Eagles Football Team Heads into the Playoffs Highly Favored

By Sean Budlong

The Schoolcraft football team has won its last eighteen regular season games.  This season, the Eagles outscored its opponents 426-71.  In eight out of nine games the starters have watched the second half from the sidelines due to lopsided scores.  What does this mean for the first game of the Division 6 playoffs?  Nothing.  Schoolcraft hosts Constantine in a rematch of last season’s first round playoff game.  The Eagles lost that game 31-28 and are prepared for a measure of revenge on Friday.  Schoolcraft will be led by quarterback Ricky Clark, receivers Nolan Anspaugh and Ben Crowfoot, and a host of running backs.  This team specializes in quick scores – in the season finale against Delton-Kellogg, Schoolcraft scored four touchdowns on its first ten offensive plays.  Spencer Fox, Payton Hoskins, Aaron Lenning, and Collin Tone have had an outstanding season on defense.  If Clark and Anspaugh can generate quick scores, Constantine will have a difficult time playing catch up against the Eagle defense.

Vicksburg Loses Heartbreaker in Regular Season Finale

2016-10-21-08-29-23-1By Travis Smola

Vicksburg came up just a blocked extra point short in a wild 14-13 regular-season finale loss on the road against rival Three Rivers.

Senior wide receiver Blake Rankin hauled in two fourth quarter passes including a 20-yarder from fellow senior Brenden Lovell with just 37 seconds left in the game to pull the score to 14-13. The subsequent extra point was blocked, but the Bulldogs got another attempt on a Three Rivers penalty.

But the Wildcats blocked the second extra point attempt as well. Head Coach Tom Marchese felt like there was a missed call on the Three Rivers defenders leaping over the lineman on the second play. “It’s unfortunate they didn’t catch it,” He said while also admitting; “we’ve got to block better.”

It was a heartbreaking way to finish off the regular season as fireworks exploded over the field and Three Rivers fans and players celebrated re-capturing the swine bone trophy for the first time in two years.

Before Vicksburg made its late rally, things were going totally Three Rivers’ way. “Field position was not in our favor the first half,” Marchese said.

The Wildcats led 7-0 at halftime after they capitalized on a bobbled punt attempt in the second quarter. Three Rivers took the opening drive of the second down the field before they scored again on a 7 yard pass play. The extra point made it 14-0 early in the 3rd quarter.

It wasn’t until about three minutes into the fourth quarter when Lovell finally hit Rankin wide open in the end zone for a 10-yard score to give the large Vicksburg fan turnout some hope.

The Bulldogs racked up 16 penalties in the game. Penalties accounted for 75 yards in the first half alone against Vicksburg.

It seemed even when things went well, it hurt the Bulldogs. Near the end of the second quarter senior receiver Deondre Lovell ran a fake punt on a fourth and 3. He picked up the first down and lot of extra yardage into Wildcat territory.

But a personal foul after the play was over meant Vicksburg kept possession, but they ended up giving back almost all of Deondre’s extra yards back on a 15 yard penalty. “It seemed like every time we had a play it was second and 10 or second and 15,” Marchese said.

The loss means that Vicksburg shares a portion of second place in the conference with Three Rivers. Hopes of a home playoff game won’t happen this year as the team will travel to Chelsea next Friday in a “Bulldogs vs Bulldogs” opening playoff showdown.

Chelsea is 9-0 this year, but their record isn’t as spotless as it appears on paper. They actually lost their opening game of the season against River Rogue. But Chelsea was awarded a forfeit victory later after it was found River Rogue had accidently used an ineligible player.

While Marchese said he was not expecting a home game after the Three Rivers loss, he was still looking for ways to use the game for fuel for the team going forward.

“Sometimes adversity makes us tougher,” Marchese said. “The good news is it wasn’t for win number six.”

