Class of 2014
Cory Carr 6-1 240 Sr LB/OL Portage Central
Carr and CMU commitment Hunter Lassitter give Portage Central two strong players guys on the left side of the offensive line, with Carr at tackle and Lassitter at tight end; and on the right side of the defense, with Lassiter on the line and Carr at linebacker. In their 40-7 win over Battle Creek Lakeview, Carr laid out his man to start the dominoes as Jerrod Davis was sprung for an 80-yard TD. Later he recovered a Central fumble on the 50-yard line. When they needed a fourth-and-one conversion, they ran Jacob Allan to Carr and Lassiter’s side — it ended up a 30-yard TD. Allen is a good back, who will block and accelerates well for his size. At 6-2, 200 after getting through that big initial hole, he broke a tackle, then followed downfield blocking the rest of the way. The Mustangs’ other back, Davis, has wiggle and a second gear. Back to Carr, good instincts and size at linebacker but he may be best suited to be an interior offensive lineman in college, as he may not have the speed and mobility for pass coverage. You want to find a spot for him, does a lot right and liked how he competed both ways against a physical, previously undefeated Lakeview team.
Kenneth Finley 6-4 280 DL Muskegon Western Michigan
In their regular season meeting, Lowell’s offensive line set the tone early with quick, aggressive blocking against Muskegon. The Red Arrows won that one. But the Big Reds have been tapering for November, and it was a fitter, dialed-in defensive front that turned the tables last Friday in Lowell. Finley has long been the Lake Area’s top defensive prospect in 2014, and if anything he’s separated himself, with over 20 tackles for loss this season. He also played some tight end when Muskegon went to its goal line offense. Finley wasn’t doing it against chumps on the left side of Lowell’s offensive line. But senior tackle Alex Kaminski is a 5-11, 195 middle linebacker, and while sophomore guard Karson Murley is a big kid with a bright future, he was, well, a sophomore going against a BCS-caliber senior. With Finley crashing in the left side, small but stout and explosive Muskegon tackle Jacob Sims got in for two sacks of his own. They had Lowell’s prolific senior QB Kyler Shurlow getting hit, hurrying throws, and looking like a mortal when he ran. Shurlow was intercepted three times, after just four picks in the previous 11 games.
Jeff Houston 6-1 190 Sr DB/WR Lowell
With soph Gabe Steed making an impact since being called up from the JV, Lowell QB Kyler Shurlow finished the season the beneficiary of five different receivers who could both get open, and catch the ball. It was Houston — a fourth-year varsity senior — making all Red Arrow TD grabs in their playoff loss to Muskegon. Those same ball skills were evident defensively, where he made a good read, break and pick of Shurlow’s counterpart, star QB Deshaun Thrower.
Justin Liptak 6-4 220 Sr TE Cadillac
He missed last season, and didn’t play until week 5 of this year after shoulder surgery. Liptak’s healthy at the right time, giving Cadillac the kind of big, athletic upperclassman they’ll need to compete against Comstock Park, another undefeated team with much of just that. He caught a shovel pass for a two-point conversion in the Vikings’ close district win over Ogemaw Heights. Liptak will have some college options given his size, athletic ability (he played on Cadillac’s state semifinalist basketball team) and grades.
Drew Marion 6-2 195 Sr ATH Lake City
Take a D1 college prospect, place him against D7 high school competition, run a no-huddle offense with said athlete at quarterback … and ridiculous numbers ensue. Another day, another dollar for Marion last week against Lincoln Alcona. In a 56-14 Lake City win, he scored six TDs on 18 runs and 139 yards, and was good on 14-of-20 throws for 211 yards and a TD. The next opponent will be a bit stiffer — defending state champion, undefeated Ishpeming. As a QB, just turn the Mitten upside down and slide it down a bit, he plays like Steve McNair and other Southern Sons. Surprisingly nimble footed for his physical style. Marion piles up big plays on designed runs, and connects on enough bombs to keep the field open. Just watch out for those Persian women. Or hasn’t that yet reached the Highland Conference? 2014 is a weird class for QBs, in that the very best probably won’t play the position — or the sport — in college. So here are the best who will go out and win a football game right now.
Lake Area Top Dozen Senior Quarterbacks
1. Deshaun Thrower 6-1 195 Sr Muskegon Stony Brook-basketball
2. Jalen Brooks 6-3 185 Sr Cadillac
3. Drew Marion 6-2 195 Sr Lake City
4. Kyler Shurlow 6-1 195 Sr Lowell
5. Nick Swore 6-2 190 Sr Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
6. Jared McNitt 6-0 200 Sr West Ottawa
7. Haiden Majewski 6-0 180 Sr Allendale
8. Tyler Sigler 6-3 200 Sr Grand Rapids Christian
9. Jake Swander 6-0 195 Sr Grayling
10. Luke Traver 6-3 185 Sr Watervliet
11. Chad Samuel 6-0 170 Sr Reed City
12. Rodney Davis 6-2 190 Sr Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills
Mitch Stanitzek 6-4 235 Sr DL/TE Grand Rapids West Catholic Eastern Michigan
He’s doubly relevant. West Catholic is making its standard month-long playoff campaign. And the school to which Stanitzek had verbally committed, EMU, fired coach Ron English. The new staff will likely go hard to maintain that commitment, he brings so much as a recruit. Stanitzek is one of the upper echelon that look the part, lest the part, then most importantly is the real thing on the field. He’s a matchup nightmare with his size/speed/explosion, demanding double-teams on both sides of the ball. Now that West Catholic is playing D5 teams every week, his physical advantages are even more pronounced.
Jordan Waire 6-1 175 Sr DB Muskegon
He’s a two-year starter at cornerback who has really come into his own as a senior. Waire was part of the group that came over from Muskegon Heights when that school restructured in 2012, so he had the adjustment period to big-time high school football and the responsibilities thereof. Now he’s playing relaxed and most importantly with confidence. In the regular season he only had two passes completed against him, while intercepting three. The Big Reds’ defensive backfield was shaky last season, and they still reached the D2 state final. This year, it’s just a third strong layer of what has become good, veteran defense at every level.
Class of 2015
Ben Hartley 6-2 180 Jr ATH West Branch Ogemaw Heights
With some maturity and toughness, he could be the heir apparent to Jalen Brooks as the Big North’s dynamic, athletic, all-everything QB. Hartley nearly single-handedly gave Brooks’ Cadillac team everything they could handle last Friday. The Vikings kept their undefeated record intact 37-27, enduring 72- and 61-yard first-half TDs from Hartley. This is the second season that Hartley has shared snaps with senior Devin Griffus. He finished the year with over 1,600 yards and 18 TDs running/passing/catching. He’s more athlete than polished QB, but Hartley does have a strong arm. He started both ways for the Falcons to lead the team with five interceptions.