Class of 2015
Tommy Brown 6-2 275 Sr OL/DL Grand Rapids Northview Davenport
Brown is part of what is looking more and more like a blockbuster rookie recruiting class for Davenport, which continues to pluck Lake Area talent away from GLIAC schools to an NAIA program that has yet to play a game. It’s actually the perfect fit for Brown particularly if he wants to play on the offensive line, where he’s really improved over the last year. He may not have the height and length to carry over from his current tackle spot, but with his mobility, physicality and toughness could be a terrific guard. Those same traits serve him well as a defensive tackle, where he is a three-year starter for the Wildcats.
Tyree Jackson 6-5 210 Sr QB Muskegon Mona Shores Buffalo
With an in-season coaching change at Buffalo, Jackson could potentially be one of the state’s hottest recruiting commodities as January approaches. He’s always been good, but has taken his game to another level as a senior, a four-year senior growing into his body and now able to make all the throws. Jackson is the perfect trigger man for an offense with as many options as Mona Shores, keeping his teammates happy and defenses on their heels. He has to chuck it less than in previous years as the Sailors’ have a more balanced attack thanks to the emergence of senior running back Deontay Moffett. Where his improved athleticism and physical maturity really show are when he holds onto the ball, as now Jackson can beat you with designed runs, though he can still get better scrambling when plays break down. In the regular season he completed 84-of-144 throws for 1,400 yards with 17 TDs and three picks while running for 485 yards and seven TDs.
Joeviair Kennedy 6-3 195 Sr WR Muskegon
The three top receivers in the senior class give you a differenct look. Allendale’s Nate Couturier is the shifty slot guy. Ottawa Hills’ Sam Beal is the pure speed field stretcher. Then there’s Kennedy, the big, physical blue-collar target. Which isn’t to say he’s not an athlete, quite the opposite Hip Hop has an offer from D2 No. 1 Ferris State and one in basketball from Northern Illinois. He runs his routes hard, blocks like he means it, can go up and get it across the middle and has body control to haul in the ball and make it official along the sidelines. Kennedy moves well into breaks and can accelerate after the catch.
Matt Schuiteman 6-2 175 Sr WR Muskegon Mona Shores
He may not be the first guy you think about from Mona Shores’ stable of skill position threats. And on pure talent, maybe he shouldn’t be. But production? He’s been QB Tyree Jackson’s favorite target this season despite missing three games with injury. Schuiteman had a career game last Friday playing Muskegon for the O-K Black championship. He repeatedly abused the Big Reds’ secondary getting behind it along the left sideline to make eight catches for 150 yards and two TDs. It was his second consecutive game with eight catches and 150 yards. He has good straight line speed — Schuiteman was a member of Mona’s state finalist 4×100 team last spring — who with more consistent hands and strength is a college receiver.
Cole VanOosten 6-7 270 Sr OL/DL Kalamazoo United
He’s part of the Kalamazoo Christian contingent that has come in to join forces with Kalamazoo Hackett and help the combined team reach the Division 4 playoffs. VanOosten is their top lineman both ways. Defensively he could swallow up runners thanks to his sheer size advantage in the KVA. Where VanOosten really intrigues though is as an offensive tackle because of his length. He has good flexibility for his size and positions himself well to help compensate for lack of elite athleticism.
Class of 2016
Dom Shermeta 5-11 205 Jr LB Muskegon Mona Shores
That’s ironic, a day after we published our top five junior linebackers, Shermeta, who wasn’t named, goes out against Muskegon and turns in a performance that any of those five would envy. Mona’s defense puts a lot of hats on the ball, but time and again it was Shermeta’s Carolina Blue dome at the tip of the spear. He’s not overly big, but he’s packed together, plays low and is a good fundamental tackler. He finished the regular seaosn with 120 tackles. If Shermeta can put on 15 and still run a sub 4.6 … well, GLIAC schools hope he doesn’t.
Class of 2017
Duke Angers 6-1 230 So RB/LB Maple City Glen Lake
He may have the best name in the Lake Area, but that’s not why Angers is a ranked underclassman. He was a jumbo fullback for Glen Lake who looks like he’ll keep getting bigger and can project him to any number of spots, and is already the team’s top tackler. Duke is the son of Lakers head coach Jerry Angers and will be a four-year varsity player.
- Game times 7 pm Friday unless otherwise noted.
- Winners are italicized.
Traverse City West 5-4 at Rockford 7-2
This will be these teams’ eighth playoff meeting in the past 11 seasons. Rockford has won all of them, most recently 19-0 in 2013. The Rams are making their 20th straight postseason appearance. Check out the matchup of two top five overall 2016 prospects, TC West’s junior right tackle Jacob Cerny and Rockford’s junior left end rusher Gabe Baumann.
