Lake Area Honors: Week 1
Lake Area Offensive Player of the Week
Kalil Pimpleton Sr ATH Muskegon: He turned the Big House into his personal playground, scoring 5 TDs in a 51-14 thrashing of Ann Arbor Pioneer at Michigan Stadium. The Virginia Tech commit ran for 162 yards and 2 TDs while also throwing two scores and catching one himself, a 43-yard pass from Ladarius Jefferson.
Lake Area Defensive Player of the Week
Anthony Shuklis Jr DB Grand Rapids Catholic Central: Catholic broke in their new stadium with a win over East Grand Rapids. Towards that end Shuklis, part of a strong Cougars junior class, recovered a fumble for a TD and made an interception that set up another CC score.
Lake Area Small School Player of the Week
Ricky Clark Sr QB Schoolcraft: He topped 30 TDs as a junior and picked right back up in 2016. Clark threw for two TDs, ran for another and on defense made an interception in Schoolcraft’s 48-7 defeat of Coloma.
Lake Area Northern Michigan Player of the Week
Malcolm Williams Sr DL/RB Charlevoix: Williams impacted the offensive and defensive side for Charlevoix in the Rayders’ 45-13 win over Elk Rapids. He rushed for three TDS, and made three sacks.
Lake Area Coach of the Week
Derek Pennington, Zeeland East: With still 10 minutes left in the first half, the Chix trailed Saginaw Swan Valley 21-0. But they shut them out the rest of the way while the offense awakened to give East a 39-21 win.
New Season, New Stadiums: Can’t miss openers
Thursday, Aug. 25
Cedar Springs (6-4 2015) @ Zeeland West (14-0): Defending state champ West will again contend in D4, if not quite in such juggernaut fashion after graduating three-year QB , LMFR 2015 defensive MVP Zack VanValkenburg and 2,000-yard, 30-TD back Darius Perisee. Though Byron Center is one of the fastest overall teams in the Lake Area and will return to the playoffs. Zeeland West should again go through the O-K Green slate clean. The non-league schedule is legit with games at Mona Shores and West Catholic following this home opener with Cedar Springs. No team in the Lake Area has a better tight end combination than the Dux with grinding blocker 6-4 275 senior Conner Chupailo and long, athletic catch-and-run threat 6-5, 235 senior Jayk Slager. HOF coach John Shillito rarely lacks for running back depth so pencil in a 1,000+ back, senior Drake Fincannon getting the first crack. Cedar Springs is Dux Lite, a blue-collar wing-T team in its own right with a third-year starter at QB in 5-11, 205 Collin Alvesteffer. Cedar will be challenged to return to the playoffs as the newfangled O-K White is a strong league than they faced in the Bronze, plus West and Grand Rapids Christian non-conference.
Forest Hills Eastern (10-2) @ Petoskey (8-4): This game marks the debut of a new stadium for Petoskey, which doubles the seating of decrepit Curtis Field. Helping break in the turf is FHE coming off the best season in school history. Both teams must replace record-setting QBs, Eastern’s Jack Clark and Petoskey’s Evan Whitmore. Also among the 20 graduated Northmen starters is all-time rusher Brent Murray. Whitmore’s replacement, Joel Wilson, is a good athlete with size. The Hawks will lean heavily on Cade Peters, a revelation running the ball as a sophomore.
Friday, Aug. 26
East Grand Rapids (9-4) @ Grand Rapids Catholic Central (9-2): A pair of the Lake Area’s historic programs will christen Catholic’s new stadium, which is at the intersection of Knapp and Leffingwell. It’s a big day for East as well, the first time in 16 seasons Lake Area legend (seven state titles in 13 playoff appearances) Peter Stuursma won’t be on the Pioneers sideline. He’s now the head coach at Hope College, as Casey Longo steps in for the Pioneers. Easing his transition is EGR’s move from the weekly battleground that was the O-K White to a more pedestrian O-K Gold. Catholic Central would’ve been the defending champ in the Gold, but now will fight it out with West Catholic for O-K Blue supremacy. The Cougars’ top college prospects are in the 2018 class with versatile, athletic juniors 6-5, 245 Jalen Mayfield and 6-0, 205 Nolan Fugate.
Saline (10-1) @ Rockford (8-4): The Rams are looking to avenge last season’s opener a 13-point loss at Saline. Rockford has the edge in experience this time around and is poised to win yet another O-K Red title. The junior class is particularly strong with prospects like 6-5, 200 QB Jason Whittaker, 6-5, 300 center Cody Carone and 6-0, 185 cornerback Marcus Remtema. Saline has to replace star QB Josh Jackson, now at Virginia Tech, but his favored target tight end Bryce Wolma is back. He’s going to Arizona.
