Lake Area Honors: Week 12

Lake Area Offensive Player of the Week

Kalil Pimpleton  Sr  QB  Muskegon: The Big Reds had little trouble with Byron Center in this D3 regional. Pimpleton ran for 160 yards and three TDs.

Lake Area Defensive Player of the Week

Raquis McDonald  Sr  DB  Muskegon: In the Big Reds’ D3 dismantling of Byron Center, McDonald had an interception that led to a Muskegon score and returned a fumble for a TD.

Lake Area Small School Player of the Week

Brandon Anderson  Jr  RB  Cassopolis: He ran for 172 yards and three TDs for Cassopolis, which beat Concord for the school’s first regional title.

Lake Area Northern Michigan Player of the Week

Mason Powell  Sr  QB  Pine River: He ran for 240 yards and three TDs in Pine River’s defeat of Ravenna in a D6 regional to give Pine River it’s first-ever semifinals berth.

Prospect Watch: Week 12


Junior Nick Apsey is a two-way playmaker for D6 semifinalist Maple City Glen Lake.

Class of 2017

Mike Doyle  6-4  240  Sr  DL  Lowell: He was one of the few starters back from the Red Arrows’ 2015 state finalist team. And now here they are again, one win away from a return visit to Ford Field. While Lowell mixes their fronts he looks best as a one technique tackle with the strength to hold the gap against double teams allowing linebackers to blitz and a swim move to get some QB pressure going up the middle. With his frame, toughness and Lowell pedigree, should be a popular D2 target.

Cameron Ekanayake  6-2  200  Sr  ATH  Edwardsburg: This QB has led the Eddies to an undefeated season including playoff wins over Hamilton, Stevensville Lakeshore and Chelsea. Their reward? A date in the D3 semis with Muskegon. Edwardsburg runs the wing T and while Ekanayake is a fine ball-handler, he’s not the smaller, quick, clever type of QB that often thrives hiding behind the dual tight ends. He’s a big, power runner who will take guys with him. He also plays cornerback for Ekanayake, and while he may not have the speed for that spot at the next level this is a physical winner that can help a team somewhere.

Austin McCullough  6-5  185  Sr  WR  Portage Central: He’s one of the Lake Area’s top dual-sport athletes, a scholarship talent in either basketball or football. There are a lot of similarities to Tyler Conklin, a basketball star at L’anse Creuse North who briefly played hoops at Northwood, walked on at CMU, and is now on NFL scouts’ radars as a tight end. For that to happen, he’d have to get more serious in the weight room, as he’s prioritized basketball thus far. At his size one might think McCullough does most of his damage using his size to post up on hitch or hook routes. But in reality he’s a true receiver, a natural route runner who doesn’t break stride and stretched the field for the Mustangs’ run-heavy offense for five TDs. Nor is just a finesse hooper running around out there, McCullough is a diligent blocker.

Class of 2018

Nick Apsey  6-1  200  Jr  ATH  Maple City Glen Lake: His brother, Trevor Apsey, was a terrific player now at Central Michigan, but never saw the team success like this, as Glen Lake will meet Pine River in the D6 semifinals. While he’s their top running and receiving threat, like his brother Apsey’s future is on the defensive side of the ball and gives the Lakers have a pair of college linebackers with Duke Angers inside and he outside. While he may play up North, speed is speed, and will be his ticket to the next level.

Elijah Gurley  6-3  220  Jr  OL  Forest Hills Central: The junior class will be yet another strong one on the offensive line in the Lake Area. Gurley isn’t one of the biggest or strongest right now, but one whom recruiters may take a flier on. He has good length and pass block technique at left tackle, a finesse complement to the terrific senior Nick White at right tackle, buying time for senior QB Tanner Hallock who loved to put up deep balls to junior Bryce Clay and senior Jack Uecker.