Hudsonville 5-4 at West Ottawa 5-4
At one time 5-1 and ranked No. 1 in Division 1 after a comeback homecoming win over East Kentwood, West Ottawa backs into the playoff field having been out-scored 134-22 in the three games since then. Included in that was a 45-0 loss to Hudsonville.
Grandville 5-4 at East Kentwood 8-1 1 pm Saturday
East Kentwood is the most complete team we’ve seen all season — big line, run or pass, fast defense. Grandville is a tough team that lost by just one to EK in week 4 then battled its way into the postseason by closing out three straight must-win scenarios. The Falcons won the first meeting thanks to a late keeper from senior QB Kyle Friberg, and it could be that close again.
Traverse City Central 6-3 at Midland Dow 9-0
An undefeated state power playing at home, not a great draw for the Big North runners-up. No one has come close to Dow this year, but a down Saginaw Valley has something to do with that as well.
Caledonia 7-2 at Muskegon Mona Shores 8-1 7 pm Saturday
Either of these teams could go on and challenge Brother Rice in the state finals. This is the best team in Mona Shores’ history, an offensive juggernaut under senior QB Tyree Jackson that has been held under 30 points once, in the rain at Rockford the Sailors’ only loss. They closed the regular season clinching the O-K Black title with an historic 48-27 second-half blowout at Muskegon. But given how Caledonia’s been playing — all seven of their wins are against playoff teams — Mona’s most impressive victory was actually against these same Fighting Scots, 40-7 in week 4. No one knows what kind of weapons Jackson has at his disposal as well as the Scotts, who saw six different Sailors find the end zone. There will be no 30-point margins this time around. Mona Shores is a bit tougher than given credit for, Caledonia is faster than some realize, this is the best pre-district game in Michigan.
Portage Northern 6-3 “at” Portage Central 7-1
This is an intra-city rematch of the regular season game with Central won 26-10. The Mustangs will try to beat Northern for the 11th time in the past dozen games.
Bay City John Glenn 6-3 at Petoskey 7-2
One is hesitant to have much faith in the Big North in the playoffs, but home field should serve the Northmen well.
Grand Rapids Northview 6-3 at Muskegon 8-1 1 pm Saturday
Bad luck for Northview, getting a Muskegon team knocked down to D3 after two straight appearances in the D2 state finals, and seeing red after dropping the O-K Black title game to Mona Shores. Northview has a puncher’s chance is QB Devon Houston is able to pick on weak spots in the Muskegon secondary like Mona’s Tyree Jackson did.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 7-2 at Cedar Springs 8-1
FHN was unbeaten until running into Cedar Springs the first time, losing 14-8, and then fell the next week to Northview. The Huskies had come into that game averaging 40 points a contest. All aboard the Gus Bus!
Grand Rapids Christian 5-4 at St. Johns 8-1 7:30 pm Friday
Grand Rapids Christian was 4-1 before senior QB Patrick Hall was injured against Lowell, and 1-3 after that as the high flying Eagles of the last few years haven’t been able to throw the ball. But let’s be total homers and call the upset.
East Grand Rapids 6-3 at Lowell 8-1
EGR is back in the game after a two-year absence. EGR couldn’t run against Lowell the first first time, which has got to happen in the projected rain and snow. Lowell isn’t quite Lowell with a pedestrian senior class, but watch out for a long playoff run in 2015. As for 2014, this game should be one of the best in the Lake Area between two programs you know won’t fade under the postseason lights.
Byron Center 7-2 at Zeeland West 9-0
West has won 21 games in a row. And while D3 has more obstacles than last year, Byron Center — which was dispatched of by these same Dux 62-21 just two weeks ago — probably isn’t one of them.
Coldwater 8-1 at Stevensville Lakeshore 7-2
The post-Denny Dock era at Lakeshore has a familiar feel to it — a 17th-straight playoff appearance
Comstock Park 5-4 at Cadillac 9-0
At first glance this would appear to be a mismatch. But Comstock Park went undefeated in the O-K Blue, a league which in recent years has been as good as the Big North despite not having any Division 1 or 2 schools. It always takes a bit for Northern Michigan teams to adjust to the pace the Grand Rapids area teams play at. We’re still going Vikings, but it will be close.
Spring Lake 6-3 at Whitehall 7-2
Not playing in an O-K league may hurt Spring Lake in the postseason, as they haven’t won a playoff game since 2001. Whitehall doesn’t, either, but for small school leagues it doesn’t get much better than their West Michigan Conference.