Schoolcraft Takes the Measure of the Constantine Football Team

By Sean Budlong

Constantine’s defense played a great game, holding the potent Schoolcraft offense to 20 points – 32 points below its average.  Unfortunately for the Falcons, Spencer Fox, Aaron Lenning, and Payton Hoskins’ defense was even better as Schoolcraft earned a 20-10 victory.

The Eagles took a 13-0 lead into halftime behind Ricky Clark’s 48 yard touchdown run and Ethan Sharp’s 5 yard touchdown reception.  Clark scored the Eagles’ final touchdown on a 15 yard run with 4:18 left in the third quarter.  The score could have been higher for Schoolcraft.  An 84 yard touchdown by Fox was called back due to penalties, and Nolan Anspaugh was tackled one yard short of the end zone while time expired in the first half.

The Schoolcraft defense forced a fumble to set up Clark’s first touchdown, and stopped the Falcons deep in the Eagles’ territory on downs.  While Constantine moved the ball well, they could not find holes in the Schoolcraft defense that they could exploit for the quick scores they needed.

Schoolcraft improves to 8-0, while Constantine falls to 5-3.

Vicksburg Moves Record to 7-1 with Win Over South Haven

By Travis Smola

The scoreboard made things look a lot closer than they actually were as the Vicksburg Bulldog football team downed the South Haven Rams 50-26.

The Bulldogs played their cleanest game of the season as multiple Vicksburg players found different ways to get into the end zone. Head coach Tom Marchese praised the offensive line, which helped senior quarterback Brenden Lovell in what was probably his best performance of the season.

“They gave him a lot of time to throw the ball,” Marchese said.

And Lovell capitalized on that time, throwing touchdowns of 31 yards to junior receiver Ryan Morgan, and 24 yards to senior receiver Drew Hamilton. Marchese noted both receivers stepped up their game. “They made their opportunities tonight,” he said.

The most spectacular touchdown of Lovell’s evening of the night came on a first and 10 from the South Haven 39.

Lovell was absolutely levelled by a Rams defender on the play, but not before delivering a precision strike over the heads of two defenders into senior receiver Deondre Lovell’s hands. Brenden also had a one-yard touchdown on the ground.

Senior receiver Blake Rankin was kept off the scoreboard through the air, but he found the end zone on a 24-yard scamper from the backfield in the second quarter.

But the oddest score of the night was the Bulldog’s final touchdown. Junior running back Tyler Johnson took an early fourth quarter handoff on a long run down near the goal line when he was stripped of the ball as he was pushed out of bounds.

Somehow, the ball bounced its way into the end zone where senior Noah Burton was able to recover it for the score.

While the Rams were able to rack up a couple touchdowns near the end of the game, Marchese was also particularly happy about another aspect of the night’s game. “We played for the most part, mistake-free,” Marchese said.

Penalties have been something the Bulldogs have struggled with.

On the defensive side of the ball, it was junior linebacker Cole Mallery who made one of the biggest plays of the night. On a first and 15 from their own 23 yard line, Mallery stole the ball right out of a South Haven player’s hands and returned it untouched into the end zone for a touchdown.

The team faces the Three Rivers wildcats in their regular-season finale on the road next week.

The team would like to extend their record to 8-1. Achieving this doesn’t guarantee a home playoff game, but it makes for better odds of one.

Historically Three Rivers has mostly held the advantage against the Bulldogs, but the momentum has shifted back towards Vicksburg in recent years. The Wildcats have a 6-2 record this year and won’t be an easy opponent. But the team wouldn’t have it any other way.

“That’s our rivalry,” Marchese said. “Our kids look forward to that at the beginning of the season no matter what our record is.”


Vicksburg Earns Playoff Spot with Road Win Over Paw Paw

Vicksburg vs. Paw Paw. Photo by Elizabeth Hamilton.

By Travis Smola

Vicksburg football is officially in the post season after earning their sixth win of the season by taking down the Paw Paw Redskins 28-7, Friday night in their stadium.

