith is a sure tackler and stays around the ball, and doesn’t shy away from physical contact.
On a cold night at Thirlby Field, Traverse City West was on fire — on offense and defense. The Titans racked up nearly 400 yards of total offense en route to a 40-11 win over Cadillac. This game marked Cadillac’s first loss of the season. Offensively for West, quarterback Donny Cizek was a cool customer with a perfect completion percentage at halftime and three touchdowns. His favorite targets were fullback Geordon Carter, running back Griffin Forrester, and wide receiver Tyler Johnson. Johnson has good size, solid speed, and is a very good route runner. There could be a place for him at the next level. Up front for the Titans, Connor Hayes, again, was dominant. He’s not overly athletic, but he’s a mauler and plays with really good pad level. He could actually play center or stay at his current guard position in college. He’s a BCS recruit, following in the footsteps of recent TC West grad and current Oregon sophomore lineman, Jake Fisher. The Titans’ offense was spectacular in the running game and the passing game.
Cadillac managed to hang with the Titans early on, largely in part to their two Division I tackles Jack Ford and Riley Norman. Ford is a lunchpail type of lineman who is fundamentally sound and plays to the whistle on every snap. CMU is getting a true workhorse. Norman is a beast and plays with an attitude — in a good way. At 6-7 and nearly 300 pounds, this track & field scholarship commit for Michigan State could be a future NFL’er if he decides to try football for the Spartans. The other standout on offense for the Vikings was quarterback Jalen Brooks. Brooks, a junior, rushed for 268 yards including an 80-yard TD run. He’s getting looks from Division II schools at the QB position, but could sneak into a MAC school if continues to improve as a pocket passer. Watching Brooks harkens comparisons to former CMU great Dan LeFevour.
Putting a stop to the Vikings’ offensive efforts was middle linebacker Derrick Diver. Diver did everything besides take the tickets and pop the popcorn. He’s a throwback linebacker that plays sideline to sideline, making bone-crushing hits. He’s a leader and the heart and soul of West’s defense. Diver is drawing interest from Division I and Division II schools. Memo to all of those schools: offer this kid a scholarship now. You won’t be disappointed. Diver can flat out play. The other defensive standout for TC West was sophomore cornerback Zach McGuire. With really good size (6-1, 180) and good speed, he has potential to become a Division I prospect. McGuire has good cover skills and is a ballhawk.
In the end, TC West’s depth proved to be too much for Cadillac to handle as the Titans pulled away with a big victory. But don’t count Cadillac out just yet. They will be one of the top teams heading into the Division 4 playoffs, but tonight belonged to the Division I Traverse City West Titans.
Caledonia @ Grand Rapids Christian
This is the kickoff week for intra-league play in the O-K White, which looks like the strongest conference in the Lake Michigan area. Caledonia, 4-0, is the only unbeaten team in the mix. How long will that last? Against winning teams, Caledonia slipped past resurgent Mona Shores 22-19 (or just “surgent”, as Mona’s rarely been very good) then beat “undefeated” Grandville last week 14-7. So, while the Scots’ defense is allowing under 10 points a game, those stats are built with wins over helpless Holland and Middleville.
Conversely, there’s been on fat on GR Christian’s table. After the Eagles’ 42-34 loss at nationally-ranked Cincinnati Moeller, they’ve gone on a rampage, destroying Kenowa Hills 43-0 and Hudsonville 59-13.
Senior QB Alex VanDeVusse oversees Grand Rapids Christian’s potent offense. He has completed 61-of-94 passes for 11 TDS to four different players while running for 245 yards and three TDs. He has a couple of outstanding lineman in front of him, 6-1, 270 senior Alex Korhorn at guard, 6-5, 240 junior Tommy Doles at tackle, and at tight end Zach Crouch, a CMU recruit. VanDeVusse’s favorite target, not surprisingly, is junior All-American receiver Drake Harris. The Michigan State commitment has made 22 catches for 453 yards and 5 TDs. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have some young play-makers, but it all starts with senior linebacker Matthew Hall who leads the team with 30 tackles and is one of three GR Christian defenders who have already scored a TD.
Caledonia’s defense has proven adept at turning over their opponents, and that might be their best chance to keep it close against GR Christian. Five players had picks thus far, including two by senior Justin Krueger, who is also Caledonia’s top receiver. 6-3, 180 senior QB Ryan Zoet has been a tough run/pass dual threat.
Cadillac @ Traverse City West
With Petoskey’s fall from grace, the Big North Conference looks like it’s down to a three-team race amongst Cadillac, TC Central and TC West. Two of those meet Friday when Cadillac, 4-0, 2-0, heads to Traverse City West, 3-1, 2-0. Neither team has been challenged in the Big North, with Cadillac rolling over Petoskey and Gaylord, and West beating up on Gaylord and Alpena. West has also proven itself against solid West Michigan competition, losing a close one at Kenowa Hills, then winning a close one over Grand Haven.
The Vikings and Titans are similar in that they play defense and take care of the ball. West, in particular, has benefited from its takeaway margin. The strength of Cadillac’s defense is up front, led by behemoth seniors Riley Norman and Jack Ford, with junior linebacker Trevor Oliver cleaning up behind them. They’ll get to bang against another D1 lineman, West junior guard Connor Hayes. Gaylord was limited to under 100 yards total offense last week. West’s D is led by Derek Diver, a senior born to play middle linebacker at 6-3, 218, while junior Jordan Stevenson is solid at OLB and 6-4, 218 defensive end James Peck can be a playmaker when he gets into the backfield. Alpena was held to 110 yards total offense last week.