Allendale 5-4 at Grand Rapids South Christian 7-2 (at Byron Center)
The Sailors looked poised for a third straight trip to Ford Field.
Hudsonville Unity Christian 5-4 at Grand Rapids Catholic Central 6-3 (at GR Christian)
This is a solid, not vintage, Catholic Central squad. Meanwhile Unity Christian’s offense has exploded, averaging 56 points over their last three games, all must-wins to qualify for the playoffs.
Paw Paw 6-3 at Edwardsburg 8-1
It was a basketball game the first time these teams met, with Edwardsburg winnign 62-57 in week 4 as the teams combined for over 1,200 yards from scrimmage. First stop wins?
Three Rivers 6-3 at Vicksburg 7-2
Vicksburg has an underrated signal caller, senior QB Dalton Ketlaar who is part of Davenport’s burgeoning debut recruiting class. It would be the Vick’s first-ever playoff victory.
Battle Creek Harper Creek 5-4 at Plainwell 8-1
Harper Creek hasn’t seen a running back like Jacob Geter, yet.
Kalamazoo United 6-3 at Eaton Rapids 6-3
Northern Ireland could’ve learned something from Hackett, where the eponymous Catholic school and Kalamazoo Christian combined squads and reached the playoffs. But the problem now is, KU didn’t play a schedule equivalent to most D4 teams.
Central Montcalm 5-4 at Freeland 8-1
Priority 1 for Central Montcalm will to be try and keep the ball out of the hands of Freeland’s Jake Jankoska, who averages 11.5 yards per carry and 39.5 yards per catch.
Berrien Springs 5-3 at Grand Rapids West Catholic 9-0
If West Catholic was able to win a state championship beginning the playoffs 5-4, how good is an undefeated version? Though they lost big-play threat Lasavian Majewski against Allendale win week 5, that just put the onus to deliver even more squarely on QB Travis Russell. Few are better equipped to do it than the third-year senior starter who has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for 14.
Muskegon Oakridge 8-1 at Hopkins 8-1
Great opener down in Tim Kisner Country. Both teams were undefeated league champions, Oakridge in the West Michigan Conference and Hopkins in the O-K Silver. Oakridge’s only loss was to defending D5 state champion West Catholic in week 1, and soph QB Brady Lutrull has come a long way since then.
Newaygo 7-2 at Reed City 7-2
Newaygo beat the Coyotes back in Week 3, but don’t see it happening twice.
Lakeview 8-1 at Chippewa Hills 7-2
Chippewa Hills’ two losses were both to playoff teams, Central Montcalm and Reed City.
Elk Rapids 5-4 at Boyne City 9-0
Elk Rapids took Boyne City to the brink in the regular season, but their rally ended on a controverial attempted spike of the ball gone astray. The rematch again features one of the Lake Area’s best QBs, Elks senior Adam Trautman, against a Boyne City D that has five shutouts but gave up a season-high 36 to Grayling last Friday (albeit while the Ramblers also scored a season-high 55).
Negaunee 5-4 at Charlevoix 6-3
While it’s a down year for the Miners, and a long trip, don’t underestimate Yooper toughness as real football weather creeps in.
Pine River 6-3 at Tawas 7-2
Pine River has never won a playoff game, and has a long trip to the East side. but as with Grand Rapids Christian the underdog at St. Johns they get our homer vote.
Fennville 6-3 at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 8-1
Fennville can be dangerous, they only team to beat Gobles in the Southwestern-North, but haven’t played a schedule like NorthPointe Christian’s. If he weren’t going to Findlay for basketball, Fennville tight end Aaron Overhiser might still be in the GLIAC for football. NorthPointe’s Kenny Willekes will be in the GLIAC — for football, he’s one of the top five senior linebackers in the Lake Area.
Carson City-Crystal 7-2 at Ravenna 7-2 1 pm Saturday
This pick assuming Ravenna isn’t still shell-shocked by their regular season ending shutout loss to Muskegon Catholic.
Schoolcraft 6-3 at Constantine 8-1 1 pm Saturday
Schoolcraft is one of only two in-state teams to top two TDs against Constantine, losing 31-17 way back in week 2. As talented as senior Justin Hull is, Constantine has three guys who can beat you on the ground with Hull, Taylor Reiff and QB Matt Hasbrouck.
Niles Brandywine 8-1 at Watervliet 8-1 7 pm Friday
Great matchup and what should be a toss-up. There aren’t a lot of small schools that have as talented skill guys as Brandywine seniors Andrew Duckett at QB and the school’s all-time rusher Marty Ward.
