Vicksburg to require digital ticketing at home games

By Michael Roy, VCS Athletic Administrator

Fans attending all Vicksburg athletic events will have to buy tickets through a new online app. Bulldog Athletics have entered a new partnership with HomeTown Ticketing. The digital ticketing will result in a reliable and simple experience for VCS fans and allow school staff to more easily and effectively manage all public events that require tickets for entry.

Tickets for VCS Sporting events can be purchased through the school ticketing website: vicksburgschools.hometownticketing.com/embed/all or by downloading the HomeTown fan app. All tickets and passes can be scanned directly from the website or app to enter events, providing true touchless redemption. Those who prefer a paper ticket can also print their tickets directly from the site and have a QR code scanned that way at entry.

The permanent transition to digital ticketing means cash will no longer be accepted at the gate for VCS sporting events.

For the 2021-2022 school year, individual game tickets will cost $5 plus processing fees. Student season passes are $23 plus processing fees. Student passes cannot be shared, and they will be revoked if used by other students or adults. Adults may purchase season passes costing $40 for 10 games, $70 for 20 games or $100 for 30 games.

Those who do not have a credit card or technology to order tickets can bring cash or checks payable to VCS to the High School Guidance Office for purchase of a pass. These passes are only good for the 2021-22 School Year for any home athletic event. Once the number of games has been used, the pass will be void.

Those over 65 can qualify for a senior pass by coming to the High School Guidance Office with a driver’s license. These passes are only good for the 2021-22 year for any home athletic event, excluding MHSAA tournaments. Senior citizen passes cannot be shared with anyone and will be revoked if used by others.

To purchase tickets students, parents and community members can click here.

Football and full stands are back

Malachi Sampley. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

After an unusual 2020 season, the Schoolcraft Eagles made it all the way to the state semi-finals, ending with a loss to state champion New Lothrop. Twenty seniors graduated last spring, so Coach Ferency reloaded the Eagles with lots of new faces. The Eagles’ first test was a visit from the Rangers of Cassopolis at Roy Davis Field on August 26.

The Eagles started on offense, receiving the kick from the Rangers. Schoolcraft fans saw a different type of offense. For the past three seasons, the Eagles were predominantly a throwing team. This year, the Eagles came out using more of a ground attack. Sophomore Ryan Ling is the Eagles’ signal caller, with senior Nolan Strake, sophomore Isaac Noora, sophomore Houston Hodges and senior Kanaan Burgess taking Ling’s handoffs. The Eagles’ first offensive series of 2021-22 season resulted in Nolan Strake hitting paydirt from the 3-yard line.

Immediately following the Strake touchdown, fans witnessed history for Schoolcraft when senior Hannah Thompson, a Schoolcraft soccer star, became the first female player to score points for Schoolcraft football when she kicked the ball through the uprights.

The Eagles’ lead would not last long. After the Rangers took over at the 6:25 mark in the first quarter, Collin Bogue, senior for the Rangers, took it right down the field on their 3rd play, running 78 yards for a touchdown. Their two-point conversion was successful, taking the lead at 8-7.

After halftime, the Rangers again knocked on the endzone’s door, but the Eagles defense stood tough, keeping the Rangers from entering the endzone from the 1-yard line in two straight plays.

Neither team was able to put anything together until the 4th quarter when again Nolan Strake found himself in the Rangers’ endzone celebrating with his teammates. Thompson’s kick sailed left of the upright, and the Eagles led, 13-8.

Rangers’ Daishean Jamison found some open lanes in the Eagles’ kickoff and took it 93 yards to the house. Cassopolis’ two-point conversion was unsuccessful. The Eagles found themselves down again 13-14, until Strake found his way into the endzone one last time. The Eagles’ two-point conversion failed. With six minutes left, the Rangers worked their way back down the field where they struck again from 5 yards out, putting them up 20-19. The Eagles had one last drive with 2:30 left on the clock. The last pass was intercepted in the endzone, giving the Rangers the win and handing the Eagles their first opening home game loss since 2011.

