By Sean Budlong
The Schoolcraft football team’s season ended in the first round of the State Playoffs with a 36-0 loss the 10-0 Watervliet Panthers. The Panthers beat the Eagles for the second time in three weeks behind quarterback Zach Pickens’ arm (88 yards of passing touchdowns) and legs (a 70 yard touchdown run). Schoolcraft was unable to score against Watervliet’s defense led by Bryant Kieft and James Bell. Kobe Clark led Schoolcraft with 85 rushing yards, but was unable to cross the goal line. The Eagles finished the season with a 5-5 record (2-3 in conference play).
The season started strong, with Schoolcraft sitting at 5-1 heading into a road game at Coloma. The Eagles turned the ball over six times that night, losing 32-7. This story would be repeated over the final 3 games of the season – losses to Watervliet and Kalamazoo United in the regular season and the playoff loss.
Schoolcraft was not able to overcome critical injuries on both sides of the ball. Perhaps the two most damaging injuries were to Reilly Puhalski and Dylan Straley. Puhalski was injured early in the season, but was able to compete until the Constantine game. Knocked out of the game during the first half, he was unable to return the rest of the season. Midway through the first Watervliet game, Flynn took over the offense for good with Straley injured again. Flynn finished the year throwing for 169 yards and two touchdowns, gaining experience that should pay off for the Eagles in 2018.
Schoolcraft’s offensive leaders were Kobe Clark, Jack Hunt, Straley and Trenton Lomason. Hunt led the Eagles with 714 yards on the ground, and nine touchdowns. He also kicked the extra points and kickoffs for the half of the season.
Schoolcraft prides itself on its defense, and this season was no different. While the offense appeared to lose momentum over the course of the season, the defense never stopped playing tough. The only team that was able to dominate the Eagles was Watervliet – Pickens accounted for 9 touchdowns (both passing and running) in the two games. However, by some accounts Pickens leads the United States in high school scoring. While the Eagles gave up 36 points in each game against the Panthers, Watervliet scored 50 or more points in seven other games this season.
Jakob Huysken, Marc Shaink, Mark Phelps, Riley Piper, Brice Walther, and Collin Blalock were the biggest impact players for the Eagles. Blalock, Phelps, Shaink, and River Fox were tasked with stopping the run, and were successful in controlling the line of scrimmage. Hunt, Piper, and Walther played both the run and the pass. Huysken was clearly the dominant force for Schoolcraft – even in the losses to Watervliet he was in on more than 20 tackles. His ability to play sideline to sideline, outrun opposing backs, and physically beat offensive linemen will be missed by the Eagles next season..