Lake Area Offensive Player of the Week
Nate Stephens Sr RB Lowell: The future Harvard baseball player carried the ball 20 times for 145 yards and three TDs. Lowell beat Traverse City Central for a D2 district crown.
Lake Area Defensive Player of the Week
Connor Fischer Sr LB Grandville: OK, technically it was a special teams play that earned the nod for Fischer. The Bulldogs trailed until the second half when he blocked a Rockford punt recovered by teammate Isaak Opatik for their first score. Grandville won the D1 district final 20-9.
Lake Area Small School Player of the Week
Cameron Martinez Fr QB Muskegon Catholic Central: The freshman played with the efficiency of an upperclassman in MCC’s shutout win over Beal City in a D8 district final. Martinez was 6-of-7 passing for 130 yards and two TDs while running nine times for 63 yards and three TDs.
Lake Area Northern Michigan Player of the Week
Griffin Kelly Jr RB Frankfort: He had the game-winning score, a 38-yard TD reception, with 13 seconds left to give the Panthers a 38-24 defeat of Lincoln Alcona in a D8 district final. Kelly also ran for 121 yards and a pair of TDs.
Lake Area Coach of the Year
Joseph Hyland, Grand Rapids West Catholic: He stepped into both a dream position, but one with great expectations replacing one of the Lake Area’s very best, Dan Rohn, under whom anything less than a state title was a disappointment. So far so good for Hyland, after West Catholic got its second playoff road win, 10-7 at Portland, in defense of their D5 state crown.
Class of 2017
Jack Combs 6-1 175 Sr WR East Grand Rapids: There are a lot of talented uncommitted senior receivers. Combs has been one of the best averaging a TD per game for 8-2 EGR and if I’m a MAC school would love him as a preferred walk-on for special teams and a likely rotation slot receiver as an upperclassman. Combs is fast, catches the ball away from his body, is a QBs best friend with the way he adjusts to broken plays and a leader with he way he brings energy and blocks with as much enthusiasm as he runs routes.
Ian Hall 6-1 230 Sr LB Grandville: He’s a third-year, two-way starter on the line for Grandville, a quick-hitting technician at guard and explosive rusher off the end. He’s fast enough to have caught the O-K Red’s swiftest QB, Jack Mandryk, a couple times when they met in the regular season. If I’m a D2 that runs a base 30 defense, I’m all over Hall as a potential all-league weakside outside linebacker.
Class of 2018
Liam Cavanaugh 6-3 190 Jr LB West Ottawa: We profiled West Ottawa’s Xavier Wade, the Lake Area’s top junior receiver, early in the season. The Panthers have two more legit college prospects in the 2018 class, Cavanaugh and 6-5, 320 Bryan Johnson. Cavanaugh has a nice frame and wingspan. What he lacks in explosion and flexibility he counterbalances with coaching and fundamentals to end up in the right spots, whether filling holes against the run or dropping back in pass coverage. The same attention to footwork and detail make Cavanaugh an effective receiver as well.
Braeden Childress 6-4 215 Jr TE/QB Big Rapids: It was a down season for Big Rapids after winning a playoff game in 2015. A clone of Childress could have helped. He was the Cardinals’ most dangerous downfield receiving threat, and also the QB with the arm to make those throws. He has offers as a tight end from Central Michigan, where his brother Brandon Childress is a RS freshman receiver, and Toledo. The younger Childress runs precise routes often split wide, has soft hands and is deceptively fast for his big frame — so no surprise he was the sixth man on BR’s Class B runner-up basketball team. Would like to see more angry running and yards after the catch.
Darius Pruitt 6-3 190 Jr DB/WR Kalamazoo Central: Key part of an improved season for the Maroon Giants finishing 5-4. Still the kind of prospect we’ve come to expect from K-Central athletic if a bit raw and undisciplined. But Pruitt has the kind of talent, and playing in that color helmet, at times looks like he could be out there doing it for Muskegon. Puts the free in free safety, covering a lot of space to make plays on balls. Would be interesting to see Pruitt in coverage in a better league against better QBs where every pass play was a serious threat.
Niner Stark 6-3 185 Jr DB/WR Gull Lake: Wild name, man, smooth aware game. Big high school cornerback with nice combination of ball skills, unhindered feet and hips, and the wingspan to get to the ball and cover space to offset lack of elite speed. If he doesn’t run in the 4.5s for college coaches still has the frame to move to safety where he’d be plus in coverage, or receiver as he has hands.