The Eagles led the stats with 68 total plays to the Rangers’ 42. Schoolcraft had 363 yards of total offense while Cassopolis ended with 248.

The Eagles continued their season in Centreville September 2 with another loss, 28-7.

Vicksburg’s track team competes at the state meet

Members of the relay teams, from left, are Avalee Goodman, Emma Steele, Molly Young, Megan Kendall, Sam Richardson, Megan Zahnow, Hannah Fenwick, Amelia Ruger, and Amanda Laughery. Missing from the picture is Sawyer Barton.

After a competitive season, members of Vicksburg’s track and field team continued to shine at the state competition. The 4×100 relay team of Megan Zahnow, Megan Kendall, Sam Richardson and Emma Steele earned All-State honors and placed 5th with a season-best 51.31. This is the second-fastest time in the school’s history.

The 4×200 team of Zahnow, Kendall, Richardson and Steele placed 13th with their 4th fastest time of the season. Their season-best was 1:48.79 and the second fastest time in school history.

Vicksburg’s 4×400 relay of Amelia Ruger, Megan Kendall, Sam Richardson, and Emma Steele placed 14th with a time of 4:20.81 which was their second fastest time of the season.

The 4×800 relay of Hannah Fenwick, Avalee Goodman, Amanda Laughery, and Sawyer Barton wrapped up their season with a time of 10:33 (20th) which was 2nd best time of the season for the relay team.

Senior Levi Thomas is the Division 2 300-meter hurdles state champion with a time of 40.10 seconds.

Sophomore Michael Wright qualified for the state meet in the 200 and finished 15th out of 320 competitors.

Bulldog baseball eliminated in regional semi-final

Vicksburg pitcher Cole Gebben.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity baseball team had a solid season to remember, winning a district title for the first time since 2017 before being eliminated in the regional semi-final against Marshall. The season came down to a tight game against the Redhawks that could have gone either way.

The Bulldogs gave up a run early to Marshall, but pitcher Cole Gebben helped keep the game close with some solid pitching. In the fourth, Marshall scored again to make it 2-0, and the final run of the game. It briefly looked like Vicksburg might get something going in the fifth and sixth innings as Logan Cohrs, Drew Habel, and Parker Wilson all got on base. Unfortunately, they were left stranded.

Vicksburg played some solid defense towards the end of the game, particularly from Brendan Monroe, who picked off a base runner and struck out a few runners to keep the score close. In the end, the Bulldogs failed to get a runner on base in the seventh and were eliminated.

The week prior at Districts turned out much more favorably for the team as they defeated archrival Three Rivers 7-1 and then Harper Creek 11-1. In the finals, Harper Creek’s pitcher kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard for the first five innings before the bats came to life.

“They couldn’t get us out and we hit the ball all over the place,” Deal said. “Next thing you know, it’s 11-1 and we get a mercy in that district championship game against Harper Creek. Again, our pitching did a great job in both of those games defensively to make the plays, and to only give up one run in 13 innings, that was a great Saturday.”

Next season will be a little more challenging for the Bulldogs because they are losing most of their major sluggers. Senior Parker Wilson had over 40 RBIs, over 20 doubles, seven home runs, and a batting average of nearly .500 on the season.

“You can’t replace a guy like that,” Deal said.

Deal also noted Jacob Conklin’s .455 batting average and 37 RBIs, and Monroe’s .412 average as major factors to their success this year. He expects the team will be okay with the defensive players and pitching they have returning, but he expects they will have to get creative with the batting order a bit in 2022.

At the end of the day, it seems Deal and the team were happy they even had a season after losing 2020 to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Thanks to all the parents and the fans that have come out in support of the kids and got them to things, and taking care of all the things they needed,” Deal said. “This season, with all the COVID stuff at the beginning, they had to fight through a lot. So, my hat’s off to the players, to the families, and our school administration for allowing us to have this season and just to go with the ever-changing world that was the COVID baseball season.”

Bulldog baseball sweeps Paw Paw

By Travis Smola

Vicksburg varsity baseball picked up their first two key wins on the road against Paw Paw, giving up a single run in the doubleheader.

