Monthly Archives: August, 2013

Small School Top 20 overall and Division 5-8 rankings

1. Grand Rapids West Catholic  10-4
West Catholic returns some studs from a team that had to win out to make the playoffs, then made the Division 5 state final. Projected to D6 for 2013, meaning season No. 50 may end at the hands of Ithaca. But it should be a fun ride until then, as the defending O-K Bronze champion opens with three top 20 non-league opponents — Muskegon Oakridge, Comstock Park and Grand Rapids South Christian. Junior QB Travis Russell threw for 2,600 yards and 22 TDs as a junior. He returns a favorite weapon in senior running back Andy Corey, his center in Joe Corey and a new dangerous target in senior tight end Mitch Stanitzek. Stanitzek is also a standout rush end who has committed to Eastern Michigan. Nice in for EMU to perhaps get on former West Catholic star lineman Daniel Green, now at Iowa Western. The Falcons have a scholarship athlete at the other end, junior Bryce Witham, and a third-year starter at linebacker Max Boorsma.

2. Traverse City St. Francis  4-5
A mighty high ranking for a team that didn’t even make the playoffs, but the good money is that 2012 was an anomaly for one of the Lake Area’s most dominant programs. How dominant? When their run of playoff appearances ended it was the state’s longest. Veteran, healthy and big, the Gladiators could be adding another date to their super-sweet gloves. How big? 6-3, 285 senior Jake Khoury at fullback and 6-2, 195 senior Byron Bullough at halfback will put shadows on most of the

A reminder of St. Francis' tradition, every time they suit up.

A reminder of Traverse City St. Francis’ tradition, every time the Gladiators suit up.

defensive linemen they’d see in the D7 playoffs. So is their tight end, 6-4, 220 junior Matt Seybert. Among those hurt in 2012 was QB Parker Guss, who is back for his senior year. The Glads have all-state caliber defenders down with Khoury, at linebacker in senior Adam Armour and backfield with Bullough. While there are linemen for days with Khoury and fellow seniors Eric Coggon, Jack Brodeur and Austin Lints. It remains to see if there’s the speed needed to compete at the state level.

3. Muskegon Oakridge  10-1
Oakridge swept one of the state’s top small school leagues, the West Michigan Conference, en route to a perfect 2012 regular season. Any change of 9-0 again will be severely tested as soon as Friday, when No. 3 Oakridge goes to No. 1 West Catholic.  5-10, 190 senior Dan Shoop is poised for an all-state season. He and senior Dom Greenawalt give Oakridge two athletic running/DB options. Senior QB Austin Wright and the majority of the offensive line are back.

4. Constantine  11-3
The Falcons reached the D6 state final in 2012, where they gave Ithaca their closest win of the playoffs. Constantine loses a lot at the skill positions, but it’s all about executing the wing-T.  The Zeeland West of the KVA, they rolled up over 5,000 yards last season. The top runner back is junior Justin Hall. There’s a new QB, senior Nic West.

5. Grayling  9-1
Last year’s D5 playoff undressing by Kingsford has to still sting. And motivate. Grayling has a lot of weapons back from what was an otherwise explosive offensive unit It all starts with QB Jake Swander, who puts up big numbers while sharing the wealth and presenting a big downfield threat every play. The most likely recipients are senior receiver Tyler McClanahan and junior receiver Scout Tobin. The biggest school in the Lake Michigan Conference, the VIkings could again come through that league clean. The toughest game on the schedule is against a former LMC opponent, at No. 2 TCSF September 21.

6. Montague  8-2
The Wildcats are hoping green but healthy and available works better than veteran, talented but injured like 2012. Jacob Buchberger actually started last year’s playoff game as a freshman quarterback. Before that, his receiving numbers actually compared favorably to Brandon Moore, the do-it-all prospect, now at Ferris, who spent much of last season at QB himself.

7. Reed City  10-1
There are 10 starters back (most going both ways), including one of the Lake Area’s top 5 senior QBs, Chad Samuels. He’s got everything for the next level accept for being right on the verge at 6-0, 170. Samuels has a big, consistent target in senior receiver Kyle Wright and he’ll take snaps behind three returning starters on the line. That doesn’t include the biggest lineman, junior TJ Patterson.

8. Shelby  10-3
The third WMC team to crack the top 10. The Purple Tigers made it to toe Division 6 semifinals last season, to feel the wrath of small-school juggernaut Ithaca. They will be tough on the interior with linemen Kevin Brink, a junior, and senior Graham Harin.

9. Lake City  10-2
Drew Marion is the AJ Westendorp of the Highland Conference. Not Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t have that kind of polish. But the seniorr QB is the kind of all-around athlete and playmaker that Westendorp was on Holland Christian’s state championship team, before finding obscurity under another shade of Maroon in Mt. Pleasant. Marion just keeps coming at you out of that no-huddle.

10. Hopkins  9-1
NorthPointe has much more talent returning and is the vogue pick in the O-K Silver. But until proven otherwise, cue Ronnie James Dio, the 3x defending champ Vikings remain the Man on the Silver Mountain.  Hopkins plays unapologetic, straight-on, punch it, grind it football. They should commission Killdozer to do the soundtrack for their season video. The Vikings want to control the ball and keep you off the field and the board, and did that giving up just 10 points a game last season. Have to go on faith in the program with this pick.

11. Beal City  13-1
12. Muskegon Catholic Central  9-4
13. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian  6-4
14. Niles Brandywine  7-3
15. Boyne City  8-2
16. Newaygo  9-3
17. Grant  6-4
18. Grandville Calvin Christian  7-3
19. Maple City Glen Lake  9-2
20. Gobles  8-3

Division 5
1. Muskegon Oakridge
2. Grayling
3. Reed City
4. Hopkins
5. Newaygo
6. Grant
7. Buchanan
8. Berrien Springs
9. Kingsley
10. Ludington

Division 6
1. Grand Rapids West Catholic
2. Constantine
3. Montague
4. Shelby
5. Niles Brandywine
6. Boyne City
7, Grandville Calvin Christian
8. Maple City Glen Lake
9. Watervliet
10. Kalkaska

Division 7
1. Traverse City St. Francis
2. Lake City
3. Schoolcraft
4. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
5. Gobles
6. Lawton
7. Decatur
8. Hartford
9. Bridgman
10, Mancelona

Division 8
1. Beal City
2. Muskegon Catholic Central
3. Saugatuck
4. Central Lake
5. Bellaire (8-man)
6. Johannesburg-Lewiston
7. Kalamazoo Christian
8. New Buffalo
9. Manistee Catholic Central
10. Frankfort

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Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 1

Class of 2014
Malik King  6-4  280  Sr  OL  Muskegon  Ball State
The only starter back on the offensive line for Division 2 state runner-up Big Reds, it was easy to pick out the future Ball Stater. Looks to have pulled off that trick you hope for — looks bigger, but faster. In a scrimmage, man-handled West Ottawa’s front and got into the next level to swallow the linebackers.

