- Projected winners are italicized.
- All games are 7 pm Friday unless otherwise noted.
Traverse City West 5-4 at Rockford 8-1
Rockford is once again the class of the O-K Red. Based on losses to Comstock Park and Allendale, TC West would be battling for third-place in the O-K Blue. All the injuries may catch up to the Rams eventually, but not in this one. Totally different game being played in West than Northern Michigan.
East Kentwood 5-4 at Hudsonville 6-3
These teams met just two weeks ago, also at Hudsonville, where the home team prevailed 20-9. EK’s youth shows against a team as physical as the Eagles. And it’s not just up front, with a line led by future Midshipman Evan Akins, but even at QB, with the bruising running of junior QB Mason Opple. Make no mistake, though. With a full season and impending off-season — whether it begins Saturday or in a few weeks — under EK’s first-year head coach , the future is bright on Kalamazoo Ave.
Muskegon Mona Shores 7-2 at Lowell 9-0
While it’s a given at Lowell under Noel Dean, this is Mona’s first-ever playoff appearance. It’s just their luck that they land in a district with two of the state’s top three D2 teams. This is no one-hit wonder in Norton Shores for coach Matt Koziak though. The Sailors start 11 sophomores or juniors.
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 7-2 at Muskegon 8-1
They could’ve just stayed at Hackley, where last Friday Muskegon grounded the Rockets 20-7 to claim their first O-K Black title. Maybe in the week between, Kyle Jewett’s staff can re-gameplan for Muskegon QB Deshaun Thrower. He ran for all three of the Big Reds’ TDs in the first meeting and has accumulated 1,200 yards on the season. Just love how this R-P team is constructed though. Second time does the job.
Lansing Everett 6-3 at Portage Central 9-0
Portage Central is the best team in the Lake Area that isn’t from the O-K rainbow.
Portage Northern 6-3 at Battle Creek Lakeview 9-0
Lakeview has come back to Earth, somewhat, after shutting out their first five opponents. This one features to of the state’s best senior linebackers, Portage Northern’s Preston Simon and Lakeview’s Donnie Ernsberger.
Sparta 5-4 at Mt. Pleasant 8-1
The Spartans sneaked into the playoffs on a three-game skid.
Zeeland East 5-4 “at” Zeeland West 8-1
This is all too familiar. Last season, East beat West in an offensive showcase in the regular season, then was shut out in the first round of the playoffs. In 2013, West’s only loss is to East. But that was a much different Chix team than the one that hobbles into the playoffs having lost four straight.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 7-1 at Grand Rapids Christian 7-1 Noon Saturday
FHN is making its first playoff appearance in over a decade. These are two of the best defenses in the Lake Area. Only defending state champion Grand Rapids Christian can muster some offense, Drake Harris or no.
Wayland 5-4 at Plainwell 8-1
An upset special in this 131 showdown. Wayland won five more games than last year and has one of the Lake Area’s most potent running back duos in the fast guy, Mike Miklusiak, and the rugged guy, Jack Phillips. Plainwell has a good one itself in diminutive Jacob Geter. Fitting, as this is one of Plainwell’s smaller teams, physically, or recent vintage.
Byron Center 6-3 at Battle Creek Harper Creek 7-2
If Byron Center had beaten a playoff team … if the Green weren’t a weak sister of the O-K … this might be an upset pick. But they didn’t, and it is.
Sturgis 5-4 at St. Joseph 8-1
Sturgis’ only chance lies on the arm of senior QB Chance Stewart. St. Joe, whose only loss was to unbeaten Portage Central, made 16 interceptions during the regular season.
Coldwater 5-4 at Stevensville Lakeshore 6-3
Lakeshore making the playoffs is a given, they’ve now done it 16 years in a row. It’s the three losses that are a bit disconcerting.
Remus Chippewa Hills 6-3 at Cadillac 9-0
You have to go down to Division 4 to find that having played a Big North Conference schedule is an advantage, but that SOS will certainly surface here for Cadillac.
West Branch Ogemaw Heights 6-3 at Cheboygan 7-2 1 pm Saturday
The Chiefs are 3-0 against Big North teams.
Fremont 6-3 at Comstock Park 9-0
CP is looking to make a third-straight semifinal appearance. Youth under center may catch up to the Panthers eventually, but not against the Packers. Props to Fremont, though. Last Friday they beat Montague for the first time in over 50 years.
Belding 6-3 at Spring Lake 8-1
No one gave the Lakes 8 much thought during the season, but their 27-0 win over Shelby last Friday turned some heads.
Otsego 6-3 vs. Grand Rapids South Christian 8-1 @ Byron Center
South Christian hasn’t lost a game since August, to Grand Rapids Christian. The Wolverine just doesn’t prepare teams for an opponent the caliber of the defending state champion.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central 6-3 at Allendale 7-1
This is one of the most competitive first-round matchups in the Lake Area. Won’t find two better junior receivers on the same field this weekend than CC’s Nick Marosi and Allendale’s Nate Couturier.
Dowagiac 6-3 at Edwardsburg 9-0
These teams played two weeks ago at Edwardsburg. The home team won 36-0.
Battle Creek Pennfield 8-1 at Paw Paw 8-1
Even without injured junior QB Jay Doll, Paw Paw put up 48 points last Friday. The only problem? Edwardsburg scored 52.
Kingsford 7-2 at Grayling 7-2 1 pm Saturday
Grayling’s on the right side of the Bridge for this one.
Kingsley 6-3 at Standish-Sterling 7-1
This will be a tough task for the Stags. They don’t see this kind of size in the NWC. S-S may have as good a pair of tight ends as there is in Michigan, with 6-4, 240 CMU commitment Cole Walderzak and 6-3, 240 senior Seth Malcolm, a terrific blocker. Then there’s 6-3, 320 two-way lineman Anthony Prohaska is more athletic than you expect.
Kalkaska 6-3 at Gladwin 7-2
Gladwin graduated a great QB, Landon Grove, but the Gs are back in the playoffs led by do-it-all athlete Demetri Trice. Kalkaska brings some talent of its own in RB/LB Kaleb Hauser, and QB/DB Will Nobles.