David Kruse  6-0  185  Jr  QB  Lowell: Few positions in the Lake Area come with the historic ramifications, pressure and storied excellence as being Lowell’s quarterback. Kruse has lived up to it, handling the veer like a vet and is undefeated so far in his first season as a starter replacing Ryan Stevens. He’s led Lowell to big-time comeback victories over Rockford and now, twice, Forest Hills Central. He ran for three TDs in the Rangers rematch for the D2 regional crown. Kruse’s oldest brother, Connor Kruse, was a starting offensive lineman at MSU, and this miniature version plays with a similar toughness. Kruse looks much bigger and stronger than his listed dimensions when running the ball, less surprising given that like so many of his teammates he also wrestles. He also had a good left arm on him.

Class of 2019

Tyrese Hunt-Thompson  5-11  160  So  Cassopolis: He’s been a major playmaker for Beatty High, and brought the entire arsenal in their D7 regional win over Concord. He caught a TD pass, ran for two TDS, and returned a fumble 75 yards for a score. If he can do just half that against Detroit Loyola in the state semifinals Hunt-Thompson can claim one of the top young talents in the Lake Area regardless of school size.

Lake Area Honors: Week 11


Frankfort junior Griffin Kelly is the most talented running back in Northern Michigan regardless of school size.

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.

Prospect Watch: Week 11


Big Rapids’ quarterback/tight end combo Braeden Childress is a top 10 Lake Area prospect for the class of 2018.

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.

Lake Area Honors: Week 10


TC Central linebacker made a crucial pick in the Trojans’ biggest game of the season.

Lake Area Offensive Player of the Week

Matt Ellis  Sr  RB  Grand Rapids Christian: When GR Christian and Zeeland West meet in the postseason it’s always entertaining. While they didn’t combine to top 100 points like in 2012, the Eagles’ win came down to a winning score with 18 seconds to go in this D3 opener. Ellis had nine carries for 195 yards including TDs of 78 and 72 yards.

Lake Area Defensive Player of the Week

Grand Rapids West Catholic: Have to give it to a unit after what the Falcons did to commence the defense of the Division 5 crown. For the fourth time in the playoffs in as many years they beat Lansing Catholic holding a Cougars offense that had topped 40 points for the past month to a sole TD 28-6. LCC junior QB Michael Lynn III came in highly regarded in the Capital Area but ended up with enough interceptions to match the numeral in his name including one returned 36 yards for a TD by West Catholic’s Sam Neville.

Lake Area Small School Player of the Week

Ricky Clark  Sr  QB  Schoolcraft: He didn’t let a repeat of last year, when Constantine upset Schoolcraft, occur, leading them to a D6 district final with a 40-28 win. Clark threw for 226 yards and four TDs and ran in a pair of scores for unbeaten Schoolcraft.

Lake Area Northern Michigan Player of the Week

Jordan Fisher  Sr  LB  Traverse City Central: He made the crucial fourth-quarter interception against Traverse City West. It set up the Trojans’ winning score to beat their crosstown rival 13-12. They advance in Division 2 to play Lowell.

Lake Area Coach of the Week

Randy Vanderveen, Rockford: In his 20th season as the defensive coordinator for HOF coach Ralph Munger, Vanderveen continues to shut ’em down in one of the state’s ultimate grinder leagues. The latest victim was Hudsonville as a week after giving up two TDs losing the Rams gave up just one to Hudsonville this time to advance in the Division I playoffs 24-7. They held the O-K Red’s most explosive running QB, Hudsonville senior Jack Mandryck, to 32 yards on 20 carries.

Prospect Watch: Week 10


“Boyne Tough” Jacob Ager has emerged as one of the Lake Area’s top 2018 linebacker prospects.

Class of 2017

Phil Paea  6-4  300  Sr  OL/DL  Berrien Springs: It’s never been an easy thing for a Lake Area prospect to get a U-M offer as the program historically favored Detroit and Ohio. For every  glaring exception like Drake Harris, there are those like Desmond Morgan, Ben Braden, David Harris, Rob Renes or Terrance Taylor that have gotten a chance and delivered. Paea is a physically dominant small school prospect who remains somewhat raw but should contribute to the Harbaugh Experience as an upperclassman. Against Berrien Springs schedule, he’s so athletic he looks like an overinflated fullback on offense, and linebacker on defense. A terrific run blocking guard who delivers with power on multiple hits per play.

