Monthly Archives: September, 2013

Whoa is WO, Business as Usual for Rams


Week No. 5 was a special night throughout southwest Michigan. First it was a beautiful 70 degree night with a light south wind blowing. Second, Schools were having their homecomings. Third, the West Ottawa High School Panthers hosted the Rockford Rams. It was a Special Night for a young fan sitting near us who had his “Go Panther” sign autographed by Desmond Morgan . But the biggest reason it was a Special Night was because of the Special Teams plays, which would ultimately go Rockford’s way, 20-13 yet another win over West Ottawa.

Yes, this game was decided on three Special Teams plays. However, it was a lot more special for Rockford than for West Ottawa. After controlling the game for the entire half and at times dominating, West Ottawa found itself down at the half by a touchdown 6-0. West Ottawa held the visiting Ram’s usually unstoppable offense to a few first downs and no scoring drives during the first half .

The Special of the this half was a play by Rockford’s special teams and db/kick return specialist Tyler Bradfield. showing his heels to the Panthers’ kick team with a punt return of 60 yards. One sensed that West Ottawa coaches were concerned about kicking to Rockford whose Special teams are full of quick, agile blockers and well prepared. West Ottawa had reason to worry as the Rockford’s punt returner, took that punt raced across the punt return formation making one defender miss , turned the corner and out sprinted the West Ottawa coverage team to the end zone. Then came Rockford’s only special team mistake of the game , a missed point after attempt.

The first half featured strong defense by the West Ottawa front and defensive backfield. Panther front defenders Bedford, Fletcher, Ryan, and Van Tubergen along with a backfield Dekker, Bakker, Trammel and Sok shut out the Rockford offense for the first two quarters and stretched the defensive shut our string to four-and-a-half quarters against EGR then Rockford. Nor was the Rockford defense slacking the first half as it kept the West Ottawa offense out of the end zone.

While West Ottawa showed signs of moving on Rockford both in the air and on the ground in the first half, Rockford’s always solid defensive backfield play shut down potential threats and their three /four front blitzed, confused and penetrated enough to keep WO out to the end zone .

After the Queen and King crowning, made special by the younger brother stand-in of Mr. McNitt as King, West Ottawa received the second half kickoff. The scripted third play from scrimmage worked to perfection as Toni Sok blew by the Rockford defense and a grabbed McNitt’s pass in stride for a 73 yard touch down completion. The PAT missed and the game was tied, 6 to 6.

Then came the backbreaker Special Team play of the night. West Ottawa’s kicker tried the same pooch kick over the Rockford front line blockers that had opened the game. It was a good kick except that the speedy Bradfield was there to receive it and sprint to the center of the field. The Rockford blockers prepared a lane and No. 5 disappeared through it going untouched for a 60 yard TD. West Ottawa’s lead had lasted about 8 seconds and this time the PAT was good. West Ottawa 6 Rockford 13.

As the half progressed, West Ottawa continued to move the ball against Rockford. James Lacy had several nice gains and McNitt completed several passes ( 220 yards passing for the night) . But again, the Rockford Ds’s are solid tacklers. Additionally, the Rockford defensive backfield played the speedy West Ottawa receivers straight up, man for man. This gave the Rockford stunting line and line backers freedom to harass and sack McNitt. West Ottawa was able to complete passes but not sustain a driver.

The last Special play for Rockford was the least special for West Ottawa as their usually sure handed kick return man rushed up on a line drive punt only to have it bounce of the pads. Huge Special Teams play number three and Rockford first down at West Ottawa’s 20 yard line. Thus came the time of a the game where champions excel and those that aren’t , don’t. In five plays, Rockford made their only successful drive of the night the dearest one. And at 7:01 of the fourth, they took a commanding lead 20-6.

As we saw against East Grand Rapids, there is no quit in the Panthers and a long run by Lacy was finished by a 10-yard touchdown by McNitt at 1:16 remaining, 20-13. Then West Ottawa lined all their kick team on the near boundary and the kicker on the far hash mark. Rockford had a man deep favoring the near hash mark and the Rockford defenders bunched on the left boundary with only two defenders to the far side.

If ever there was a time for the Pooch kickoff, this was it. Two speedy backs might have been able o beat the Rams to a well timed Pooch kick lobbed over the line. But as it was, the on side kick into the good hands crowd failed. I think Coach Munger for Rockford has seen that play before. Of course, he has seen most every play before. Rockford ran out the clock and won 20-13.

Rockford moves to 4-1 and West Ottawa falls to 3-2 with two losses by a touchdown each to Canton and Rockford. I suspect that the second week of the playoffs will see me and the West Ottawa Panthers at at The Ted for the post season rematch

A wise friend of mine once explained winning. He said that teams who have been winning decade after decade somehow build into any new team that certainty of victory. Coaching is a huge part of that but there is more. Winning gets into the fabric of the community and their teams refuse to lose.

In this game, it was no accident that Rockford had a return man was there to take the Pooch kickoff. Nor was it magic or football voodoo that opened that lane to the goal line for him. Preparation is certainly part of that. Yet still, there is that a state of providence that exists with certain programs. Their teams make the plays when they need to; whether that be the first or the last quarter.

Winning is a refined taste … something to be savored. The Rockford Rams savor winning. West Ottawa has an opportunity to learn from this lose and to continue on down that winning road. See you at the Ted. You West Ottawa fans won’t have a hard time finding it. It’s massive and glistens in the Fall air.