Jared McNitt  6-0  200  Sr  LB  West Ottawa
At WO’s scrimmage, McNitt shared taking snaps with younger brother Caleb. He’s also a standout linebacker, his college destination. Rangy and athletic, Jared is the ideal complement to the Panthers’ leading tackler, junior Mason Dekker the wider, run-plugging middle linebacker. He’s smooth and alert in pursuit, with quick break to be a return threat in pass coverage. Caleb McNitt is a junior and last year’s JV quarterback, is taller and also plays tight end.

Nick Padla  6-5  270  Sr  OL  Berrien Springs
No one would have offered this bet, that going into the first week of the season two of the state’s top three available seniors were from Berrien Springs. Both have BCS offers, Padla and 6-6, 230 Jhonathan Williams. Padla may be playing well enough to get a consensus from the MSU staff for an offer. His versatility helps with depth. What you love about Padla, there’s nothing pretty about his game. He’s not a prima donna athlete being featured at tackle. He’s a pulling guard. Big and athletic enough to be recruited as a tackle. Padla goes both ways and moves well pursuing and finishing as a tackler.

Forest Hills Central's Zach Walker last season against Grand Rapids Christian.

Forest Hills Central’s Zach Walker last season against Grand Rapids Christian. He’s one of the top senior backs in the Lake Michigan Area.

Zach Walker  6-1  197  Sr  ATH  Forest Hills Central
FHC may not have the overall firepower to beat the upper-half of the O-K White. That’s no reflection on Walker’s talent. He impressed as a receiver at Michigan’s camp, but is being recruited primarily as a running back. Single back, 4.5 threat out of coach Tim Rogers’ potent spread offense. Can switch angles with minimal waste of moment and keeps his feet moving. Walker had 1,080 all-purpose yards, 14 TDs and three interceptions his junior year. Defensive playmaker who thrives in zone coverage. Not a big hitter but doesn’t get beat or broken either. Walker has an offer from Buffalo, which has already taken a commitment from another Lake Area player, TCSF lineman Jake Khoury.

Class of 2015
Blake Bockheim  6-4  220  Jr  TE  Grand Rapids Northview
Do-it-all returning starter at tight end. The type of talent you might expect to find at Rockford not Northview. Won’t maul anyone, but as a blocker can consistently beat his man’s pad level and gets big enough pieces to help the running game. Looks natural as a receiver. Adjusts well to ball, can lay out or catch it in stride and take it to the house. Still looks thin, if he can still move like that at 240 is Big Ten caliber.

Tommy Brown  6-2  265  Jr  DL  Grand Rapids Northview
Looks all the part of a defensive tackle, but with Northview low on numbers he’s one of a number of guys going both ways. Quickly improving at offensive right tackle. Low build makes him ideal interior line prospect. Commands attention inside and another standout Northview junior linebacker Zach Skrobot can clean  up.

Nathan Daily  6-1  260  Jr  OL  West Ottawa
Daily’s part of a newly built WO offensive line. He starts at left tackle. Can get caught lunging. Raw but wide shoulders, base to get stronger and end up as a guard in college.

Big School Top 20 overall & Division 1-4 rankings

1. Grand Rapids Christian  13-1
2012 was clearly the greatest season in school history. The Division 3 state champions were undefeated against in-state teams, including a run of the table in the O-K White. There is a budding prep football powerhouse in our midst, one with the infrastructure and talent base to flourish even after USA Today All-American Drake Harris matriculates to Michigan. One with multiple BCS recruits, with offensive tackle Tommy Doles pledged to Northwestern. And one with shiny new toys, like QB Tyler Sigler, late of Jenison, and running back Dominic Paiz, formerly of Grand Rapids Catholic Central.

This status will be tested early. Harris will miss at least the first month of the season with a hamstring injury. While that shouldn’t slow postseason expectations, it sure doesn’t help against the Eagles’ first two opponents, a defending state champion South Christian and runner-up Muskegon. Let’s call it an opportunity for Sigler and company, like senior receiver Dwayne Barfield and senior running backs Paiz and Sam Kuiper.

But what will really give Christian a shot Harris or no, is the D. Last season it was largely “bend don’t break,” no worries they simply out-scored everyone. This time around, the defense should be legit, returning starters joining an influx of young talent. No one has committed on this side of the ball, but there are college prospects on the line — seniors 6-2, 250 Jeremy Stygstra and 6-7, 215 Darohn Scott and junior Juwan Jarengan; linebacker — senior Ethan Badger and juniors Qi’ante Ewing, Jack Bates, Mitch Damstra and Malik McGloughlin; and defensive backfield — Barfield and sophomore Lucas Thompson. Ewing also plays H-back at 6-2, 215, helping the Eagles maintain a diverse offense with tight end Zach Crouch moving on to CMU.

2. Zeeland West  7-4
Had West not been bumped up to Division 3, where they lost a 100+ point semifinal to Grand Rapids Christian, it’s likely that the Dux and not South Christian would be your defending D4 state champion.  And it would’ve been back-to-back. Can’t change history here we go again with a John Shilito ground game that can’t really be stopped. Seniors Marcus Lambert, Jordon Lambert and Danny Bauder can all pop 75-yard runs, and 6-5, 290 WMU commit Jordan VanDort will often be unblockable and untackleable. Jordon Lambert was the QB as a junior, now it will be a sophomore Casey Brinks.  Smith Saenbouttarah played as a sophomore. and could break out as a two-way starter on the line.

The problem last year? West couldn’t stop anyone, either, when it really mattered. With any kind of defensive improvement, this team is a legit state threat.

3. Muskegon  12-1
The Big Reds’ OT loss to Brother Rice in the 2012 D2 state final was about as compelling sport one may enjoy. Muskegon has two all-staters among the eight starters back on defense, senior lineman Kenneth Finley and senior linebacker Will Hunt. It will need that unit to keep them in games while an offense returning just one full-time starter matures. That needs to happen quick against a schedule that proves when you’re in West Michigan, you can play elite every week — Grand Rapids Christian, Lowell, Rockford, Zeeland East, Mona Shores.

The good news for Muskegon, that one offensive starter is 6-4, 280 senior Malik King, a lineman who has committed to Ball State. He was always good, but looked dominant in Muskegon’s scrimmage at West Ottawa, getting to the second tier and burying WO’s linebackers. And put an asterisk next to senior Deshaun Thrower as a new starter at QB. He did it two years for Muskegon Heights, and then heroically off the bench in the final game of 2012 at Ford Field. He can run, but also gives Muskegon a downfield threat they didn’t have last year. John King was a workhorse back in 2012, The Big Reds have various options now, such as seniors John Hall and Javauntae Thomas, and junior Caleb Hall.