Clare 7-2 at Reed City 9-0
An established program like Clare is no happy reward for Reed City’s undefeated regular season. 6-0, 200 senior back Jordan Gross is a load at the high school level. While not particularly big, outside of 6-3, 250 junior TJ Patterson, Reed City has gotten strong line play on both sides of the ball. The Coyotes have rolled up nearly 4,500 yards of offense.
Newaygo 8-1 at Muskegon Oakridge 8-1
This is a tough go for Oakridge without their best player, senior running back Dan Shoop, who unfortunately tore his ACL. But Austin Wright is no slouch at QB. Playoff pedigree, home field, Oakridge in a close one.
Grand Rapids West Catholic 5-4 at Portland 7-1
This is a rematch of a 2012 playoff game. Only that one was at Ford Field. West Catholic may have to pay the hard way for another slow regular season start.
Parchment 6-3 vs Jackson Lumen Christi 9-0 @ Jackson High
Known previously as a basketball player, Lumen Christi junior running back Khari Willis has been a revelation and is now a D1 recruit in both sports.
Olivet 8-1 at Hopkins 7-2
Hopkins has more losses, but some real quality Ws against the likes of Wayland, NorthPointe Christian and Belding. Their only losses were to playoff teams as well.
Elk Rapids 6-3 at Boyne City 7-2
This is a rematch of a contest played just two weeks ago, which Boyne City won 28-12.
Lakeview 7-2 at Maple City Glen Lake 8-1
Glen Lake had a big win last Friday at North Muskegon, proving they could win on the road against non-Northern Michigan competition. Their reward, home sweet home on the Leelanau Peninsula.
Montague 6-3 at Shelby 8-1
A rematch from the WMC season, which Shelby won 33-7. Montague is too proud a program to go out like that in the playoffs. But this once is still purple.
Grandville Calvin Christian 6-3 vs. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 8-1 @ Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
These O-K Silver rivals met in September, NPC winning 13-8. Whichever team wins it will be historic, as neither team has a playoff victory.
Hartford 6-3 at Watervliet 9-0
When these teams met in the regular season, both were undefeated. Watervliet won 41-17, and is still undefeated.
Schoolcraft 8-1 at Niles Brandywine 8-1
Brandywine’s 35-12 Week 7 loss to Cassopolis gives one pause.
Constantine 5-4 at Michigan Center 8-1
It’s been a trying season for last year’s state runner-up, Constantine, who is now going at it without injured junior running back Justin Hull.
Traverse City St. Francis 5-4 at Iron River West Iron County 9-0
St. Francis is in a down cycle, backing into the playoffs coming off a 42-0 loss at Muskegon Catholic Central. Not sure that playing in a different peninsula will change anything.
Mancelona 7-2 at Ishpeming 9-0 1 pm Saturday
Ispheming is he defending Division 7 state champion.
McBain 5-4 at Lincoln Alcona 9-0
McBain will have to figure out a way to stop Nathan Fettes, Alcona’s all-time leading rusher. But that’s not all, as senior QB Cody Franklin has 4.4 speed.
Whittemore Prescott 6-3 at Lake City 8-1
One last go for one of the most dominant athletes in the Lake Area, regardless of school size, in LC QB Drew Marion.
Evart 7-2 at Carson City-Crystal 9-0
Devin Pringle apparently didn’t forget anything in his time off the sideline. In his first season back coaching, CCC is undefeated. Evart may have Drew Marion flashbacks when they see CCC QB Rhett Pringle.
Saugatuck 8-1 at Pewamo-Westphalia 8-1
Had Saugatuck slipped into Division 8, their season might have been extended well into November. Good size and athleticism in this one, with Saugatuck running back Joey Koscielski and P-W receiver Lane Simon.
St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 6-2 at Cassopolis 6-3
Transitive property makes Cassopolis the logical choice here.
Bridgman 6-3 at Decatur 6-3
Decatur has momentum on its side, having won four straight including three shutouts. Their junior linebackers, Cole Southworth and Jason Nash, are tough.
Springport 6-3 at Lawton 8-1
Lawton had been perfect, before running into Watervliet last Friday.
Atlanta 5-4 at Johannesburg-Lewiston 7-2
Joburg has won six straight. Defensive lineman Nathan Fox could be one of the best sophs in the North.
Mio 7-2 at Beal City 9-0
The class of the Highland Conference rolls on.
Fulton 5-4 at Muskegon Catholic Central 7-2
MCC has won seven straight, including one of the most dominant victories we’ve seen this year, beating TC St. Francis 42-0 last Friday (and the only losses were to playoff teams from much larger schools, Mona Shores and Grand Rapids Catholic Central). How dominant? The Crusaders held the Gladiators to one first down on 39 yards of offense. It’s been quite a debut season for coach Steve Czerwon, who played for Mike Holmes. This program isn’t going anywhere, this is a young team.
Baldwin 7-2 at Fowler 7-2
The Panthers are hoping for a better showing than last year, when they were blanked by Fowler. To their advantage is Brandon Childress, one of the Lake Area’s top junior QBs.
Eau Claire 4-4 at Mendon 9-0 1 pm Saturday
Eau Claire has the fewest playoff points of any team in the field. Mendon is a small-school state power, undefeated and features one of the state’s best juniors on their line, Logan Slaughter.
Class of 2014
Wyatt Batdorff 5-10 180 Sr DB/LB Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
The Huskies have had one of the real lock-down defenses in the Lake Area, a big reason they went 7-2 in the regular season and won the O-K Bronze. And it wasn’t all Jacob Howe. While safety-size for the next level, Batdorff is a terrific high school middle linebacker averaging 11.5 tackles a game. He uses his size and speed to his advantage, with a knack for appearing untouched in opponents’ backfields. Also a running back, last Friday against Grand Rapids Northview he caught two passes and made them count, totalling 92 yards and two TDs.
Byron Bullough 6-3 225 Sr DB/LB Traverse City St. Francis Michigan State
If St. Francis’ roster is accurate, Bullough has to be one of the biggest safeties in the state. Back from a two-game absence to play against Muskegon Catholic Central, he had the loudest hit we’ve heard this year. Always in the right place, and a sure tackler. Largely played clean-up duty on the back line as the Gladiators were pretty slow and stiff up front, so the opportunities were certainly there. Wasn’t necessarily the kind of dynamic playmaker you’d expect of a BCS recruit playing against a Division 8 team.
