There are more than 130 players registered for the inaugural Lake Michigan Football Report Senior Exposure Camp, which is 12:30 pm Sunday at Woodland Sports in Grand Rapids. In that number it’s hard to find filler, as it swells with legit players and prospects from the Lake Michigan area and beyond. Here are some players poised to excel in front of the college coaches and scouts in attendance, and those mention hardly exhaust the list of future college players who will be competing.
Gun show, admit one
Receiver is one of the hardest positions to scout in high school, because so much is out of control of the player — offensive scheme and quarterback arms. That’s one of the reasons the wideouts and TEs have to be pumped about the camp, and the opportunity to catch balls from the best of the best. Among the quarterback contingent are Zeeland East’s Michael Custer, The Lake’s No. 1 ranked senior QB; West Ottawa’s Trevor Van Tubbergen, the No. 2 ranked senior QB; Comstock Park’s Jake Brown, the first-team All-Lakes Big School QB; Jake Cowsert who put up big numbers for Watervliet; and one of a few juniors invited, Grayling’s Jake Swander, The Lake’s first-team All-Lakes Small School QB. Custer threw for 1,544 yards and 17 TDs (and just two interceptions); Van Tubbergen, 1,362 and 18; Brown 1,558 and 10 (and 24 more TDs on the ground); Cowsert 1,934 and 23; Swander 2,888 yards and 22. All-OK Green QB Nick Kronemeyer threw for 1,253 and eight, while leading Hamilton in rushing. And then there’s Swartz Creek’s Jalen Schoenfield, who is registered to work out as a WR/DB but as a senior threw for 2,426 yards and 30 TDs.
Back on the map
As a junior lineman at Holland, Bobby Drew was a key member of the best team in school history. He’s now a student at Saugatuck, but didn’t play his senior season. The college coaches are clamoring to check him out. Drew comes in as a 6-3, 264 DT/OT who not so long ago was hearing from half the MAC and MSU. He was also a three-time all-conference thrower for Holland’s track-and-field team.
Not if, but how high
Just one of a handful of juniors who will be competing, Jacob Howe is already a scholarship football player, health willing. The 6-2, 240 junior led Forest Hills Northern in tackles and rushing, and was also one of the top punters in West Michigan. With how big he already is, Howe projects to the defensive line. But he moves well in games and if he goes just as fast on the clock, the MAC offers should commence.
It’s a who’s-who of Lake Michigan area running backs. Mattawan’s Trevor Sweeney is The Lake’s No. 1 ranked RB and a consensus big school all-stater after rushing for 1,754 yards and totaling 31 TDs. All-Lake back John King carried the load for state finalist Muskegon, 1,500 yards and 21 TDs. Kalamazoo Hackett’s Geovante Weston is a small school All-Lake and all-stater with over 4,000 career yards, a school record. Courtlan Gordon is also the all-time rusher at his school, Niles Brandywine, including 1,700 this fall. Mancelona’s Wyatt Derrer, Baldwin’s Andon Ware and Fowler’s Tyler Koenigsknecht were all small school all-staters with formidable stats. Few test better than Otsego’s Brandan Campbell, one of The Lake’s top recruits at RB and LB. TJ Schepperly was an explosive running QB for Traverse City Central. Also from up North, Kingsley’s Tristan Eickenroth is a big back who was all-state as a junior, but had a broken arms this season. Braden Werley did it all for explosive Zeeland West. Another state finals star was Grand Rapids Christian’s Seth McIntosh, the Eagles’ leading rusher. Muskegon Reeths-Puffer’s Johndries Betts-Render is so talented he was a first-team RB in the O-K Black, a league which also includes King and Zeeland East junior all-stater Spencer Viening.
Just win, baby
There are few better ways to enhance a resume than starting on a state championship team. A number of campers earned that stamp of approval just last week. From Division 2 Grand Rapids Christian, leading rusher Seth McIntosh and leading tackler Matthew Hall. And from Division 4 Grand Rapids South Christian, DB/WR Derek Woltjter, who ran all over Detroit Country Day as the fill-in QB; TE/LB Seth VanEngen; WR/DB Jason Miller; LB Jordan Sundelius; lineman Andy Grasman; and WR Austin Diekevers.
Division 8, 10 am
Beal City 13-0 vs. Harbor Beach 12-1
Beal City is just three years removed from a state championship. After going 8-19 in 2008-10, Harbor Beach is 23-2 the past two seasons. Their defense allows 12 points a game. 5-11, 180 junior Eli Kraft makes Harbor Beach go. He’s completed 71-of-95 passes for 1,129 yards and 11 TDs to one interception, while running for 740 yards and 14 TDs. On defense Kraft has five interceptions, one he returned for a touchdown. Beal City doesn’t have a running QB, 6-1, 180 senior Sam Schafer has completed 74-of-107 throws for 1,546 yards, 19 TDS and four interceptions. He works with five backs — Ty Rollin, Hayden Huber, Joe Rau and Austin Cook — who have rushed for at least five TDs, paced by Rollin a 5-6, 180 junior with 124 carries for 869 yards and 18 TDs.