4. Lowell  8-3
Classic Noel Dean team. Not big but disciplined, tough and built to win with veterans of last year’s O-K White runner-up. Their only losses 2012 losses were to a state champion, Grand Rapids Christian, and and state runner-up, Muskegon (twice).  Senior Kyler Shurlow took over at QB for the 2012 playoffs, and plays behind returning senior starters on the line Josiah Buys, Alex Kaminski, Zach Kaywood and Matt Ritsma.

The Red Arrows’ defensive leaders are junior lineman Josh Colegrove, already a three-year starter, and DB Jeff Houston, a fourth-year senior.

5. Rockford  10-3
Until proven otherwise by West Ottawa or even Traverse City West in the playoffs, Rockford is on an entire different tier than the Lake Area’s other Division 1 teams. Double-digit wins are a perennial lock for Ralph Munger’s program, which hasn’t lost a league game the last two seasons. It’s in part the Rams’ domination that the Red, not so long ago the state’s top league, might not even be the strongest in the O-K (Jenison, for example, was even worse in the White in 2012, than in the Red in 2011). With an athletic offensive line that is the Rams’ constant and six defensive starters returning, they’ll follow script winning the Red then going on a deep playoff run through and against state powerhouses.

If only life played out like a script. Re-write! Senior QB Chase Hankins broke his collarbone in the first week of practice. So now Rockford has also lost top receiver Austin McKellar, as the junior now has to play quarterback. That puts even more of an onus on a new offensive line to mesh against an early schedule including an opener at Utica Eisenhower then week 3 at Muskegon. On that line are 6-3, 275 Michael Harrington, 6-4, 285 senior Ethan Lussky, 6-4, 245 senior Ryan McAnelly, 6-1, 260 junior Vance Powell and 6-0, 220 junior Derek Scholl. On the other side, no one has a better pair of linebackers than seniors Randy Garvin and Brent Showers.

6. Grand Rapids South Christian  11-3
What a way to end a run of four seasons without a winning one. No sneaking up on anyone, anymore. In an outrageous display of Westside WASP ethos over Oakland County nouveau hype, South Christian ended 2012 with a 40-7 Division 4 state championship throttling of Detroit Country Day. And DCD’s, thus far, four BCS recruits. They did that without then-soph Jon Wassink, the Lake Area’s most talented QB prospect since Montague’s Cody Kater. Even with Wassink, South Christian was far from flawless, but was as a relatively young team that kept getting better after a 6-3 regular season.

Wassink has the luxury of experienced line play in front of him. The Sailors are big and strong on the D line as well, led by senior 6-3, 250 Todd Postma and 6-3, 260 junior Mitchell Quakkelaar. 6-5, 210 junior Sam Heyboer is poised to replace Seth VanEngen as South Christian’s big two-way threat as a receiver and linebacker. To again contend, the Sailors will have to find serviceable speed in new-look defensive and offensive backfield.

7. Muskegon Mona Shores  4-5
Mona returns seven starters on both offense and defense, and expectations are as high as they’ve been in years. Which is kind of a back-handed compliment coming off three straight losing seasons, including a lone O-K Black win. A risky top 10 pick given Mona’s perpetual also-ran status in the rugged regime of Muskegon area football. But certainly not crazy when there’s a potential big-time quarterback.

If you look at the Lake Area’s No. 1 2015 QB, South Christian’s Jon Wassink, he’s like a West Coast prototype. The No. 2 QB, Mona junior Tyree Jackson, plays more of a Bruce Arians, down-field lower percentage higher reward game. He’s got two terrific targets for the fades in WMU commitment Asantay Brown and 6-3 210 senior Logan Smith, two of the five skill starters returning. The Sailors return seven opposite the ball, including all four defensive backs.

8. Allendale  8-2
Allendale was soph- and junior-dominated in 2012, so big expectations ensue. The Falcons are outstanding defensively, and could get past Comstock Park in both the O-K Blue and playoffs. Allendale’s three leading tacklers return,  the best of that group Dayton Wierenga, a 6-3, 210 senior rush end who combines speed and technique. He and senior linebacker Colin Beebe both made six sackes as juniors. Allendale returns all the main skill guys on offense. QB Haiden Majewski, WR Nate Couturier and RB Ethan Hovingh. Couturier is a do-it-all talent who could replace Ryheem Stokes as the guaranteed highlight guy in Division 4.

9. Zeeland East  9-1
Tough to find a two-team town as successful as Zeeland. While East hasn’t had the postseason success of West, the past three years the Chix went 29-4 including an unbeaten 2012 regular season. That group could match points with anyone … well, outside of the first-round playoff loss to West. This team will have to win defensively and on the legs of all-state back Spencer Viening as they look for a successor QB to the talented Michael Custer.  Viening anchors a linebacking corps with two other seniors, Austin Bellis and Travis Jacobs, that is the strength of that D. Some may have him tracking like Brad Horling, given the alma mater. But the best case scenario for Viening could be the Line Bros. of Oxford and SMU (and now the Vikings for Zach Line). East beat Muskegon in Week 9 to win the O-K Black and go 9-0. On a field full of future college players, no one stood out more than Viening with his aggressive running style and clutch playmaking on both sides of the line. East’s schedule certainly does them no favors. Two other O-K Black teams, Muskegon and Mona Shores, are ranked even higher, and they play Z-West in week 2.

10. Comstock Park  11-2
CP has played in the last two D4 state semifinals. It was a three-year dream run led by the 2012 All-Lake QB Jake Brown (Michigan Tech). There’s a lot back though, and the Panthers will battle young but talented and tested Allendale for first in the O-K Blue and then likely again in the playoffs.

There will be a sophomore at QB, Pat Naughton. He’d be the beneficiary of a veteran line, senior running back Jake Bush and consistent red zone target Drake Baar, a 6-7 205 senior who is the No. 1 GLIAC recruit this year — in basketball.  He’ll play that sport at Grand Valley.  Bush is a  dual threat, three-down back. He was the favorite target of  Jake Brown, so fantasy fans expect some falloff, especially in a PPR league. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better pair of tight ends than Baar and 6-3 215 senior Ryan Gruszka. Gruszka will likely be a D end at the next level, and he’s now the vet stalwart up front for CP with Big Blake Mazur matriculating to Wayne State. How about the Warriors’ parlaying NCAA success to the recruiting realm? They now consistently bring in a couple legit West Michigan prospects every year. In 2013 it was Mazur and lanky WO QB Trevor VanTubbergen.

11. Grand Rapids Catholic Central  10-1
A year ago if you said an O-K Gold team would win the Division 4 state championship, the assumption would be Catholic Central. But after dominating the league in coach Trip Gallery’s debut campaign, the Cougars didn’t get nearly that far beat by Comstock Park in the second round. That helped open the door for the Gold team that did go gold, South Christian.