Kaleb Hauser 6-2 220 Sr RB/LB Kalkaska
Harbor Springs’ David Walker isn’t the only dominant big back in the Lake Michigan Conference. In eight regular season games (he didn’t play against Boyne City because of an injury), Hauser ran 178 times for 1,342 yards and 16 TDs to go along with nine catches for 167 yars and three TDs. He did that running behind an offensive line that only returned on starter and started a freshman and sophomore. No worries, the Blazers are back in the playoffs. He also plays linebacker, his possible college position. Hauser is a workout warrior too. At our Traverse City camp in May he ran a 4.75 40 and did a dozen reps at 225 pounds; at last March’s Grand Rapids combine, he was top 5 in the medicine ball toss.
Alex Lewandoski 5-11 180 Sr DB/RB Muskegon Catholic Central
Big-time hitter and the Crusaders’ leading tackler. Covers a lot of space quickly, squares and levels ball-carriers. He comes by it naturally, his dad Frank Lewandoski is Northern Illinois’ all-time tackle leader. He can do more than that though, Alex’ best play against Traverse City St. Francis was where it looked like he missed on the tackle, only he’d gone after the ball, stripped it, then recovered the fumble to return it 23 yards. Legit speed for the defensive or offensive backfield. Lewandoski has over 1,000 all-purpose yards and has rushed for 15 TDs. He rarely leaves the field, as he’s also a kick returner and plays on coverage special teams too.
Ethan Lussky 6-4 285 Sr OL Rockford
He plays right tackle for the Rams, but he’s not a dominant athlete in space so is likely headed to the interior in college. Lussky is the largest man on what is a younger, smaller line than we’re maybe used to from Rockford. Good combo blocker. Needs to remember to plant his heels in pass block. A project, but one with size and the pedigree of an elite program.
Julian Munday 6-1 195 Sr RB Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Call him Office Space. He’s been giving defenses a case of the Mundays all season. Almost more like a college than high school running back, with his size and ability to get the tough yards. He hits the hole so hard and fast, negative yardage is anathema to Munday. That he’s good in tight space is no surprise, as he had the top pro agility performance last March at our Grand Rapids combine. Munay heads into the playoff opener Muskegon rematch having rushed 150 times for 1,173 yards and 11 TDs, while sharing carries with two other very good backs, senior Corey Plitchta and junior Dereko Riley.
Class of 2015
Jarrad Whited 6-2 220 Jr DL/TE Vicksburg
He passed the look test at our combine in March, then had a junior season where he didn’t just pass but aced the actual playing test. Whited is like a magnet to the ball and has strong instincts, which explain how a defensive end has two interceptions. One of them he returned for a TD, which he did once as a sophomore too. Can dominate bigger offensive tackles because of his motor, instincts and 4.9 speed. Tough to lock him up. Whited averaged nine tackles a game for Vicksburg, and had six sacks. He’s typically in a 4-3 and that’s the best fit for his size, though Vicksburg also had some 3-4 looks. Real all-around football player, not just an athletic pass-rush specialist. Thus, he’s easily one of the top 10 defensive line prospects in the junior class.
Lake Area’s Top 10 2015 D-Line Prospects
1. Mitchell Quakkelaar 6-3 260 Jr Grand Rapids South Christian
2. Bryce Witham 6-4 220 Jr Grand Rapids West Catholic
3. Malik Swain 6-2 280 Jr Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills
4. Jarrad Whited 6-2 220 Jr Vicksburg
5. Dakota Scholten 6-4 220 Jr Grant
6. Juwan Jarnegan 6-0 220 Jr Grand Rapids Christian
7. Tommy Brown 6-2 265 Sr Grand Rapids Northview
8. Chase Harrington 6-3 215 Jr GReenville
9. Mike Egeler 6-3 205 Jr Comstock Park
10. Mike Rautio 6-4 210 Jr Big Rapids
Class of 2016
Nate Jones 6-1 210 So OL/DL Muskegon Catholic Central
The perks of playing at a small-school, Jones is a sophomore but already a two-year starter. Part of a line that last Friday whupped a bigger Traverse City St. Francis and won 42-0. Jones is MCC’s center and already a pretty good one. Active hands, good technique.
Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournaments feature a bet where a player puts all his chips in the pot to raise his opponents. Someone wins the pot and if you are holding the lesser amount of chips to that someone and lose, you are out of the tournament. You don’t get to play anymore. You go home. And so it was on this last weekend of the season for several teams across the state as the brackets were determined for the 2013 Michigan High School Athletic Association Football tournament with eight Eleven Player Divisions and one Eight Player Man Division. Last Friday night, a cold one with a biting south wind blowing into the impressive stadium at Hudsonville, the West Ottawa Panthers at 5 – 3 visited the Eagles at 5 – 3. It takes six wins to qualify automatically for the tournament. Somebody was in. Likely the other team was out.
West Ottawa received and on the second play, Hudsonville’s Curt Doornbos got a hand on Panther QB’s slant pass, deflected it off the receiver and into the hands of fellow Eagle DB, Kyle Toth. A short drive gave Hudsonville a7-0 lead and it looked like the West Ottawa Panthers were going to play give away with another game. But the Eagles decided to return the turnover favor and a punt snap went over the punters head and gave West Ottawa the ball deep in Eagle territory. The six yard drive tied the game at 7 -7 at the 3:07 mark of the first quarter.
Then, at 9:51 of the second quarter, McNitt surprised the Hudsonville defense and went down the east sideline 43 yards to score on a wind aided sprint. The Hudsonville faithful mumbled that he ran well for such a big QB. At 6:00 of the second quarter another Eagle drive ended with a fumble that gave West Ottawa the ball in decent field position. This led to a third down QB draw by McNitt who drove in from the 3 yard line and the first half ended West Ottawa 21 – Hudsonville 7.
