*A player we covered live earlier in the season, Baldwin senior Andon Ware, ran 18 times for 285 yards and three TDs, and caught another score, in a 48-13 defeat of Manistee Catholic.
*Grand Rapids Christian’s offense is beyond explosive. They led Hudsonville at the half, 56-7, and ended up winning 59-13. Senior QB Alex VanDeVusse played just that first half, completing 15-of-20 throws for 305 yards and five TDs. Junior All-American Drake Harris caught seven of them for 154 yards and two TDs.
*Holland Christian’s Ross Schreur and Kyle Steigenga were a similarly potent senior-junior pass-catch combo. Schreur connected on 15-of-28 passes for 347 yards and four TDs, three of them to Steigenga who made five catches for 158 yards. HC running back had 140 yards and two TDs on 15 attempts and pulled in five catches for 105 and a TD.
*Muskegon’s defense once again shut down one of the top rushing attacks in the Lake Michigan area. A week after holding Rockford to 25 yards on 22 attempts on the grown, the Big Reds did Lowell even worse, -1 on 21 attempts in a 36-21 win. The Red Arrows defense couldn’t say the same, as Muskegon senior running back Marcus Smith carried it nine times for 145 yards and three TDs.
*He’s back to full form. Montague’s Brandon Moore, Lake Michigan’s most talented skill position senior, ran 10 times for 113 yards and two TDs, had two catches for 63 yards and two TDs, and was 5-of-8 passing for 80 yards.
*It’s as if that one good year of Holland High football was a mirage. The Dutch lost to Grand Rapids Northview 55-14. Northview’s Brandon Lawrence ran for 200 yards and two TDs.
*Big senior running back Payton White ran 12 times for 161 yards and 3TDs as Constantine topped Parchment 42-20.
*Grand Haven’s pass-heavy attack was good eatin’ for Mona Shores junior Asantay Brown. He made three interceptions and caught what would prove to be the winning TD in the Sailors’ 21-14 victory.
*Another sophomore QB to watch — Coopersville’s Tucker Kloote was 9-of-14 for 249 yards and three TDS in a 37-22 win against Wyoming.
*How about Michael Kempton’s 20-yard average? He ran 13 times for 260 yards and four TDs for Edwardsburg, a 48-29 winner over South Haven.
It was a classic 1 vs. 2 matchup that lived up to the hype. But as all good things, it had to come to an end, and Muskegon sealed the victory over Lowell in noteworthy fashion. With a convincing 36-21 win over the Red Arrows, the Big Reds move to 4-0 and earn our vote as the best team in Michigan, regardless of division. And, yes, we have seen Cass Tech play this season.
The Big Reds jumped out to an early double-digit lead, but Lowell fought back thanks to elusive quarterback, Titan Anderson. Anderson looks to be on-par with the Red Arrows’ string of recent QB greats. He plays the position with a high football IQ, has great pocket presence, and a good arm. He also ran the ball well against a tough defense.
The other bright spot for Lowell was wide receiver Jeff Houston. Houston ran good routes and caught every ball he got his hands on. Despite the spark of Houston and Anderson, Muskegon’s defense eventually wore down their opponents.
Leading the defensive charge for Muskegon were the usual suspects upfront, junior Kenneth Finley and senior Ronald Jenkins. Both wreaked havoc in Lowell’s backfield all night. Senior Demetrius Brown provided the leadership and enthusiasm to excite both teammates and fans. Playing as a hybrid safety/linebacker, Brown is the clear emotional leader of the Big Reds defense. He plays fast and manages to get near the ball on nearly every single play.
Another standout on D for the Big Reds was junior linebacker William Hunt. Lowell just couldn’t block him. He’s a prototypical linebacker with good feet and is a sure tackler. He added a few big sacks on the night and it was easy to see why we have him pegged as one of our top 2014 prospects.
Offensively, Muskegon was led by Marcus Smith, a senior running back who is returning to the field after missing two football seasons for various reasons. Smith has a rare combination of good speed and good quickness. He can stop on a dime and make you miss, or just simply outrun you. He finished the night with 145 yards and three touchdowns, including an 85-yarder in the second half. He’s currently being recruited by GLIAC schools, but could develop into a MAC-level prospect by season’s end.
