Cadillac @ Petoskey
Gotta do it sometime. For Cadillac, why not try in their first Big North Conference game of the year? Last September, Petoskey treated Cadillac like the freshman team 63-24 en route to a perfect Big North mark. Most get a more egalitarian vibe for the league this year, though, and the Vikings come into it, like P-town, 2-0 and with conference and playoff aspirations. Petoskey is twice the Big North Conference champion, and the league title will again be decided largely on P-town’s Curtis Field, a facility of such an age one wouldn’t be shocked if Jesse Owens once raced a horse there on a cinder track.
Why so cocky, grasshopper? Because it wasn’t so long ago that Vikings tasted Northmen blood. This is the their most talented team since 2009, when they gave Petoskey their only league loss and won the Big North. A year later Cadillac avenged a regular season loss to P-town with a 24-21 post-season win which launched them to a state playoff regional appearance. Now here comes Caddy with an all-senior offensive line held up by the best pair of tackles not just in the Lake Michigan coverage area, but the entire state of Michigan. On the left side, 6-6, 275 senior Jack Ford looks “small” only because he’s book-ended with 6-7, 315 right tackle Riley Norman. Ford has committed to Central Michigan and has the look of one of those MAC linemen that will keep getting better, because he has the frame to put on good weight and has a bad-blooded, play through the whistle attitude. He finishes plays. For his part, based solely on his physical tools, Norman would’ve been an All-American and the top lineman prospect from Northern Michigan since Jake Fisher at Traverse City West two seasons ago. Fisher is on his way to become a three-year starter at top 5 Oregon — unless he leaves early for the Draft. Norman is choosing the amateur route, and will be a thrower on MSU’s track-and-field team, but not suit up for Mark Dantonio. Norman plays both ways, and led Cadillac with 10 tackles in last week’s win at Bay City John Glenn.
Running and throwing from behind that Cadillac line is one of Lake Michigan’s top 10 2014 prospects, junior QB Jalen Brooks. Zeeland East’s junior running back/linebacker Spencer Viening is similar to quarterback/cornerback Brooks in size and style, but Brooks is faster, more elusive and explosive while standing a couple inches taller. Which puts him in good company, since Viening is hearing from the likes of Michigan, MSU, Nebraska … do that math. The Vikings rushed for 300 yards against Johnn Glenn, while Brooks and receiver Patrick Briggs were part of both Cadillac TDs. But it was actually Briggs who threw the first one, some trickeration to Logan Webb for a 63-yard score. Then in the fourth quarter it was Brooks-Briggs 53 yards; Brooks two-point conversion for the win. They also had a pass-catch TD in Cadillac’s season-opening win over Lansing Eastern. Briggs, a 6-3, 175 junior hockey standout, has emerged as the downfield threat the Vikings weren’t sure they had going into the season. Despite the lopsided Petoskey game last year, Brooks left his mark running for all three of Caddy’s touchdowns.
It will be strength-on-strength with Cadillac’s offensive line banging with Petoskey’s defensive line. Petoskey doesn’t have similarly monstrous size, but the all-senior front four of Kegan Schoenith, Pat Antonides, Jordan Haggerty and Will McMasters has helped the Northmen limit opponents to one touchdown over two games. The Northmen defense turned over a pretty talented Ogemaw Heights three times last week. They have two veteran playmakers in the defensive backfield, senior Tony DeAgostino at corner and senior Quinn Ameel at safety. Cadillac’s defense is much improved itself, and there’s one train of thought that this one could turn into a defensive tussle.
Now in coach Kerry VanOrman‘s 10th season, PHS has become the Big North football standard. The Northmen seek their fifth consecutive playoff appearance, and have done it with the seemingly simple formula of time-consuming, power football on the ground, and strong defense. Despite all-time rusher Joe Robbins matriculating to Grand Valley State from the 2011 team that set a single-season school scoring mark, 21-0 and 34-8. It’s a testament to the strength of the program that Petoskey has been able to reload from last year. They may have to keep reloading, though, as their leading rusher, Chase Ledingham, has been slowed by a groin injury. That would put increased attention on the other starting wingback, sophomore Kurt Boucher, as well as senior QB Ameel. Now a second-year starter, he is the perfect quarterback for what Petoskey asks of him — run the offense efficiently, make tough runs himself, complete throws on the rare chance he’s asked to and, most importantly, be the leader. Ameel is the type of player who may not have all the measurables, but if you want to win a football game, you want him on your side.
Ledingham isn’t the only injury of note for this one. Cadillac is still missing junior tight end/linebacker Justin Liptak, who was hurt in a preseason scrimmage, but could possibly return kicker Nick Paquet, who injured his shoulder playing basketball in the summer.