The excellent Hudsonville band put on a superb half time show which warmed the hands of the appreciative crowd but didn’t do much to take the chill off them. However, soon after the second half began, the hometown Eagles warmed to the challenge. Doornbos beat the Panther defense on a post pattern and at 10:24 of the third quarter, Hudsonville cut the lead in half to 14 -21. From this point on the Eagles always seemed to be holding the better hole cards. Nor was Doornbos done for the quarter as at 2:26 Opple found him again for a touch down pass of 35 yards and the score was tied 21 -21. Thus the stage was set for the power running of the Eagles and their own good sized QB, Opple. The Eagle offensive left side gave him several nice holes and the fourth quarter featured his running as they drove through a wearied West Ottawa defense.
At 5:14 of the fourth quarter, Hudsonville completed a hard fought comeback from a 21 -7 halftime deficit to go ahead 28-21. Now it was time to see what cards West Ottawa’s still held and to see if they could mount another late game comeback. So, whenfirst, second and then third down failed to gain another first down, the chilled Hudsonville fans knew the ALL IN play was coming. Surely with only 4:22 remaining, McNitt would scramble around on fourth and eleven and send another clutch pass to Zimmerman or Sok or some other Panther and in the usual scenario, the Panthers would get the first down and somehow tie the game. Even the Hudsonville fans murmured that West Ottawa was going for it; they were ALL IN. Then an odd thing happened. West Ottawa’s Coach Zagunis studied his cards and instead of pushing all the chips into the middle, he punted. Even on a windy night you would think the sigh of relief emmanting from the Hudsonville side of the field would have been audible to the opposing coach and caused a “rethink of that one”. But it didn’t and Hudsonville, behind continued strong running by QB Mason Opple, was not bluffing. His trifecta of first downs on the QB option / draw ran the clock down to victory formation time. West Ottawa was out of time outs and chips. Hudsonville qualified and West Ottawa went home.
Several players from both teams had very good games on this cold final week of the regular season. But It seemed to this reporter that Hudsonville’s strong defense forced the Panthers defense to be on the field too long and led to the second half vulnerability to the Hudsonville ground game. Opple and Doornboos had very good games but the Hudsonville secondary (probably with an assist from the strong, shifting wind) shut down the usually explosive West Ottawa passing game. The Panther’s running game was inconsistent as they couldn’t get much room for the quick Lacy. McNitt provided some offensive spark in their good first half but was controlled in the second. The victory of the offense for Hudsonville was only possible in the second half because of strong play of the Eagle defense.
Now the Eagles get to play a team they just beat and while there is confidence in that, it is always tough to beat the same team twice. Of course, should they succeed in that, the likely prize is a visit to THE TED. Not many teams have been successful there in November but this just may be the year that Rockford is vulnerable. The Eagles can take solace in the fact that the West Ottawa Panthers held the Rams to one scoring drive of just 20 yards through four quarters .
West Ottawa , congratulations on a season that saw you take on some tough challenges with much success. Build on that and we’ll see you next year.
Hudsonville home crowd. I was very impressed with your support of your team during the bleak first half. But I was more impressed that when things were not going well you stayed true to your program pledge of being good sportspeople. I have been in several stadiums this year where this was not only not practiced but the level of disrespect to opposing teams and officials was down right painfully embarrassing, even to an outsider. I know you travel well because I was with you some years ago at Ford Field when you won it all. Cheer you’re young people on and good luck!
The second-annual Lake Michigan Football Report All-Lake teams — Big School (D1-4) and Small School (D4-8) — will be announced state finals week.
We will also have an Underclassman Team recognizing standout freshman and sophomore players.
Coaches, we need your help recognizing your athletes. Please send worthy players’ statistics and your thoughts on their contributions to your teams’ successs, to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks you all!
1. Rockford 8-1
2. Hudsonville 6-3
3. East Kentwood 5-4
4. West Ottawa 5-4*
5. Traverse City West 5-4
*not in playoffs
1. Lowell 9-0
2. Muskegon 8-1
3. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 7-2
4. Portage Central 9-0
5. Muskegon Mona Shores 7-2
6. Caledonia 5-4*
7. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 4-5*
8. Portage Northern 6-3
9. Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills 5-4*
10. Traverse City Central 5-4*
1. Grand Rapids Christian 7-2
2. Zeeland West 8-1
3. St. Joseph 8-1 (4)
4. East Grand Rapids 5-4*
5. Plainwell 8-1
6. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 7-2
7. Byron Center 6-3
8. Wayland 5-4
9. Zeeland East 5-4
10. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern 4-5*
1. Grand Rapids South Christian 8-1
2. Comstock Park 9-0
3. Cadillac 9-0
4. Allendale 8-1
5. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 6-3
6. Spring Lake 8-1
7. Paw Paw 8-1
8. Otsego 6-3
9. Belding 6-3
10. Dowagiac 6-3
1. Muskegon Oakridge 8-1
2. Reed City 9-0
3. Newaygo 8-1
4. Grayling 8-1
5. Grand Rapids West Catholic 5-4
6. Hopkins 7-2
7. Kingsley 6-3
8. North Muskegon 5-4*
9. Parchment 6-3
10. Kalkaska 6-3
1. Shelby 8-1
2. Watervliet 9-0
3. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 8-1
4. Schoolcraft 8-1
5. Niles Brandywine 8-1
6. Maple City Glen Lake 8-1
7. Boyne City 7-2
8. Grandville Calvin Christian 6-3
9. Montague 6-3
10. Elk Rapids 6-3
1. Lake City 8-1
2. Lawton 8-1
3. Saugatuck 8-1
4. Evart 7-2
5. Traverse City St. Francis 5-4
6. Mancelona 7-2
7. Cassopolis 6-3
8. Decatur 6-3
9. St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 7-2
10. Bridgman 6-3
1. Beal City 9-0 (No. 1)
2. Muskegon Catholic Central 7-2
3. Johannesburg-Lewiston 7-2
4. Baldwin 7-2
4. Eau Claire 4-4
Class of 2014
Evan Akins 6-6 285 Sr OL Hudsonville Navy
While Reeths-Puffer will receive a lot of praise below, and rightfully so, let’s not Hudsonville gave those same Rockets their only loss — and rather handily — back in September. This is a good Hudsonville team, playing West Ottawa Friday for a playoff bid. Akins anchors the line at right tackle, a group that has held together despite losing two starters to injury against Grand Rapids Christian. In many other years, he’d be more heralded, in the class of 2014 he’s part of a bunch of future D1 offensive linemen. Akins is committed to the Naval Academy. Not only does that offer him the possibility of a unique education, but an offense — the flexbone — commensurate with his skills, as he moves well to get out and bury linebackers, and Hudsonville uses some combo blocking schemes. He’s already as big, or bigger, than many of Navy’s linemen, son probably won’t be adding much more weight, between the flexbone needing lighter blockers, and his military training.