CC had one of the Lake Area’s dominant defenses last season, but return only two starters neither of whom are Ryheem Stokes, the best senior in Grand Rapids in 2012. Eight are back on offense though, including the entire line and  dangerous pass-catch threats in senior QB Joe Nixon with senior Austin Gordon and  junior Nick Marosi.

12. Grand Haven  3-6
Risky ranking, with that second number. The Bucs’ once potent passing game was clipped in 2012, and they could rarely muster a 20-point effort. The O-K Red is no place to find yourself. By the time you do, well there’s a miss on the playoffs for the first time in a “high school generation,” four years. Especially when the defense isn’t tough enough to keep you in games. We’re banking that changes this year and the Bucs are back in the playoffs, with an improved D and focus on the running game. Senior Isaak Newhouse will be this year’s Ryan Verhelst in the O-K Red, a smooth athlete whether catching the ball from his or the opposing quarterback. The Bucs have some speedy playmakers, between Newhouse and senior linebacker Dakota Juarez. 6-4, 275 junior Chase VanHoef is among the Lake Area’s top offensive line recruits for 2015.

13. West Ottawa  8-3
WO is looking for its fourth-straight playoff appearance, and third under third-year coach Rory Zegunis. The last three postseasons have ended at the hands of Rockford. The Rams have won 13 straight from West Ottawa and could add insult to injury as No. 14 would be homecoming North of the Bridge.

Don’t expect the Panthers’ offense to be as potent as last year, as the line is new while replacing Trevor VanTubbergen at QB and receivers Ato Condole and Ryan Verhelst, all three now on GLIAC rosters. Easing the transition for the new QB — either senior Jared McNitt or his junior brother Caleb McNitt — is an experienced run game of juniors James Lacy and Christian Rodino. Rodino is quick enough to turn the corner; Lacy pure speed who the Panthers hope can defy his size by playing fullback or third-down pass-blocker. Holding it down defensively will be junior middle linebacker Mason Dekker, while senior Alex Zimmerman reminds of Verhelst at times, an all-around safety with good cover skills and steady receiver.

14. Traverse City Central  9-2
Seven seasons after Tom Passinault took over an 0-9 TC Central program, the Trojans won the Big North. For a repeat their deep junior class will have to produce, and a replacement for all-league QB TJ Shepperly found. While TC West gets the offensive lineman buzz, TC Central had a good one last year in Tyler Gildersleeve, and now another college prospect in 6-2, 265 junior guard Seth Tice, who played as a sophomore. Their pair of defensive ends, 6-3, 210 junior Rhys Adle and 6-3, 225 senior Mitchell Wynkoop, may be as talented as any in the Lake Area.  Shepperly isn’t the only TJ Central will miss, also running back TC Schwannecke. Junior Ethan Campbell looked good running the ball when given the opportunity last year.

15. East Grand Rapids  4-5
No playoffs? East Grand Rapids? Yeah, that happened. For the first time in a dozen years, since the first season of Peter Stuursma’s hall of fame coaching tenure. That chased a 9-4 2011 campaign which was a reality check after 33 straight wins and consecutive state titles. If Grand Rapids Christian is the new EGR, what does that leave the Pioneers? Possibly again fighting for a playoff spot. The O-K White is real serious, with three teams in our Big School Top 20, as are East’s first three non-league opponents — Grand Rapids Catholic Central, East Kentwood and West Ottawa.

Preseason All-Lake linebacker Carter Masek is the next big recruit out of East. The Pioneers return seniors Conor Conaboy, James Eerdmans and Troy Gotch on the offensive line. They’ll pave the way for an open call at running back, a position from this program that has churned out college recruit after college recruit from East Grand Rapids, most recently Jahaan Brown to Ferris State. Mikey Roth doesn’t have the size of some of the other QBs in the Lake Area’s bumper crop of junior signal callers, but is talented and was a part-time starter as a soph.

16. Stevensville Lakeshore  11-1
Under coach Denny Dock, Lakeshore is just a machine out of the SMAC West. After going 11-1 in 2012, they’ll in near certainty complete their 25th straight winning season and 15th straight playoff appearances in 2013. Expect to see more of the explosive running game that helped Lakeshore average 47.5 points over their last four games. That stretch coincided with explosive playoff performances from then-junior running back Zak Drake, with 168 yards and two TDs against Holland Christian and 171 yards and two TDs against Hamilton. He’s the Lancers’ leading returning rusher, receiver and return man, with 1,500 all-purpose yards. Expect goods things from 6-1, 200 senior Jake Achtenberg, a linebacker and running back. He and another 6-1, 200-pounder, junior Daniel Harazin, both ran in the 4.5s at our Stevensville tour stop in July.  6-3, 180 senior Josh Boshu will replace Harold Wiggins as Lakeshore’s top wideout threats. The lone returning defensive starter is linebacker Dustin Clapp.

17. East Kentwood  4-5
EK has so much athletic depth, even in a season in flux like 2012 there was enough talent around to win four games. Now the program is taken over by Ryan Gallogly, the winningest coach by percentage ever at Brebeuf Prep in Indianapolis, 47-20 over six seasons. He may not have needed the horses in private school, small school ball in Indiana, he’s got ’em at EK.  Few offensive lines will look more the part than EK’s, wit bookend tackles Elliot Jordan, a 6-7, 255 senior committed to his new coach’s alma mater WMU, and 6-3, 285 junior John Keenoy who is at least a MAC prospect himself. The Falcons have the making of a strong passing game amongst junior QB Kyle Friberg, senior receiver Colin Calloway and junior Kevin Smith. The defensive is athletic, all starting off on top of the ball with senior lineman Donte Nelson, a 6-1, 285 senior.

18. Caledonia  9-4
Defense-first, blue-collar program that last year battled through to a draw in the rugged O-K White, then gave Muskegon a scare in the Division 2 semifinals. While there may be no two-way domination like Heath Hoogerhyde provided last year, the overall team athleticism is high. If a similar talent is to emerge, it might be 6-0, 190 junior Michael Andrusiak. His brother Isaac was part of the strong class that just graduated. As tough as the O-K White is, Caledonia doesn’t have a killer schedule, with 0-9 Jenison in the league, and 0-9 Holland out of it.

19. Portage Northern  7-3
In the SWAC West it should again come down to the defending league champion, Lakeshore, Mattwan and Portage Northern. Of course the Portage Central-Northern matchups can go either way, as they did in 2012 with Northern dominating in the regular season but losing in the first round of playoffs. The Huskies are strong up the middle. Huge Austin Labus is a two-way lineman who has committed to Bowling Green. At linebacker Tyler Cummings and Preston Simon, who is one of the first names on the board for Lake Area linebacker recruits, 6-3, 2015 with 10 tackles behind the line as a junior. Senior DB Riley Bell piles up the picks.