Muskegon’s talent is apparent. Coach Shane Fairfield estimated that his team has seven players who could play at the college level on his current defense. Just on defense. Offensively, they have several more prospects. But, it’s not just the talent, Coach Fairfield has his players buying-in and playing with great passion and mental toughness that sets them apart from other teams. It was particularly fitting that current Ferris State football coach — and former Big Reds coach — Tony Annese was on-hand to watch tonight’s showdown. Annese led Muskegon teams to the 2004, 2006, and 2008 state titles. This current Big Reds team looks eerily similar to Annese’s state championship teams.
Lowell @ Muskegon
Hard to beat a rivalry game between two state powers. Muskegon is Lake Michigan’s No. 1 team in Division 2, Lowell No. 2. Lowell’s had the upper hand recently, winning the last three meetings and doing it when it matters most — the postseason — including last year 36-7. The Big Reds wouldn’t let Rockford get anything going on the ground last week. Lowell’s defensive front has been just as good, and will be tested by a Muskegon offense averaging 400 yards on the ground. Unlike Rockford, Lowell has a healthy quarterback. Who has had a better run of QB’s than the Red Arrows? Mark Catlin begets Keith Nichol, then Gabe Dean, and now Titan Anderson assumes the mantle. The senior hasn’t disappointed. He’s run for 420 yards and 5 TDs and thrown for 160 and two more scores.
Forest Hills Central @ Zeeland East
Take the “over” in this matchup of undefeated teams. Zeeland East, No. 1 in Division 3, is scoring 41 points per game; Forest Hills Central, No. 3 in Division 2, 52. East spreads it out and lets senior QB Michael Custer work his options, but the heart of it is still the running game provided by speedy senior Josh Blauwkamp and big junior Spencer Viening. The Rangers have a couple playmakers to match them on defense in senior linebackers Nic Lamica and Collin Schlosser. Tim Rogers, Kalamazoo College’s former coach, has really opened things up in his first season as Central’s head coach. Justin Chopp is loving it. The left-handed senior QB has completed 44-of-63 attempts for 832 yards and 11 TDs.
Portage Central @ Stevensville-Lakeshore
Lakeshore is looking to complete the Portage Sweep — they beat Northern last week 21-14, but it took two overtimes. Both teams are 3-0, with Portage Central No. 5 in Division 2 and the Lancers No. 3 in Division 3. If Central is going to slow down Lakeshore, they have to do something about the senior QB-WR combo of Johnny Nate and Harold Wiggins. Conversely, if Lakeshore is able to keep Central’s tiny but mighty senior running back DeJuan James out of the end zone, it would be a first. He’s found the end zone ever game this season, including four scores last week against Kalamazoo Central.
Traverse City St. Francis’ football team got the boot from the Lake Michigan Conference, but some LMC teams still want a shot at the bully on the block and have retained the Gladiators on their schedules. Amongst those schools is Grayling, 3-0, which will play host to St. Francis, 2-1, Friday.
Grayling’s early success is somewhat surprising, since they have just three seniors on offense and four on defense. Helping bridge that maturity gap has been the play of junior quarterback Jake Swander, who is in his first season starting but has played like a vet. The lefty has slung it out of the shotgun for 277 yards and three TDs against Roscommon and 301 yards and three TDs (plus another rushing) against Houghton Lake. Most recently, the downpour at Charlevoix didn’t lend itself to sexy passing stats. But this Grayling team can actually do some damage on the ground too. Senior running back Ty Jensen had his second 100+ yard rushing game with three TDS and they won their Lake Michigan opener 27-13. They had trailed 13-0.
Swander has any number of weapons at his disposal — sophomore Scout Tobin, junior Tyler McClanahan and junior Justice Juntilla — and mixes it up accordingly. Leading Grayling’s defense is one of those rare seniors. 6-3, 190 middle linebacker Wes Dean has been the Vikings’ top tackler.
Grayling will face a St. Francis team that, less than a year removed from a Division 7 state semifinal appearance, has yet to look like a vintage Glads entry. They opened the season by getting shut out 18-0 by Kingsley, then beat the worst team in the Big North, Gaylord, 28-13. Their best win was last week against a tough Elk Rapids squad, 12-7. It took two fourth quarter, fourth down touchdown runs from junior Byron Bullough to do it.