Lake Area Team Rankings: Week 6

Division 1
1. Rockford  4-1 (No. 1 last week)
2. West Ottawa  3-2 (2)
3. Hudsonville  3-2 (3)
4. East Kentwood  3-2 (5)
5. Traverse City West  4-1 (4)

Division 2
1. Lowell  5-0 (No. 1)
2. Muskegon  4-1 (2)
3. Muskegon Mona Shores  4-1 (3)
4. Portage Central  5-0 (4)
5. Caledonia  4-1 (5)
6. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer  4-1 (6)
7. Grand Rapids Northview  4-1 (8)
8. Forest Hills Central  2-3 (7)
9. Traverse City Central  3-2 (10)
10. Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills  4-1 (NR)

Division 3
1. Grand Rapids Christian  4-1 (No. 1)
2. Zeeland East  5-0 (2)
3. Zeeland West  4-1 (3)
4. East Grand Rapids  3-2 (4)
5. St. Joseph  5-0 (5)
6. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern  4-1 (7)
7. Plainwell  5-0 (6)
8. Stevensville Lakeshore  3-2 (8)
9. Sparta  4-1  (NR)
10. Fruitport  3-2 (NR)

Division 4
1. Grand Rapids South Christian  4-1 (No. 1)
2. Comstock Park  5-0  (2)
3. Allendale  4-1 (4)
4. Cadillac  5-0 (6)
5. Paw Paw  5-0 (7)
6. Grand Rapids Catholic Central  3-2 (3)
7. Belding  4-1 (4)
8. Dowagiac  4-1 (9)
9. Spring Lake  4-1 (10)
10. Holland Christian  2-3 (NR)

Division 5
1. Muskegon Oakridge  5-0 (No. 1)
2. Reed City  5-0 (2)
3. Newaygo  4-1  (3)
4. Hopkins  4-1 (4)
5. Grayling  4-1 (5)
6. North Muskegon  4-1 (8)
7. Wyoming Godwin Heights  4-1 (6)
8. Berrien Springs  2-3 (NR)
9. Wyoming Kelloggsville  3-2 (7)
10. Kingsley  3-2 (9)

Division 6
1. Shelby  5-0 (2)
2. Niles Brandywine  5-0 (3)
3. Maple City Glen Lake  5-0 (5)
4. Boyne City  4-1 (8)
5. Grand Rapids West Catholic  1-4 (No. 1)
6. Montague  3-2 (5)
7. Constantine  3-2 (6)
8. Watervliet  5-0 (7)
9. Elk Rapids  4-1 (9)
10. Kalkaska  4-1 (10)

Division 7
1. Lake City  5-0 (No. 2)
2. Schoolcraft  4-1 (3)
3. Traverse City St. Francis  3-2 (1)
4. Lawton  5-0 (4)
5. Decatur  4-1 (5)
6. St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic  5-0 (6)
7. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian  4-1 (NR)
8. McBain  4-1 (8)
9. Hesperia  4-1 (7)
10. Hartford  3-2 (NR)

Division 8
1. Beal City  5-0 (No. 1)
2. Muskegon Catholic Central  3-2 (2)
3. Saugatuck  4-2 (3)
4. Bellaire (8-man) 4-1 (4)
5. Johannesburg-Lewiston  3-2 (5)

Lake Area Prospect Watch: Week 5

Class of 2014
Adam Armour  6-1  210  Sr  LB  Traverse City St. Francis
The reigning defensive MVP of the Gladiators, it will take more than a broken hand to keep Armour off the field. Still playing with a cast, he was TCSF’s leading tackler and had a sack in the Glads’ 34-14 win over previously undefeated Grayling. Armour’s particularly qualified to excel against a spread-it-out, launch-it-up team like Grayling because of his pass coverage. Quick, instinctive middle linebacker. A2 has 4.6 speed and seems even faster because of how he ends up in the right spots.

Kyle Blough  6-3  200  Sr  TE/LB  Lowell
Reminds some of Reed Stormzand, who was a tough all-around athlete last season for Lowell, now at Siena Heights. Like his teammates up front, Blough’s trim but strong and they wore down the heavier Muskegon linemen. Lowell moves him around on defense and while he breaks down consistently and fundamentally as you’d expect of a Red Arrow, can finish better. He’s fast though, and showed it with a pursuit and shoelace tackle for loss against Muskegon. If there’s a college future for Blough it’s at tight end. Can hold onto the ball to complete catches over the middle. He and Lowell junior Josh Branagan give QB Kyler Shurlow two legit tight end options.

Jalen Brooks  6-3  185  Sr  ATH  Cadillac
To earn the “ATH” label, a player needs to have legitimate three-position college potential. Brooks qualifies, as he’s being recruited for the GLIAC and MAC as a quarterback, receiver and defensive back. Brooks’ designation isn’t limited to football, he’s got D2 basketball interest with one GLIAC coach saying he’s a better athlete than anyone they have on their current roster. In his last season as a high school QB, at least, Brooks has led Cadillac to a 4-0 start, most recently beating Alpena 40-24. He’s already the school’s all-time leading rusher. This year’s running numbers aren’t as gaudy as in 2012, between the graduation of the strongest pair of tackles in Michigan, and this year’s Vikings presenting more threats from the running back positions. Brooks is a smooth runner who glides over 10- to 15-yard chunks of yardage by habit. Alpena packed it in to contain the running threat, only to see Brooks complete 12-of-19 passes for 346 yards and 3 TDs, with 107 yards and a TD on the ground.

