Fetzer Resigns as Schoolcraft Board President Opening Vacancy

img_1126By Travis Smola

After 14 years of service on the Schoolcraft school board, Darby Fetzer announced her resignation effectively immediately on Monday.

“This is likely to be the most difficult decision of my professional life,” Fetzer said a letter to district leadership and staff. “I care deeply about this district.”

In a phone conversation Monday she cited several reasons for the decision including a desire to spend time on emotional intelligence (EG) programming workshops and to better care for her mother. “Never in my wildest imaginings could I have scripted it this way – campaigning hard with Michael Rochholz, being sworn in for my 4th term only to hear my inner “still small voice” loudly bellow that it’s time to be done,” Fetzer said.

Fetzer was not present at the Monday night board meeting, but offered to help with the transition and as a resource to the district as they need it. “I’m very excited for the future of Schoolcraft Community Schools and will look forward to watching more visions take flight,” she said.

At the board meeting, the trustees elected Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk as the new president. “I just want to say thank you for placing your trust in me to do this job only two years in,” Gottschalk said at the close of the meeting. “I feel very fortunate this group chose me to be the President this year. And I hope I can live up to the job.”

The board elected ­Jason Walther as the new Vice President, Ryan Ledlow as the new Secretary and Kathy Mastenbrook to remain in her role as Treasurer.

The Fetzer resignation now opens up a vacancy in the board which will be appointed by the board. The district is asking anyone interested in the position to submit a letter of interest and qualifications to the district office in the high school no later than Jan. 25 at 4 p.m.

Anyone with questions about the position is asked to contact Superintendent Dr. Rusty Stitt at 269-488-7390 or stittr@schoolcraftcs.org or President Jennifer Gottschalk at 269-207-2335 or jenniferjgottschalk@gmail.com The school board then plans to review all applicants and do interviews on Feb. 11 before their regular board meeting.

Kali Yant Signs to Play Softball at Calvin College

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Kali Yant signs to play softball at Calvin College while her Vicksburg softball coach Paul Gebhart poses with her.

By Sue Moore

Playing softball has been a way of life for Vicksburg High School Senior Kali Yant since she was a little girl. Next year she will take her skills to Calvin College’s team, one that already boasts another Vicksburg player from the class of 2018, Grace Stock.

Yant started when she was 7 in Vicksburg Little League where her dad, Donnie Yant, was the coach. He owned Prime Time Sports Academy in Schoolcraft until he sold it in April 2018. “Are you working hard when nobody’s looking?” asked her dad each day. “If you are, you will have a better shot at success.”

Softball Coach Paul Gephart said that Kali abided by this dictum from the moment she started on the varsity as a freshman. “I’ll do whatever you want me to do to help the team,” she told Gephart as he moved her around from third base, second base and starting pitcher. “She has had the highest batting average on the team with runners in scoring position and two outs,” he said. “She is capable of playing any position even while working through a back injury. ‘Just don’t take me out,’ she kept telling me.”

Yant has played travel softball on the Smiley Verduzco team, nicknamed the Rebels, when she was 17. Until then, she played for Prime Time where her dad was the coach. He graduated from Vicksburg High School in 1994 as did her mom, Lori Tigchon, who owns First Impressions Salon & Spa in Portage. Kali carries a 3.9 GPA with lots of advanced placement classes on her resume. She plans to study nursing as her major while at Calvin. She works at Erbelli’s Pizza on Portage Road in the off season.

Vicksburg Wrestling Learning to Compete as a Team

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Kenny Stermer, a freshman wrestler for Vicksburg. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

Vicksburg’s wrestling program is still rebuilding, but Head Coach Jeff Mohney is hopeful it will improve as the season wears on.

“We’re still a young team. We’re still learning,” Mohney said after a quad meet at home. “I think we’ll get progressively better. As long as we stay healthy, we’ll compete towards the end of the season for sure.”

The Bulldogs didn’t do very well in the quad, losing 58-12 against Allegan and 48-24 against Otsego. Unfortunately, injuries and eligibility issues have played a role early on as their opponents often get their hands raised without even competing in several weight classes. “It’s pretty tough when you’re giving up six matches,” Mohney said. “That’s 36 points right off the bat.”

He’s hopeful some of the boys can come back from injury and others can get their grades up after the winter break. In the meantime, Mohney says he’ll continue to work with the middle school programs to raise awareness of the team. This year the team added only four freshmen. “I’d like to get 10 freshmen in a year so we can build. Forty strong would be nice,” he said.

While the team isn’t lighting it up in the win column, Mohney said they are enjoying the process. “Guys are having fun right now while they’re learning the sport,” he said. “It’s not all work to them.”

