Category Archives: Sports

Kobe Clark One of Top 10 Football Players in the State

By Mark Blentlinger

Kobe Clark, senior running back for Schoolcraft High School’s championship football season, is being touted as one of the top 10 players in the state of Michigan by MLive.

Clark has set all kinds of Schoolcraft records and even a statewide record for the most touchdowns in a game. In the round one game for the District championship, Schoolcraft beat Hartford 57-6, with Clark touching the ball only five times for 198 yards rushing and four TD’s and a reception that went for 50 yards after the catch to the Hartford end-zone. He also plays two-ways as cornerback on defense.

The son of Benny Clark Jr., former Western Michigan University running back and Ravenna High School state champion, Kobe grew up hearing stories of his father’s football glory, including the time he set a state record with 49 carries in a championship game or how he was the first player in state history to eclipse 7,000 rushing yards in his career, according to MLive.

The Clark name has been heard for quite a few years over the loudspeakers at Roy Davis field, beginning with Benny (boom boom) Clark III, then two-time Kalamazoo player of the year Ricky Clark. Now, the youngest Clark, Kobe, is making his mark in the record books.

“I love what [my brothers] have done, so I have a high expectation for myself and want to achieve what they achieved. But some things they haven’t, because they worked to make me such a better football player,” Kobe said. “I became tougher, more elusive, faster because they were older than me, and they used to throw me around. But it got me better.” (From MLive)

In 2018, Clark put his name at the top of the state record books for touchdowns scored in a single game (9), against arch rival Constantine. At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he is indeed quick and elusive. So far in 2019, Clark has 119 carries for 1,419 yards, with 35 touchdowns from his running back position. He is also a great receiver, with 22 receptions for 393 yards and 6 touchdowns. On defense, he has 37 tackles, 25 solo and 8 tackles for loss with 1 sack and 2 interceptions, with one returned for a 21-yard score.

In his second year as head coach, Nathan Ferency said, “Kobe is such a hard worker on the field and in the classroom.” He also was very complimentary of Clark’s character. “When it comes to the success Kobe is having, he is very humble about it. He believes it’s all about the team.” Clark showed his leadership when the Eagles lost in the last regular season game to Kalamazoo United, 35-27. Clark told his team in the post-game huddle, “We’re not losing again.”

After the game against Hartford, Coach Ferency told the team, “Great win team! Ok now it’s time to get to work and get ready for the next one.” When he finished, Clark said to his team, “Four more to go guys, lets finish it! Four more.”

Soaring Eagles Keep on Winning

Oretlieb 1
Nick Ortleib got the chance of a lifetime to suit up and run the ball into the endzone for the Eagles. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

It was a rainy Friday night in Coloma when the Eagles soared in to take on the Comets. Even though the Comets led the Eagles on the offensive play count, 65-39, and were close on total yards with 251 to the Eagles 277 the Eagles won by a large margin, 41-12.

The first quarter belonged solely to the Eagles. At the end of the first, the Eagles were up 27-0, with one score by Parker Lawerence and three by Kobe Clark. The second quarter finally saw the Comets get on the scoreboard with an 8-yard touchdown from Kenyon Boyd. On the ensuing kickoff, Kobe Clark took it 60 yards downfield to add seven more to the score.

Alex Thole led the Eagle offense, throwing eight passes for 127 yards and one touchdown. Kobe Clark had eight rushes for 100 yards and four touchdowns. Lawerence pulled in five catches for 98 yards and one touchdown. The Eagle defense was led by Trevor DeGroote with five tackles and four assists, while Bryce VanderWiere, Mark Fox and Asa Pavey all recorded tackles for loss.

Big Win Over Watervliet

Next up to try and give the Eagles their first loss of the season were the Panthers of Watervliet. They, like all the others so far this season, found the explosive offense of the Eagles too much to handle. The defense also let the Panthers know, “not in our house!” The Eagle defense allowed the Panthers a total of 67 yards on offense. Stephen Schultz led the Eagles with five tackles, two for loss and one sack. Trevor DeGroote, Aiden Hursey, Bryce VanderWiere, Asa Pavey and Josh Stokes all had tackles for loss. Jimmy Downs and Lawerence not only caught passes from their own quarterback, they stole passes from the hands of Panther receivers, with one interception each. The Eagle offense racked up 377 total yards. Alex Thole went 16/18 for 225 yards and three touchdowns and Kobe Clark had nine carries for 101 yards, with five touchdowns. Three Eagle receivers also had touchdowns; Lawerence, Jimmy Downs and Harmon DeVries.