The Bulldogs won the first game handily, 10-1, then dealt a shutout in the second, 6-0. The team had had some early struggles in the season against tough teams like Portage Central and Mattawan, but it was the first conference game against Paw Paw that Head Coach Brian Deal had been looking forward to playing.

“We’ve played some non-conference games against some really quality opponents,” Deal said. “And we’ve had some tough go on those games, but it’s all been kind of building up for this opening night of conference play.”

Senior pitchers Parker Wilson and Brendan Monroe both put on a clinic in the games. Wilson had 13 strikeouts in the first game and Monroe had nine in the second game. Both pitchers helped bail their team out of situations where the Red Wolves had runners in scoring position.

“Those two are veterans for us and they did a great job coming into the zone,” Deal said. “It kept the pressure off of our defense, and then, when we did need to make a play, we did make one behind them, so just having those guys who can pound the zone like that, that’s going to be a huge help for us.”

In the second game, Monroe also started off the hits with a single. Vicksburg took a 1-0 lead after they loaded the bases. A high pitch allowed Jacob Conklin to run home. In the top of the second, Zach Myers started things off with a single before Monroe hit a monster triple to far right field that just barely failed to clear the fence. That brought Myers home to make it 2-0.

Conklin brought Monroe home to make it 3-0 immediately after that with a single. Conklin also managed to steal third on that series but got stranded at third.

The score remained 3-0 until the top of the fifth, which ended up being the final inning due to light fading. Paw Paw walked Dylan Zemitans and Myers to start things off. Zemitans scored off a Cole Gebben single and Myers scored off another single from Monroe to make it 5-0.

Conklin was the next batter and was hit by a pitch to load them up. The Red Wolves gave the Bulldogs a freebie when they walked Wilson to make it 6-0.

After last season was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Deal praised his younger players with limited baseball experience for their performance, though he noted that the biggest challenge so far is that the strength of their opponents is mostly unknown.

“It’s interesting because you have no idea of what the other teams are going to be like in the conference because you didn’t see them play last year,” Deal said, “So, now every time we go out against a conference team, we’re just hoping to play the best we can possibly play because we don’t know what their teams have or what they’re going to throw at us.”

Two wins open Vicksburg softball season

Vicksburg’s Tristin Abnet.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity softball team started the 2021 season off on the right foot, picking up two wins, 6-5 and 4-1, in a doubleheader against Richland Gull Lake.

In the first game, the Bulldogs got out to an early 4-0 lead that later shrank to 4-4 in the sixth inning. In the top of the seventh, the Blue Devils took a 5-4 lead, putting the pressure on the younger team to deliver. With two on and no one out, Danielle Diekman hit a ball to center to bring Maddison Diekman home. Danielle then found herself trapped between bases. However, in the commotion of trying to get Diekman out, Gull Lake momentarily took their eyes off Peyton Smith, allowing her to run home for the winning run from third.

“It was really Danielle who got that key hit there at the end and then got herself in a pickle to allow us to score a girl from third,” Head Coach Paul Gephart said.

In the second game, Payton Lewis got the Bulldogs on the board first by taking advantage of a Gull Lake mistake after a hit from Hannah Vallier. Vicksburg scored again in the bottom of the fourth, when Smith hit a big triple to bring Maddison Diekman home. Smith scored shortly after on a high pitch by the Blue Devils. In the fifth, Maya Peters hit a double to bring Vallier home again and make the score 4-0. Gull Lake hit a solo home run in the top of the sixth to make the score 4-1, the final score of the game.

“We’re young. there’s a lot of things that we saw that we need to work on, but I’m very happy when you start the season off, and you win two games,” Gephart said. “Especially that first game when they tied the score up and had all the momentum we came back and finished there at the end.”

Coming back in 2021 is a little bittersweet for both players and coaches. The Covid-19 pandemic cancelled all spring sports completely last year which means that a lot of seniors did not get to play their final season in 2020, leaving many to wonder what might have been.

It has also led to some challenges because many of the newer players have never played softball at the varsity level before the Gull Lake game. Gephart noted that losing a whole season is a challenge every team is going to have to deal with this year.