20. Grand Rapids Northview  7-3
Northview turned some heads with scrimmage performances against Mattawan, Muskegon and West Ottawa. Maybe a repeat playoff appearance is far-fetched in veteran coach Greg Ganfield’s second season? It wouldn’t just be the second-straight, but the second all-time, postseason appearance for the school. The Wildcats have two terrific prospects in the junior class. 6-2, 265 Tommy Brown is a physical interior D lineman who keeps getting sharper on offense.  Blake Bockheim is getting BCS interest because as a 6-4, 220 tight end he moves and catches like a receiver.

Division 1
1. Rockford
2. Grand Haven
3. West Ottawa
4. East Kentwood
5. Traverse City West
6. Grandville
7. Hudsonville

Division 2
1. Muskegon
2. Lowell
3. Muskegon Mona Shores
4. Traverse City Central
5. Caledonia
6. Portage Northern
7. Grand Rapids Northview
8. Mattawan
9. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills
10. Portage Central

Division 3
1. Grand Rapids Christian
2. Zeeland West
3. Zeeland East
4. East Grand Rapids
5. Stevensville Lakeshore
6. Plainwell
7. Fruitport
8. Petoskey
9. Hastings
10. Hamilton

Division 4
1. Grand Rapids South Christian
2. Allendale
3. Comstock Park
4. Grand Rapids Catholic Central
5. Big Rapids
6. Paw Paw
7. Holland Christian
8. Hudsonville Unity Christian
9. West Branch Ogemaw Heights
10. Dowagiac

The Lake teams up with Fox 17 for “The Blitz Spotlight” weekly segment

Ira Childress web

In our effort to keep bringing you the best coverage of high school football recruiting in West and Northern Michigan, The Lake has teamed up with Fox 17 to bring you “The Blitz Spotlight,” a new segment airing every Monday throughout the season on Fox 17 News at 6 and 10. The Blitz Spotlight will feature standout players each week with analysis by The Lake’s own Ira Childress. Check out the video below to see a preview of The Blitz Spotlight and the other exciting features new to Fox 17 Blitz this season. Be sure to tune into the very first episode of The Blitz Spotlight beginning Monday, August 26th! To read the complete release, click here.

Preseason All-Lake: Small School Defense

DL David Walker  6-3  225  Sr  Harbor Springs
He’s one of the elite athletes in the state regardless of class. Up North Walker can manhandle opponents, as a defensive end with 4.6 speed or as a running back who rushed for 1,300 yards as a junior. Walker originally committed to WMU after blowing up on the college camp circuit, but lay down his oar and now will likely end up at Harvard or a BCS school.

DL Mitchell Stanitzek  6-4  215  Sr  Grand Rapids West Catholic
Last year West Catholic dominated the interior line thanks to Daniel Green, who was the Lake’s Small School MVP in 2012. Now the Falcons’ strength up front is a pair of overwhelming ends in Stanitzek and junior Bryce Witham. A terrific athlete and tight end who missed most of 2012 with a back injury, Stanitzek is getting widespread MAC looks with an offer from EMU.

DL Jhonathon Williams 6-6 235 Sr Berrien Springs
In Berrien Springs of all places, not only is there a BCS offensive line recruit Nick Padla, there’s a BCS talent at defensive end in Williams. He blew up at MSU’s one-day camp. In raw measurables this is a guy who may have a better chance of being drafted as making all-state. There can’t be any larger wide receivers. Certainly none have Williams’ pop. He’s a super-soft Toledo commitment after getting an offer from Missouri, and late pushes from MSU and UCLA.

LB Adam Armour  6-0  208  Sr  Traverse City St. Francis
There’s another Glad on the All-Lake D, Byron Bullough, and another, lineman Jake Khoury, who has committed to Buffalo. But it was Armour, not Bullough or Khoury, who was St. Francis’ defensive MVP in 2012. He has 4.6 speed and able to fill the gaps just as ably as drop back into coverage.

LB Byron Bullough  6-2  195  Sr  Traverse City St. Francis  Michigan State
It’s a cute Internet meme in this state to say Bullough is overrated and gets his rep because of his name. If anything he’s underrated, since he was never a compelling recruiting story outside of Spartan nation, since it was a done deal where Byron would end up. Recruiting stories sell subs, that’s the real hype. And anyone still parroting that agenda most not have seen Bullough dominate 7-on-7s at MSU’s one-day camp, picking off passes like so many Traverse City cherries.

LB Brad Fall  6-0  215  Sr  Marion
A class D player delivering hits at that size with 4.6 speed will leave an impression. He was a standout at both our Traverse City camp and Ithaca combine.

LB Kaleb Hauser  6-2  225  Sr  Kalakaska
He’ll be the defensive playmaker for Kalkaska after the graduation of all-state DB Zach Hill. He’s a rangy linebacker with 4.7 speed. He’s also one of the top running backs and kick returners in the Lake Michigan Conference, with 10 TDs as a junior.

DB Trevor Apsey 5-11 185 Sr Maple City Glen Lake
It will be a tougher go all-around for Glen Lake defenders, without Mike O’Brien taking up so much attention up front. But Apsey has the kind of speed to thrive regardless the circumstance. Last season he led the Lakers in rushing, rushing TDs, special teams TDs and pass breakups.

DB Drew Marion 6-2 195 Sr Lake City
As athletic as anyone on this list, having scored atop the charts at both our Grand Rapids and Big Rapids combines. Assertive playmaker in defensive backfield, taking advantage of size and instincts to freelance while teammate Kevin Kunkel is the lockdown cover guy. Dominant high school QB with a junior line of 1,700 yards and 22 TDs passing, 900 yards and 21 TDs running.

DB Alex Lewandowski  5-10  180  Sr  Muskegon Catholic Central
Even on a team with a lot of speed for Division 8, Lewandoski stands out with his playmaking ability. After starting at linebacker as a sophomore, as a junior he evolved into the star MCC needed back there after the graduation of Jacob Budde. He had 70 tackles and ran for over 800 yards in 2012.

DB Nick Swore  6-2  192  Sr  Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
Such a tough kid he still started on defense when a shoulder injury kept him out of some games at QB as a junior. Coach’s son who plays with a high IQ reading the offense. Standout QB, a terrific runner.

Pre-Season All-Lake Team: Small School Offense

QB Jake Swander 5-11 180 Sr Grayling
Gunslinger from Grayling, a team poised to repeat in the Lake Michigan Conference. Have to like the arm and pocket presence after a varsity debut season of 2,900 yards and 22 TDs.

RB Doug Freeman 5-11 200 Sr Buchanan
Hard to bring down running a 4.6 at 200 lbs, he rushed for 1,300 yards and 25 TDs as a junior. Also an impact big playmaker on special teams and defense.

RB Zach Stephan 5-10 200 Sr McBain
Legit size/speed combo as a state qualifier in the 100 and 200 meters. As a junior rushed for 791 yards and 13 TDs with 12 catches for 241 yards and three TDs.