The Bulldogs set the tone of the game early when they took a drive that started on their own 17 yard line and marched downfield on a long 15 play scoring drive that ate up more than half of the first quarter. The drive was capped off by senior quarterback Brenden Lovell, who took in a 3-yard carry for the score himself.

It was a drive that surprised even head coach Tom Marchese, who was pleased to see the offense get back on track against the Redskins. “That’s what you dream about,” he said of the drive.

The Redskins responded on their subsequent drive after a missed tackle resulted in a long touchdown pass. But it ended up being Paw Paw’s only score of the game as the Vicksburg defense continually  stepped up to the challenge.

Senior defensive back Tanner Mendham had a key interception late to end a Paw Paw drive that got down to the Vicksburg 19. Junior defensive back Tyler Johnson had two key plays late in the game to also prevent any more Redskins points. One was a goal line pass tip and the other was a late tackle to prevent a touchdown as time was expiring.

Marchese also seemed relieved by something else in the game. “It was a much better game offensively,” Marchese said.

After a couple of slightly off games, Brenden Lovell returned to form in the contest, hitting senior receiver Deondre Lovell several times, including a wide open play Deondre broke for 67 yards and an easy score.

The Bulldogs also worked senior receiving weapon Blake Rankin into the run game as he had touchdowns on both the ground and through the air. The first was a wild, 18-yard scoring run in the second quarter.

Rankin’s second touchdown came on a wide-open, 53-yard pass down the left field sideline from Lovell. He coasted into the end zone completely untouched on the play. Joe Brady nailed every one of his extra points this week.

The Bulldogs played one of their cleanest games of the year penalty-wise. But things did get a little chippy towards the end.  If anything, it indicates how heated the rivalry between Paw Paw and Vicksburg has gotten in recent years.

“It’s going to be that kind of down and dirty game,” Marchese said.

Fifteen Bands to Perform at Vicksburg’s Stadium Oct. 8

If you are excited by the pomp and precision of marching bands, October 8 is your lucky day!

A new marching band event is coming to Vicksburg on Saturday, October 8, as the Vicksburg Band Boosters hosts the inaugural Bulldog Invitational marching band competition at the beautiful Vicksburg High School stadium. Fifteen Class A through D high school marching bands are presently scheduled to perform. They include Schoolcraft, Three Rivers, Hackett, Kalamazoo Central, Portage Central, Portage Northern, Mattawan, and Battle Creek Central. Other school bands registered for this event include Plainwell, Charlotte, Bangor, Constantine, Berrien Springs, Springport, and Camden-Frontier.

To close the performance part of the event the Vicksburg High School marching band, known as the Big Red Machine, will present its 2016 competition show—Things—as an exhibition. By custom the host band does not compete with the other bands for a rating.

The bands performing for ratings will be scored by a panel of judges on various criteria, such as music performance, marching accuracy, music effectiveness, and visual effect. The event will feature two awards ceremonies, in which trophies will be presented to the bands scoring first, second or third in their class, and to the bands the judges rated as having the best marching, best music, best percussion, and best auxiliary (color guard) in each class. The band with the top rating across all four classes will take home an impressive Grand Champion trophy.

The inaugural Bulldog Invitational is presently scheduled to begin at 2:55 p.m. on October 8, when the senior class members of the Big Red Machine will perform the National Anthem. The first competing band will step off at 3 p.m. and be followed by the other bands performing at 15 minute intervals, with two or three short breaks for the judges, built-into the schedule. The Big Red Machine will perform its exhibition at 8:30, followed immediately by the second presentation of awards. The complete schedule, including any last minute changes, is available on the Internet at Vicksburgbands.com.