Luke Diekevers  6-5  200  Sr  TE  Jenison
He has some elite athletic bonafides, with a 36-point game as a hooper last winter, a 3 TD game this fall. Diekevers hasn’t seen that kind of production since the 3 TD opener. It’s not that he doesn’t get open, it’s just that in recent blowout losses to Rockford and Reeths-Puffer, the pocket is being blown up while the route is run. Uses his size and strength to get off initial bumps, and is a big, aggressive target when given the chance. Goes both ways for the Wildcats.

Josh Olson  6-3  185  Sr  WR  Rockford
No one thinks feature receiver and Rockford, but Olson combines good physical tools and comes through when he gets chances. He’s strong in Rockford’s hurry up offense. In said role against Jenison, he converted a first down then a tough TD catch in the corner of the end zone. Olson isn’t only a nice-sized target, he can adjust to the ball and has and after the catch accelerates surprisingly well for lankier receiver.

Matt Reitsma  6-2  240  Sr  OL  Lowell
Lowell’s offense went right down the field on the opening possession, establishing the tone for the night against Muskegon. Reitsma did a lot of damage at right tackle. He’s the kind of versatile lineman Lowell needs with their different looks, sometimes he’s lined up with two tight ends, sometimes four wide. Reitsma stood up Muskegon’s linemen, and got out to block their linebackers. May not have the wingspan of a college tackle.

Jarrett Sobkowiak  6-0  250  Sr  DL  Rockford
After an historically disappointing effort against Muskegon, Rockford needed a get-well game and Jenison fit the bill. The Rams pitched a shutout 42-0. Sobkowiak is an active note tackle who had two sacks against Jenison, including one where he bolo-bolo’d a 10-yard loss. He has good punch, can sort through the line without getting hung up, and consistently demands double-teams. Sobkowiak’s presence allows some playmaking opportunities for a very promising sophomore, 6-3, 230 Gabe Bauman. As a recruit, Sobkowiak doesn’t have the size and explosion for the position at a big school but is intriguing after that.

Class of 2015
Josh Branagan  6-4  210  Jr  TE  Lowell
For all the talk of ACT scores, let’s not poor-mouth Lowell’s actual talent. Branagan is certainly gifted, with a four-catch game against Muskegon. The first of them saw Branagan release then receive the screen pass for a 10-yard TD, giving Lowell a first quarter lead on the Big Reds that they’d hold the rest of the game. Had a two TD game in the season opener.  A smooth long-strider with enough core strength to get off initial tacklers for extra yardage. May be Lowell’s best pure receiver, and was lined up at tight end maybe half the time. Won’t make anyone forget Heath Miller as a blocker. Everyone knows about Northview’s Blake Bockheim. Branagan may need to be in that 2015 tight end discussion himself.

Marty Ward  5-9  200  Jr  RB  Niles Brandywine
He turned some heads at our Lakeshore workout in July, where he was the strongest skill position guy in the bench then also looked like a football player in drills.  Ward’s further proved to be more than just a workout warrior providing the running threat this fall for undefeated Brandywine. They had their toughest test yet against Bridgman, but the Bobcats put it away with Ward’s 73-yard TD. That was his third TD as he had 138 yards on 17 carries.

Corey Westra  5-9  175  Jr  Zeeland East
The Chix’ leading JV rusher in 2012, Westra had ably replaced Josh Blauwkamp as East’s speed complement to Spencer Viening. That was to be expected, as Bauman graduated. But now Viening was out with a knee injury. Westra would be exposed against Forest Hills Central — was he a remora, attached to and success depending on Viening? Or was he a shark himself? Turns out Westra’s all predator. He fed for his second 200-yard game and scored three TDs of at least 50 yards in a 27-25 Zeeland East win. While he’s a big play threat like Zeeland West neighbor Danny Bauder, Westra has more traditional running back vision and balance, whereas Danny Boy is pure speed and a likely receiver or defensive back in college.

Class of 2016
Hunter Broersma  6-1  180  So  WR/DB  Muskegon Mona Shores
4-0 Mona Shores is so explosive because junior QB Tyree Jackson has more than just future WMU Bronco Asantay Brown at his disposal.  Broersma has emerged as a big-play threat as a receiver or runner. In the Sailors’ shootout win over Grand Haven, he caught a 30-yard TD pass and ran for two more scores.  Mona loves to use him on end-arounds and other backfield trickery because he’s good at doing two things — turning the corner, and finding the end zone. A rambunctious, aggressive running style. Can also separate to take advantage of Jackson’s vertical passing game.

Less Is More

In the finicky online world, you never know what’s going to set people off. In the niche of Michigan high school football, there was recent apoplexy over another site’s decidedly optimistic ranking of Saugatuck. We don’t feed the trolls, instead decided to see what was up with this team first hand …

Allen, TX has high school football stadium which seats 18,000 fans and has a 38-foot-wide high-definition video screen. Last Friday we attended a game at the Saugatuck’s Jarvis Stadium with the visiting Indians from Hartford. The only screen at Jarvis Stadium is on the press box window and they seat, oh, maybe a thousand fans. However, THE SMALL HOUSE is a wonderful facility which nurtures a fine football program.

Often featuring pulled pork sandwiches ($2) from meat grilled by the Saugatuck parents, this concession stand is arguably one of the best in Southwest Michigan. Parking is NOT at a premium. A walk from across the street takes less than a minute. Halftime features a well-tuned band (yes sometimes with football player/band members in their football uniforms). At halftime during one game, a young student took the PA microphone to sing Happy Birthday to a friend. And on top of all that, there is football: really good, competitive football! Yeah, that Texas town has a band that is bigger than the entire Saugatuck student body. But, as a wee lad on Christmas morn I learned that really cool things often come in small packages.