RB Andy Corey 5-8 165 Sr Grand Rapids West Catholic
West Catholic could make it back to the Division 5 state final once the line play clicks. Corey — the only Falcon to score a TD in the 2012 championship game loss to Portland — is a dangerous run or pass option for maybe the most talented player who didn’t make this list, West Catholic junior QB Travis Russell. Corey ran for 1,500 yards and 11 TDs. As a DB, his seven interceptions were a school single-season record.

OL Nick Padla 6-6 270 Sr Berrien Springs
He’s trending like the next Jack Conklin, MSU’s red-shirt freshman starting tackle out of Plainwell. An MSU offer could manifest itself for Padla too shortly. If not, he has Cincinnati, Illinois and a lot of MAC on the table.

OL Dekurtis Murphy 6-5 320 Jr St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic
Envelops opposing linemen at the small school level. Getting recruiting interest from as high as Michigan State and Cincinnati. One of the Lake Area’s top five offensive linemen for 2015 along with Grand Haven’s Chase VanHoef, East Kentwood’s John Kenoy, Traverse City Central’s Seth Tice and Kalamazoo Central’s Clyde Pryor.

OL Tristan Fleet 6-3 275 Sr Mancelona
Big interior lineman whom colleges like at center. Key trap blocker in a Mancelona double-wing that is looking for a back to replace all-stater Wyatt Derrer.

OL Cory Katterheinrich 6-2 288 Sr Niles Brandywine
He was part of the unit that opened the way for running back Courtlan Gordon’s all-state results in 2012. Katterheinrich was one of the top performers at a talented Stevensville-Lakeshore combine tour stop in July.

OL Lucas Walesky 6-4 270 Sr Grayling
He was an all-conference pick as a junior, where at times he got by overwhelming with his size. With improved quickness and technique, Walesky will be a main part of the effort of Grayling to get past Menominee in the post-season.

TE Dakota Scholten 6-4 220 Jr Grant
A transfer from White Cloud, where he was the team’s leading receiver and second-leading rusher and tackler. A linebacker/running back for the new team, he could be the next David Walker, like the Harbor Springs senior bursting from a football backwater to multiple offers because of a size/speed ratio that can’t be denied.

WR Tyler McClanahan 5-10 175 Sr Grayling
The Vikings love to get up and down, and he’s a threat for a 1,000-yard, 10 TD senior event. McClanahan is All-Lake QB Jake Swander’s favorite target who last year had 60 catches for 852 yards and 6 TDs.

Preseason All-Lake Team: Big School Defense

First Team
DL Kenneth Finley 6-3 270 Sr Muskegon Western Michigan

BCS talent but headed only as far South as Kalamazoo. Strongman in the pits who gets to the QB and on top of loose balls. He may do some moonlighting at tight end.

DL Jacob Howe 6-2 240 Sr Forest Hills Northern
Not out of bounds that he could have a 100-tackle, 10 TD season. And break his own school punting records for fun.

DL Zach Evans 6-2 240 Sr Kenowa Hills
He’s underrated because he doesn’t shine in a combine situation. But put the pads on Evans, and he’s making plays all up and down the line.

DL Brandon Hutson 6-2 240 Sr Big Rapids
Doesn’t just share a barber with Jacob Howe, but plays like him. One of the Lake Area’s top sleepers/fastest rising recruits. The GLIAC will be all over Hutson once they see some senior film of the healthy, trimmer senior version.

LB Will Hunt 5-11 225 Sr Muskegon
He was the leading tackler for state runner-up Muskegon. True to his name. You don’t want to be Hunt-ed. An any-era linebacker who delivers a load.

LB Brent Showers 5-10 225 Sr Rockford
Not many athletes can play three sports at a high level, let alone do it for a Class A behemoth like Rockford. Showers does, football, wrestling, baseball. Wrestling’s all hard, and in the other two Showers goes out of his way to do the dirty work, as an inside linebacker then catcher in the spring. His best college chance is likely behind the plate, there’s still one more big football season left in him after his 120-tackle junior campaign.

LB Carter Masek 6-3 220 Jr East Grand Rapids
Terrific size for the position at his age, and plays with a physical intent. Four-sack soph season. Too talented to leave a legacy other than last year’s EGR playoff absence an anomalous outlier way back in the 10th grade. Already receiving widespread MAC interest, with an offer from WMU.

LB Paul Brown 6-0 210 Sr Grand Rapids Union
Union is often over-matched in the O-K Black. But Brown’s talent shines against the likes of Muskegon and Zeeland East. A one-man gang who gets some gaudy numbers.

DB Danil Young 5-10 168 Jr Grandville
He already has an impressive resume, starting as an underclassman in the O-K Red and impressing at both regional and national camps. But the real good stuff is to come, as Young will be challenging QBs to throw his way for the next two seasons. True cover corner who as of now is more quick than blazing fast.

DB Deshuan Thrower 5-11 200 Sr Muskegon
Muskegon’s suspect defensive backfield became much firmer when Thrower was back healthy from a broken foot for the playoff run. His QB heroics almost salvaged an epic OT D2 championship game from Brother Rice. Tough, risk-taking, team-first athlete who already has D1 offers in basketball.

DB Kyler Shurlow 6-1 195 Sr Lowell
Was moved to QB for last years playoffs. He was already a playmaker in the defensive backfield, with a two INT game in the books. Great athlete who tested well across the board in off-season events.

Second Team
DL Chris Hendricks 6-5 265 Sr Fruitport
DL Todd Postma 6-4 240 Sr Grand Rapids South Christian
DL Jeremy Stygstra 6-2 250 Sr Grand Rapids Christian
DL Juwan Jarnegan 6-0 220 Jr Grand Rapids Christian
LB Qi’ante Ewing 6-2 215 Jr Grand Rapids Christian
LB Randy Garvin 6-1 212 Sr Rockford
LB Jacob Kaczynski 6-4 230 Sr Ludington
DB Riley Bell 6-0 165 Sr Portage Northern
DB Wyatt Batdorff 5-11 180 Sr Forest Hills Northern
DB Isaak Newhouse 6-0 185 Sr Grand Haven
DB Cody Schneider 6-1 180 Sr Muskegon Mona Shores

Preseason All-Lake Team: Big School Offense

First Team
QB Jon Wassink  6-2  180  Jr  Grand Rapids South Christian
Other than Ithaca or Cass Tech, if you want a 2012 state champion with the best chance of repeating in 2013 South Christian is a strong choice. The Sailors dominated Country Day in last year’s Division 4 final 40-7 without Wassink. He’s back from a shoulder injury that ended in the state semifinals a season in which he threw for 2,800 yards and 22 TDs and ran for 800 and nine TDs. Playing with a big, experienced line, expect more numbers, and more wins.