What St. Francis may lack in depth this season, is offset by talent. The Gladiators have two of the most highly recruited players in Northern Michigan. Bullough has already committed to Michigan State, where brothers Max and Riley already play. 6-3, 285 junior Jake Khoury is being recruited by Michigan, MSU, CMU, Iowa, Akron, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Wisconsin. While Khoury projects as a defensive tackle and Bullough, 6-1, 2015, a safety or linebacker at the next level, right now they’re also dangerous out of the offensive backfield as a fullback, running back combo. Both are goal line scoring options, while Daniel Gallagher and Jimmy Brady are also significant ball carriers.
Grayling has never beaten Traverse City St. Francis. It’s not like they’ve lacked chances, of late. They met in the final regular season game of 2011, both coming in 6-0 in league play. St. Francis emerged with its last LMC title, 20-19. The year before, it took a final drive from the Glads to win 38-35. Is this young, upstart Grayling group the team to finally do it? It’s a tall order, because even a “down” TCSF team suits up against a Lake Michigan Conference team with a certain confidence that could pay off in a close one.
Labor Day had passed, game day temps dropped 20 degrees as the wind and rain came. Real football time, with real players, real prospects, emerging.
Class of 2013
Cadillac linemen: Jack Ford and Riley Norman
Cadillac unleashed the cave trolls on Petoskey’s heretofore stout offensive and defensive lines. Ford is 6-6, 270, Norman is 6-7, 315. Offensively, they cleared the way for junior QB Jalen Brooks to run for six TDs and nearly 300 yards. Defensively, they helped hold Petoskey’s typically potent running game to under 100 yards. Ford is headed to Central Michigan. Norman is going to MSU to throw on the track team. If he ever has a change of heart, there’s NFL potential.
Daniel Green 6-0 290 Sr DL Grand Rapids West Catholic
Green was a one-man show on West Catholic’s line in their loss to Grand Rapids South Christian. He’s a force at defensive tackle who collapsed double-teams and still made the stop, and if going one-on-one was simply too quick and able to cleanly reach the backfield. Against most high school quarterbacks Green, who moonlights at guard, would’ve piled up some sacks, but Sailors sophomore Jon Wassink is no average QB with his quick release and escapability.
Nic Lamica 6-4 210 Sr LB Forest Hills Central
He’s so big and fluid with 4.7 speed, and plays with a motor, so Lamica is a play-maker on both sides of the ball. Against East Kentwood he scored two TDS, one as a tight end and one returning an interception (one of his two picks).
Class of 2013
Kyle Steigenga 6-4 175 Jr WR Holland Christian
Pure athlete who isn’t quite as fast as Drake Harris, but this fellow all-state basketball player has the body, ups and play-making ability in the air, similar. While he’s basically Maroon senior QB Ross Schreuer’s only legit weapon, Steigenga has already had two outstanding games. In the season opener he made nine catches for 152 yards and four TDs against Zeeland West, then last week against Hudsonville Unity caught four balls for 122 yards and two TDs.
Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 Jr ATH Cadillac
We had Brooks ranked Lake Michigan’s No. 7 2014 prospect in the preseason. That proved prescient, but even then may have been short-changing him considering what he did against Petoskey. The Vikings’ aforementioned leviathan line opened up the holes, then Brooks broke tackles to the pace of 26 carries for 294 yards and six TDs. It might’ve been worse if he hadn’t cramped up. All that running. It’s not all legs, though. Aside from the team work, Brooks spent 20 hours last week at home watching video to get ready for their Petoskey showdown. As his rep continues to grow, the GLIAC likes him as a QB, while bigger schools are looking at him as a DB. He’s very similar to Jamie Gasparella, South Lyon’s quarterback over a decade ago who became an All-American cornerback at Brown, only bigger.
Lineman in A2: Tommy Doles and Kenneth Finley
Doles, a 6-5, 240 junior from Grand Rapids Christian, and Finley, a 6-4, 255 junior from Muskegon. Both were guests at Michigan Stadium on Saturday. Ironically, these two play a bit like the Air Force linemen that nearly upset the Wolverines — smaller, but athletic, mobile hitters. Finley will be moving up with a bullet next week in our 2014 rankings. He’s a ball-hawk with a knack for getting to the quarterback. Friday in Muskegon’s win at Rockford, Finley led the Big Reds with eight tackles, including three behind the line, as they limited the Rams to 21 rushing yards. He’s athletic with good size so even though he’s a high school defensive end, he could transition to become a great outside liebacker at the next level. Stylistically, Finley reminds you of Clay Matthews, and he’ll likely end up Lake Michigan’s top defensive prospect in 2014.