And so it was last when a war party from the visiting Hartford took on the home Saugatuck Indians. This week granddaughter Paris was riding shotgun. When I asked her who she thought would win the game, she replied, “ The Indians”. Smart kid but maybe I’m biased.

It turned out to be another great night for football as Hartford received the kick. To Saugatuck’s credit, the coaches had seen the gaudy running numbers put up Miguel Mendoza and set their defense to stop him. However, the other Hartford back , Casper Aviles soon made it obvious that this was a multi-dimensional team. He ripped through the Saugatuck defense for large chunks of yardage and only tough tackling by the Saugatuck defensive backfield kept him from breaking a big run. Saugatuck did manage to stop Hartford and immediately impressed with their own ground game which featured their big back, 6-4, 225 senior Joseph Koscielski. His power running capped a 90 yard drive with a 32 yard blast. Saugatuck led 7-0.

Hartford came back with their own impressive drive resulting in a twoyard touchdown by Melgoza after Aviles did the heavy lifting. Later in the second quarter Saugatuck drove deep into Hartford’s land but had to settle for a 32 yard field goal by talented kicker Tanner Nutting. This kick was easily good from another 15 yards out and Nutting left little doubt to the strength of his leg by sending several kickoffs into the other teams end zone. As a senior, he should be getting some looks from colleges. Harford added another touchdown with 7:32 to go on a 35-yard run by Aviles and at the half, Hartford (3-0 ) led Saugatuck (2-1) 14-10.

The third quarter featured much hard hitting by both teams. The line of Hartford featuring Arreola, Martin, Spires and Hallgren gave as good as it took from Saugatuck which featured Blok, Starring and White up front. At 7:24 of the third, Saugatuck scored to go up 17-14 . Again, Saugatuck got good quarterback play by Blake Dunn and continued power running by Koscielski.

But the real tale of the second half and the game was some fine defensive backfield and line play which allowed Saugatuck to shut out Hartford for the final two quarters. Starring’s name was called often in the second half but the real key was some precise tackling by defensive back Alex Anschutz . His heady play stopped several potential breakaway runs by Aviles and Melgoza. Defense and the power running of Koscielski ate up yards and the clock. In the end it forced Hartford into a fourth and long deep in their own territory. When a fine defensive play by Alex Segovia and Blake Dunn on the last gasp pass play gave the ball back to Saugatuck, Koscielski has only to finish the game with strong runs and the clinching touchdown.

Both teams move to 3-1 and look like playoff contenders. Blake, the freshman Saugatuck QB looks to improve and continue to impress. Hartford’s strong line and speedy, elusive backfield will propel them to the playoffs. The smoke signals from Saugatuck promise a playoff run of their own and with the maturation of their young QB and the power of their running game, Saugatuck is rightfully listed as one of the teams to beat in Division 8. This year, maybe the MHSAA will deign to give Saugatuck a chance to show off their fine facility and football team with a couple of November home games. After the Saugatuck’s last playoff seeding, yeah, we haven’t forgotten, it’s the least they can do.


Lake Michigan Area Team Rankings: Week 5

Division 1
1. Rockford  3-1 (No. 1 last week)
2. West Ottawa  3-1 (2)
3. Hudsonville  2-2 (3)
4. Traverse City West  3-1 (6)
5. East Kentwood  2-2 (5)
6. Grand Haven  1-3 (4) v
7. Grandville  2-2 (7)

Division 2
1. Lowell  4-0 (No. 2)
2. Muskegon  3-1 (1)
3. Muskegon Mona Shores  4-0 (3)
4. Portage Central  4-0 (4)
5. Caledonia  3-1 (5)
6. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer  3-1 (NR)
7. Forest Hills Central  2-2 (6)
8. Grand Rapids Northview  3-1 (8)
9. Portage Northern  3-1 (6)
1o. Traverse City Central  2-2 (10)

Division 3
1. Grand Rapids Christian  3-1 (No. 2)
2. Zeeland East  4-0 (1)
3. Zeeland West  3-1 (3)
4. East Grand Rapids  3-1 (4)
5. St. Joseph  4-0 (5)
6. Plainwell  4-0 (7)
7. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern  3-1 (7)
8. Stevensville Lakeshore  2-2 (6)
9. Wayland  2-2 (9)
10. Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills  3-1 (NR)

Division 4
1. Grand Rapids South Christian  3-1 (1)
2. Comstock Park  4-0 (2)
3. Grand Rapids Catholic Central  3-1 (3)
4. Belding  4-0 (5)
5. Allendale  3-1 (4)
6. Cadillac  4-0 (6)
7. Paw Paw  4-0 (7)
8. West Branch Ogemaw Heights  3-1 (8)
9. Dowagiac  3-1 (10)
10. Spring Lake  3-1 (NR)

Division 5
1. Muskegon Oakridge  4-0 (No. 1)
2. Reed City  4-0 (3)
3. Newaygo  3-1 (4)
4. Hopkins  3-1 (5)
5. Grayling  3-1 (2)
6. Wyoming Godwin Heights  4-0 (8)
7. Wyoming Keloggsville  3-1 (9)
8. North Muskegon  3-1 (5)
9. Kingsley  3-1 (NR)
10. Lakeview  3-1 (NR)