Mancelona 6-3 at Suttons Bay 8-1
Suttons Bay hasn’t lost since week 2. They have a couple intriguing prospects in the junior class, 6-4 230 two-way linemen Zach Smith and 6-2, 240 linebacker Dave Brown.
Onekama 6-3 at Traverse City St. Francis 7-2
Despite no Bulloughs for the first time in nearly a decade, here come the Glads. And they’ve done it without top prospect Matt Seybert, who has missed the season with a broken foot.
Manton 7-2 at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 8-1
Tom Markowski named Michigan Lutheran Seminary one of his favorites to win it all in D7.
Cassopolis 6-3 at Decatur 8-1
Decatur’s only loss was to Watervliet, which was able to slow down running back Johnathan Grosvenor. That’s easier said than done.
Bridgman 6-2 at Gobles 7-2
Bridgman’s best bet may be if ugly Halloween weather impedes Goble’s potent Tyler Hunt to Jacob Tiller passing combination.
Brethren 5-4 at Baldwin 8-1
This game just became interesting after Baldwin’s star quarterback, senior Brandon Childress, was suspended for a game by the MHSAA for reportedly leaving the sideline to break up a fight in the regular season finale against Hart. The Panthers may still have a change though, as no 11-man team in the field has fewer playoff points than Brethren. And there will still be a B. Childress at QB … freshman Braeden Childress.
Central Lake 5-4 at Frankfort 5-3
If the purple team is thinking ahead to basketball season, they could be in trouble.
Coleman 7-2 at Beal City 7-2
With no challenge in the Highland Conference, Beal City took a couple quality losses to D7 powerhouse Ishpeming and by a point last week to undefeated Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker.
Hillman 8-1 at Johannesburg-Lewiston 8-1
Jo’berg defensive back Logan Huff was the Ski Valley defensive MVP, and he’s only a junior.
Fulton 6-3 at Muskegon Catholic Central 9-0
Well, this is an easy one. Muskegon Catholic would be the favorite in Division 4-8. They’ve won 21 straight games and didn’t miss a beat when Christian Martinez stepped in for injured QB Nick Holt the last two games.
1. East Kentwood 8-1
2. Rockford 7-2
3. Grandville 5-4
3. Hudsonville 5-4
5. West Ottawa 5-4
1. Muskegon Mona Shores 8-1
2. Caledonia 7-2
3. Portage Central 7-1
4. Portage Northern 6-3
5. Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills 5-4
1. Zeeland West 9-0
2. Muskegon 8-1
3. Lowell 8-1
4. Cedar Springs 8-1
5. East Grand Rapids 6-3
6. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 7-2
7. Grand Rapids Christian 5-4
8. Stevensville Lakeshore 7-2
9. Byron Center 7-2
10. Petoskey 7-2
1. Grand Rapids South Christian 7-2
2. Cadillac 9-0
3. Grand Rapids Catholic Central 6-3
4. Plainwell 8-1
5. Edwardsburg 8-1
6. Comstock Park 5-4
7. Allendale 5-4
8. Hudsonville Unity Chrsitan 5-4
9. Vicksburg 7-2
10. Whitehall 7-2
1. Grand Rapids West Catholic 9-0
2. Muskegon Oakridge 8-1
3. Hopkins 8-1
4. Newaygo 7-2
5. Reed City 7-2
1. Boyne City 9-0
2. Constantine 8-1
3. Ravenna 7-2
4. Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 8-1
5. Niles Brandywine 8-1
6. Watervliet 8-1
7. Schoolcraft 6-3
8. Charlevoix 6-3
9. Elk Rapids 5-4
10. Fennville 6-3
1. Traverse City St. Francis 7-2
2. Decatur 8-1
3. Gobles 7-2
4. Suttons Bay 8-1
5. Bridgman 6-2
6. Cassopolis 6-3
7. Saugatuck 5-4
8. Manton 7-2
9. Mancelona 6-3
10. Onekama 6-3
1. Muskegon Catholic Central 8-0
2. Beal City 7-2
3. Baldwin 8-1
4. Johnessburg-Lewiston 8-1
5. Frankfort 5-3
Class of 2015
Nate Couturier 5-10 155 Sr WR/DB Allendale
For the third season in a row, Couturier is one of the most exciting players in the Lake Area. Few make better use of their chances. Going into the final game of the regular season, Couturier had 31 catches, which covered 592 yards and 10 TDs. It marks the third season that he’s reached double-digit receiving touchdowns. He’s a threat in coverage as well, having returned an interception for a TD. Unfortunately for Allendale, Comstock Park held them to 4-of-16 passing in the shutout win. When he does get touches, Couturier, with an offer from Air Force, is a ticket-seller. Many of his big plays begin with little passes at scrimmage, then the talent takes over; while also being able to split wide and get behind defenses at the high school level. Couturier has 4.55 speed, better still he has quickness, feel and vision.