Two of Lake Michigan’s top young QBs, South Christian’s Jon Wassink and West Catholic’s Travis Russell, squared off Friday. With more talent around him, and no shortage of it himself in that arm, those legs, Wassink and South Christian came out with the better end on West Catholic’s field, 33-7. It was windy and rainy, far from ideal passing conditions. The wind seemed to affect Wassink’s ball more than the tighter rotation coming off of Russell. I’d like to see Wassink’s arm again in a more neutral environment. But what really makes this kid special right now is his poise, smarts and mobility. He can stay in the pocket and get the throw off just before taking a hit, or scramble and make throws on the move. Wassink, 6-2, 175, competed 12-of-23 throws against West Catholic for 148 yards and three TDs. For his part, Russell threw for 64 yards and ran for 47. He’s smaller than Wassink, so was most effective throwing when he was able to roll out and see the field.
Playoff appearances were the norm during Dave Hills first tenure on Boyne City’s sidelines. Here we go again, in his first season back the Ramblers are halfway there, 3-0. And they won’t have to worry about the skill positions for awhile. Starting QB Corey Redman, who has committed to Central Michigan for basketball, is a sophomore, while emerging running back Malik Smith is just a freshman. In Boyne’s fortunate win Friday against Kalkaska, Smith turned in his second 100-yard rushing game of the young season, toting it 24 times for 108 yards and two TDs.
*Two quarterbacks ran for six touchdowns on Friday. Only eight players in Michigan history have scored more in a single game. Comstock Park senior Jake Brown did it while running 22 times for 171 yards in a 41-19 win at Westland John Glenn. Up in Petoskey, Cadillac junior Jalen Brooks ran 27 times for 294 yards and the six TDS (a Big North Conference record) — and left the game midway through the third quarter with cramps. Cadillac improved to 3-0, 44-14.
*In Kalamazoo Hackett’s 42-14 defeat of Delton-Kellogg, Geovante Watson ran 15 times for 193 yards and four TDs.
*Brandon Lawrence ran for 200 yards and four TDs and Grand Rapids Northview trounced Ottawa Hills 42-0.
*Both Traverse City St. Francis touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, on fourth down, from junior Byron Bullough, a Michigan State commitment. The Gladiators beat Elk Rapids 12-7.
*Another future Spartan, Grand Rapids Christian junior Drake Harris, caught four passes for 144 yards and two TDs as the Eagles blanked previously unbeaten Kenowa Hills 43-0.
*Kalkaska took a 21-19 lead at Boyne City with under a minute to play in the game. Then Maceo Vroman returned the kickoff 95 yards for the win. Boyne is 3-0.
*Forest Hills Central senior linebacker Nick Lamica had two interceptions against East Kentwood. He returned one for a TD and also caught a TD pass as the Rangers won 45-14.
*Ty Jensen rushed for 124 yards and three TDs for Grayling, a 27-13 winner over Charlevoix.
*Kingsley’s 74 points (to Mesick’s none) were the most ever scored by the Stags.
*Watervliet piled up 505 yards of total offense, improving to 3-0 by topping Saugatuck 43-13.
*Reed City’s defense recovered five Holton fumbles in their 60-21 victory.
It’s September, and they’re entering the thick of it in West Michigan, making it too hard to pick just one game of the week. Here are some terrific options.
Muskegon @ Rockford
This is no longer an O-K Red game, as Muskegon was moved out of the league. But it remains one of the Lake Michigan area’s top rivalries, albeit one that typically favors the Rams, because these are programs are always competitive, have strong fan bases, and compete at the state level. Rockford QB Kyle Short could be back just in time for Rockford, because as Muskegon coach Shane Fairfield told us last week, the Big Reds may be back to playing Tony Annese era football. Muskegon is 2-0 and ranked No. 1 in Division 2, Rockford is 1-1 and the Lake’s No. 1 in Division 1.
Grand Rapids Christian @ Kenowa Hills
This could be a fun game because both teams have the athletes that can make plays in space. Kenowa is hoping to avoid a repeat of last season’s playoff opener, when the Eagles advanced 48-21. Not helping the Knights’ cause, their top two-way lineman, junior Zach Evans, may miss the game with a concussion. It’s too bad, as he might have matched up with GRC junior lineman Tommy Doles, two Big Ten prospects going at it. Kenowa is 2-0 and No. 4 in Division 2, GR Christian is 1-1 and No. 2 in Division 3.