Saturday, Aug. 27
Muskegon (9-3) vs. Ann Arbor Pioneer @ U. of Michigan: This scenario might faze some programs, but Muskegon is used to facing high-end talent (Pioneer’s Antjuan Simmons is one of the state’s top players), winning programs (Pioneer trails only Muskegon in all-time wins), and competing in big-time venues. That’s what you sign on for when becoming a Big Red. Simmons, Jordan Hubbard and Jordan Nwogu will challenge a young Muskegon line that lost the Lake Area’s top 2018 prospect, left tackle Antwan Reed, to Florida’s IMG Academy. Once the bigs gel watch out, because Muskegon has an embarrassment of playmakers on both sides of the ball. QB/receiver Kalil Pimpleton isn’t big but his college is — Virginia Tech, so will that of linebacker Andrew Ward and while 6-2, 205 senior Jacorey Sullivan won’t blow by you he’s a physical receiver and as a safety seems to always be around the ball. Sullivan and Pioneer’s Cedric Benton could both help their stock if they’re matched up.
Preseason All-Lake Area Defense
DL Nate Umlor 6-5 260 Sr Allendale: A row the boat loyalist who will be a rare four-year varsity starter. Just as rare, his combination of brawler toughness and athletic quickness on the line. Caught four TDs as a tight end.
DL Johnathan Berghorst 6-3 270 Sr Zeeland East: A two-way force against one of the Lake Area’s toughest schedules in 2015, Berghorst now leads Zeeland East out of the Black into the O-K Green. A CMU commitment who projects as a plus-athlete at D tackle at the next level.
DL Jayk Slager 6-5 235 Sr Zeeland West: Flashed big-time potential last season for the D4 state champion Dux, playing on the opposite end from Lake Area Defensive MVP Zack VanValkenburg. But even garnering more blocking attention, Slager has the explosion and wingspan to still mix things up. Goes both ways and with Conner Chupailo forms the state’s top tight end duo.
LB Andrew Ward 6-1 215 Sr Muskegon: A closer at middle linebacker who can defend sideline to sideline, Ward made 83 tackles in 2015. He has offers from the likes of Nebraska, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Arizona and Washington State.
LB Dalton Agers 5-10 185 Sr Hudsonville: With the graduation Rockford’s Tyler Bradfield, Agers becomes the top two-way threat in the O-K Red. He’s led Hudsonville in tackles for two seasons, and rushing one.
LB Corey Malone-Hatcher 6-3 245 St. Joseph: The Michigan pledge is one of the state’s most highly regarded prospects, he’s just played a limited amount of high school football because of injuries.
LB Connor Bruinius 6-2 220 Sr Forest Hills Northern: He filled a leadership void when senior QB Jake Martin was injured last year and the Huskies returned to the playoffs. This will be his third season starting at both running back and linebacker.
DB Brayden Smith 6-4 180 Sr Byron Center: Athletic playmaker recruited to WMU as a safety. He made 53 tackles, caught 10 TDs and was an all-state punter.
DB Walker Christoffersen 5-10 180 Sr Muskegon Catholic Central: Shifty runner with soft hands who dominated both ways for the D8 champions. Christoffersen made two picks in the 2015 state final to help preserve a 7-0 win over Waterford Lakes.
DB Blake Dunn 5-11 175 DB Saugatuck: Four-sport all-stater is the top athlete from this nook of the Mitten since Richie Jordan. Dunn had 84 tackles and seven interceptions as a junior, while dominating the other way as a QB who 2.700 yards and 36 TDs while throwing for 1,000 and 18 TDs. He’s committed to WMU for baseball.
DB David Fox 6-1 220 DB Grand Rapids West Catholic: The Falcons’ best all-around player when healthy, which Fox was in the 2015 D5 state final when he ran for 152 yards and three TDs against River Rouge. Built like a linebacker and moving like a safety, Fox can also play QB, running back and receiver. He made three interceptions as a junior, two as a sophomore.
Preseason: All-Lake Area Offense
OL Phil Paea 6-4 285 Sr Berrien Springs: He was recruited to Michigan as a defensive tackle. But Paea, the Lake Area’s No. 1 ranked prospect in 2017, is also the best guard in our coverage area. He chose U-M over the likes of MSU, USC and Notre Dame.
OL Jalen Mayfield 6-5 245 Jr Grand Rapids Catholic Central: He has added 20 pounds since starting as a sophomore at tackle, all while staying fit with AAU basketball. Mayfield already has an offer from Central Michigan.
OL Turner Ruby 6-4 280 Sr East Kentwood: Overshadowed by fellow tackle Trenton Fincher last season, and there are underclassman getting buzz for the Falcons this year. But Ruby is the steady holdover who is versatile enough to lay up and down the line — he projects as a guard in college, while occasionally lining up at tight end for EK.
OL Mason Shirrell 6-5 220 Sr Muskegon Orchard View: He may not be as heavy as a lot of upperclassman linemen, but Shirrell wins with technique, athleticism and has the frame to put on significant good weight at the next level.
OL Erik Ditzhazy 6-5 270 Sr Forest Hills Northern: He moved from center to tackle as a junior and the rest, as they say, is history, as he showed the athletic potential to be offered and accept a scholarship from Central Michigan.