Lamar Jordan 6-0 195 Sr LB Muskegon Catholic Central
Jordan is a returning starter and holds it down as the mike linebacker for defending Division 8 state champion and odds on state repeat favorite MCC. He has a high IQ on his reads and is able to play tight to the line without getting his pursuit angle exploited. Jordan is more wrapper than hitter and will have to retain his 4.8 speed while adding bulk to play linebacker at the next level. He goes both ways for the Crusaders who shows a motor and some toughness as a blocking tight end.
Class of 2016
Monterio Smith 5-10 175 Jr RB Comstock Park
An understudy to All-Lake running back Jake Bush in 2013, Smith has proved a more than capable replacement as a junior. He has a career game last Friday in Comstock Park’s shutout of O-K blue rival Allendale running for 318 yards and a TD. The touchdown was a 65-yarder up the middle behind pulling guard NickVanOost for the game’s first score in the second quarter. As with Bush, Smith is alone back there with QB Pat Naughton and really took advantage of the Panthers’ disciplined line play. He has the speed to turn the corner, which he did on his first big run proving hard to take down spinning a tackler for 10 more yards at the end.
Class of 2017
Shane Goebel 6-1 260 So DL Ravenna
Goebel is that rare commodity, a high school nose guard who excels in a 3-4. He has a strong lower body and can get some good push to occupy the interior of the line. Key for Goebel will be increased explosion off the ball as he matures and gets bigger.
Riley Fairfield 6-4 200 So ATH North Muskegon
He has the frame and athleticism as a sophomore that makes coaches rub their hands together gleefully, speculating what he will become, and how his various talents can be utilized. Fairfield showed his versatilty and value last Friday in North Muskegon’s big win over Shelby. He caught a 34-yard TD, threw a 36-yard TD, and returned a fumble 74 yards for a TD.
Corey Malone-Hatcher 6-3 235 So DL/LB St. Joseph
He’s the early No. 1 recruit in the Lake Area’s sophomore class, as not many his age can match Malone-Hatcher’s combination of versatility, production and physical tools. He’s both an energetic end-rusher for St. Joe, as well as a middle linebacker with the size and nose to stop the run and good enough feel and flexibility to drop into coverage. He already has an offer from Ohio State and Malone-Hatcher is being recruited by power programs such as Alabama, Michigan State and Notre Dame.
Nate Umlor 6-5 225 So DL/TE Allendale
He’s going to be a rare four-year starter for a Class B school, a prototypical 5 technique D end in a 3-4 and a top five overall Lake Area prospect in the 2017 class. Umlor is strong at the point of attack to where he’s often occupied by two blockers. Despite being much bigger than he was as a freshman, if anything he’s more athletic. Being still an underclassman albeit an experienced one, Umlor still doesn’t have the full-go motor. But when there are flashes, like the swim moved last Friday to suddenly make Comstock Park QB Pat Naughton’s world shrink real fast and force him into a touch throw on the retreat, it’s hard not to get really excited about Umlor’s potential. He’s also recruit-able at a high level as a tight end, with big frames, basketball timing and big, trusty hands.
Class of 2015
Caden Burrows 6-1 270 Sr OL/DL Cedar Springs
A veteran at center, Burrows has helped ease the transition for Cedar Springs’ sophomore quarterback Collin Alvesteffer and the Red Hawks are going to the playoffs. From the snap to finding his man, Burrows really gets his hands on quickly to help spring free the dangerous backs in Cedar’s wing T. He plays physically on the D line as well. A better athlete downhill than side-to-side, and pass block remains something of a myster given the high school offense.
Jarod Rodgers 6-0 205 Sr RB Byron Center
He’s getting stronger as the season progresses, with 493 yards and six TDS on the ground in Byron Center’s last two games alone. That includes touchdown runs of 91 and 87 yards last Friday against Holland Christian. All the way back from a sophomore ACL injury, Rodgers has nearly doubled his per carry rushing average from his junior season. He’s hard to bring down, then has enough straight line speed at 4.7 to take it to the house when he gets to daylight.