Division 2, 1 pm
Muskegon 11-1 vs. Birmingham Brother Rice 11-2
These are historically elite programs in the state of Michigan. Brother Rice is synonymous with head Al Fracassa, now in his sixth decade of coaching and the state’s all-time leader with 415 wins. He still knows what he’s doing apparently, as the Warriors are the defending Division 2 champion. They and Muskegon have one common opponent this year. The Big Reds beat Division 3 finalist Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 21014, while Brother Rice lost 24-14. BR’s only other loss was to another team playing for as state title, Cass Tech. Muskegon has run for over 4,000 yards behind what might be the state’s best offensive line. But they have yet to have to contain a player as good as linebacker Jon Reschke, a 6-3, 232 senior who is the heir apparent to Max Bullough at Michigan State. Muskegon will need to play with more discipline than it did Saturday against Caledonia. That mean both in execution, such as crisper decision-making on the option and holding onto the ball, and after the whistle, as the Big Reds were flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct. You can’ t give a team like Brother Rice those kind of additional chances.
Division 6, 4:30 pm
Contantine 11-2 vs. Ithaca 13-0
When these teams met in the 2011 state final, Constantine was without injured QB Tommy Reed. Reed, now a senior, is back, but now Constantine doesn’t one of their top two running backs, senior Peyton White who was suspended and missed last week as well. But they do have All-Lake pick Ben Mallo, who last year at Ford Field ran for 189 yards and two TDs. And in the wing -T it really is the x-and-o’s no the Jimmys and Joes, and Constantine’s offense has rushed for 5,532 yards and 75 TDs. Hopefully the Falcons learned from experience and can put together two halves. Last season’s championship was tied 14-14 before Ithaca marched to a 42-14 win, as QB Travis Smith threw for 300 yards and a TD and ran for two more scores. If anything, Ithaca is stronger this time around, because that quarterback is no longer an underclassman. The 6-2, 200 junior has completed 140-of-226 passes for 36 TDs to four picks, while running for 732 yards and 13 TDs. Ithaca is in dynasty mode — 41 straight wins. Unfortunately for Constantine, which looks to be on the verge of another runner-up finish, and win No. 42 for the Yellowjackets.
Division 4, 7:30 pm
Grand Rapids South Christian 10-3 vs. Detroit Country Day 11-2
What looked like an entertaining game between two of the state’s top quarterbacks likely won’t come to fruition because of a collarbone injury to South Christian super soph Jon Wassink. DCD junior Tyler Wiegers, who has completed 129-of-209 passes for 18 TDS, one interception, is good to go. He’s protected by a front five averaging 6-3, 250 and has helped Richard Wilson run for 1,074 yards and 24 TDs. But they’ll have their hands full with an athletic South Christian defensive front seven led by 6-5, 215 senior linebacker Seth VanEngen.
Kenneth Finley (Muskegon) vs.
Steve Elmer (Midland)
Elmer, Midland’s 6-6, 290 senior headed to Notre Dame, is what Finley aspires too — an All-American, headed to an elite program. With Elmer at offensive tackle and Finley, a 6-3, 265 junior, at defensive tackle, they may not lock horns too often. But they set the tones for their respective lineups in what will be a physical game in Midland.
Harold Wiggins (Stevensville Lakeshore) vs.
Drake Harris (Grand Rapids Christian)
Everyone knows about GR Christian’s junior star Drake Harris. Wiggins isn’t a household name, except amongst D2 coaches who like the big-bodied receiver who gives Lakeshore a major receiving threat of their own. Last week against Hamilton the 6-3, 190 senior caught three passes for 157 yards and a TD.
Alec Stevens (Ogemaw Heights) vs.
Blake Mazur (Comstock Park)
Both these linemen play both ways, while Stevens, a 6-5, 270 junior, is projected to the offensive line in college and Mazur, a 6-3, 250 senior, the defensive side. There’s nothing subtle about these guys, every inch will be earned.
Sam Shutes (Three Rivers) vs.