TE Keegan Cossou 6-5 225 Sr Greenville: A Central Michigan commitment, last season Cossou made 40 catches for 582 yards and five TDs.
QB Jason Whittaker 6-5 200 Jr Rockford: Already a high percentage passer as an underclassman, look for Whittaker’s numbers to be up from the 784 yards and 11 TDs in just eight games he threw for in 2015. He has all the physical tools as a pro-style QB and is the Lake Area’s top prospect at the position since Kirk Cousins was at Holland Christian.
RB Nick Isley 6-2 200 Sr Rockford: He was Rockford’s leading rusher as a junior and should have more opportunities now that all-time Rams great Tyler Bradfield has graduated. Isley has sub-4.5 speed at 200 pounds.
RB LaTommy Scott 5-7 160 Sr Muskegon Catholic Central: One of the Crusaders’ talented trio of backs with fellow seniors Walker Christoffersen and Logan Helton who are trying to lead them to a fourth-straight Division 8 state title. Scott ran for 1,235 yards and 23 TDs in 2015.
WR Drew Couturier 5-10 145 Sr Allendale: The most prolific returning receiver in the Lake Area. As a junior Couturier made 73 receptions for 1,362 and 15 TDs. He also had five interceptions.
ATH Kalil Pimpleton 5-7 150 Sr Muskegon: A standout quarterback last season, Pimpleton, a Virginia Tech commitment, is expected to contribute as a playmaker from various spots as a senior. He both ran and threw for over 1,000 yards in 2015.
Isley dominates LMFR Combine
Now in its fourth year, the Lake Michigan Football Report’s Grand Rapids Combine has been both a venue for established players to defend their reputations, and unknown prospects make their names. Here are the outstanding offensive players from the 2016 LMFR Combine.
Nick Isley 6-2 200 Jr RB Rockford: He was Rockford’s leading rusher as a junior at a healthy 8 yards a pop. Look for him to explode as a senior with Tyler Bradfield having graduated. Isley showed off his physical bonafides here in what may have been the most dominating combine performance in the event’s four-year history. He recorded the top marks in the 40-yard dash, 4.47 seconds; powerball toss, 43-feet; and vertical leap, 35 1/4″.
Outstanding Offensive Prospect
Drew Couturier 5-10 145 Jr WR Allendale: He was the Lake Area All-Junior Team offensive MVP after a junior season in which Couturier made 14 TD catches. Now he follows that up with a big-time combine showing. Dismiss him because of his size at your own risk, he’s fearless and can fly. Even when he didn’t make the catch it could be spectacular, like when he laid out horizontal in the air just to get his hands on a throw. He repeatedly freed himself in his routes with initial quickness then breakaway speed. Couturier had the third-best 40-time, 4.54 seconds; No. 5 vertical leap, 33 1/3″; and top 10 pro agility drill, 4.25 seconds.
- OL Joe Hruska 6-4 265 Jr Kalamazoo Loy-Norrix
- OL Dane Stanbaugh 6-4 335 Jr Lake Odessa Lakewood
- OL Mason Shirrell 6-5 210 Jr Muskegon Orchard View
- OL Lane Potter 6-3 270 Jr Hudsonville
- OL Reide Klinger 6-4 280 Jr Jenison
- TE Austin Lewis 6-4 190 So Fennville
- QB Jakob Kurnat 6-0 150 So Byron Center
- RB Shane Tagg 6-0 195 So Byron Center
- RB Christopher Chin 5-11 195 Jr Byron Center
- WR Sam Neville 6-3 196 Jr Grand Rapids West Catholic
- WR Joshua Atwell 5-10 185 Jr Grandville
St. Francis’ Bott defensive standout at LMFR Combine
Outstanding Defensive Prospect
Tim Bott 5-10 175 Jr LB Traverse City St. Francis: He came in and carried himself with the confidence gained from developing in one of the state’s most historic and successful programs, then showed that it was more than just in his head with a big-time combine performance under the gun. His 4.50-second 40-yard dash was the second fastest time, then Bott placed third in the vertical leap at 33 2/3 inches, third in the pro agility in 4.16 seconds and had a top 10 power ball toss of 36 feet. At his size coaches will want to see Bott’s transition to safety, but he certainly has the tools with which to work.
- DL Dan VanOpstall 6-6 220 So Jenison
- DL Ike Moore 6-0 255 Jr Comstock Park
- DL Raymond Cunningham 6-3 265 So Charlevoix
- LB Toby Hulst 6-1 210 So Grand Rapids South Christian
- LB Ethan Hart 6-2 210 Jr Hastings
- LB Dalton Agers 5-10 210 Jr Hudsonville
- LB Brett Taylor 6-0 220 So Comstock Park
- DB Nolan Fugate 6-1 202 So Grand Rapids Catholic Central
- DB Erik Walker 5-8 160 Jr Dowagiac
- DB Jalen Raninga 5-11 175 Jr Grandville
- UTL Alex Riggs 6-0 205 Jr Comstock Park