Category Archives: Vicksburg

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.”

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.

Vicksburg Sports Teams

The 2019 Vicksburg Winter Sports Teams are pictured below.

Showcase – The Show Formerly Known as Showboat

show 2By Sue Moore

Change is a-comin’ to the 66th staging of Vicksburg Rotary Club’s annual fundraiser. The past presentation featured great male choral music, corny jokes and slam-bang skits that have been part of the Showboat since its inception in 1953.

The new name is Showcase. It will still have some corny jokes, great chorus songs and a plot line according to the show’s script writers. The big difference will be the solo acts that are usually salted throughout the performance, according to Larry Forsyth, the show’s director.

All soloists are being asked to audition, said Syd Bastos, who heads the recruitment committee. “We want to showcase (thus the new name) the best talent in the area,” she said. “For most of the 65 years of its existence, the solo performers have come from within the chorus. We are reaching out to the greater community with an invitation to take a bigger part in the show. This should provide more diversity in the acts and different kinds of singers performing.”

The boat itself will also be history, said Mike Tichvon, general chairman for the last four years. “We have always incorporated a boat whether it was in a stage set or a backdrop. The theme is different, so we won’t need the boat as our primary mode of travel. We are going to the moon instead.”

The genesis of the Showboat was a minstrel show; Rotarians did song and dance routines and even performed in blackface in 1953. It was conceived as a fundraiser with over $650,000 now raised for Rotary to put back into the greater Vicksburg community. Some things did change. The blackface went out in 1984 and green men took the stage. Soon the all-male chorus and headliners grew more comfortable with being themselves on stage for the gags and songs.

With many talented choral directors, the singing parts became the headliner even when the boiler exploded almost on cue every year. It wasn’t just Rotarians who sang in the show. Anyone who could sing was invited to attend rehearsals. The four-part harmony of strictly men’s voices was stirring to the audience, Forsyth said. “We aren’t eliminating this from the show, we are just adding to it.”

“As new people moved into Vicksburg it became harder to communicate what a Showboat was,” Tichvon said. “Not as many folks were familiar with the minstrel show concept and the show gradually changed to reflect a different type of script. We kept the Showboat theme all these years. We knew we needed to change to attract a wider audience. The concept of Showcase became the motivation to upgrade all aspects of the performance.”

The new show will take the stage at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2. A matinee will be held on Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m. One thing that hasn’t changed is the price of general admission tickets: $10 each. They will be available at Church’s Insurance Agency, 125 E. Prairie Street, Vicksburg from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each weekday. They will be sold at the high school box office on the days of the three performances. All the money raised from ticket sales and the Showcase program will again be allocated to community charities.