Kenny Willekes 6-3 215 Sr LB Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian
He’s on the top of the GLIAC recruiting charts at linebacker, and with that textbook size sand 4.7 speed some MAC interest as well. As a senior Willekes is having some fun running the ball too. Last week was his high to date, 202 yards and two TDs against Godwin Heights. It’s the defense that will pay the bills though. Willekes fills job requirement one — he beads in on the ball, squares and finishes as a tackler. He can pursue sideline to sideline. Willekes plays with some rambunctiousness and edge, without losing his fundamentals. This is a big school talent playing at the Division 7 level, which can really make things fall apart for the opposition.
Class of 2016
Gabe Baumann 6-3 245 Jr LB Rockford
Grand Haven had a nice ground game going in their overtime loss last Friday to Rockford. But most of that damage was done running off left tackle, far away from Baumann on the other side of the line. He plays with his hand down now but athletic enough to do either. Despite his size he has some wiggle which caused some problems for one of the Lake Area’s top senior tackles, Grand Haven’s Chase VanHoef, and ended up drawing double-teams. He closes well for his size as well. It was hard to see how Baumann does against the run in this game, but he’s clearly a top five overall prospect from the Lake Area in 2016.
Michael Holdship 6-0 210 Jr LB/RB Cadillac
Baumann is the top outside linebacker in the 2016 class, and Holdship the best on the inside and, like his 131 neighbor, is a top five overall junior talent in the Lake Area. Cadillac may have been underestimated after graduating one of the best players in the school’s history, quarterback Jalen Brooks, to Ferris State. But the Vikings are undeated and running away from the Big North. Holdship is a carryover starter and a two-way workhorse for Cadillac. He’s playing defensive tackle this year. On the other side, Holdship has run for 190 yards the past two weeks, including last Friday against Traverse City West (a Division 1 school, Caddy is D4). With 4.6 speed and blue-collar toughness, he could end up a linebacker or Big Ten fullback.
Lake Area’s Top 5 2016 Linebacker Prospects
1. Gabe Baumann 6-3 245 Jr Rockford
2. Michael Holdship 6-0 210 Jr Cadillac
3. Zach VanValkenburg 6-4 230 Jr Zeeland West
4. Dom Shermeta 5-11 210 Jr Muskegon Mona Shores
5. Zane Gorby 6-3 200 Jr Caledonia
Nolan Meekhof 6-1 215 Jr RB/LB Grandville
We’ve long loved Meekhof for his measurables, he was a big powerful athlete as just a freshman. The he blew it away again at our combine last spring running a 4.6 40, clearing over 30″ standing vertical and making the top powerball toss at over 40′. But how does that translate to the field? Increasingly well. In what was a surprise blowout win only those who haven’t followed West Ottawa’s two boys’ money sports for decades, Meekhof ran 25 times for 145 yards and two TDs against a talented defense from the then No. 1 team in Division 1.
Class of 2015
Mason Dekker 5-10 210 Sr LB West Ottawa
“Inspectah Deck he’s like that dude that’ll sit back and watch you play yourself and all that, right? And see you sit there and know you lyin’, and he’ll take you to court after that. Cuz he the Inspectah.” — Method Man
West Ottawa’s own Inspectah Dekk is now in his third year as the Panthers’ leading tackler, there’s no fooling him either. He makes great reads to the gaps, and other than one whiff going low was a rock at middle linebacker in West Ottawa’s win last Friday against East Kentwood, one of the biggest in school history. He’s also WO’s starting fullback and provides a receiving threats out of the backfield to help offset the loss of their top back, injured senior James Lacy. He had a first-down reception against East Kentwood. He can catch it the other way, too, with a 65-yard interception return for a TD earlier in the season.
Mike Egeler 6-4 225 Sr DL/TE Comstock Park
Egeler was a versatile role player on terrific Comstock Park teams as a sophomore and junior. As a senior it’s that versatility that continues to be his value, lining up as a six technique down lineman or sam linebacker, and is the Panthers’ tight end when they use one. He has the physical tools of a pass rusher, just would like to see more motor, like a Jacob Howe. As a tight end, Egeler used angles well to help spring Comstock Park’s runners, but needs to do a better job sustaining blocks in the passing game.
Caleb McNitt 6-2 215 Sr QB West Ottawa
He’s doing a reverse Jay Riemersma position switch. In 2013 McNitt was a tight end, his brother, senior Jared McNitt, was the QB. Now it’s Caleb under center, the position he played in JV ball. Three was nothing junior varsity about last Friday’s homecoming environment, when he led West Ottawa to an epic comeback win over then undefeated East Kentwood. McNitt plays a lot like another more heralded O-K Red QB, Mason Opple, as he’s just a football player as much or more so than a pure quarterback. He’s been nothing if not clutch, as the East Kentwood game marked the third come-from-behind. But the most recent one was special, as McNitt threw a fourth-quarter 40-yard TD pass to tie the Falcons then ran it in from five out to win it with under a minute to play. East Kentwood’s small, athletic defensive front had McNitt on the run in the first half. He had more time in the second half and defied the wind with his deliberate over-the-top motion to complete 13-of-21 throws for 276 yards and two TDs, while running for two TDs as well. He’s WO’s leading rusher on the season, hard to bring down with upper body strength and 4.7 speed. Throw in his grades, and McNitt is a versatile, low-risk recruit from one of the top leagues in the Midwest.