Chase Tarwacki  6-0  180  Sr  DB  Edwardsburg: He’s missed some time with a groin injury with the undefeated Eddies. They’ll need him for their D3 playoff opener against Hamilton and dangerous sophomore running back Trenton Lane. Tarwacki is good in flow, where he’s able to hit smaller runners, wrap up the bigger ones. Looks more quick than fast, though can pile up yards on kick and interception returns.

Class of 2018

Jacob Ager  6-1  220  Jr  LB  Boyne City: He was all-league on the offensive line as a sophomore, and showed his athleticism and versatility this year starting at mike linebacker and h-back. While not a savant back there like his predecessor 2x All-Lake LB Luke Sage, Ager makes smart reads himself and is a good open field tackler. As you’d expect given his offensive line background, he delivers some nasty hits coming around the ends opening things up downfield for Ramblers runners. Should be a popular GLIAC recruit.

Class of 2019

Logan Miller  6-5  270  So  OL  Allendale: One of two key underclassmen starting for Allendale’s prolific offense, Miller at left guard and freshman Owen Burk at running back. Miller surprises with his quickness and moves well trapping. He had the finishing Block for Burk’s first TD in Allendale’s win over West Catholic to win a share of the O-K Blue title. The Falcons will have both their tackles back next year for their senior season, but could see Miller ending up there eventually. Needs to work on pad level, strength at point of attack.

Bryce Neff  6-2  235  So  OL/DL  Gaylord: There were underclassmen starting at both left tackles in Traverse City West’s win over Gaylord, West’s Andy Schollett and Neff for the Blue Devils. Neff also started at defensive tackle, and was Gaylord’s starting right tackle as just a freshman. On offense, Neff showed his versatility as he was able to get a hand on smaller speed rushers, and in one series when matched up against the Lake Area’s No. 3 2018 lineman got low and moved Ryan Hayes for a nice run gain. He showed decent wheels when pursuing the ball in West’s backfield. Good all-around player who is kind of a tweener now but has time to grow.

Lake Area Honors: Week 9



Watervliet senior QB Cameron Rendo concluded the regular season with a seven touchdown performance.

Lake Area Offensive Player of the Week

Zac Saltzgaber  Sr  QB  Byron Center: In what was the O-K Green championship game agaisnt Unity Christian, Saltzgaber ran for 259 yards and five TDs and threw for 103 yards and one score as Byron Center beat the Crusaders 40-19.

Lake Area Defensive Player of the Week

Jacob Milward  Sr  LB  Gobles: He came up huge in a 14-13 overtime win against Delton Kellogg with four sacks and an interception.

Lake Area Small School Player of the Week

Cameron Rendo  Sr  QB  Watervliet: He rushed for five TDs while throwing for 270 yards and two TDs in a blowout of Bangor.

Lake Area Northern Michigan Player of the Week

Danny Passinault  So  QB  Traverse City St. Francis: Playing for the NMFL Legends Division title against Boyne City, Passinault threw for two TDs and picked off a pass as unbeaten St. Francis blanked the Ramblers 22-0.

Lake Area Coach of the Week

Dave Lidgaard, Hudsonville: By beating Rockford 14-7 Hudsonville forced a three-way tie for the O-K Red title with Grandville and the Rams, the Eagles’ first time atop the Lake Area’s strongest league since 2007. It’s deja vu for 8-1 Hudsonville as they host Rockford in the playoff opener.

Prospect Watch: Week 9


Muskegon sophomore Ali’Vonta Wallace has emerged as the Lake Area’s top college prospect in the 2019 class.