RB Spencer Viening  6-2  220  Sr  Zeeland East
He’s eying a third 1,000-yard rushing season. Viening helped the Chix close out an undefeated regular season in 2012 with big plays on both sides of the ball, the best player on the field in an OT Classic with Muskegon. He ran for 1,300 yards and 20 TDs while sharing the 2012 backfield with another 1,000-yard rusher Josh Blauwkamp.

RB Marcus Lambert  5-11 195 Sr  Zeeland West
The Dux graduated speedy run-catch threat Jon Pung and one of the Lake Area’s most versatile backs Braden Werley. And their rushing game will still dominate and make them a state championship threat with Lambert and Danny Bauder at running back and Jordon Lambert at QB, who is coming back from a knee injury. A holdover from the 2011 state championship team, Marcus Lambert ran for 1,600 yards in 2012.

OL Tommy Doles  6-5  260  Sr  Grand Rapids Christian  Northwestern
Northwestern’s 2014 recruiting class is already being hailed in some circles as the school’s best in the “ranking era.” Doles’ commitment provides for a healthy dose of that optimism. He’ll fit in well there, playing an uptempo offense like defending D3 state champion GR Christian, and the Wildcats favor fluid, athletic linemen like Doles.

OL Connor Hayes  6-4  280  Sr  Traverse City West  Pitt
Coaches coast to coast know to look to TC West for offensive linemen. Hayes is headed to the ACC, while Oregon’s Jake Fisher is a rising star in the Pac 10. Two 2015 West linemen, Thiyo Lukusa and Tommy Roush, will have legit options themselves over the next three seasons (Lukusa already has an offer from MSU). They’d do well to adopt some of Hayes’ nastiness, as he separates himself at workout events with his toughness and chin-first resiliency.

OL Malik King  6-4  270  Sr  Muskegon  Ball State
The lone returning starter from the state’s dominant line in 2012. But if you had one guy to build around, could do much worse than King, who embodies the Big Reds aggressive ground game. And he’s a competitor, on record saying he wants to end his high school career ranked ahead of Connor Hayes as the state’s top guard in 2014.

OL Elliot Jordan  6-6  250  Sr  East Kentwood  Western Michigan
He could really thrive from there now being a solid coaching situation at EK. As he proved on the off-season circuit, Jordan is a sponge to the coaching and has the long, athletic body they’re looking for at tackle. That combination makes him one of the Lake Area’s fastest rising recruit and member of PJ Fleck’s first true recruiting class to WMU. Jordan plays with another top line recruit on the Falcons, versatile junior John Kenoy.

OL Alec Stevens  6-5  265  Sr  West Branch Ogemaw Heights
There was a coaching changeover at Ogemaw but a return playoff trip isn’t out of the question. Because linemen rule the day in the Big North, and Stevens is as talented as any of them. Projects as an athletic guard with natural tools and explosion off the ball.

TE Jordan VanDort  6-6  280  Sr  Zeeland West  Western Michigan
Dating back to when he was a sophomore on Zeeland West’s 2011 D4 state championship team, VanDort has shown the gift for making big plays when needed. Not just as a pass-catcher, but defensively and special teams as well. Projects to the offensive line for WMU, right now just a big, nimble kid who can dominate at the high school level.

WR Drake Harris  6-4  180  Sr  Grand Rapids Christian  Michigan
His 2012 state championship performance was as good as any Michigan prep athlete’s in a quarter century. Encore? With D1 prospect Tyler Sigler answering the questions at quarterback, Harris could continue to obliterate the state record books and the Eagles repeat as Division 3 state champions.

WR Kyle Steigenga  6-5  180  Sr  Holland Christian
Steigenga’s receiving number actually compared well to Harris’, another basketball star turned football player who makes big plays in the air. It remains to be seen if Steigenga can match his 2012 totals of without Ross Schreur chucking it up there.

Second Team
QB Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 Sr Cadillac
RB Jake Bush 5-10 175 Sr Comstock Park
RB Dominic Paiz 5-8 175 Sr Grand Rapids Christian
OL Hunter Lassiter 6-4 255 Sr Portage Central Central Michigan
OL Austin Labus 6-6 300 Sr Portage Northern Bowling Green
OL Troy Gotch 6-2 200 Sr East Grand Rapids
OL Evan Akins 6-6 285 Sr Hudsonville Navy
OL Casey Elzinga 6-2 220 Jr Grand Rapids South Christian
TE Anthony Duran 6-3 220 Sr Petoskey
WR Asantay Brown 6-1 175 Sr Muskegon Mona Shores Western Michigan
WR Nick Marosi 6-2 195 Jr Grand Rapids Catholic Central

“Pre-Season Special” pricing available for a limited time!

Lake Michigan Football Report

The Lake is excited to announce an “early bird” registration special for our 2013 Senior Exposure Camp! For a limited time only, registration will be offered at a reduced rate of $60. The event, to be held in Grand Rapids on December 8th, 2013, will bring together the state’s top seniors and college coaches from Division II, III, and NAIA schools. Players will compete in combine testing, position drills, and one-on-ones before heading to an on-site “meet and greet” with college coaches. Last year’s event was a huge success with players and college coaches coming from all over the state and Midwest. If you want to play football in college, this is one event you don’t want to miss! But remember, our “pre-season special” pricing lasts for a limited time only! Register today… HERE!

Top 10 Storylines to Watch for the 2013 High School Football Season

Grand Rapids Christian Football

All-American WR Drake Harris looks to lead GR Christian to Ford Field and another state crown.

1. Can Grand Rapids Christian repeat as the Division 3 state champions?

After holding one of our “Best of the Best” camps at GR Christian this summer, it was apparent that the 2013 Eagles could be even better than their 2012 Division 3 State Championship team. With a returning roster full of college prospects including All-American 2014 WR Drake Harris and talented transfer 2014 QB Tyler Sigler, the Eagles will have to get used to the role as “the hunted.” But make no mistake, the cupboard is full.

2. Can Ithaca extend their state record 42-game winning streak en route to their 4th straight state championship?

Although technically not in “The Lake” area, some things are too good to ignore. Rabid Yellowjacket fans clamoring for coverage of their Division 6 mid-Michigan power led us to schedule Ithaca as a stop on this summer’s six-city “Best of the Best” tour. We found out, quickly, that the hype was real. College prospects abound in Yellowjacket country. This year’s team will be led by 2014 QB Travis Smith, a Toledo commit, and 2014 WR Logan Hessbrook, 2014 RB Bryan Shaw, and 2014 WR Josh Hafner (a transfer from St. Johns).

3. Is there a “back-to-back” state championship in store for Grand Rapids South Christian?

When 2015 QB Jon Wassink broke his collarbone in the 2012 semifinals, few gave GR South Christian a chance in the Division 4 state championship game vs. Detroit Country Day.  However, the Sailors seized the moment, relied on its depth chart, and rolled to a 40-7 championship win over DCD. Wassink’s stock continues to rise after a strong on the 2013 camp circuit and with strong 2014 and 2015 classes returning, expect head coach Mark Tamminga to be smiling a lot this fall.