Jon Wassink (South Christian)
Neither of these quarterbacks, Shutes, a senior, nor Wassink, a sophomore, have any hesitation to launch it. In 2012, Shutes has gone 124-218 passing for 2,134 yards and 16 TDs to three interceptions, while running 94 times for 564 yards and 10 TDs. Wassink has conected on nearly 70 percent of his throws, 128-of-185, for 1,815 yards and 12 TDs and has rushed 73 times for 410 yards and six TDs. Wassink moves well in the pocket, but he really hasn’t had to thus far in the playoffs thanks to continually improving play for the Sailors’ young offensive line. He’s been efficient as ever against Paw Paw and Dowagiac, completing 31-of-39 passes for 436 yards and three TDs, while running for 122 yards and three TDs.
Division 4 Regional
Ogemaw Heights (Big North) 8-3 @
Comstock Park (O-K Blue) 10-1, 1 pm Saturday
Ogemaw Heights had a come to the football gods moment, with a 2-3 record and trailing Cadillac in Week 6. The Falcons won that game and every one since, averaging 44.5 points per game along the way. Saturday they travel to Comstock Park, which is coming off one of the biggest upsets of the playoffs, a 16-7 win over Division 4 No. 1 and previously unbeaten Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Ogemaw plays physical, no frills football. It helps to have a likely future Big Ten recruit on the offensive line, in 6-5, 270 junior Alec Stevens. Another junior playing well up front has been 5-10, 210 center Todd Henry. They ran for 529 yards last week against Chippewa Hills. Brandon Benac, Tommy DeMatio and Devin Griffus all topped 100 rushing yards, with Benac going for 270 and three TDs. For the year the senior has run for 1,361 yards and 16 TDs. When 6-1, 170 sophomore QB Ben Hartley does have to throw it, he has a nice target in 6-3, 180 senior Jerome Hunter. He’s the Falcons’ leading receiver with 18 catches for 476 yards and six TDs.
In addition to his fullback duties DeMatio, a 5-7, 210 junior, plays defensive tackle, where he leads the team with seven sacks. Another junior, 5-10, 180 linebacker Shane Benjamin, is the Falcons’ leading tacker. Ogemaw’s D will be going up against a Comstock Park offense that doesn’t put up outrageous numbers, but can methodically move the ball and makes plays when it has to.
This is Comstock Park third-straight regional appearance, looking for its second-straight state semifinal berth. The Panthers are led by one of The Lake’s elite quarterbacks, 6-0, 205 senior Just Win Jake Brown. This will be the 10th playoff game he’s played in his three-year career. This season Brown has throw for 1,438 yards and seven TDs and run for 891 and 21 TDs. If he’s not running it in himself, Brown has a big red zone target in 6-7, 210 junior Drake Baar. His third-down back dujour is junior Jake Bush. He’s Comstock Park’s leading receiver with 591 yards and No. 2 rusher with 345 yards.
6-3, 250 senior lineman Blake Mazur leads a strong Comstock Park defense. They’ve allowed just one touchdown in each of their first two playoff games.
Rockford 9-2 @ Clarkston 11-0
Clarkston and Rockford are East-West cousins. Both are one-time rural schools located about as far North along major thoroughfares as one can get from their respective major cities, Detroit and Grand Rapids, and still be considered part of those metropolitan domains. Between their sheer size of enrollment, farm boy DNA and suburban parent zeal for country club and scholarship sports, Clarkston and Rockford are athletic powerhouses across the board. They’re the rare white, suburban football powers that are also top 10 basketball programs. There is a difference though. When all is said and done, Rockford has won state championships in football and basketball, sent players to the NFL, while Clarkston is “just good.” Westside substance beats Eastside hype every time. Winner: Rockford
Muskegon 10-1 @ Midland 11-0
Big boy football right here. Muskegon finished the regular season as The Lake’s No. 1 Division 2 team, while undefeated Midland is the state’s No. 1 ranked D2 team “at large.” Muskegon has played a tougher schedule — Lowell x2, Rockford, Zeeland East, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s — and has more athletic depth. One concern for the Big Reds is that Midland senior Alec Johnson plays a lot like the one QB who beat them, Zeeland East’s Michael Custer. He’s efficient and hard to rattle, and puts up big numbers when he has to. Winner: Muskegon
Caledonia 8-3 @ Mattawan 8-3
So tough most of the season, Caledonia’s defense has allowed 86 points over the last three games. During the same stretch, Mattawan has scored 128. And that’s with Caledonia senior lineman (and punter) Adam Walma questionable after suffering a concussion against East Lansing. Cal’s D will certainly be tested by a Mattawan offense that features two 1,000-yard, double-digit TD runners in seniors Trevor Sweeney and Brok Lamorandier. Winner: Caledonia
Grand Rapids Christian 10-1 @ Stevensville Lakeshore 11-0