Dwayne Barfield 6-2 175 Sr WR Grand Rapids Christian
Even without their All-American, GR Christian’s offense has proved potent thanks to guys like Barfield stepping up. He’s the Eagles’ leading receiver and had a two TD game last Friday against the Lake Area’s top team, Lowell. While not a blazer by college standards, Barfield has a knack for getting behind defense, and he’s a good overall athlete with hand-eye, balance and toughness.
Asantay Brown 6-1 190 Sr WR/DB Muskegon Mona Shores Western Michigan
Did what he could to give Mona Shores a chance in their back-and-forth, 32-28 loss to Reeths-Puffer, with 14 catches for 255 yards and two TDs. He can do it all at the high school level, from converting junior QB Tyree Jackson’s patented long balls to tacking on yardage after the catch on shorter throws. Takes advantage of his stronger frame, running consistent routes, sitting and making a big target. Knows how to get open, a constant on a team with some mercurial offensive talent. That said, could end up playing defense at WMU.
Stephen Hanson 6-4 285 Sr OL/DL Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Part of one of the better offensive lines we’ve seen this season. Love his attitude up front, more than a little dose of nasty. He’s out there looking to hit someone at right tackle. While he’s bigger than he was then, Hanson looked like he was moving better than he did at our March combine. Defensively, a solid two-technique tackle. He’s one of the to dozen uncommitted offensive linemen in the Lake Area.
Lake Area Uncommitted Senior Offensive Linemen
1. Chris Hendricks 6-5 275 Sr Fruitport
2. Alec Stevens 6-5 270 Sr West Branch Ogemaw Heights
3. Connor Smith 6-5 270 Sr Three Rivers
4. Alex VanVossen 6-4 240 Sr Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
5. Matt Reitsma 6-2 240 Sr Lowell
6. Ethan Lussky 6-4 285 Sr Rockford
7. Stephen Hanson 6-4 285 Sr Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
8. Jacob Compagner 6-5 230 Sr Zeeland East
9. Aaron Curtis 6-3 275 Sr Coopersville
10. Zach VandeVusse 6-5 295 Sr Hamilton
11. Tristan Fleet 6-3 275 Sr Mancelona
12. Cory Katterheinrich 6-2 285 Sr Niles Brandywine
Jeremy Stygstra 6-3 260 Sr DL Grand Rapids Christian
No one has ever questioned GR Christian’s talent. But they’re not the deepest team, and have been slowed by injuries beyond Drake Harris this season. Having Stygstra back in the lineup in their OT loss for Lowell bodes well for Grand Rapids Christian as their state title defense will soon commence. He makes everyone else’s job easier, as not only does he demand attention on the interior, but he can get loose to make plays himself as either or 3 or 0 technique guy.
Buck Tottingham 6-0 220 Sr DL/OL Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Reeths-Puffer has one of the best offensive lines we’ve seen all year, with the likes of Hanson, Tottingham, 5-10, 285 senior tackle Matt Hoover and 6-0, 235 senior center Jake Balkema. Tottingham is a versatile interior offensive lineman, helping spring open R-P’s potent running back attack of seniors Julian Munday and Corey Plichta and junior Dereko Riley. Those three combined for 363 yards and four TDs against Mona. Tottingham’s future is probably on the defensive side of the line. He does a good job mixing it up, strong enough to bull rush (he wrestles in the winter), athletic enough to make his man miss.
Dereko Riley 5-8 170 Jr RB Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Shhh, don’t tell Riley he’s the smallest dude on the field. He certainly doesn’t play like it, running the ball inside just as capably as breaking outside, blocking, tackling. It may not look like it based on the stats, but Riley covered Mona Shores’ Asantay Brown pretty well, it’s just that Brown used his size advantage to make the catches. Riley led the Rockets with 12 stops.
Red sky in the morning, Sailor take warning.
Red sky at night, Sailor’s Delight.
Okay, so it was the Grand Rapids Christian Eagles that came soaring into Lowell Red Arrow Stadium Friday night on the wings of a 6-1 record. And the sky was not so much red as, well, black. Oh the rural setting was stunning with the fall colors in the trees surrounding Red Arrow stadium, the golds, oranges, yellows, greens and, of course, reds in the hill sides were spectacular even in the fading light. The chill in the air brought true Friday night weather to the arena. But there should have been a warning issued to the visiting Eagles about the unbeaten Red Arrows of Lowell. I’m sure the Eagles were on red alert and not taking lightly their trip down the little red lane. Nor were they expecting the Lowell fans to roll out the red carpet for them. They were expecting a hard nosed game. They were expecting an on slot by the legendary strong quarterback play of Lowell, this year in the person of Kyler Shurlow. They were expecting a tough game from a Lowell team that had left the Big Reds of Muskegon, ah sorry, red faced. And they were in the right place. But the first half didn’t turn out at all like either team had envisioned nor like this Friday night sojourner had expected.
The beginning of the game wasn’t up to the gold standard and, in fact , I wouldn’t give you a red cent for the early efforts of the teams. Lowell gained some but found themselves backed up in their own end most of the quarter. GR Christian, despite excellent field position, was harried enough by Lowell on to not put together much of a drive. The only break out came when Coach Fellows of GR Christian gambled on a fourth down conversion just barely in Lowell territory and was caught red handed as Lowell’s strong line backing corps. This gave Lowell a chance to put a couple of first downs together and threaten the Eagle aerie . The 42 yard field goal attempt fluttered and missed. The first quarter ended Lowell 0 GR Christian 0. What might have been the red letter moment of the first quarter was when one Lowell fan complained about the poor play by yelling, “Come on, I had to pay five bucks to watch this!” I did, too.