Whether you are a true “band geek”, or just enjoy marching band performances, this is an event not to be missed, said Craig Rolfe, volunteer chairperson of the Invitational. The nominal admission charge, $5, is less than what is charged at most other marching band competitions, and pre-school age children are admitted free. A variety of food and beverages will be served throughout the event. Volunteers will guide vehicles to available on-site parking, and to nearby village streets for overflow parking. Over 42 buses and 1500 band people are expected be in attendance so the logistics for the day will be challenging. Helping Rolfe plan are Beth O’Roark, food and beverage; Jake Munson, bands management; Steve Warner, print program; Ben Rosier, judges; Tracy Locey, treasurer; Skip and Chad Knowles, parking coordinators; Dianne Zeman and Lisa Hoover, stadium management.

The Vicksburg Band Boosters are working hard to make this event an enjoyable experience for all, and a successful fundraiser for the Vicksburg Bands. A strong showing of support for this inaugural event, by the participating bands and an expected large audience, will help establish the Bulldog Invitational as the premiere annual marching band competition in this area, according to Rolfe.

Homecoming Courts in South County

Schoolcraft Homecoming court from left to right: Sophomores: Jordan Burson and Abby Pincumbe; Seniors:  Caleb Anspaugh and Andrea Meyer, Benjamin Crofoot and Jenna Barter the king and queen, Spencer Fox & Kaitlyn Simpson; Juniors:  Dylan Straley & Marissa Munson; Freshman:  Kobe Clark & Dani Warnaar.

Homecoming royalty for Vicksburg High School from left to right: Jeremy Henderson, Kendal Hall, Nik Zazula, Abbey Oswalt, Caleb Fort, Raquel Rice, Brenden Lovell, Grace Stock, Andrew Phillip, Caitlin Wallace. Nik Zazula and Abbey Oswalt were named king and queen.

Vicksburg Football Pushes Record to 5-1

Vicksburg vs. Otsego. Photo by Holly Cousins.

By Travis Smola

Vicksburg’s varsity football team picked up its fifth win of the season in a rainy and cold 27-7 contest against Otsego on home turf Friday, September 30.

The Vicksburg defense seems to be playing with something of a chip on its shoulder ever since the team’s only loss against Edwardsburg back in a 44-7 blowout in game two. Since then, the Bulldogs have allowed just 21 points. And they seem to be getting better every game.

The boys have been putting extra effort into film study and it shows as they stymied play after play in the Otsego backfield. Linebacker Caleb Kropp had multiple sacks. Fellow linebacker Joshua Holmes also continually found gaps to make plays.

Still, the Bulldogs were a little frustrated when a few encroachment penalties gave Otsego easy yards and a few false starts had Vicksburg going the wrong way on offense at times. Still, it was an improvement on the near-unbelievable 16 penalties the Bulldogs racked up in a 26-0 shutout win the week prior. “We’re better tonight, but still not what we want,” Marchese said.

Not that all was bad with the Vicksburg offense. After not being able to get things going the first few couple of drives, the Bulldogs finally put together a nice drive after senior Blake Rankin returned a punt over midfield into Otsego territory.

Five plays later, the “Lovell to Lovell” connection came through when senior quarterback Brenden Lovell hit senior receiver Deondre Lovell on a beautiful 18 yard slant for the game’s opening score.

After an Otsego three-and-out, Vicksburg gained great field position from a bad punt to midfield. Eight plays later, Rankin found himself in a rare single coverage situation and Lovell hit him in stride on a near-identical slant to the earlier Lovell to Lovell play for the game’s second touchdown.

Eagles Football Team Has Decimated Opponents

By Sean Budlong

The Schoolcraft Eagles football team has been unstoppable on offense through the first five games of the season. The only defense that may have been able to stop it would be the Schoolcraft defensive unit. Through five games, the fourth ranked (in Division 6) Eagles have outscored opponents 267-47. The starting offense has often been on the bench for the entire second half. However, the games get much tougher starting with the September 30 match up with an undefeated Lawton team.