“There’s no excuses, I just feel bad for the girls from last year, all those that were returning,” Gephart said. “You’ve got eight starters returning and they lost their entire season, six of them graduated. So, I’m really happy that we’re even getting to play.”

Based on what he saw from the first two games though, prospects look promising. He said the younger players stepped up and the veterans led by example.

“I was really pleased with how well they played with the number of new people that we have playing this year,” Gephart said. “They did a really good job with very minimal amounts of time to practice.”

Rough start for Bulldog boys lacrosse

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity boys’ lacrosse team had a rough season start with losses to Harper Creek and Zeeland West. The Bulldogs dropped their first game against Harper Creek 12-9 on the road before losing at home to Zeeland 16-10.

Against Zeeland, the boys fought hard until the end, but the Dux had the benefit in time of possession, limiting scoring opportunities for the Bulldogs. Zeeland went up 1-0 off the opening faceoff before Colby Leach answered back to tie. Leach had two goals, also scoring the final point of the game for Vicksburg. After Thomas Harsha tied it up 2-2, the Dux ripped off six straight goals to make it 8-2. The Bulldogs never seemed to get momentum back.

“If you can’t pass and catch you will have a hard time holding onto the ball,” Head Coach Mike Malloy said. “They did it better, especially in the early part. Now you’re playing from behind, so you’re trying to press a little bit more.”

Rhodes Conroy had four goals for Vicksburg and Grayson Pratt also had a hat trick with three of his own. After missing a whole season due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are some challenges.

“From the coaching point, you’ve got a short window and it’s all about budgeting your time,” Malloy said. “We’ve probably spent a little more time on Xs and Os. And fundamentally I don’t think we’re where we need to be right now. We spent a lot of time yesterday on fundamentals.”

Another factor that has not helped the early part of the season is that both the varsity and JV teams had players in quarantine. Malloy credited his team with fighting hard regardless. He’s hopeful the team can turn around the slow start once they get some players back.

“These guys are playing hard and the guys in quarantine are ready to get back at it once they can,” Malloy said. “It’s tough for those guys to have to sit out.”

In district four bowling, boys place third, girls tenth

By Mark Blentlinger

Schoolcraft’s boys began the Division 4 regional bowling championships in Jackson on a high note: On the first of four games, the team had a combined score of 819 with a high score of 192 from Kyle Fleck. On the second, they rolled an 823 with Max Desmond leading with 208. On the third, the Eagles rolled 820 with Fleck again leading with 179. In game four, the score was 866 with Desmond rolling 212, Fleck 206 for a team total of 3,328.

That left the Eagles 34 pins shy, finishing in third place behind Hackett Catholic Prep in second and Homer winning the regional.

Desmond and Fleck placed among the top 10 individuals; with Desmond in third, Fleck in fifth, sending them to individual state championships in Canton on March 27.

In that contest, Fleck ended up in 30th position against 60 other bowlers, rolling 1,019 with a high game of 199. Desmond ended up in 18th with a total pinball of 1,075 and a high game of 213. He was just 14 pins shy of moving on.

The Eagle girls’ team struggled on the lanes on their day, not really getting anything rolling. At this level, strikes are preferred but spares are a must, and with the oil pattern being pretty unforgiving, the Eagles struggled getting both. In game one, the Eagles rolled a 610 with senior Maya Pearce having a 149. Game two was 628 with Pearce leading again with a 151. The third game ended with 585; sophomore Catie Wright led the Eagles with 157. Game four, the best of the day, ended with 669; again, Maya Pearce rolled the high game with 181.

Hanover Horton walked out with the trophy, topping second place Bronson by 28 total pins, 3,172 to 3,144. The Eagles finished in 10th place with 2,492.

Boys’ and girls’ teams in past years competed on the same Friday in regionals, with the two three teams in both genders competing for a state championship on the following weekend. On Saturday, individuals competed for the Top 10 and competition for a state championship.

This year, Division 4 boys competed on Friday at the Jax 60 lanes in Jackson, while the girls competed Saturday. The MHSAA made other changes to the tournament format.