In the second quarter things started to heat up on this chilly night. At 9:43, Lowell’s Benjamin Bigham snatched a pass away from the talons of an Eagles corner back and ended the first touchdown drive of the night with a 36-yard reception. Lowell 7 GR Christian 0. When Eagles followed on the next possession with a 4th down 35 yard fly pattern strike, the usually stoic Lowell crowd groaned and squirmed in their seats. The hyped matchup of two storied programs was a little flat as the first half ended Lowell 7 and GR Christian 7.
However, a surprise visit to Red Arrow Stadium by the Northern Michigan Wildcat Marching Band changed the whole tone of the stadium and the game. Turns out a freshman trumpeter on that band was a senior trumpeter on the Lowell band last year. Obviously, this herald has some pull as he talked the two band directors into having the Wildcat Band visit at halftime on their way to a Saturday gig at the Grand Valley State game. The band of college kids let loose and proceeded to heat things up further and paint the town red. (Somebody make me stop!) They put on a great half time show which featured tunes by Paul Simon, You Can Call Me Al , which goes something like this in print ‘Blaahhhh .. BLAH Bah BLAHH —– Blahhhh BAH BLAH BLAAAAT’ ! and Michael Jackson, Thriller , which showcased two thirds of the band doing the Thriller Dance. Very cool !
Nor was the halftime excitement unnoticed by the football teams. They, fresh from a good half time torching, returned ready to provide the real THRILLER. Just because it was going to take another quarter and a half to get untracked was no reason to grouse. Ah, such are the moments of Friday night lore.
The early third quarter featured more give and take, the GR Christian defense not giving much on the ground by shutting down the Lowell QB option and pitch. The Lowell defense giving nothing on the ground and shutting down the Tyler Sigler QB option. Then when the strong armed Sigler tried to drop back to pass , Lowell hit him with devastating blitzes. Sr. Sigler dodged and ducked until at 10:21 of the third, the Eagles QB took two steps back and floated a pass to the streaking Dwayne Barfield who caught the safety coming up on the red dog. The tie was broken with a 65 yard TD play. Christian 14 Lowell 7. Now the Eagles coaches in the Press Box had reason to do the Thriller Dance and the Red Arrow fans were blue. The rest of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth featured running by Kyler Shurlow and Kanon Dean and passes to Bigham. His outstanding game peaked when at 9:31 of the fourth quarter, Shurlow heaved a long pass to the far side line and Bigham pulled it in at the 11. From there, the Lowell QB option did put the ball in the end zone. The game was tied and the real thrills were just starting. Lowell 14 GR Christian 14
At 5:33 left of regulation time, Barfield again ran past the Lowell defense and Sigler dropped a perfect touch pass over the beaten Lowell D back and was good for a 50 yard go ahead strike. GR Christian 21 Lowell 14. It then looked like the Eagles finally had Lowell in the red for the count. Then on fourth and long, Shurlow’s under-thrown pass deep down field landed in the arms of an Eagle defender who bobbled the ball and handed it to Lowell’s Bigham for a game saving reception . This set up the final regulation time touch down and evened the score at Lowell 21 to GR Christian 21 and set up the overtime thriller .. .
Overtime was a blur of action. The Northern band members were going WILD at the near corner of the south end zone. The coin tossed and Lowell wins. GR Christian goes first. Play number one from the 10 yard line, and Sigler throws the fade to the corner. Touchdown and the extra point is good! Then it’s Lowell’s turn and after a half of some errant passes, Shurlow completes the fade on their first play of overtime to the other corner and the extra point is good. Lowell 28 GR Christian 28.
The teams change ends of the field and Lowell goes first in the second overtime. Now they use the QB option and on third and four, Shurlow blasts into the end zone . The extra point is good. GR Christian decides to run their next attempts and on a crucial fourth and five, Sigler powers off tackle and into the end zone. While the guy next to me and I are discussing if or when the teams must go for the two point conversion, the gambler , coach Fellows of the Eagles, lines up his team for the two point conversion. The Eagles run the same play they just scored on and this time, the Lowell defensive line and backfield stop Sigler at the one and a half yard line. The Thriller is in the books!
Lowell 35 Grand Rapids Christian 34. Cue the band . Cue the Dancers. What a game!
Quarterbacks: Sigler and Shurlow.. great games young men.
Receivers Barfield and Bigham … excellent efforts guys.
Defensive and offensive lines : Eagles and Red Arrows … very solid game, well played.
Backs and Defensive backs: Eagles and Red Arrows .. some scary moments and some missed plays but an excellent training game for the real season two weeks away.
Grand Rapids Christian Eagles: Wow, we know what you are and what you are missing. But while you are missing a huge talent, what you have is most impressive . Good luck and long run.
Lowell Red Arrows: Still undefeated but the Eagles showed that you may have some missing arrows in the quiver. You young men know what is waiting down that ‘yellow brick road’. The mouth may get kind of dry for the first dance but the second is the telling one.
ICE and HEAT. ICE and HEAT. ICE and HEAT. Strap ‘em up tight. The Big Dance is two weeks away.
SPECIAL SHOUT OUT: Northern Michigan Band: Wow, that was WILD! THANKS !
‘Blaahhhh .. BLAH BAH BLAAWHH — Blahhhh BAH BLAH BLAAAAT’
SEE YOU NEXT WEEK The Papa Bill-mobile rolls into Hudsonville.