Division 6
1. Grand Rapids West Catholic  1-3 (No. 1)
2. Shelby  4-0 (3)
3. Niles Brandywine  4-0 (5)
4. Maple City Glen Lake  4-0 (5)
5. Montague  2-2 (4)
6. Constantine  2-2 (2)7. Watervliet  4-0 (7)
8. Boyne City  3-1 (8)
9. Elk Rapids  3-1 (9)
10. Kalkaska  3-1 (10)

Division 7
1. Traverse City St. Francis  3-1 (No. 1)
2. Lake City  4-0 (2)
3. Schoolcraft  3-1 (4)
4. Lawton  4-0 (4)
5. Decatur  4-0 (6)
6. St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic  4-0 (8)
7. Hesperia  4-0 (NR)
8. McBain  3-1 (9)
10. Hartford  3-1 (7)

Division 8
1. Beal City  4-0 (No. 1)
2. Muskegon Catholic Central  2-2 (2)
3. Saugatuck  3-1 (3)
4. Bellaire (8-man)  4-0 (4)
5. Johannesburg-Lewiston  2-2 (NR)

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 4

Class of 2014
Jacob Compagner  6-5  230  Sr  OL  Zeeland East
The consistency of having Compagner returning as the starting center has eased the Chix’ quarterback transition. Between his clean exchanges and mean streak springing Zeeland East’s backs, they’re clean through three whether from shootouts with Zeeland West, or defensive battles like last week with Hudsonville. It was in the West game that Compagner also began playing on the defensive line. While there has been a run of 2014 offensive linemen committing, the GLIAC shelves are still open and in need of guys with the frame, technique and toughness like Compagner.

Ryan Gruszka  6-4  210  Sr  DL/TE  Comstock Park
Last season Comstock Park had two seniors matriculate to GLIAC rosters, QB Jake Brown to Michigan Tech and lineman Blake Mazur to Wayne State. They may do it again, with senior running back Jacob Bush and Gruszka. When Comstock Park beat West Catholic in Week 2, it looked like CP had cloned West Catholic’s star defensive end/tight end, Mitch Stanitzek. Gruszka is smooth, gets good lean, and really closes well with 4.65 speed. He’s also one of two quality tight ends for Comstock Park, a strong blocker to complement Drake Baar’s receiving threat. He is one of the top 10 defensive ends in the 2014 class.

Lake Area 2014 Defensive Linemen
1. Kenneth Finley  6-3  280  Sr  Muskegon  Western Michigan
2. Tommy Doles  6-5  260  Sr  Grand Rapids Christian  Northwestern
3. Jordan VanDort  6-5  300  Sr  Zeeland West  Western Michigan
4. Chris Hendricks  6-5  270  Sr  Fruitport
5. Nick Padla  6-5  270  Sr  Berrien Springs  Michigan State
6. Jake Khoury  6-3  265  Sr  Traverse City St. Francis  Buffalo
7. Jeremy Stygstra  6-2  240  Sr  Grand Rapids Christian
8. Todd Postma  6-4  240  Sr  Grand Rapids South Christian
9. Benjamin Walton  6-0  260  Sr  East Jordan
10. Demere Ramey  6-1  290  Sr  Muskegon Orchard View

1. David Walker  6-4  230  Sr  Harbor Springs
2. Jacob Howe  6-2  240  Sr  Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
3. Johnathan Williams  6-6  230  Sr  Berrien Springs
4. Mitchell Stantizek  6-4  215  Sr  Grand Rapids West Catholic  Eastern Michigan
5. Zach Evans  6-2  240  Sr  Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills
6. Ryan Gruszka  6-5  210  Sr  Comstock Park
7. Darohn Scott  6-8  225  Sr  Grand Rapids Christian
8. Brandon Hutson  6-2  240  Sr  Big Rapids
9. Dayton Wierenga  6-2  220  Sr  Allendale
10. Jacob Kaczynski  6-4  230  Sr  Ludington

Alex Zimmerman  5-10  163  Sr  WR/DB  West Ottawa
It turns out two of the most explosive playmakers in the Lake Area reside in Ottawa County. Like Zeeland West senior Danny Bauder, Zimmerman tested as a high-end athlete at our combine, then goes out and backs up the measurables (4.5-second 40, 4.14-second pro agility, 33″ standing vertical)with all kinds of football stats.  In a comeback win over East Grand Rapids, A To Z had TD receptions of 56-, 11- and then, with 37 seconds to play, 41-yards, the game-winner from senior quarterback Jared McNitt. He’s a top 10 Lake Area receiver in his class.  Zimmerman in this week’s Fox 17 Blitz Spotlight.

Lake Area 2014 Wide Receivers
1. Drake Harris 6-4  180  Sr  Grand Rapids Christian  Michigan
2. Kyle Steigenga  6-5  180  Sr  Holland Christian
3. Asantay Brown  6-1  175  Sr  Muskegon Mona Shores  Western Michigan
4. Isaak Newhouse  6-0  185  Sr  Grand Haven
5. Colin Calloway  6-1  185  Sr  East Kentwood
6. Jalen Brooks  6-3  180  Sr  Cadillac
7. Alex Zimmerman  5-10  163  Sr  West Ottawa
8. Sam Harrison  5-10  185  Sr  Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern
9. Zach Walker  6-1  197  Sr  Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
10. Danny Bauder  5-9  185  Sr  Zeeland West

Class of 2016
Michael Holdship  5-11  200  So  LB/RB  Cadillac
Reminds you of Grandville sophomore Nolan Meekhof, with surprising strength/speed combination for his age. He’s all straight-ahead and deliver a whallop now. As he grows up and his feel and vision improve, could be a special player.

