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.