Montague @ Muskegon Oakridge
Oakridge won this one last year by a point — which ultimately denied Montague a three-way tie atop the West Michigan Confernce along with Oakridge and Shelby. Oakridge becomes a heavy favorite if Montague QB Brandon Moore and running back Brandon Stine can’t go after being hurt against Hart. Montague is 2-0 and No. 1 in Division 6, while Oakridge is 2-0 and No. 2 in Division 5.
Dowagiac @ Plainwell
This is the Wolverine Conference opener for both teams. Both teams are 2-0, Dowagiac ranked No. 4 in Division 5 and Plainwell No. 5 in Division 4. Plainwell has yet to beat the Chieftans, and if this one gets close you have to favor Dowagiac thanks to senior Brett Scanlon. He could be a future Big Ten kicker, and last season against Plainwell nailed a 55-yarder.
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.
We get some ace e-mails here, so thanks for the quality readership. This came Wednesday, good stuff, thanks! …
Zeeland West’s Marcus Lambert is certainly a player to watch with those eye popping stats as a junior. However, Zeeland West coach John Shilleto is the diversionary Wing T mastermind behind such stats. Shilleto creates the opportunity, and backs like Lambert take advantage by running through large holes and into wide open space. Shilleto has done it for years with all kinds of running backs. Wouldn’t be surprising to see ZW win the rest of their games after two really tough losses against good teams. Look for Shilleto to find ways to get the ball to Jordan VanDort more often as the season goes on. He’s never had a tight end quite like VanDort, and he’ll find ways to maximize VanDort’s size and talent even if he needs to detour from his Winged T orthodoxy.
Nice to see Hamilton’s Coach Chris Myers off to a good start after a few tough years. If his Hawkeyes can beat Unity Christian or Byron Center, then they have an excellent chance at returning to the play-offs. It may be a bit much for them to beat Hastings or Zeeland West, but their record will be aided by not needing to play Zeeland East this year and playing a rebuilding Holland team without Corey Willis instead. Too bad that Willis is injured and can’t play his senior year of football, but, hopefully, we will hear more from him when he is playing at CMU.
Holland Christian’s Kyle Steigenga looks like he has the physical characteristics to be a great receiver in college. He is tall. He can jump. He can catch. If he decides to focus on football rather than basketball, then he may be a D1 wide receiver or tight end. However, he may face double teams all year as the Maroons don’t have a lot of other weapons at their disposal in their quest to return to the Cousins / Westendorp glory days.
As good as Lowell is, it is understandable why some picked them to be third in the very tough OK White. With Lowell, EGR, G.R. Christian, and FHC make the White a shootout. Will be interesting, and the winner should be a favorite to be state champs. A few big plays by Christian’s Drake Harris may prove to be the difference in the White, but look for well quarterbacked FHC as a darkhorse.
With games against Rockford, Lowell, Kenowa Hills, and Zeeland East, the Muskegon Big Reds will have a huge impact on GR area teams. Adding athletes from Muskegon Heights to an already talented roster makes Muskegon the most talented team in West Michigan. Muskegon has a very difficult schedule with tough remaining games against Rockford, Lowell, Kenowa Hills, and Zeeland East, but the Big Reds also have ample size, speed, and talent to meet the challenge. Others with really tough schedules this year include Forest Hills Central with games against both Zeeland schools + EGR + Lowell + Grand Rapids Christian and Zeeland East with games against Zeeland West + Hudsonville + Forest Hills Central + Kenowa Hills + Muskegon. Of course, other OK White schools also have tough schedules just by playing in the White this year. Seems like FHC and ZE, both of which switched conferences this year, were dealt a tough hand schedule wise. Making FHC play both Zeeland schools and then the OK White schedule is brutal. FHC and ZE are both good, with lots of talent in the skill positions, but reaching six wins with their schedules will be challenging as they are not physically dominant like a Muskegon or Lowell; they may get beat up physically in the trenches as the season progresses due to their tough schedules against larger schools.
Forest Hills Central Quarterback Justin Chopp is a talent, and has some excellent receivers, but keep an eye on the September 14 FHC vs. Zeeland East game because ZE’s QB Michael Custer is also proving to be a talented passer and poised leader. There are reasons that ZE’s offense is scoring so many points this year, with junior RB Spencer Viening certainly being one, but a smart QB distributing the ball effectively is key to the spread offense that ZE runs. Five passing touchdowns under home town double OT pressure against John Shilleto’s ZW defense is evidence that Custer can play. Zeeland East’s September 21 game against Kenowa Hills will also be an interesting one as Custer goes up against Kenowa’s Cody Ritsema in another battle of excellent quarterbacks. The defining issue of these games may be which offensive line can best protect their QB.