If you like scoring, check this one out Saturday. Unbeaten Lakeshore is averaging 50 points in the playoffs, GR Christian 56.5. Their offenses are similar in that they’ll give you different looks, and beat you with different parts. It’s just that right now in senior QB Alex VanDeVussen and junior receiver Drake Harris, the Eagles have the two best offensive pieces out there. Winner: GR Christian
Ogemaw Heights 8-3 @ Comstock Park 10-1
Ogemaw’s running game is on another level right now. They had three rushers over 100 yards last week, paced, as always, but senior running back Brandon Benac. He had 270 yards and three TDs against Chippewa Hills. Comstock Park’s postseason experience could be the difference here — Just Win Jake Brown may not have the sexiest game out there, but this will be the 10th career playoff start for the senior QB. Winner: Comstock Park
Three Rivers 8-3 @ Grand Rapids South Christian 8-3
In districts, South Christian beat the two undefeated Wolverine Conference champions — Paw Paw and Dowagiac — and did it rather easily. Three Rivers finished third in the Wolverine-South. Winner: South Christian
Newaygo 9-2 @ Grand Rapids West Catholic 8-3
West Catholic has just been doing it against a different level of competition; Newaygo hasn’t seen a D this stingy. It’s been a great run under first-year Newaygo coach Andy Busch, but hard to imagine an upset here. Winner: West Catholic
Shelby 9-2 @ Negaunee 10-1
Can the Purple Rain get it done in the UP snow? The serious road trip and Negaunee’s serious defense may be too much for Shelby. Winner: Negaunee
Constantine 9-2 @ Hillsdale 11-0
Hillsdale’s undefeated? Shouldn’t faze Constantine, which beat 10-0 Schoolcraft last week 40-27. Constantine’s namesake, the 4th century AD politician, was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. His army’s shields bore a cross. The Constantine football team embraces a cross of sorts too — the wing-T. Lots of folks run it, but few have the luxury doing it with a fullback the size of Payton White. Twenty times teams haven’t been able to keep the 6-2, 230 senior out of the end zone. Winner: Constantine
Lake City 10-1 @ Ishpeming 10-1
Lake City won’t complain about a trip to the U.P. Who said the road to history is straight, narrow or short? And this is an historic season for the Trojans, coming off their first district championship. What happens when you put a quarterback with college “measurables” in small-town football? Well, for Lake City junior QB Drew Marion it means you’ve thrown for 2,136 yards and 27 TDS while running for 1,162 yards and 28 TDs. Ishpeming’s QB, Alex Briones, doesn’t have gaudy numbers like Marion, in part because he missed four games, but is a formidable dual threat himself. Winner: Ishpeming
Pewamo-Westphalia 8-3 @ Decatur 9-2
Decatur’s peaking at the right time. After losing to Lawton in the regular season, it was no problem in last week’s district final, which Decatur won 34-3. Winner: P-W
Johannesburg-Lewiston 9-2 @ Beal City 11-0
These teams met last year in the playoffs too, with Beal City winning the 2011 postseason opener 43-20. Jo’burg has a lot of players back from that squad, but it takes more than revenge motives to stop a machine like Beal City. Winner: Beal City
Muskegon Catholic Central 8-3 @ Mendon 11-0
Mendon is carrying a 25-game winning streak, including last year’s playoff victory over Catholic Central. This could be the defacto state championship game for the second year in a row. Winner: Mendon
Ryan Verhelst (West Ottawa) vs.
KC Zenner (Rockford)
These are two of the best defensive backs in the Lake Michigan area. Zenner is a hitter who always seems to be in the right place. Verhelst, also WO’s leading receiver, is a dynamic athlete who can turn the momentum of a game when he takes an interception, pass or kick for a touchdown. When Rockford beat WO in the regular season, both had picks, and Verhelst took back his for a 45 yard TD. Both will have their chances again. Rockford throws it more than you might suspect. QB Kyle Short has successively had his most prolific passing games four weeks in a row, topped in the opening round against TC West when he was 16-of-28 for 177 yards and two TDs. He’s throw two TD passes in each of the last three games and if Verhelst were to pick off Short, it would the first interception this season for the Rockford senior. In these teams first meeting, though, Short was 5-of-15 via the air. WO QB Trevor VanTubbergen struggled at the same rate, completing 7-of-21 throws.
Dalton Sulz (Mancelona) vs.
Brad Wootke and RJ Poirier (Ishpeming)
Sulz is the cornerstone of Mancelona’s 10-0 team. The senior anchors the offensive line and at 6-2, 255 he’s athletic enough to play linebacker. As a linebacker he’ll be banging heads with Ishpeming lineman Wootke, his twin as a 6-2, 255 senior. As a blocker Sulz will have to be aware of Poirier. The 5-11, 205 senior is the Hematites’ leading tackler. Both Wootke and Poirier were All-UP selections.