Mohney wrestled for former coach Ed Knapp back in the 80s and fondly remembers the crowds that used to pack the gym for wrestling. He wants to bring those days back, but expects it will take some time. “Back in the day, the stands were filled,” Mohney said. “That’s what we want, we want the buzz to be around wrestling.”

Bulldog Basketball Right in the Thick of Things

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Shane Earl heads for the basket against Portage Northern. Photo by Travis Smola.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity basketball team is right in the thick of things in its division with a 3-4 record despite its most recent game, a 67-37 loss to Portage Northern.

“We didn’t come out ready to play tonight,” Head Coach Jeff Lovell said after the Portage Northern game.

He said the captains will need to step up. But overall they need to get better at moving and sharing the ball and executing the things they talk about in their practices. “In our three wins, we’ve played very good defensively and our three losses we’ve been not very good defensively,” he added.

Lovell said the winter break might be a good thing as it will give the team a chance to regroup a bit. They are still in position to make some noise in the division later in the year. “That’s something we can look forward to,” Lovell said.

The team’s three wins this year have come against Three Rivers, Paw Paw and Allegan. The Paw Paw game was its most impressive outing of the year thus far. Vicksburg downed the Redskins 62-39. Ten different Bulldogs scored in the contest. Sophomore Jacob Conklin led the scoring charge with 20 points. Junior Lucas Hatridge had 17 and Ethan Razmus-Buscher had seven.

The game was the second in a row they held an opponent to under 40 points. Lovell said the defense has played lights-out at times. “We keep the score down so we don’t need to score as many offensive points.”

The team dropped their last game of the year before the holiday break to Sturgis 34-28 on their home court for a record of 3-4 in 2018.

Lovell added that this particular team has seen a lot of turnover from last year; they are still young and learning. But he likes their chances after the winter break. “We still have a shot to win the south division. That’s our goal, to make it to the conference championship,” Lovell said.

Lady Bulldog Basketball Moves to 4-2 Record

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Hannah Vallier brings the ball down court with Kelsey Diekman trailing.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg Lady Bulldogs basketball team is in good position heading in the winter break with a 4-2 record. The Bulldogs’ 2017-18 campaign was a bit rough, but things are definitely looking up this season.

“As a coach all you can do is hope that your team is prepared and that they play hard,” new Head Coach Tim Kirby said after a 42-34 loss to Otsego. “You know, that’s a team that beat us by 40 last year.”

Sophomores Hannah Vallier and Brady Brown led the scoring for the Lady Bulldogs with eight points each against Otsego. “I’m just proud of my girls,” Kirby said. “I told them there is nothing to be ashamed of. We just played a really good basketball team.”

The team’s victories so far this year have been against Paw Paw, Allegan and Portage Northern. Kirby said the game against Portage Northern was an ugly one, but the Lady Bulldogs came out on top 26-19. Sophomore Chloe Hatridge led the scoring against the Huskies with nine. Junior Kelsey Diekman had six. Sophomore Allyson Naster and senior Madeleine Geiger had four and Vallier had three.

Kirby said they will work on some small things on defense, but other than that he says they will keep working on moving and sharing the ball. “I’ve got a group of girls that really plays hard together and wants to play for one another,” Kirby said. “I feel like we shared the ball tonight and we’re going to keep working on that.”

This is Kirby’s first year as the head coach of the team. He served as the assistant coach for the last three years. He is a familiar face around Vicksburg’s athletic fields as he also helps coach the football and softball teams.

“I’m just excited to have the opportunity to be a head coach for the first time after being an assistant for so many years for different sports,” Kirby said. “It was really cool when the job opened up; all the girls came to me and asked me to take it over. That kind of re-affirms you that they want you to be a part of it.

Right before the holiday break, the girls downed Sturgis in a 51-36 rout. The three leading scorers were Vallier, Hatridge and Diekman with 14, 11 and 8 respectively.
“I’m blessed with a good group of girls. They keep me young every night while taking years off my life sometimes too,” Kirby joked. “But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Eagles Basketball Ends 2018 on a High Note

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Kobe Clark battles for a rebound against Constantine. Bryce VanderWiere is backing him up.

By Mark Blentlinger

The Schoolcraft Eagle boys varsity basketball team has started out the 2018-19 season on a high note. The team held a record of 7-1 at the winter break with wins over Sturgis, Watervliet, Constantine, Delton Kellogg, Saugatuck, Lawton and Kalamazoo Christian. Its only loss was at the hands of Kalamazoo Hackett prep.