Here’s hoping that Rockford QB Kyle Short will be able to play against Muskegon. Hate to see any kid out with injury in such a big game! Hopefully, both these powerhouses will be at full strength for their traditional clash of titans.
As usual, Peter Stuursma will have EGR improving game to game and peaking around play-off time. Stuursma joins Shilleto as one of the best high schools coaches in the state. Will a college coaching job wait for long?
West Catholic has a hard nosed defense, and that defense may lead them to a state title in their division. They lost their season opener to an Indianapolis power, but their defense may help them run the table going forward.
My guess is that G.R. Catholic Central is the only Grand Rapids area team likely to go undefeated this year because, unlike Rockford, Lowell, Kenowa, or Zeeland East, they don’t have to play a powerful Muskegon team. With their relatively easy schedule, and with Lowell, EGR, GR Christian, and FHC beating up on each other in the White this year, only Catholic Central will go flawless. While Catholic Central may end up undefeated, Muskegon will be the best team in West Michigan, and maybe the entire State of Michigan.
Class of 2013
Antwan Billings 6-3 275 Sr OL Muskegon
Muskegon has college talent at every position, and even amidst all that Billings stands out. In the Big Reds’ 40-37 win at Sylvania, OH Southview, they had three 100-yard rushers running behind a mammoth front line anchored by Billings at right tackle. He has been receiving interest from Division I schools, but has yet to win them completely over. With offers on the table from several Division II schools, Billings will improve his stock if he continues to perform at the level he’s demonstrated over the past two weeks. His upside includes good feet and ideal size to play the guard position at the next level.
Andrew Trautman 6-2 215 Sr LB Elk Rapids
He’s a three-year starting QB, too — including with the 2010 Lake Michigan Conference title team — but Trautman’s best college position is likely middle linebacker. He has the right mix of size and speed — 4.6s in the 40, 4.3 in the pro shuttle. It looks like Trautman could be a key part of another playoff team. They’re 1-1, with a close loss to undefeated Mancelona then a 35-0 shellacking of Kingsley. There’s another big game this Friday at vanquished Lake Michigan foe Traverse City St. Francis. Back in their LMC days, before the Glads got the boot, Elk Rapids actually beat them in that 2010 season. St. Francis had gone 55 league games since last dropping one in the Lake Michigan Conference, to Boyne City.
Class of 2014
Marcus Lambert 5-11 175 Jr RB Zeeland West
Sure, Lambert has it made in John Shillito’s offense, hidden by two tight ends and with the fullback trap the go-to play. But he’s still gotta hit the hole, still gotta be fast enough to take it to the next level. That hasn’t been a problem. After his 300-yard, 5 TD behemoth effort against Zeeland East, Lambert is the Lake Michigan area’s top rusher with 467 yards and nine TDs. In two games.
After a 9-0 2011 regular season and best-ever 10-1 overall mark, its fearless showing at Cincinnati Moeller, and 2012 state championship aspirations in Division 3, Grand Rapids Christian’s future is now. And with talent spread throughout all four classes, this program isn’t just a Drake Harris moment. Under Don Fellows, GR Christian runs a no-huddle, spread offense that serves as a great showcase for prospects as it’s easy to see their fit into modern college ball. But the athletes aren’t limited to the offensvie side of the ball. Two sophomore starters on D showed flashes against Moeller. 6-2, 215 soph Qi’ante Ewing makes plays on instinct right now. When the underclassman becomes and upperclassman with inside-out knowledge of the system, he’ll be consistently dangerous. Playing next to senior MLB Matthew Hall can only help his learning curve. As a 6-0, 215 soph, Jalen Jarnegen is undersized playing with his hand down in the Eagles’ 3-4, but more than makes up for it with his motor, which enabled him to get up and down the line and into Moeller’s backfield.
More Grand Rapids Christian? Told you they were talented. Fellows calls freshman Luke Thompson a “Drake Harris type football player.” He’ll be making his varsity debut starting at cornerback Friday against 2-0 Kenowa Hills. The Knights have one of the top senior receivers in the Lake Michigan area, Dylan Smith.