1. Rockford 7-1 (No. 1 last week)
2. Hudsonville 5-3 (4)
3. East Kentwood 5-3 (2)
4. West Ottawa 5-3 (3)
5. Traverse City West 5-3 (5)
Playoff qualifiers in italics
1. Lowell 8-0 (No. 1)
2. Muskegon 7-1 (2)
3. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 7-1 (4)
4. Portage Central 7-0 (5)
5. Muskegon Mona Shores 6-2 (3)
6. Caledonia 5-3 (6)
7. Portage Northern 5-3 (7)
8. Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills 5-3 (NR)
9. Traverse City Central 5-3 (8)
10. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 3-5 (NR)
1. Grand Rapids Christian 6-2 (No. 1)
2. East Grand Rapids 5-3 (2)
3. Zeeland West 7-1 (3)
4. St. Joseph 7-1 (4)
5. Plainwell 7-1 (6)
6. Byron Center 6-2 (9)
7. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 6-2 (5)
8. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern 5-3 (NR)
9. Cedar Springs 4-4 (NR)
10. Wayland 4-4 (8)
1. Grand Rapids South Christian 7-1 (No. 1)
2. Comstock Park 8-0 (2)
3. Cadillac 8-0 (3)
4. Paw Paw 8-0 (4)
5. Allendale 6-1 dnp (5)
6. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 5-3 (6)
7. Dowagiac 6-2 (7)
8. Spring Lake 7-1 (8)
9. Holland Christian 4-4 (9)
10. Three Rivers 5-3 (10)
1. Muskegon Oakridge 7-1 (No. 1)
2. Reed City 8-0 (2)
3. Newaygo 7-1 (3)
4. Grayling 7-1 (4)
5. Hopkins 6-2 (5)
6. North Muskegon 5-3 (6)
7. Wyoming Kelloggsville 5-3 (7)
8. Wyoming Godwin Heights 5-3 (8)
9. Remus Chippewa Hills 5-3 (9)
10. Berrien Springs 3-5 (10)
1. Shelby 8-0 (No. 1)
2. Niles Brandywine 8-0 (2)
3. Montague 6-2 (6)
4. Grand Rapids West Catholic 4-4 (5)
5. Maple City Glen Lake 7-1 (3)
6. Boyne City 7-1 (4)
7. Grandville Calvin Christian 5-3 (8)
8. Watervliet 8-0 (9)
9. Elk Rapids 5-3 (10)
10. Constantine 5-3 (7)
1. Lake City 7-1 (No. 1)
2. Schoolcraft 7-1 (2)
3. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 7-1 (3)
4. Traverse City St. Francis 5-3 (4)
5. Lawton 8-0 (5)
6. Evart 6-2 (NR)
7. Hartford 5-3 (6)
8. Decatur 5-3 (7)
9. St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 7-1 (8)
10. Mancelona 6-2 (NR)
1. Beal City 8-0 (No. 1)
2. Muskegon Catholic Central 6-2 (2)
3. Saugatuck 7-1 (3)
4. Johannesburg-Lewiston 6-2 (5)
5. Bellaire 5-3 (8-man) (5)
Trevor Apsey 6-0 205 Sr RB/LB Maple City Glen Lake
Need a TD? There’s an Ap for that. He casts a shadow on Traverse City St. Francis’ playoff hopes Saturday night. Apsey’s big-play ability could give them flashbacks to their season opener with New Lothrop. Last week Apsey had a 99-yard TD against Suttons Bay. For 7-0 Glen Lake, Apsey has run 63 times for 1,002 yards and 14 TDs and returned two punts for scores. He’s also the leading tackler. While he exploits his speed, Apsey loves to hit and when running the ball will finish off plays, giving more than he gets.
Marquon Sargent 6-1 170 Sr WR Muskegon Mona Shores
Is there a better “No. 2” receiver in the Lake Area? Junior QB has an embarrassment of riches on his offense with the likes of Sargent, can see how this became the first playoff team in school history. While WMU commitment Asantay Brown is more physical and piles up big plays on the fade, Sargent can get major separation after the catch as well as run it from his slotback position. In the playoff qualifying win over Zeeland East, he had 115 yards receiving and two TDs, and ran for 79 yards, including 54 for another TD.
Kyle Steigenga 6-5 180 Sr WR Holland Christian
With the Drake Harris Sabbatical, Steigenga is the most dominant receiver in the Lake Area. That’s what happens, when you’re taller and can jump higher than any defender you’ll see. It took a bit for Holland Christian and new QB Caleb Vanderlugt to get their groove. They’re flowing now, winning four in a row, most recently in record fashion against ‘hood rival Holland. Vanderlugt’s six TD passes on the Dutch set a single-game record at a school that has already had some great QBs in its short football history. Steigenga was on the winning end of four of those, and his 196 receiving yards are also a Maroons record. He matched his own school single-season record set a year ago with his 14th TD. Like another West Michigan AAU basketball star we covered last week, Comstock Park’s Drake Baar, Steigenga is another hooper who would be a full-scholarship football recruit if he chose that route. But with the last name, is that even legal?
Timothy Wielinga 6-0 215 Sr RB/LB Paw Paw
When Wielinga got some sweat going running the ball, pace and momentum started to go Paw Paw’s way in their defensive struggle at Plainwell. The Redskins won 15-13 to improve to 7-0. Wielenga ran 19 times for 84 yards and a TD. While he may project as a fullback at the next level, for Paw Paw Wielinga is the way deep back. It looks like he’s gliding but hits holes hard, keeps his feet moving and falls forward with second effort. His defensive contributions were just as important, making key stops from his middle linebacker spot as well an interception in the second half. He’s more fast (runs in the 4.7s) than quick and plays high, so can get caught in overcommitments.
DeKurtis Murphy 6-5 295 Jr OL/DL St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic
He rarely left the field against Niles Brandywine, which is no joke when you’re his size. On one long LMC drive, Big Murph played left tackle, right tackle and left guard. It was a pretty obvious clue — wherever he lined up, that’s where LMC was running it. Got off the line and into the second level. Ran hard. Leaned and overwhelmed rather than crouched to explode. College future may be as a defensive tackle. Fought hard against a strong Brandywine O-line and helped at least muddy their potent running attack. For a game between Division 7 and 8 teams, there were a number of good linemen in that game, including two of the top 10 in 2015, between Murphy and Brandywine’s 6-3, 275 Jakob Szilaygi.
Lake Area 2015 Offensive Line Prospects
1. John Keenoy 6-3 260 Jr East Kentwood
2. DeKurtis Murphy 6-5 300 Jr St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic
3. Bryce Wilker 6-6 280 Jr Belding
4. Chase VanHoef 6-4 265 Jr Grand Haven
5. Trevor Raby 6-4 240 Jr Zeeland West
6. Seth Tice 6-2 265 Jr Traverse City Central
7. Tommy Brown 6-2 265 Jr Grand Rapids Northview
8. Clyde Pryor 6-4 265 Jr Kalamazoo Central
9. TJ Patterson 6-2 250 Jr Reed City
10. Jakob Szilaygi 6-3 275 Jr Niles Brandywine
Mason Opple 6-2 195 Jr QB Hudsonville
Hudsonville’s 2013 resurgence has coincided with the emergence of Opple at QB. While his throwing motion won’t be modeled by many, Opple is a tough all-around athlete who can run between tackles and make plays with his feet or arm. In last week’s win over Grand Haven, he ran for two TDs, then caught another on a reverse pass from running back Mark Dieterle. Opple is a three-sport standout in the O-K Red. There’s certainly a precedent at Hudsonville. Blake Hibbits was their QB two years ago, and now plays basketball and baseball at CMU.
