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.