By N3 Sports Team
The CSAA Gold Division could be a dogfight this season as a cluster of teams have strong returning casts while others were hit hard by graduation and look to rely on players new to the Varsity game.
Here's a peek at some of our area's teams with a shout out of thanks to the coaches for their always valuable input.
The Tigers finished last season with 17 wins and a district title.
This year they return just 4 players from that squad with Carter Chase the lone starter coming back. The varsity experience of Tyler Naffziger Alex Longcore and Mike Frey will be counted on to provide leadership to the half dozen newcomers to the ‘A’ team.
“We are going to need contributions from everyone this year if we are going to be successful, especially from our young guys Freddy Hull, Brett Long, and Karlton Zerlaut,” said Coach Matt McCorkle in his second year guiding the Grant varsity.
Also new to varsity this year are Cole Chase, Connor VanderWilt, and Patrick Lancestremere.
“Having so many inexperienced and young guys on the team this year, it's hard to predict how we are going to be. I think we will have a good idea how we stack up once we hit the holiday break.”
Coach McCorkle:”Our conference is probably open for the taking for the first time in at least 3 years given the graduation of Demetri Martin & Co. from Big Rapids. That said, the Cardinalsare the reigning champs and until proven otherwise, they will be the team to beat again this year.
“I foresee Fremont being a frontrunner for the conference title though Reed City could also win it this year. Reed City was super young last year and I think they only lost two seniors.
Central Montcalm is going to be tough this year. I think they will surprise a few teams, including us, if you don't come in focused with a good game plan.
“Overall, the league is going to be tough. It is going to be vital to protect your home floor and then sneak out a couple of road wins.”
Grant opens against the Vikings in Whitehall on Tuesday December 5th before coming home to face the Cardinals of BR on Friday December 8th.
Coach Pete Zerfas welcomes back 8 players including 3 starters to a team that looks to be in the hunt for a conference title. Ben Schmidt, coming off a stellar cross country season, and point guard Riley Krim along with Logan Karnemaat who will be working the paint for the Pack lead a strong cast of returnees including 3 point sharpshooter Bailey Baddis, Wyatt Kaastra, Micah Whittle, Caleb Kooman and Ben DeVries,
Calvin Miller, Carter Moon, Julian Echavarria, and Noah Christensen will be the new arrivals on the scene.
“We return a very nice mix of experience and have some good players coming off the JV, said Coach Zerfas. “ We have size and athletic ability and had a very good summer. Our concerns are that we are banged up and will not be starting healthy.”
Krim is working his way back from some football injuries and is day to day while Kaastra is out until Christmas recovering from surgery.
Coach Zerfas: “I think our league is wide open with Big Rapids and Grant losing key players, but both teams returning experienced and talented players also. Reed City returns its entire team as they were very young and Central Montcalm is the dark horse in the league returning good players to go with their undefeated JV league team from last year. I also think Newaygo and Chippewa Hills will be athletic and good. It will be wide open. We will be in the mix.
The Packers start their season on the road Tuesday, December 5th when they take on the Tigers of Shelby. The home opener will be Friday the 8th when they host Chippewa Hills in the first conference game.
“We’re hoping to build on last year,” said coach Joe Barrette. “With over 50% of our offensive production returning this season, the sky’s the limit.”
The varsity welcomes back five players from last year’s team including Mitch Karrip, Connor Swinehart, Jacob Polasek, Morgen Manlick, and Richard Hearth. Newcomers Cooper Heinzman, Kade Bhuyan, Noah Cantu, Ryan Brummel, Gabe Limberg, and Brandon Sekach round out this year’s squad.
Swinehart can dominate inside play and the Lions will boast some strong play from the guard position.
Coach Barrett: “We will play with energy and enthusiasm. Our goal is to represent our school with class and dignity every time we take the floor.”
The Lions have a tough scheduling start to the season opening December 6th at Reed City followed by three more road games before the holiday break. Fans will get to see them perform at home for the first time on January 5th when they face the Central Montcalm Hornets
Tri County Vikings
Six players return from a year ago when the Vikes won just a single contest. Seniors Macario Castillo, Kyle Proctor, Hunter Merchant, Wil McClurken, and Mason Clewley and junior Chase Jelinski have logged varsity minutes and will be leading a youthful team with Nick Poprawski and Bryce Hallan key additions from last year’s JV squad.
Coach Josh Delamater“The challenge for this season will be competing in every game.With Big Rapids and Grant graduating some significant players, the conference is up for grabs. We may not be looked at as a contender, but the boys have been working hard to improve.
The schedule also sends the vikings roadbound for their first four contests beginning with a short trip to Lakeview to face the Wildcats.Like Newaygo TC won’t host a game until after the New Year has been rung in. Chippewa Hills comes to town the 5th. Of January
White Cloud Indians
Eight varsity veterans and 4 new faces will be plying the hardboards in White Cloud for Coach Bob Jones.
Seniors Jared Elder, Darion Holland,Sean Kakoczki,Andrew Newfer and Buchanan Seabrook as well as juniors Garret Ebert, Trenton Jones, and Devon Trice return to be joined by incoming juniors Delton Dowling, Gavin Kehr, Chance Montemayor,and Adrian Rodriguez.
Coach Jones cites varsity experience as one of the team’s strengths while recognizing a lack of height will make competing with taller teams a challenge.
Tuesday December 5th sees the Cloud heading into Hart where they will open the season facing the Pirates. On Friday December 8th they will host the Wildcats of Lakeview.
Near North Now will be providing coverage throughout the season to recognize the efforts put forth by our student athletes. If you have photographs of the games you would like to share in our pages or would like to assist in providing coverage please let us know.