The high school season kicks off this Friday for our area teams.
Grant, Fremont White Cloud and Holton will play their openers at home while Newaygo, Tri County, and Hesperia look to get it going on the road.
Newaygo at Kent City
The Lions have put together the toughest non conference schedule in the area sandwiching their league commitments with a revitalized Kent City program that has yielded two straight playoff appearances as well as first place finishes in the Silver and and a perennial state champion in the Crusaders who have missed the playoff once in 13 years and gathered 6 state titles during that time.
League play doesn’t look to be any easier with Reed City and Chippewa Hills continuing as top tier teams in the conference. The Coyotes have not lost a conference game since a 14-6 defeat early in the 2014 season.
Their opponent? The Lions.
But the Lions aren’t backing down from anyone after shaking off a pair of early season losses to run the table with 6 straight wins before a playoff loss to the Grant team they had defeated 2 weeks prior.
Newaygo is poised to score points with a potent backfield led by returning quarterback Connor Swinehart and 6 returning starters on both sides of the ball. Line play will be a strength
The game is in Kent City and Mikey LaFontsee and Noah Graff will lead the defense in their quest to contain the explosiveness of Eagle standout running back Gio Weeks who has the capability of scoring whenever he touches the ball.
This should be a good one.
Shelby at Grant
This is the 11th annual Tiger vs. Tiger matchup to open the season for both teams. After winning just one of the first six the Tigers (Grant variety) have taken the last four.
Shelby has struggled since making it to the semifinals 5 years ago, winning just 3 times against 33 losses.
The Tigers have made the playoffs two years in a row under coach Darren Geraghty but have yet to overcome the one-two punch at the top of the Gold and once again play Reed City and Chip Hills back to back in weeks 3&4.
Then, of course, there is THE game on October 12th played on the home turf of their rivals to the north.
The Tigers (Shelby variety) have some experience in the backfield and they should fare better than last year when Grant hung a 40-0 on them on their home field but the Tigers (Grant variety) are playing at home and are looking to start the season strong.
Evart at Fremont
In their second game last season against a playoff bound Chippewa Hills team the Packers scored more points (26) than they did in the entire previous season (25).
Unfortunately the Warriors put a 55 on the board. In fact, 7 opponents scored over 50 points and one other stopped just short at 48.
If Fremont is to break their 27 game losing streak there will have to be a defensive renaissance of sorts. The offense looks to be in good shape with a solid line and talent at the skilled positions but once again, the defense will need to step up big for the Pack to start collecting a few victories.
Evart will be a tough test and hosting Chip Hills the following week will be no picnic either but Packer fans will get an early chance to see what this year’s fortunes might bring.
Tri County at Lakeview
The Vikes are coming off a 1-8 season with a couple of games that could have gone their way. Like many area teams numbers could be an issue but Coach Phil Butler likes the look of his offensive line and cites the leadership of Bryce Dube, Alfredo Visser and John Bogardus as being key to the confidence his team had coming out of camp.
TC opens on the road against a Lakeview team that has been in the playoffs 4 of the last 5 years but took some hits from graduation.
The Viking hopes for a strong season will be tested early with 5 of their first 6 opponents coming off playoff appearances and the 6th (Big Rapids) picked by many to compete for the conference crown
Wyoming Lee at White Cloud
The Cloud has struggled with numbers and will not field a JV team once again this year. This leaves little room for the type of injuries that plagued the team during last years 2-7 mark.
Tucker Kooman heads group of linemen who will go both ways and try to provide enough protection for the backfield while hopefully keeping opponents out of the endzone.
The Rebels have also seen some lean times and have not won a conference game in 6 years.
This one looked to be a tight game last year but the Rebs whipped out a 48-0 win at home. Friday they’re playing in the Cloud which should be an advantage and besides the band delivers some really fine halftime shows.
Hesperia at North Muskegon
Whatever could possibly go wrong for the Panthers last year did indeed go wrong,
After two consecutive playoff appearances Hesperia seemed to fall under a curse and tumbled to an 0-9 season with 2 overtime losses, a slew of injuries, and an inability to finish off opponents.
This year’s team is young and also thin in numbers but the team is eager to erase the memory of last years debacle and what better way than to take on the Norsemen who delivered the first of their 9 losses last season.
Coach Doug Bolles is a believer.
“We will not be 0-9. Our kids have too much heart and passion and there’s no selfishness in them. It’s all about team.”
Hart at Holton
Hard to say what lies ahead for the Red Devils. They are also plagued by the numbers game but possess some talent on both sides of the ball.
They open at home against Hart and the Pirates have not posted more than two wins since their seniors were in preschool and haven’t seen a winning record since before they were born.
The Devils will struggle against Kent City, Morley and Lakeview but they have a chance to put together some wins if they can stay injury free for the most part and get some contributions from their newcomers.