Our friends Bob and Leslie have been touting the Dowagiac High School football team and school since I’ve know them. This week we loaded up the van with my son, his fiancé, all the grandkids and one teenage friend and headed to Dowagiac. It isn’t the longest road trip of my career. I played high school ball in Traverse City when there was only one public school team there and the shortest road trip was 150 miles. Uh, that was one way! A trip to Dowagiac is a small jaunt to watch good football. And this night there was some good football. Actually a lot more good defensive than offensive football, but it was still a great game.
Dowagiac is a Blue Collar town. I mean that with sincere respect. The community’s heyday may have been years ago when there was the stove plant and several other industries there but it has hung on with modern industries and strong agriculture. The combines were lit up and churning in the soybean fields as we drove to the game from Holland. The town has hung on through the lean times. It’s history is one of first, second and third-shift families and high school football lore. Times when having your son or grandson, or nephew or distant cousin’s boy starring on the Chieftains meant extra swagger. A time when Fall’s Blue Shirt was a size bigger. Dowagiac is a big-boned town. Nor was I surprised to see this Division 5 team with a couple of large lineman. But I mean, even if the program is embellishing the number of points on these guys racks, 6-1, 285 and 6-3, 315 will still cause people to stop and gawk at the buck pole.
Nor were the Three Rivers Wildcats to stand in awe of the perennial strong Chieftains. These folks brought a 4-2 record into Historic Chris Taylor Alumni Field. I expect that Three Rivers is a lot like Dowagiac as they are separated by less than 40 miles; alike, that is, except, of course, for the extra two rivers. So, it was not surprising that these two teams played the first quarter even up … Three Rivers (WE ARE … TR) 0 Dowagiac 0. It wasn’t exciting football, three downs and punt, three downs and punt, three downs and punt. But, the first quarter featured a battle of solid defenses and ineffective offenses. Later I learned from the visiting fans that the Dowagiac QB was on the sidelines in a lower leg cast. Oooch. I am sure that accounted for some of the offensive unsteadiness.
After more three and outs, TR ( with two first downs to that point) completed a nice pass from Alex Cunningham to Johnell Stewart who then ripped the Chieftains secondary for a 60 yard score and, at 4:59 of the second quarter, the score was Wildcats 7 Chieftains 0 . You could tell that Dowagiac was not used to being behind. The local crowd was as silent as a plant meeting before a layoff. But, resilient as the community, the Dowagiac team immediately responded with a 64 yard scoring drive which finished with a nice little 11 yard sweep by Jared Hatch. Three Rivers 7 and Dowagiac 7
Halftime was a delight as the Dowagiac 7th and 8th grade bands (100 strong ) performed. As son of a high school and junior high music teacher and musician, I pay special attention to the students who don’t play on the field and who do participate in extra-curricular activities. It is worth noticing that this band program put 100 students from two classes on the field and the school has classes just over 100 each. BIG WIN Dowagiac Bands!
Second Half: As I was exiting the visitor’s stands after the game, a local, seeing the clip board and binoculars, tugged my elbow and said, “The ‘D’ in Dowagiac stands for defense” . INDEED! And again the second half bore this out as D shut out ‘TR’ the remaining two quarters. Oh, TR move the ball and accumulated some yardage for the game . But, especially after ‘D’ scored on O with a long touchdown in the third quarter and a last minute drive in the fourth ended when QB Cottingham was stripped on another stellar defensive play , was the issue decided .
I want to acknowledge our hosts for the night Bob and Leslie. All those folks from Dowagiac know who they are as Leslie taught all of their kids and grand kids. They don’t call them children here in Dowagiac… they call them kids and mean it. As I stated, when I say Blue Collar , it is with the utmost respect. I may live in a lot bigger city now, but I was born in Petoskey, another small hard-working town. I can say without impunity that the two towns were both “hard scrabble,” the people equally hard working and tough. It may well be in these challenging times that this community will continue to struggle to provide jobs, but when you sit in the stands in an unfamiliar town, you can get a sense of the spirit of that town. Like many small towns, Dowagiac has a lot of history but a real sense of destiny. I hope the mall has good supply of size L and XL shirts!
1. This is a new feature on Papa Bill Friday Night Football report
2. I am not sure of the term “SHOUT OUT” because where I come from that is something you do when you go over your waders putting out the duck decoys !
Three Rivers Wildcats
You played a solid game against a good team . Good luck in the last two games and hope you join the Chieftains in the playoffs.
SHOUT OUTS Defense especially corner … great job … you didn’t let them beat you wide
Keyle Welzak good smart play – way to hit-solid athleticism – good fundamentals
Johnell Stewart – impressive TD catch and run – great coverage on the corner
Defensive line – solid play – kept them from exploiting the middle
Alex Cottingham – excellent job outside on the corner – great TD pass
SHOUT OUTS Austin Broda: well done young man. So, you won the game and you didn’t break a leg Kudos. But, in the highly unlikely circumstance that you didn’t hear this from all your coaches, you might want to watch those late game floaters. It IS duck season but, wow, that one pass Quack! Quack! BLAM !!!
Middle school push up crew … your enthusiasm is impressive … hopefully, you’ll get more reps.
Offense: work on the snap count and every play with the new QB is HUGE!
The two players that made that hit on the third quarter kickoff. I apologize but I can’ t find my notes on your names . Anyway , GREAT HIT … WHACK EM AND STACK EM !
Bryce Dodd… heal up ! Hope you can make it back for the playoffs. I didn’t see you in previous games but your finger prints are all over this very solid team.
Tristan and Conner, I understand Edwardsburg is going to be a battle. You guys can handle it.PS: Sign at Mr. Wahoos ! The Howard Plate … western omelet with a side of PANCAKE!
Good luck Chieftains… maybe I can catch you in a playoff game 6 – 1 is very cool right now!