4. Who will emerge as The Lake’s top 2014 QB?

The Lake area has no shortage of intriguing QB prospects. Three of them are all within a half-hour of each other. Cadillac’s Jalen Brooks is a dual threat QB capable of passing 1500/rushing 1500 in 2013. Lake City’s Drew Marion put up video game type numbers last season, throwing for 2,300 yards / 27 TDs and running for 1,300 yards and 30 TDs. Reed City’s Chad Samuels had a great showing on the spring and summer camp circuit. He attended every camp we had and kept getting better and better.  GR Christian’s Tyler Sigler performed well at our “Best of the Best” combine, notching a 4.58 40, 34” vertical, and equaling the day’s best pro agility mark of 4.13.  Also watch for Grayling’s Jake Swander and GR NorthPointe Christian’s Nick Swore.

5. Who’s the best team along the lakeshore?

Stevensville-Lakeshore was another stop on our “Best of the Best” tour. They turned out an impressive showing of their own talent, including All-Combine performers 2015 LB Daniel Harazin, 2016 DB Trenton Braman, and 2014 LB Jake Achtenberg. Just inland are Zeeland East and Zeeland West, both playoff teams a year ago and both led by dynamic senior tailbacks this season, East’s Spencer Viening and West’s Marcus Lambert.  Fresh off a title game appearance in 2012, the Muskegon Big Reds are led by two of the state’s top defensive players, 2014 LB William Hunt and 2014 DE Kenneth Finley, a Western Michigan commit, and Ball State commit Malik King at OL. Also watch for Muskegon Oakridge, a playoff team a year ago, to be strong again.

6. Who will emerge as the best team in the north?

A year ago, that title went to Big North champions Traverse City Central. The Trojans should be strong again this year, with 2015 RB Ethan Campbell leading the way on offense and 2014 DE Mitchell Wynkoop on defense. Cross-town rival Traverse City West looks to emerge as the team to beat with an offensive line featuring three Division I prospects – 2016’s Tommy Roush and Thiyo Lukusa and Pitt commit Connor Hayes (2014). Other schools to watch out for will be Boyne City and Traverse City St. Francis. The Ramblers feature 2015 QB Corey Redman (CMU Basketball commit), 2016 FB Malik Smith, and 2016 DB Luke Sage, one of the top underclassmen performers at the “Best of the Best.” The Glads look to rebound from a rare off-year. They’re loaded with talent, led by 2014 LB Byron Bullough (MSU commit), 2014 DL Jake Khoury (Buffalo commit), and 2014 LB Adam Armour (St. Francis’ 2012 Defensive MVP).

7. Who will be the sleeper teams of 2013?

Nile Brandywine is a small school with a lot of talent. They clawed their way to seven wins a year ago, and made their presence known at our “Best of the Best” combine at Stevensville-Lakeshore. Led by 2014 OL Cory Katterheinrich and 2015s QB Andrew Duckett, RB Marty Ward, look for the Bobcats to make a deep playoff run. Up north, Petoskey had a 5-4 season a year ago, but look for them to rebound in 2013. Watch for the Whitmore brothers – senior Shea at LB/FB and sophomore Evan at QB – as well as 2014 TE/WR Anthony Duran to light it up.  Muskegon Mona Shores struggled last year but played really well this summer in 7-on-7 – including winning the Ferris State tournament – with 2014 WR Asantay Brown, a Western Michigan commit, and 2015 QB Tyree Jackson.

8. Which early season match-ups are a must-see?

Grand Rapids Christian @ Grand Rapids South Christian

There’s nothing like stating the obvious here: two state champions collide in what should be an epic season opener on August 30.

Rockford @ Utica Eisenhower

The Rockford Rams travel to traditional eastside power Utica Eisenhower on August 30. The Rams will be a state title contender again this year, led by senior linebacker duo Brent Showers and Randy Garvin.

Muskegon @ Grand Rapids Christian

With both teams in their respective state title games a year ago, this is the match-up that high school football fans have been waiting for. Both programs being among the state’s elite, the field will be full of Division I talent. Expect a lot of points on the scoreboard come September 6th.

9. Which players will have a breakout season?

Finding hidden gems is one of our favorite pastimes at The Lake. Here are a few who are primed for a breakout season:

RB Matthew Tollini 6-0, 170 Sr Onaway: Played well a year ago at QB, but really burst onto the scene and college coaches’ radars at our Traverse City Exposure Camp back in May.  Clocked 4.51 in the 40 on a cold, damp day. Also plays LB.

TE Rob Walker 6-4, 220 Sr Harbor Springs: Dominated the summer camp circuit with strong performances at CMU and WMU’s camps, just to name a few. Clocked at 4.60 over 40 yards, the DI prospect has size, speed, skill, and smarts to keep trending up.

RB Dominic Paiz 5-8, 175 Sr GR Christian: Had some big early season games for GR Catholic Central last year until he was injured. He has resurfaced at GR Christian this year and should be poised for a big year because defenses won’t be solely focused on stopping him because of GRC’s strong supporting cast.

10. Which top spring/summer combine performers will have the best fall?

RB/DB Danny Bauder  5-9  185  Sr  Zeeland West: Clocking the fastest 40 times at several of our camps, Bauder’s speed is undeniable. Measurables aside, he stood out in drills and one-on-ones too, both as a cover guy and showing the ability to separate time and again to make the catch.

DL Jacob Howe  6-2  240  Sr: Forest Hills Northern: Consistently one of the top performers at all of our events, Howe continued to impress us on the field as recently as this July. Add in some leadership training he received the NFL Prep Leadership Program and Howe is poised for a season to remember.

LB Brad Fall  6-0  215  Sr  Marion: Had one of the best overall performance in our entire “Best of the Best” series. Fall clocked the camp’s fastest 40 (4.65 on a grass field), performed well in the drill work and was a beast in one-on-ones with pass break-ups and interceptions

WR Colin Calloway 6-1, 185 Sr East Kentwood: Definitely a sleeper player on a sleeper team, but Calloway had a strong performance at the “Best of the Best” in Grand Rapids this summer. What he lacks in elite speed, he makes up for with playing ability. Can do things over the middle and is a third-down conversion threat because he has decent size.

OL Alec Stevens 6-5 265 Sr Ogemaw Heights: He’s an athlete who showcased his scoring and rebounding ability during the basketball season, then finished in the top 10 in strength at our March combine. On physical potential he’ll likely be yet another Big North lineman with multiple offers. He’s already visited multiple MAC schools and Nebraska.

What do you think are the top storylines to watch in 2013? Weigh-in on our “comments” section below.