Quarterback Ricky Clark has been fantastic in every aspect of the game. He has scored touchdowns rushing the ball, on punt returns, thrown for over a dozen touchdowns, and has multiple interceptions on defense. The Eagle offense is not a one-man scoring machine. An injury to Caleb Anspaugh might have spelled disaster for Schoolcraft. However, Nolan Anspaugh, Ben Crowfoot, and Blake Bales stepped up on the receiving end for Clark. While Spencer Fox and Payton Hoskins have punished opponents on the ground, they have been joined in a productive backfield by Jack Hunt and Riley Piper.

None of these impressive scores would be possible without the offensive line playing at a high level. Collin Tone, Scott Macfarlane, Mark Phelps, Marc Shaink, and Thomas Meadows have kept opponents from touching Clark. Clark has paid them back by taking the time to pick apart the opposing defenses from the pocket. With great downfield blocking by Crowfoot and Ethan Sharp, the Eagles running backs are often untouched for ten or more yards.

As good as the offense has been, the Eagles defense has been better. In addition to the two shut out wins (against Bangor and Hartford), the defense gave up a touchdown on the first defensive play of the season against Coloma and proceeded to shut the Comets down – giving up less than 150 total yards. Galesburg-Augusta scored twice, but only after Schoolcraft took a 49-0 lead. The only team to push the defense back was Watervliet. Even in that game, Crowfoot, Piper, and Sharp stepped up and shut down an explosive offense in the second half.

The Eagles’ dominant performances have allowed many younger players to see a lot of game action. Seniors Fox, Hoskins, Anspaugh, Tone, Macfarlane, and Crowfoot have played great football on both sides of the ball. Juniors Hunt, Jakob Huysken, Piper, Reilly Puhalski, and Dylan Straley have been strong contributors on defense.

After an undefeated regular season last year, the Eagles were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. This has motivated the twenty plus returning players to not take their feet off the gas pedal regardless of the score or opponent. The true nature of the Eagles’ team will be shown over the next four games. Lawton, Gobles, Constantine, and Delton Kellogg will prepare Schoolcraft for what it hopes will be a longer post-season run.

Vicksburg Tennis Team Racking Up Wins

Ayden Flickinger races to return a volley in a recent tennis match.

By Travis Smola

Vicksburg tennis head coach Warner Offord predicted before the season the boys would surprise some people in the Wolverine Conference this year.

But as the wins keep piling up, the team may be ever better than he predicted. “We’ve got a super team,” Offord said before the team defeated Hackett Catholic Prep 5-3.

Singles play has been an incredibly strong point all year as seniors Bryce O’Neill and Caleb Fort have helped lead the way, often winning in quite dominant fashion. It’s often been a clean sweep for singles action with freshman Ayden Flickinger and junior Connor Seifert playing in a similarly strong fashion.

The team has defeated some pretty difficult opponents along the way too. On September 14, the boys defeated tough conference foe Edwardsburg 5-3.

Offord believes it should have been a clean sweep. “Instead of 5-3, it should have been 8-0,” he said.

He said the team has been in every match they’ve had this year. Offord believes they could have easily turned other losses, like Paw Paw into a win or tie.

The doubles teams comprised of Garret Brewington and Jaymie Gapayao, junior Alex Harsha and sophomore Corbin Wallace, sophomores Sam Gearig and Casey Hall and senior Jeremey Henderson and sophomore Jonathon Perkins really showed their stuff at the Caledonia Invite near the beginning of the season.

It was there that the team compiled perfect 8-0 victories against Kalamazoo Central, Plainwell, Otsego, and Three Rivers.

Offord is excited about just what this team may be able to accomplish. His ultimate hope is for the team to make it to state, something that hasn’t been seen out of Bulldog tennis in decades. As the boys dispatched Hackett Catholic Prep in a little under an hour, it was clear things could get exciting as the team is peaking at just the right time.

“This is probably the best team we’ve had since I got here,” Offord said.