Evan Whitmore  6-2  170  So  QB  Petoskey
Had to like his poise and potential even in a losing cause at Cadillac, Whitmore’s first-ever Big North Conference game. It was a physical one against an improving Cadillac defense, and a novice had to find his legs quickly. He has the size and arm of a drop-back QB but right now he’s still learning and polishing the footwork needed in Petoskey’s offense where the first duty is the pitch to the wing back. He is a good athlete, per his combine performance in July and basketball where he is also a college prospect, which will be more evident as experience and feel for his new position take over. Petoskey threw more than reputation suggests and Whitmore converted three first-down throws on the Northmen’s lone scoring drive. It was a third down that was intercepted in the closing minutes that stings. That was a rough situation for any QB yet alone one as green as Whitmore, as consecutive holding calls pushed a promising, possibly game-tying drive back into Northmen territory for 2nd-and-26 and 3rd-and-17.

East Meets West

Week three of the MHSAA season featured several great matchups, not the least of which was Coach Stuursmas’ East Grand Rapids Pioneers visiting Coach Zegunis’ West Ottawa Panthers in Holland. It was grandson night for this reporter. Xander, my nine year old grandson captured the tone of the game at the end of the first quarter, when he said, “Seriously, we are not doing very good!” The WE, here, he referred to was the West Ottawa Panthers and they weren’t.

East Grand Rapids’ tailback David Evens, Jr not so much ran through the West Ottawa defense but separated them like so many stalks of wheat on the prairie. The big man charged for over a hundred yards and two touchdowns on a half dozen carries in just the first quarter. Those and a safety accounted for an 18-0 lead for the Pioneers. The only thing missing from this Friday the 13th first quarter show was the hockey mask.

Fortunately for West Ottawa, the second quarter saw a reversal of fortunes. The Panther defense rallied around solid backfield play of Luke Baker and Mason Dekker and with improved defensive line play to slow down the Pioneer’s powerful ground game.  At times, the invigorated Panthers threw five players at David Evans, Jr and after he broke through that bunch, six more Panther defenders managed to subdue him for modest gains. West Ottawa’s field position improved in the second quarter with the defensive stops and Toni Soks fearless punt returns. With renewed confidence.  WO senior QB Jared McNitt and junior tailback James Lacy contributed positively in three drives. These resulted in a missed 35-yard field goal attempt into a strong north wind and two touchdowns. The first at 10:45 of the second quarter on a 50 + yard TD throw by McNitt and great catch and run by senior Alex Zimmerman, and the second a 7-yard run by McNitt at 4:16 of the second quarter.

Following several time out calls by both coaches, a game which originally looked like a East Grand Rapids rout of West Ottawa turned into a two point, exciting contest, EGR 16 and WO 14.

The third quarter featured more strong running by David Evens, Jr. but with a stiffened West Ottawa defense both against the run and the passing of EGR sophomore, Mikey Roth. The Pioneers were not able to get a sustained passing game going thanks in large part to some excellent pass coverage by West Ottawa’s backs, PJ Tramell, Luke Bakker and Toni Soks and aggressive defensive line play. Yet, with a third quarter touchdown featuring their running game , East Grand Rapids extended their lead to 9 points, and set up the fourth quarter West Ottawa heroics.

In that quarter,  Zimmerman and McNitt hooked up several times including a beautiful sideline completion on 4th and 11 to set up the final series. With 37 seconds to go in the game, McNitt hit Zimmerman for the winning score. The final seconds saw East Grand Rapids get a pass interference call on 4th and long and the final incomplete, hail Mary, throw into the end zone as time expired.

Credit is due both football teams for an excellent Friday night contest. East Grand Rapids has a fine offensive and defensive line which controlled the middle for most of the game. They are big and athletic and gave their quick , power back, Evens Jr., some excellent lanes to charge through. Special mention should go to tackles Colin Grogan and Conor Conaboy. I am sure the EGR young men would much rather have a win than the accolades but I am sure there will be plenty of both forthcoming for this fine group of young athletes.

Both teams are now 2-1. It is very likely that they will still be playing in November.  We will soon see if West Ottawa can take another big step when Rockford visits. This was an excellent, hard hitting football game worthy of the suspense of Friday the 13th and, again, both teams are to be commended for an excellent effort.

ICE an HEAT, ICE an HEAT, ICE an HEAT. Strap ‘em up tight, young men! This was only week number 3.

Lake Michigan Area Team Rankings: Week 4

Division 1
1. Rockford  2-1 (No. 1 last week)
2. West Ottawa  2-1 (3)
3. Hudsonville  2-1 (2)
4. East Kentwood  2-1 (5)
5. Grand Haven  1-2 (4)
6. Traverse City West  2-1 (7)
7. Grandville  2-1 (6)

Division 2
1. Muskegon  3-0 (No. 1)
2. Lowell  3-0 (2)
3. Muskegon Mona Shores  3-0 (3)
4. Portage Central  3-0 (5)
5. Caledonia  2-1 (4)
6. Portage Northern  3-0 (7)
7. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central  2-1 (6)
8. Grand Rapids Northview  2-1 (8)
9. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills  1-2 (NR)
10. Traverse City Central  1-2 (10)