Class of 2017

Michael Brown  6-1  195  Sr  DB/WR  Grand Rapids Catholic Central: Plays quicker than his 4.6 speed as knowledge is king for the vet betting right against the run and making plays in coverage. It’s a dangerous proposition throwing Brown’s direction he can lull a QB in then suddenly be all over the ball and going the other way. On offense he’s a physical receiver who doesn’t go down easy. He won’t be able to dance around at the next level so can improve his initial speed. Should be a popular guy as signing day approaches as he could conceivably make the linebacker switch like Asantay Brown has done at WMU.

Aaron Clark  6-3  230  OL/DL  Spring Lake: It’s been a predictably rough debut for Spring Lake, coming from the Lakes 8 to the O-K Blue. Clark doesn’t have the strength and explosion of the Lake Area’s elite linemen but MIAA likes his versatility starting both ways as a center and D end with a college future more likely as the former. Greatest asset is his motor.

Levi Finley  6-4  270  OL  Mattawan: Plays mostly guard also center and even some tackle in short yardage situations. Given that versatility it will be interesting what college fitness level and coaching do for him when not able to just get by on size so often.

Class of 2018

Bryant Kieft  6-3  190  Jr  LB  Watervliet: Versatile defender for the Vliet, lining up as a hand-down D end in three- and four-man fronts or inside at linebacker when stacking against the run. Six tackles for loss and a pair of sacks on the season. Kieft has strong hands getting off blockers and finishing plays. At camps coaches will want to see him in coverage and what he’s going to do against shadow-casting tackles.

Jalen Shaffer  6-1  205  Jr  LB/RB  Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian: In his second year as a two-way impact in what is a surprisingly talented O-K Silver. Shaffers’s a three-down back who produces between tackles, uses his size as a blocker and can catch the ball in the flats. Defensively has quick feet but coaches will want to know if he has the fluidity to cover. Fullback/H back/Tight end possibility at next level.

Jacob Wohlgemuth  6-5  300  Jr  OL  Wyoming Kelloggsville: Part of the top line in the O-K Silver that has size in Wohlgemuth, 6-4 265 senior Jacob Heminger, 6-2 290 junior Ben Garcia and the best executioner of the group senior guard Donovan Spencer who could have a college future at linebacker. Wohlgemuth is a gap closer at D tackle whose greatest value is on the offensive line where college coaches like his background as a three-sport athlete who also plays basketball and throws in track and field.

Class of 2019

Ali’Vonta Wallace  6-1  210  So  LB  Muskegon: Haven’t seen a more promising sophomore in the Lake Area this season. A rare underclassman his size who is just as competent in coverage as he is dangerous blitzing. The Big Reds line up Wallace all over and let him make plays. He had what would be a good season for many players in week 5 against Reeths-Puffer, with three interceptions. Wallace could be Muskegon’s top non-lineman prospect since Ronald Johnson.

Class of 2020

Alex Doke  5-11  255  Fr  White Cloud: Big boy rumbling out of the power I. Fullback and D end dominated Baldwin both ways last Friday with 152 yards and a TD on 10 carries and 11 tackles.

Lake Area Honors: Week 8


Senior Brady Luttull is a third-year starter at QB for Muskegon Oakridge.

Lake Area Offensive Player of the Week

Sam Neville  Sr  WR  Grand Rapids West Catholic: In a hard-hitting defensive masterpiece, Neville was the outlier with a 90-yard TD in the fourth quarter as West Catholic pulled away to beat Catholic Central 20-3. He also made a first-quarter interception.

Lake Area Defensive Player of the Week

Demarion Smith  Jr  DB  Wyoming Kelloggsville: The cornerback had two interceptions, returning one for a TD, in a win over Belding. He also caught a TD pass as Kelloggsville improved to 7-1.

Lake Area Small School Player of the Week

Brady Luttrull  Sr  QB  Muskegon Oakridge: He shook off an early interception to lead Oakridge back from a two-score deficit to Montague midway through the fourth quarter with TD runs of 1 and 70 yards. Oakridge won the game, and thus the Western Michigan Conference title, the 31-28. Luttrull ran for 179 yards and threw for 149 yards.