This game will also feature the Big North’s top QBs.West senior Donny Cizek was injured last season but is making up for lost time. He’s 37-53 throwing for 522 yards and seven TDs, and has run for two more scores. He has a number of weapons at his disposal, most prominently junior Grant Balino, a run/catch threat out of the backfield. While Cizek is a solid quarterback who can control a game, his Cadillac counterpart, junior Jalen Brooks, is a dynamic talent who can take over a game, the perfect complement to the Vikings’ big senior line. He wasn’t the only running threat against Gaylord, as Tanner Derror rushed for 114 yards.
Class of 2013
Nate Jeppesen 6-4 265 Sr OL Portage Central
Portage Central had a heart-breaker last Friday, losing 41-40 at Stevensville-Lakeshore. But at least, for the first time this season, the 3-1 Mustangs put their best team on the field. The Lakeshore game marked the return of Jeppesen, who had missed the first three games with that long-time high school season killder, mononucleosis. Jeppesen, who committed to Toledo, is one of the most athletic, versatile college-sized lineman in the Lake Michigan area. With him back in the lineup, against Lakeshore, Jacob Allan ran for 135 yards and two TDs, DeJuan James 87 yards and two TDs and QB Ryan Mergener 82 yards and a TD.
Matt Modreske 6-7 300 Sr OL Hopkins
The football commodity the Lake Michigan area produces most consistently is linemen. None of them were prep All-Americans. None of the five offensive linemen currently in the NFL even had Big 10 offers — Joe Staley (Rockford/CMU), Jared Veldheer (Forest Hills Northern/Hillsdale), Todd Herremans (Ravenna/SVSU), Joe Berger (Newaygo/Michigan Tech) and Cameron Bradfield (Grand Rapids Creston/GVSU). Such was the history and potential that saw us arrive last Friday to see Hopkins shut out Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 28-0. On Hopkins line at left tackle is one of those big, raw West Michigan boys, Matt Modreske standing a head taller than anyone else on the field. I liked how he got into the second level, and it looks like he’s been working on his body, with some triceps definition when he got in his three-point stance. Technique-wise is where Modreske has to improve, taking full advantage of his reach. Undefeated Hopkins plays with two tight ends and does nothing but run, so who knows what Modreske’s pass-blocking looks like. No one is promising a future like the five pros mentioned above. but he is a GLIAC project with big upside.
Plainwell tight ends
In the preseason, we ranked Plainwell tight end Tyler White the No. 5 senior prospect in the Lake’s area. Anyone who has looked for his stats since then, may think we’re crazy. He mostly blocks for the 3-1 Trojans. He’s ranked so optimistically because White, the one-time running back, “looks like you’re supposed to look,” as one college coach put it, 6-6, 240 and can move. He’s one of two senior tight end prospects for Plainwell, along with 6-4, 235 Chance Terry. MLive’s Scott DeCamp broke down how both affected the game in Plainwell’s 23-7 win over neighboring Otsego.
Andon Ware 5-11 170 Sr RB Baldwin
OK, enough blockers, how about a runner? Ware has been a one-man gang for Baldwin. He ran 14 times for 285 yards and three TDs and caught two passes for 49 yards and a TD last Friday in a rare, but emphatic, 48-13 win over Manistee Catholic Central. Ware is a GLIAC kid who MAC schools are starting to show interest in despite playing at a Class D school. He was a standout at our Traverse City combine in July, running a 4.6 40 with a 9’8 broad jump, 4.3 pro agility and 28.5″ vertical.
Class of 2014
Alec Stevens 6-5 265 OL West Branch Ogemaw Heights
Stevens isn’t as well-known as some junior linemen, because he was injured and didn’t make the summer camp circuit. He has the physical profile though — big, thick and square, but not fat. Michigan’s coaches have noticed, and Stevens was at the Big House for U-M’s win over UMass. The Lake Michigan area is just loaded up front in 2014, with what looks like at least seven BCS guys. Here are Lake Michigan’s top 10 linemen for — some go both ways, some are already specializing on one side of the ball:
- Jordan VanDort 6-6 290 Jr Zeeland West
- Kenneth Finley 6-4 265 Jr Muskegon
- Tommy Doles 6-5 240 Jr Grand Rapids Christian
- Alec Stevens 6-5 265 Jr West Branch Ogemaw Heights
- Nick Padla 6-5 265 Jr Berrien Springs
- Connor Hayes 6-3 290 Jr Traverse City West
- Jake Khoury 6-3 265 Jr Traverse City St. Francis
- Chris Hendricks 6-4 265 Jr Fruitport
- Austin Labus 6-6 270 Jr Portage Northern
- Tristen Fleet 6-3 275 Jr Mancelona
Will Hunt 5-11 Jr LB Muskegon
Part of the Muskegon Machine that is 4-0 against the state’s toughest schedule. Hunt is a smart football player that doesn’t stay blocked. He’s never the most athletic player on the field, but makes a lot of big plays. Hunt is a throwback linebacker with great instincts, the kind of kid who eats, sleeps and drinks football. He’s a D1 prosect with Big Ten and MAC interest.
Sticking with the lineman theme, the Big North has two potential standouts in the 2016 class — 6-2, 260 freshman Tommy Roush of Petoskey and 6-4, 270 freshman Thiyo Lukusa of Traverse City West. Both of these guys aren’t just pubescent freaks, they have legitimate athletic resumes. In July, Roush, the son of Petoskey track and field coach Kevin Roush, placed fifth in his age group nationally in the shot put and 12th in the hammer throw. For his part, Lukusa was the starting center for Parallel 45, one of the state’s top five 14U AAU basketball teams with a 39-7 spring record.