Eagle wrestlers: District champions

By Mark Blentlinger

Coach Rob Ling took his Eagle grapplers into district championships on March 20. The Eagles didn’t disappoint, beating White Pigeon 63-11 to emerge as district champions.

The team also crowned six individual district champions: Ryan Ling, Jett Gott, Tagg Gott, Jimmy Downs, Hunter Martens and Gary Cramer, and the Eagles sent 10 individual wrestlers to regional championships on March 27.

First the team had to wrestle at the regional team championships in Cassopolis on the 25th. The Eagles faced off against Lawton, the high school Eagles’ Coach Lings had attended. The Eagles came out on top, winning the regional championship, 36-31, with wins from wrestlers Calib Lipscomb, Gary Cramer, Riley Cochran, Jett Gott, Tagg Gott, Jimmy Downs and Connar Webb.

This win sent the Eagles to another team state championship on March 30th at the Wings Event Center. There, the wrestling season ended for both the Hudson Tigers and the Schoolcraft Eagles. Both teams had wrestled with an ineligible wrestler. Hudson had won the match 61-15.

On the 27th, it was the individual wrestlers’ turn, either to win a regional championship or head to state as an individual. Although no Eagles would be crowned regional champions, five punched their ticket to the state championships on April 2-3 at VanAndel Arena – Carsten Svoboda 103, Layne DeLoof 119, Gary Cramer 135, Tagg Gott 189 and Jimmy Downs 215.

Schoolcraft in state wrestling championship

By Mark Blentlinger

Following Schoolcraft’s victories in March district contests, in April it entered five wrestlers in individual state championships at Van Andel Arena: Carsten Svoboda at 103 pounds, Layne DeLoof at 119, Gary Cramer at 135, Tagg Gott at 189 and Jimmy Downs at 215.

Downs scratched his chance at a championship when contact tracing indicated he might have contracted COVID-19, leaving him unable to compete for his final event.

Tagg Gott was the first Schoolcraft wrestler on the mat, facing Justice Onstott of St. Louis. The match went all three periods and Gott squeaked out the win with an 8-7 score, sending him to quarterfinals.

Svoboda was pinned by Trennen Smith of Mio, sending him into the loser bracket. He won his first match by receiving a bye.

DeLoof faced Ayden Sturtevant-Roes from Hesperia. That match went all three periods, but DeLoof was unable to put any points on the board and lost 9-0. He then entered the consolation round where it’s win or go home. He was pinned by Memphis’ Troy Trombley.

Cramer wrestled Aden Baynes of Lainsburg. After the first period, the score was 0-0. Cramer pinned his opponent with 40 seconds to go in the 2nd period, sending him onto the next round.

DeLoof faced Troy Trombley of Memphis in the consolation round. He held his own but was eventually pinned to end his run at state.

Svoboda faced an opponent he had already seen this season: Caleb Mallory from Lawton. Down 0-5 at the end of the first period, Svoboda never gave up. His season ended with Mallory pinning him with a minute left in the 2nd period.

At 135 pounds, Cramer was up against the number 1 seed, Harris Raab from Bark River. Raab had a 30-1 record while Cramer was at 24-3. With 51 seconds left in period 2, Rabb got Cramer on his back, continuing to the semi-finals.

Gott wrestled Russel Wilson from Whittemore Prescott. At the start of the third period, Gott was down 0-1, but he turned it around and ended up winning 6-3, advancing to the semi-finals.

Cramer won his next 2 matches. With 1 more win, Cramer wrestled for 3rd place. His opponent was Landis Gillman of Clinton High School. With the score 4-4 with a minute left, Gillman achieved the takedown and advanced onto the 3rd place match, sending Cramer to the 5th or 6th place match. There, he fell just shy of 5th place, losing 3-5 and finishing in 6th.

In semi-final competition, Gott was matched with Logan Badge. Gott was pinned by the eventual State Champion, sending him to the 3rd place match where he faced Kody Krupp of New Lothrop. Gott ended his sophomore season in 4th place, losing the match 6-12.