Lake Area Northern Michigan Player of the Week

Fitz Doud  Sr  LB  Traverse City Central: The Trojans’ defense kept them in the game at Birmingham Brother Rice before finally taking their first loss of the season in triple overtime 20-17. Doud made 20 tackles including 2 1/2 behind the line of scrimmage.

Lake Area Coach of the Week

Mark Chapman, Sparta: It was a sign of things to come, and just how far Chapman’s first Sparta team has come, as they beat his former school, Comstock Park, 41-13, to improve to 4-4 on the year.

Prospect Watch: Week 8


Hudsonville senior Jack Mandryk is the top duel threat quarterback in the O-K Red.

Class of 2017

Eric Dithazy  6-5  270  Sr  OL  Forest Hills Northern: A third-year starter, the second at right tackle, where he’s protected one of the best QBs in the Lake Area, Jake Martin, now a receiver at U-M, and for the past year senior Chase Morrello who last week threw for 220 yards and ran for two TDs in a win over Cedar Springs. A rare effective run and pass blocker at the high school level, Dithazy has the frame and wingspan college coaches covet, and has committed to CMU. FHN’s nastiest blocker might be a running back, however, senior Connor Bruinius, who is going to the University of Detroit for lacrosse.

Jack Mandryk  6-1  185  Sr  QB/DB  Hudsonville: Caledonia had no answer for him last week as Mandryk ran for 237 yards and five TDs. Mandryk is a terrific high school QB because he has vision in traffic and then the speed to break out and finish the deal. He’ll likely be a GLIAC recruit as a safety, where Mandryk closes well and had made three picks this season.

Lawrence Mickowski  6-1  290  Sr  OL  Traverse City West: The Titans’ starting center gave Cadillac’s line all kinds of problems. He’s so wide that he’d get onto the Vikings smaller, quicker linemen before they could get around him. Had good technique and rarely let his hands wander. West’s first TD came running right behind Mickowski.

Kelvyn Valdez  6-3  185  Sr  WR  Wyoming Godwin Heights: First-year coach Carlton Brewster has opened up the Wolves’ offense, to the benefit of two college prospects who have emerged in Valdez and junior QB Susu Davenport. Valdez visited MSU last week. Their numbers would have him as a walk-on candidate. But this is at least a MAC talent. He has the rare gift of running entire routes at full speed. Can catch over the shoulder on the fly or going across the middle. Uses his size and a nose for the ball to help out Davenport on 50/50 or under-thrown balls.


Cadillac junior Jacob Kochanny will get getting MAC looks for the offensive line.

Class of 2018

Jacob Kochanny  6-4  250  Jr  OL  Cadillac: Jack Ford is at CMU and this could be Cadillac’s next MAC lineman. He’s a two-way starter who is at his best moving the pile from right guard. Flexible and quick off the line. Maybe over eager, as Cadillac’s line got baited into a false start when Traverse City West had 6-1, 290 senior Lawrence Mickowski looming over them as a blitzing linebacker. That was one of two penalties that doomed Cadillac’s opening drive. Kochanny also spent some time helping out the tackle against TC West’s end Ryan Hayes, the No. 2 2018 lineman in the Lake Area after No. 1 overall prospect Antwan Reed of Muskegon. It would be interesting to see how Kochanny would fare against Hayes one-on-one and in space, the kind of chance he’ll likely have this summer as colleges will want to see if his athleticism can translate to tackle. It would also be fun to see him in an uptempo offense because of his fitness level, but the Vikings are certainly not that.  Cadillac is 5-2 and will be even better next year as Kochanny will be one of four returning starters on the line along with junior QB Kegan Brooks, who had a 24-yard TD run against West.

Class of 2019

Andy Schollett  6-4  210  So  OL  Traverse City West: When you have a 10th-grader starting at left tackle for TC West, historical evidence makes one take note. This is the school that currently has linemen with MSU, Pitt, Illinois and the Bengals. It’s still a long way off for him, but watch out next year with a year of strength, from which comes the confidence.