DeJuan James (Portage Central) vs.
Trevor Sweeney (Mattawan)
These two seniors are among the most entertaining backs to see in The Lake’s coverage area. James has scored 23 TDs, Sweeney has scored 27. They have some help and balance back there, as Mattawan’s Brok Lamorandier has run for over 1,000 yards himself and for Central Jacob Allan will surpass 1,000 this game. James and Sweeney really have skin in the game, as both are two-way standouts.
Braden Werley (Zeeland West) vs.
Matthew Hall (Grand Rapids Christian)
Local TV cameramen must dislike shooting Zeeland West games, it’s just so easy to lose the ball in that full-house T, and before they know it they’ve been following a decoy back 10 yards up field. It’s not much easier for linebackers, who too often find Marcus Lambert, Jon Pung, Werley or Jordon Lambert running free where they were supposed to be. But Hall is no average high school linebacker. The 6-1, 210 senior is the elder statesman of the Eagles’ talented but young defense, and with 110 tackles, more than twice as many as anyone else on the team. Crisp ball-handling and execution is the given for West coach John Shillito’s offense, and now it’s Werley first taking hold of the ball. The senior moved from wing back to QB for the injured J-Lamb, and the machine hasn’t missed a rotation. Hall and Friends will have to come out sharp and on point. The 6-0 first-quarter deficit Christian faced last week against Fruitport would be 28-0 against a running game as potent as the Dux’.
Jake Brown & Jake Bush (Comstock Park) vs.
Joe Craven & Nate Hollern (Grand Rapids Catholic Central)
Comstock Park QB Jake Brown loves to Tebow it between tackles and has run for 21 TDs. GRCC’s Joe Craven packs a wallop when he holds down his gap and will finish his career as the school’s leading tackler. Jake Bush is the perfect third-down back, a threat to make you miss in the flat. The junior has 492 yards receiving and 345 running. Hollern is the speed linebacker, covering sideline to sideline and trying to keep Bush from turning the corners.
Mitchell Wynkoop (Traverse City Central) vs.
Steve Elmer (Midland)
Wynkoop is a 6-3, 220 junior defensive end. He’s one of the state’s real D1 sleepers in 2014 because not only does he have the physical profile, but he sells out on every play. He’s been able to hone his craft against the outstanding offensive linemen in the Big North, such as Cadillac’s Jack Ford and Riley Norman, Ogemaw Heights’ Alec Stevens and TC West’s Connor Hayes, as well as the Trojans own Tyler Gildersleeve in practice. So he won’t be totally in awe of Elmer, though he hasn’t seen the total, polished package like the 6-6, 305 All-American headed to Notre Dame. Were Wynkoop to put together some quality video against Elmer, he could write his ticket to the next level.
Though the school has made five straight postseason appearances, Lake City had never hosted or won a playoff game until last Friday, when they did both against a young but talented Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian team 35-28. Now the Trojans are 9-1 and will host another postseason game when 8-2 Evart comes to Lake City on Friday for the Division 7 district final. Evart also made history last week with its first-ever playoff win, 16-12 over Carson City-Crystal.
This is the second meeting between the two teams, as Lake City finished second and Evart third in the Highland Conference. When they played October 5, Lake City won 32-21 to clinch its playoff bid. Turnovers were the difference, as Evart gave up three interceptions and two fumbles. Lake City’s 6-2, 185 junior QB Drew Marion was his typical dominant self, running for 167 yards and four TDs and passing for 153 and a TD. As he has been all season, 6-1, 230 senior linebacker Kyler Root was the Trojans’ defensive stalwart, making 21 tackles and recovering one of the Evart fumbles.
Marion was just as dominant in Lake City’s win against NorthPointe Christian, running for 203 yards and four TDS while throwing for 181 yards. Evart counters with a reliable defense, which has shut out three teams while recovering 17 fumbles. Junior linebacker Larry Vanburen is the leading tackler, including nine sacks. He’s part of a tough linebacker core along with junior Robert Young-Burge and senior Austin Grein. It was a defensive back, junior Jared Pattee, who was the hero last week when he stopped Carson City-Crystal on fourth down with 2 minutes left. Offensively for the Wildcats, Grein is the leading rusher while senior John Danley has run for 16 TDs.
We hit on 80 percent of our picks in the opening round. It gets a bit more difficult from here, as the dead weight has been cut loose. If you’re still playing now, you’re a good team.