Division 3
1. Zeeland East  3-0 (No. 1)
2. Grand Rapids Christian  2-1 (4)
3. Zeeland West  2-1 (3)
4. East Grand Rapids  2-1 (2)
5. St. Joseph  3-0 (NR)
6. Stevensville Lakeshore  2-1 (5)
7. Plainwell  3-0 (8)
8. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern  2-1 (6)
9. Wayland  2-1 (NR)
10. Petoskey  2-1 (7)

Division 4
1. Grand Rapids South Christian  2-1 (No. 1)
2. Comstock Park  3-0 (2)
3. Grand Rapids Catholic Central  2-1 (3)
4. Allendale  3-0 (4)
5. Belding  3-0 (5)
6. Cadillac  3-0 (7)
7. Paw Paw  3-0 (6)
8. West Branch Ogemaw Heights  2-1 (8)
9. Hudsonville Unity Christian  2-1 (10)
10. Dowagiac  2-1 (9)

Division 5
1. Muskegon Oakridge  3-0 (No. 1)
2. Grayling  3-0 (2)
3. Reed City  3-0 (3)
4. Newaygo  3-0 (4)
5. Hopkins  2-1 (5)
6. Ludington  3-0 (6)
7. North Muskegon  3-0 (7)
8. Wyoming Godwin Heights  3-0 (NR)
9. Buchanan  1-2 (10)
10. Wyoming Kelloggsville  2-1 (9)

Division 6
1. Grand Rapids West Catholic  0-3 (No. 1)
2. Constantine  2-1 (2)
3. Shelby  3-0 (3)
4. Montague  2-1 (4)
5. Niles Brandywine  3-0 (5)
6. Maple City Glen Lake  3-0 (6)
7. Watervliet  3-0 (7)
8. Boyne City  2-1 (8)
9. Elk Rapids  2-1 (9)
10. Kalkaska  2-1 (10)

Division 7
1. Traverse City St. Francis  2-1 (No. 1)
2. Lake City  3-0 (2)
3. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian  3-0 (4)
4. Schoolcraft  2-1 (3)
5. Lawton  3-0 (5)
6. Decatur  3-0 (6)
7. Hartford  3-0 (7)
8. St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic  3-0 (8)
9. McBain  2-1 (9)
10. Bridgman  2-1 (10)

Division 8
1. Beal City  3-0 (No. 1)
2. Muskegon Catholic Central  1-2 (2)
3. Saugatuck  2-1 (3)
4. Bellaire (8-man)  3-0 (4)
5. Central Lake  2-1 (8)

Lake Michigan Prospect Watch: Week 3

Class of 2014
Joey Koscielski  6-4  220  Sr  LB/RB  Saugatuck
He’s the David Walker (see below) of the SAC, the Indians’ leading rusher, receiver and tackler. While he’ll be recruited as a middle linebacker, Koscielski is a great back to help keep the pressure off a young QB, and that’s just what he did in Friday’s blowout of Marcellus as Saugatuck freshman Blake Dunn had two TDs throwing, and two running. Joey ran nine times for 110 yards and a TD. He rushed for 1,047 yards and 14 TDs in 2012. It must be quite a site for some of these small schools, staring doing Saugatuck’s wing-T with 6-5, 300 senior center Cam White clearing holes for the 6-4, 220 Koscielski.

Connor Smith  6-5  275  Sr  OL  Three Rivers
He’s quite improved from when we saw Smith in the 2012 playoffs against South Christian, then at our Grand Rapids combine in March. In that loss to the Sailors, Smith kept playing hard even when the game was out of reach. That effort has gotten consistent to the point of going through the whistle on every play. Smith is Three Rivers’ right tackle, and playing out of a two-point stance is a better pass than run blocker. Against a stout, and ultimately victorious, Plainwell defense, Three Rivers’ line helped senior QB Alex Cottingham to 200 yards total offense and a rushing TD.

David Walker  6-4  230  Sr  ATH  Harbor Springs
Harbor Springs is off to a 2-0 start. That might not seem like much, but it hadn’t happened in a decade. Helping the Rams’ cause is the presence of Walker, top available prospect in the Lake Area. Against Frankfort, he carried the ball 19 times for 232 yards and 5 TDs.

Lake Area’s Top 10 Uncommitted 2014
1. David Walker  6-4  230  ATH  Harbor Springs: It’s certainly not size and talent, what’s the difference between Walker and Wyatt Shalman or Matt Sokol? Geography.
2. Johnathon Williams  6-6  230  ATH  Berrien Springs: Being recruited by the likes of Mizzou, Toledo and SDSU on his significant upside, with tight end possible final destination.
3. Spencer Viening  6-3  220  RB/LB  Zeeland East: Even when he’s playing against guys like Kenneth Finley and Jordan VanDort, Viening is the strongest man out there.
4. Jacob Howe  6-2  240  DL/RB  Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern: Byron Center simply had no one to account for him in FHN’s first win Friday.
5. Kyle Steigenga  6-5  180  WR  Holland Christian: His fantasy stats are down with a new QB, but Stegs’ routes are faster and more consistent, and he’s as good as ever grabbing balls no one else can touch.
6. Jalen Brooks  6-3  190  ATH  Cadillac: All-time leading rusher at school that has had some great ones.
7. Drew Marion  6-2  195  ATH  Lake City: Put him up against any small-town QB in the state this side of Travis Smith
8. John Hall  6-0  195  LB & Will Hunt  6-1  225  LB  Muskegon: Most teams don’t have one let alone pair of linebackers who close like this.
9. Danny Bauder  5-9  185  Sr  RB/DB  Zeeland West: Zeeland West’s special teamers shouldn’t bother taking off their helmets when they give the Dux possession, going right back out there after another 75-yard Bauder TD. The Moses Malone of the O-K Green: Fo Fo Forty.
10. Alec Stevens  6-5  280  OL  West Branch Ogemaw Heights: Top offensive lineman left in a loaded class.