The Irish were able to capitalize on the 22 turnovers committed by the Eagles. It was a rough night all around, since the Eagles only shot 36 percent from the floor. The team was able to work on its shortcomings and walk away with a win at Kalamazoo Christian, 49-34. The defense of the Eagles was able to keep the Comets in check and win the battle of rebounds, 37-25. The Eagles three-point shooting was on fire going 7-17 (41 percent) for a season best so far.

Leading the offensive attack was Chris Cooper with 11 points. Bryce VanderWiere led the team in rebounds with 8, followed by Tyler DeGroote with 7. Kobe Clark had a good night, adding 8 points, 7 assists. 3 rebounds and 2 takeaways. The last game of 2018 saw the Eagles head over to Battle Creek Central to take part in the Chuck Turner Basketball Classic, where the Eagles were able to come home with a close win against the Bearcats, 41-38.

Lady Eagles off to a 6-0 Start

By Mark Blentlinger

The Schoolcraft girls varsity basketball team in June graduated two great leaders, Lydia Goble and Kennedy Leighton. The underclassmen sent a statement of thanks to their former leaders by starting the current season at 6-0 and 5-0 in conference play.

The Lady Eagles finished out 2018 by defeating Kalamazoo Christian 53-38. Anna Schuppel led the team in scoring with 22. Leading up to the final game of 2018, the team had wins against Constantine, Delton Kellogg, Saugatuck, Lawton and Kalamazoo Hackett prep. The game against Kalamazoo Hackett saw Gabi Saxman hit her third game of the season with a double-double, finishing with 13 points and 10 assists. Anna Schuppel was the leading scorer with 18 points. Olivia Ingle scored 9, Mackenzie Miller added 6, Chloe Outman 6, Adrienne Rosey 4 and Allie Walther 1.

This year’s team is loaded with some very determined young ladies that have set out to do their very best at bringing home more hardware to place in the school’s ever-growing trophy case. The 2019 part of the season began early this month at Schoolcraft High School against Bronson.

Schoolcraft Sports Teams

The 2019 Schoolcraft Winter Sports Teams are pictured below.

J. Rettenmaier USA Increases Donation to Friday Pack

friday pack 2018
Shown with the food items that were donated by employees of J. Rettenmaier USA are in front on the left side: Kristina Loney from Edward Jones, Mollie Brown Hartleib from On Purpose Branding, Alicia Abfall from Schoolcraft Friday Pack and Dia Panzer-Biddle from Rettenmaier.  In back on the left are Dan Hartleib and Jason Brandel. On the right side of the photo are Ashley Lanning from Rettenmaier, Jill Strake and Megan Walsh of Schoolcraft Friday Pack and Eric Pfeiffer from Rettenmaier. Edward Jones and On Purpose Branding joined with Rettenmaier and Dave Rice Group in the project.

Every fall, J. Rettenmaier USA on US 131 in Schoolcraft, gathers non-perishable food items and monetary donations for the Schoolcraft Friday Pack Program. For the second consecutive year, the company invited other local Schoolcraft businesses, On Purpose Branding, Edward Jones and Dave Rice Group, to join it.

The goal is to donate more than the previous year, and the goal was met. The JRS USA team donated $3,450 and along with the other three groups donated box after box of food items.

For 10 years the Schoolcraft Friday Pack program has been providing students in need with food items placed in their lockers before school starts on Friday mornings, ensuring that they have food to eat over the weekend. Currently the program fills 45 packs, but previous years have seen as many as 70-80 packs. If you are interested in learning more about this program, call the Schoolcraft Eagle’s Nest at 269-488-5847 or email schoolcrafteaglesnest1@gmail.com. All monetary and non-perishable food donations are welcome.

Wednesday Winners Go Shopping

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Wednesday Winners gather in the aisle at the Dollar General store in Vicksburg as they do their Christmas shopping.

By Sue Moore

Some of the blessings of Christmas can last all year long, according to Vicksburg’s Virginia Shaw. She leads a group of volunteers who mentor 18 developmentally disabled people. Each year they take their charges, the Wednesday Winners, to shop for presents at the Dollar General in Vicksburg. In addition ladies from the Fulton Christian Church each contribute $30 to buy a present for the Winners who come from local families and group homes in the south county area.

They can select any items in the store that adds up to $10 total in their shopping basket. The outing is highly anticipated by the group which usually meets once a week at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church. The 10 volunteers make and serve lunch, take the Winners on field trips, have programs from local people, plan exercises for every meeting, dance, play games, do adult coloring and socialize. “It doesn’t take much work because we all contribute and work with members. A very enjoyable time is usually had by all,” said Shaw.