West Ottawa 8-2 @ Rockford 8-2
WO avenged one regular season loss by knocking Grand Ledge out of the playoffs. Now they have the chance to upend the other team that beat them previously. If anything, the Panthers have the more talented personnel. But the Rockford bogeyman is in their head. Ghosts like West Ottawa thought it had a fourth-quarter lead the last time they played but had a 95-yard punt return TD called back for clipping. The Rams always beat them. Until further notice … Winner: Rockford
Traverse City Central 9-1 @ Midland 10-0
Coming off an epic victory against Bay City Western, two wins against a Saginaw Valley school may prove too steep a task for TC Central. Midland is ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 2. They pound it out on the ground behind the state’s top lineman, 6-6, 305 Notre Dame-bound senior Steve Elmer, and now the defense is equally sharp with junior linebacker Michael Alexander back in the lineup. Winner: Midland
Lowell 8-2 @ Muskegon 9-1
Old playoff friends meet again. When they played prior, Muskegon won 36-21, but the history between these schools tells us it’s tough to win twice in one season. Both teams want to run. Both are tough to run against. How tough? Muskegon held Lowell to -1 rushing yards in their first meeting. OK. How ’bout the Red Arrows last week, when Northview totaled -70 rushing? With Reed Stormzand healthy, he and fellow senior Zach Huver give the Arrows a tough pair of linebackers. This will be a different Lowell team than the Big Reds remember, with Titan Anderson moving from QB to running back and Kyler Shurlow now under center. But that still hasn’t eliminated Lowell’s turnover problem. Shurlow had an interception and lost a fumble against Northview. In the regular season against Caledonia, Lowell turned it over five times but still managed to win. You just can’t disregard the ball against a team as good as Muskegon, who turned over Kenowa Hills six times last week. Winner: Muskegon
East Lansing 7-3 @ Caledonia 7-3
East Lansing wasn’t supposed to be here, but last Friday gave Lansing Everett its first loss of the season. Both teams are defense-first. First to 14 takes it? Winner: Caledonia
Portage Central 7-3 @ Mattawan 9-1
Gotta like how Trevor Sweeney bears the mantle as The Lake’s No. 1 senior running back. In Mattawan’s first-round game he ran 13 times for 269 yards and 4 TDs in a 66-28 defeat of Battle Creek Lakeview. Mattawan had 600 ground yards as a team. That makes Portage Central’s last week’s total of 333 look downright paltry, except that they faced a much better opponent in Portage Northern. Winner: Mattawan
Zeeland West 7-3 @ Grand Rapids Christian 9-1
This game will be a bunch of fun — unless you’re a defensive coordinator. Don’t expect either D to be able to stop the other team’s offense. Zeeland West scores 47 points a game, GR Christian a “meager” 40. A win would provide the Eagles their best playoff run in their history. The school has existed in one form or another since 1920. West is a different story entirely. The Chix have been around for less than a decade but have already won two state championships, most recently Division 4 last year. Winner: Grand Rapids Christian
Hamilton 6-4 @ Stevensville Lakeshore 10-0
Lakeshore’s undefeated team is similar to the hoops squad that made it to the Class B state title game in March, in that there are no superstars, just a bunch of fundamentally strong kids, any number of which can step up in a given game. Hamilton has been too up-and-down to pick here. Winner: Lakeshore
Plainwell 7-3 @ Battle Creek Harper Creek 8-2
Plainwell faces a dangerous opponent. Harper Creek trailed Charlotte in the fourth quarter last Friday before running off four unanswered TDs. Winner: Plainwell
Chippewa Hills 7-3 @ Ogemaw Heights 7-3
Maybe Ogemaw Heights should have controversial, media circus homecomings every year? They won that game and every one since, including victories over three playoff teams in that five-game stretch. Winner: Ogemaw Heights
Comstock Park 9-1 @ Grand Rapids Catholic Central 10-0
Catholic Central’s Ryheem Stokes is so good, he’s the best player on the field regardless of where he’s put, and has filled in admirably at running back. CC’s defense has been incredible. Last week’s 14-0 win over Unity Christian marked the sixth time they’ve held an opponent with out a TD. No repeat trip to the semifinals for Comstock Park. Winner: Catholic Central
Grand Rapids South Christian 7-3 @ Dowagiac 10-0
The last time Dowagiac faced a D1 QB in the playoffs, in 2011, Lansing Catholic’s Cooper Rush set a postseason state record with eight TD passes — in three quarters. Don’t call the plumber. That dripping sound is just Sailors soph QB Jon Wassink salivating. An undefeated Wolverine Conference team won’t faze Wassink and company after their 48-0 first-round deconstruction of Paw Paw. Can Dowagiac win one for those schools “Down South,” or is the O-K just that superior a product? Winner: South Christian