Class of 2015
Mikey Roth  5-11  185  Jr  QB  East Grand Rapids
The junior class of QBs is already pretty accomplished. Roth’s name should be mentioned right with Wassink, Jackson and Russell. The guys ranked ahead of him are just taller so easier to project. He still plays big in the pocket, though. Clearly Roth has a lot of help — a crisp, vet line led by seniors Connor Conaboy and Troy Gotch; a power-speed running back combo with Bus-like senior David Evens and junior David Hollerbach; and guys who can catch like senior Peter Stewart, soph Gourney Sloan and tight ends Stephen Gillespie and Mason Banbury a junior. Roth can lay in the ball to his receivers going over the top, or show off his arm over the middle and the flats; sometimes lets it go with too much weight on back foot. Roth has so much help, in fact, that the Pioneers may start the conference season as the O-K White favorite, though before that there’s another O-K Red crossover this Friday at West Ottawa. They beat EK last week 40-20, with Roth going only 5-of-13 but making it count with three TD tosses. EGR has won the last four games Roth has started, going back to the end of last season.

Lake Area QB Prospects: 15 for ’15
1. Jon Wassink  6-2  180  Jr  Grand Rapids South Christian
2. Tyree Jackson  6-3  190  Jr  Muskegon Mona Shores
3. Travis Russell  6-2  180  Jr  Grand Rapids West Catholic
4. Mikey Roth  5-11  185  Jr  East Grand Rapids
5. Mason Opple  6-2  195  Jr  Hudsonville
6. Brandon Childress  6-3  180  Jr  Baldwin
7. Adam Trautman  6-4  190  Jr  Elk Rapids
8. Corey Redman  6-5  180  Jr  Boyne City  Central Michigan (basketball)
9. Keegan James  6-2  190  Jr  Central Montcalm  Michigan State (baseball)
10. Andrew Duckett  6-1  175  Jr  Niles Brandywine
11. Tucker Kloote 5-10  160   Jr  Coopersville
12. Jamison Green  6-4  175  Jr  Big Rapids
13. Jay Doll  6-0  180  Jr  Paw Paw
14. David Loney  6-3  195  Jr  Frankfort
15. Luke Wilkerson  5-11  185  Jr  Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern

Class of 2017
Nate Umlor  6-3  190  Fr  DL/TE  Allendale
Allendale has two seniors who can make plays on the defensive line and catches as tight ends, Dayton Wierenga and Colin Beebe. There’s always room for more of that kind of size and versatility, apparently even if it comes in ninth-grade form. Umlor nevertheless starts both ways for the Falcons. He has a good motor for his age, playing through the whistle. At his best right now as a blocking tight end, though Umlor’s pad level can get better. His help in short yardage situations would be more evident but Allendale’s starting running back, senior Ethan Hovingh, is out with a shoulder injury.

Texas has Spring Football, Zeeland has Fall Track

Last year it took three overtimes and over 100 points to decide a victor when Zeeland West lost their regular season meeting to Zeeland East. This year’s event required only one OT and 92 points for Zeeland East to prevail 50-42. But the biggest disappointment was going to a football game and having a track meet break out.  Like he did against Detroit Country Day in Week One, West’s Danny Bauder broke lose for three long sprint wins. Nor was he the only football player toting the baton, errr, football long distances at great speed. For Zeeland East, junior Corey Westra added three long sprint first-place finishes. A reasonable estimation is that these six touchdowns combined required easily less than a  minute. The shortest of these sprints was 60 yards and the longest over 80.

But lest you think this was a battle of the speedsters, the majority of the game consisted of good, old fashioned hard nosed football. Both teams had great moments and controlled drives. Zeeland West relied on its wing T offense to grind out clock eating drives relying on their four backs and a time tested play selection formula. For Zeeland East, Spencer Viening carried over a dozen times and proved a lot for West to handle.  It took multiple Dux to stop Viening and on the winning touchdown run in overtime, even the huge Jordan VanDort and another Duc could not wrap up Viening. After hitting Viening three yards deep in the backfield on third and goal,  he spun out to charge off left tackle eight yards for the winning touchdown.

Regardless of the score, there were defensive stand outs and series.  Viening had 15+ tackles and several of these kept a West runner from breaking lose.  His sophomore brother Caleb Viening played well at times as a defensive back and prevented West’s Bauder from breaking yet another long TD run in the second half.

As usual for Zeeland West, the offensive guards and tackles had very solid games and against the slightly bigger lineman of East.  VanDort, the very big tight end for West was successfully handled by East’s secondary and primarily, Spencer Viening who was a standout offensively and defensively. For Zeeland East, offensive center and defensive tackle Jacob Compagner played a fantastic game. He’s a 6-3, 210 senior.

The Zeeland East kicker, Avery Echols, kicked a 28 yard field goal that was likely good from 48 yards. In a calm sea, he booted all of the kick offs into the end zone, most (including “do overs” on two kickoffs ) landed at the back line of the end zone. This young man can kick and as a senior, should be on somebody’s recruit list.