Maceo Vroman 5-11 160 Sr DB/WR Boyne City
He’s fast for any level, but put him at a small school Up North and there haven’t been many who can touch Vroman. The most they can do is not kick to him. He’s going to pile up scores on explosive runs around the ends. Primarily a runner but will also line up split wide and on rare occasions a blocker at tight end. He breaks away so often, tacklers often aren’t ready for Maceo when they do catch him, he’s so fast, aggressive and live-bodied he’s hard to bring down. Vroman also starts at cornerback for the Ramblers, a likely college destination at his size with his greatest value likey returning kicks.
Tristan Waters 6-2 160 Sr WR East Kentwood
While EK has re-emphasized the run game under first-year head coach Tony Kimbrough, and who can blame him with senior John Keenoy at center and senior Michael Ivy at tailback. But the Falcons can beat you through the air as well, as Kyle Frieberg, one of the Lake Area’s top quarterbacks, has a lot of weapons to work with, and a stellar line to let him do his job. Waters is the long-striding outside threat to complement the quicker Kevin Smith, also a senior. Waters had a 68-yard TD reception last Friday at West Ottawa.
Jarrad Whited 6-2 230 DL/TE Vicksburg
Whited is the kind of guy scouts like because he’s good in a combine setting — and even better with the pads on. Whited is about as tough as the come on the ends, with a lot of GLIAC interest including visits to Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley State. Despite being circled in red on the scouting reports of every Wolverine Conference teams, Whited defies the double teams and continues to create havoc in opponents’ backfields. While an ears pinned pass rusher, Whited is also tough against the run thanks to his toughness and closing speed. Perhaps his most spectacular play of the season came when he picked off a Paw Paw pass at the line of scrimmage and returned it 30 yards for a TD. That’s one more touchdown that Whited has a tight end, where he’s an aggressive and willing blocker.
Bryce Wilker 6-5 290 OL/DL Belding
Wilker is Belding’s left tackle, but may not be lithe and quick enough to do it at the next level. While Belding was largely overmatched last Friday against Comstock Park, Wilker had to be accounted for at all times. When he did catch pad level in the run game, it was all over. He also plays defensive end for the Redskins, and while he couldn’t catch CP’s talented junior QB Pat Naughton, he was able to flush the pocket, and the Panthers had trouble running his way. The interior of the line on either side would appear to be Wilker’s best bet in college.
Class of 2016
Pat Naughton 6-2 190 Jr QB Comstock Park
A returning starter who has Comstock Park back on track in the O-K Blue, Naughton remains a strong contender for the title of the Lake Area’s top 2016 QB. Even though he has fewer weapons to work with, Naughton is more patient and judicious than he was as an underclassman. He’s poised in the pocket and makes 40-yard tosses look easy. Not that he struggled in 2013 — CP went 12-1 as the sophomore threw for over 2,000 yards and 18 TDs. Through six games this year he’s completed 48-of-92 throws for 665 yards and six TDs. Like South Christian’s Jon Wassink, Naughton is dangerous on designed runs, but is more likely to keep a play alive in the pocket than bust it open. He’s run 76 times for 589 yards and six TDs.
Jean Pierre Nkolo 6-3 200 Jr DL/LB East Kentwood
East Kentwood has a small front seven by O-K Red standards, but they balance that with speed. Nkolo is part of that rotation, an explosive passing down rusher. He’s raw but when those flashes become more consistent, he’ll be heavily recruited. Other potential college players from EK’s D line are 6-0, 220 seniors Sammie Ryans, 5-9, 200 senior Melvin Sylvester and 6-2, 225 junior Vincent Hayes.
Luke Sage 6-0 185 Jr LB/DB Boyne City
The Ramblers have no losses through six games, thanks to a defense that’s allowed no points in five of those wins. The D embodies the makeup of Dave Hills’ best teams at Boyne City, not big but pursuers and hitters. More often that not it’s middle linebacker Sage the tip of the spearhead of this shutout unit. He anticipates so well, just seems to manifest from thin air in the gaps. Sage is lanky and athletic, looks almost laissez faire until the snap, then bring the sound and the fury. His wingspan helps him bring down bigger runners. He’s also valuable running the ball, blocking and on special teams. He’s likely a strong safety at the next level. It was ironic to watch Sage play against Traverse City St. Francis, as in many way he favors former Glads all-stater Riley Bullough. Sage is Green himself, his dad Dave having played at MSU in the 1980s.