Three Rivers 7-3 @ Williamston 7-3
Three Rivers senior Sam Shutes is one of the best QBs many may not have heard of, and he has an straight up gun. Winner: Williamston
Newaygo 8-2 @ Reed City 10-0
Unbeaten RC has been through this already, beating Newaygo 35-7 during the regular season en route to their CSAA title. Funny how his older, 6-5, 230 cousin Jared Holmquist looked like a football player, but Reed City junior Chad Samuels is the actual football player. And he’s become a damn good one. Coyotes’ stingy, physical D gets it done again. Winner: Reed City
Grand Rapids West Catholic 7-3 @ Muskegon Oakridge 10-0
West Catholic has been living sooo dangerously? Oakridge junior Dan Shoop will be the best back West Catholic has seen this season (which is saying something, as I love Comstock Park junior Jake Bush), having run for 1,158 yards and 17 TDs. Not that West Catholic is any slouch in the skill department, with the three-headed monster of soph QB Travis Russell, junior runner Andy Corey and senior receiver David Kuzma. Winner: Oakridge
Maple City Glen Lake 9-1 @ Shelby 8-2
Two months ago, Shelby beat North Muskegon 28-15. Two weeks ago, North Muskegon beat Glen Lake 22-14. Glen Lake’s game-breaker, Trevor Apsey, was injured and didn’t play in their pre-district win at Boyne City. Winner: Shelby
Constantine 8-2 @ Schoolcraft 10-0
Schoolcraft won the regular season matchup 42-32. The Eagles did it via skill and speed, with QB Jeffrey Scott throwing for 300 yards and three TDs and small but mighty Benny Clark ran for 200 yards and three TDs. But November football may favor the larger, more physical team. And Contstantine’s Ben Mallo? He’s indeed an hombre malo. Winner: Constantine
Mancelona 10-0 @ Ishpeming 9-1
Mancelona’s dream season may be facing a surge of U.P. Power. Winner: Ishpeming
Evart 8-2 @ Lake City 9-1
Both schools are playing for history, as neither has won more than one postseason game in a single season. Check back to the Lake Michigan Football Report, as Evart-Lake City will be our Northern Michigan Game of the Week. Winner: Lake City
Gobles 8-2 @ Pewamo-Westphalia 7-3
Gobles hasn’t seen a receiver quite like P-W’s Lane Simon, a 6-5 junior. Winner: Pewamo-Westphalia
Decatur 8-2 @ Lawton 9-1
Though Decatur matches up well, Lawton won this meeting in the regular season 38-7. Winner: Lawton
Central Lake 7-3 @ Johannesburg-Lewiston 8-2
Joberg won’t win by 50 like they did against Hillman. They eeked it out 22-18 when J-L and CL played during the Ski Valley schedule. Winner: Joburg
Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart 9-1 @ Beal City 10-0
Two small school state powers, right next door. Winner: Beal City
Muskegon Catholic Central 7-3 @ Fowler 9-1
MCC’s traditionally tough regular season schedule paid off in the first round, when the beat Vestaburg 61-8. Fowler was similarly dominant in their opener with Baldwin, winning 44-0. While the Crusaders have various offensive weapons like junior running back Alex Lewandowski, senior running back Jessie Anderson, senior QB Zach Campbell and senior tight end Cari Campbell, Fowler prefers the 1980s m.o. with one featured back. And in senior Tyler Koenigknecht, they’ve got a hoss. Winner: Muskegon Catholic
Like GR Catholic Central’s program preaches, on any given down, a player’s contribution is just 1/11th of the whole and whether the play succeeds or fails. But given game situations or personnel matchups, the collision of some 2/22nds can be hard to miss. Here are some playoff games where talented players will have their respective teams going strength-on-strength.
Cody Brainard (Hopkins) vs.
Daniel Green (West Catholic)
Cody Brainard starts at guard, an athletic hitter as a 6-1, 270 senior and crucial to Hopkins’ dominant ground game. He’ll face his toughest test yet in Daniel Green, a 6-0, 290 senior defensive tackle for West Catholic who can overpower or slip past blockers.
Marcus Lambert (Zeeland West) vs.
Spencer Viening (Zeeland East)
These star junior running backs partnered with talented senior backs during the regular season, but now face different scenarios. Viening’s fellow 1,000-yard rusher, senior Josh Blauwkamp, broke his leg in the Zeeland East’s win over Muskegon. Meanwhile Lambert has been going with senior Braden Werley not as another running back, where he gave Zeeland West balance with his tough running between tackles and receiving, but as the ball-handling QB of the Dux’ wing-T. Lambert, 5-11, 185, has run for 1,524 yards and 16 TDs, while Viening, 6-0, 215, has 1,290 yards and 20 TDs on the ground. Lambert is a threat to break a long one whenever he touches the ball, while it’s Viening’s his second time over 1,000 yards. Both play linebacker as well, so will be able to appreciate each other’s work up close.