Class of 2015
Brandon Childress 6-3 185 Sr QB Baldwin
Talent is so deep in the Lake Area that there are legitimate, athletic prospects at rural Division 8 schools. Childress, who will officially visit Cal-Davis for basketball after Friday’s game, is on pace for another season in which he both throws and runs for over 1,000 yards. He’s dangerous on designed runs, but also maintains pocket integrity when passing and is more likely to step up and make a throw than break loose before his receivers are open. Good right now, it’s scary to think how Childress might project if he were playing behind an East Kentwood or Muskegon type of line.
Eddie Kelly 6-1 215 Sr RB Caledonia
When Eddie Kelly ran for a nine-yard score to finish off Caledonia’s opening drive against Rockford, who could’ve guessed it would be the winning TD? It was, though Kelly added two more TDs and Caledonia shocked Rockford and the state at large with a 42-0 victory. He’s similar to former Zeeland East star Spencer Viening, now a linebacker at the College the Canyons in California, in that Kelly’s strength in his hips and core allow him to shed tacklers then throws on the 4.7 speed to finish the deal.
Jaeden MacPherson 6-2 245 Sr DL Muskegon Catholic Central
Defending Division 8 state champion Muskegon Catholic is so loaded this season they’d be capable of competing at a state level up through Division 4. MacPherson is part of that talented mix, a pocket-collapsing defensive end. Can at times be dominant with his upper-body strength, but will have to keep adding weight and with that m.o. and barely sub-5.0 speed may be best-served on the interior of the line in college.
Bryce Witham 6-4 240 Sr TE/DL Grand Rapids West Catholic
Witham is an impact two-way force for the undefeated D5 state champions and one of the Lake Area’s top 10 overall senior prospects. He’s a reliable target over the middle who will make tough grabs in traffic then drag tacklers with him. Runs with some Jeremy Shockey attitude to finish plays. He embraces the blocking aspect of the job decription too, as Witham is explosive off the snap and plays through the whistle. On the other side, he is a defensive end with a motor who flushes the pocket, makes good reads and is a sound tackler.
Class of 2016
Mike Bordeaux 6-3 255 Jr OL/DL Muskegon Mona Shores
While it’s another Mona Shores junior lineman, Christian Boyd, whom we have ranked, Bordeaux is another one to check out for the Sailors. With all their pretty offense, someone has to be doing the dirty work, and Bordeaux does just that as a two-way tackle. At an offensive right tackle in Mona’s spread offense he does a good job clearing N-S routes for breakout senior running back Deontay Moffett. In pass protect does well stringing out edge rushers but can get beat by an explosive four technique. Going the other way, Bordeaux is a blue-collar tackle for both four- and three-man fronts whose college potential may be best served as an interior defender.
Wade Buckman 6-6 205 Jr QB Holland
After two classes heavy with college-talent QBs in the Lake Area, there’s a lesser haul in 2016. But coaches will keep looking, as will we which brings us to Buckman. His responsibilities with the Dutch 1 and 1A are to get the ball to senior running backs Elroy Payne and Brandon Davis. Buckman is a loping pro-style QB who looked to throw on the rollout against Byron Center. Arm strength will likely be the deal maker or breaker here.
Tanner Christian 5-11 180 Jr ATH Caledonia
A ball-handling and running QB, Christian clocks a 4.6 40 and proved an effective speed counterbalance to powerhouse senior running back Eddie Kelley as Caledonia’s rushing attack rolled over Rockford. Christian ran for 118 yards and two TDs, over half of it coming on a 61-yard scoring run as Caledonia put the game out of reach in the second quarter.
Zach Pangborn 6-0 175 Jr WR Grand Rapids Northview
He’s one of the Lake Area’s leading receivers at the turn with 15 catches for 265 yards and six TDs. Pangborn is also a standout shooting guard in basketball, and the hand-eye crossover is apparent on the field. You can also see some hooper in the the little free-up and double-moves he pulls off to create space on cornerbacks. He runs solid routes, finds holes and is quick in space which Pangborn needs because as a 4.7 40 guy he doesn’t have blow-by speed. He has a good feel along the sidelines to make life easier for senior QB Cameron Houston, and shows a team-first ethos with some actual hearty blocking.