Heath Hoogerhyde & Justin Krueger (Caledonia) vs.
Max Cummings & Jacob Littles (Swartz Creek)
Cummings and Littles are a prolific receiving combo for Swartz Creek QB Jaylen Schoenfield. They’ve both caught 11 TDs. Cummings has 55 receptions for 1,170 yards. He’s 6-3, 170, but Hoogerhyde has size at 6-1, 210, and the senior has already matched up successfully with big receivers like Grand Rapids Christian’s Drake Harris and Forest Hills Central. He’s made seven interceptions. Krueger is a more typically sized high school DB, a 5-9, 165 senior.
Carter Lee & Trevor Apsey (Glen Lake) vs.
Corey Redman & Malik Smith (Boyne City)
Lee and Redman are the starting quarterbacks, and two-year AAU basketball teammates with Parallel 45. Both are system-oriented, while Lee, a junior, is athletic enough to project to another position in college and Redman, a 6-4, 170 soph, would be mentioned with the other terrific 2015 QB prospects if he hadn’t already committed to CMU for basketball. Apsey, a 5-11, 185 junior, has emerged as one of the top running back prospects in the North. He’s more of a game-breaker, while Smith, like Redman only a sophomore, is more of a move-the-chains runner. Even when Glen Lake was self-destructing in their only loss of the season, to North Muskegon, Apsey provided a bright moment with a 75-yard TD run.
Nick Swore (NorthPointe Christian) vs.
Drew Marion (Lake City)
Two of the Lake’s top five 2014 QB prospects are found in Division 7 of all places, and square off at Lake City. 6-2, 185 junior Nick Swore battled injuries earlier in the year, but he’s healthy and one of the reasons NorthPointe rallied from a 1-3 start to make the playoffs. He’s also a standout defensive back. Other than against Beal City, Marion, a 6-2, 190 junior, has had another strong season. He can beat you with his arm or running the ball.
Kalkaska @ Shelby
It seems only fitting, that for the first week of playoff action the Lake Michigan Football Report features a matchup between teams from the Lake Michigan Conference and West Michigan Conference. Kalkaska goes to Shelby for Friday’s Division 6 pre-district game.
Kalkaska is in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. At 7-2, the Blazers claimed their best regular season mark since 1981. They enter the postseason with momentum, having demolished Elk Rapids 44-7 to claim third-place outright in the LMC.
Kalkaska’s 5-11, 180 senior running back Zach Hill has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the second time. He can get the tough interior yards but also is a receiver out of the backfield who can tack on some yac. He finished the regular season with 1,069 yards and 15 TDs on the ground with 504 yards and four TDs receiving. Hill also plays safety, where he’s made seven intercetpions, and there’s a playmaker at cornerback too in 6-3, 185 junior quarterback Will Noble. He had two picks against Elk Rapids. Noble also happens to be Kalkaska’s quarterback, in his first season at the position after playing split end as a sophomore. Kaleb House is an intriguing college prospect because he’s a 6-1, 220 linebacker and running back who has scored 11 TDs via running, catching and kick returning. House is joined by another standout junior linebacker, 6-2, 190 Eric Tracey, the team’s leading tackler. While Kalkaska has bigger linemen, it is 6-2, 205 senior Zack Cameron makes it happen at tackle while also staring at lineacker.
Shelby is also 7-2 and a third-place league team, but against better competition in the perennially rugged West Michigan Conference. The Tigers are also coming off a compelling Week 9 win, ending Spring Lake’s playoff hopes 14-8. They are in the midst of a true football renaissance under coach Lorenzo Rodriguez, making their third consecutive postseason appearance. There’s still a long way to go, though. If Shelby beats Kalkaska it would be only their second playoff win.
Shelby has an egalitarian offense. Even still, Devin Mussell is particularly dangerous with four receiving TDs and three more rushing. Nathan Lentz is the ground leader with 574 yards and nine TDs. Senior QB Spencer Peters , in his first season at starter benefiting from a vet line, can be hit-or-miss, he’s thrown for eight TDS to nine interceptions. But he has the knack for coming through with poise when it matters. Ben Schroeder is Shelby’s stud on D. He had a 20 tackle game against Whitehall. It’s the second time he’s topped 100 tackles for the season.
The winner of Friday’s pre-district game will play the winner of the Boyne City-Maple City Glen Lake tilt. Shelby is the No. 1 seed in the district, Kalkaska No. 4.