Nick Ortlieb Gets His Big Chance

The game that night was so much bigger than football and winning or losing. The Eagle’s team manager, senior Nick Ortlieb, has a cognitive impairment, but is a staple on the sideline of every Eagle football game. He can be seen walking up and down congratulating his teammates while fist bumping as many as he can. However, for this game, Nick was dressed in full Eagle football gear. At the end of the second quarter, right before halftime, the Eagles and the Panthers lined up on the 40-yard line with Nick sporting his number 66 jersey in the backfield. He took the hand off from quarterback Alex Thole and ran a halfback sweep around the right side of the line, streaking the 40 yards into the endzone, with his arms spread wide like an Eagle. His teammates and even a Panther or two swarmed around him, while the crowd roared as if it were the greatest touchdown ever scored.

Equestrian Team Brings Home a State Championship

horse 9
The Vicksburg equestrian team was honored at the halftime of Vicksburg’s Homecoming football game.

By Sue Moore

Vicksburg’s equestrian team knew it had a good chance at capturing a state championship in 2019. It had trained hard to get ready for the competition, placing first in District and Regional events. At state it was just a few points shy of winning first place as the final event got underway with sisters Ally and Torie Barga running the speed relay.

Then disaster struck. At the turn, Torie’s horse tripped and fell on top of her. They were disqualified and all hopes seemed to be dashed.

Still, they had one more chance as each relay team can make two runs to establish their best time, approximately 10.6 seconds. Barga was taken to the medical center to check for concussion and broken bones. Her coach, Mike Fleetwood assured her that the team would be happy to go home with a second place so she wasn’t to worry about making a second run.

Although her shoulder and back hurt, the EMT’s determined there was no concussion suffered. Torie just sat up and put her helmet on and said, “Put me in coach, I’m ready to go. I’m good, so let me ride.” Speed riding like the Bargas do is scary but exhilarating, said Dawne Steele, another of the coaches. “They ride to the end of the arena, hand off the baton to the waiting rider who bolts for home.“

The team received 10 points, the most possible, for this final ride and the coveted first place finish it had worked on all year long.

It took all the other riders on the team to compete and build up the 241 total points needed to win. Freshman Makenzie Freund was the top equitation – the art or practice of horse riding or horsemanship – with 99 points. She scored in both Western and English saddle events. Senior Ally Barga earned 59 points, excelling in both saddle seat and speed classes. Torie Barga was the top speed rider with 58 points. Olivia Cannizzaro rose to the top in jumping fences with 25 points. They were assisted by Mykaila Scamazzo, the team groom who kept horses and girls ready to shine in each event, according to Steele.

Equestrian as a club sport began in 2009 in Vicksburg and accepted as a school sport in 2017. The coaches were Steele, Kaiti Fink, Fleetwood and his wife Karin. Throughout these years they have won nine District championships, two at the Regional level. At the state level they have placed 7th and 4th overall. “It’s each individual doing their thing but what they accomplish goes to a team score,” Steele said. It is all parent-funded with the school providing entry fees and horse stall expenses during the shows. Last time at state the cost was over $1,300 for the team to compete. The Boosters Club helps with expenses, as do local businesses as sponsors. H&H Farms, B&T Partnerships, Raise the Bar Horses, Jason Gatlin and Vicksburg Optometry all contributed funds in the race for the state title this year, Steele said.

“Each team member worked hard all summer with encouragement from their coaches, knowing how talented they were and that this might be the year they could win it all,” Steele said. With just four riders, the team was entered in the C Division for competition. The A division has 10 riders or more, B has 6-10 riders, C is 2 – 5 and D is 1 or 2. The top schools in the state were at the finals in Midland over four days.

“Each one of these girls were able to bring home at least one first place individually in their class. They each had highs and lows with nerves but they held together and fought until the end,” said Fleetwood.

Eagles Make Soccer History for Schoolcraft

By Mark Blentlinger

With a team filled with underclassmen, Head Coach Chad Earles has a lot to look forward to next season with the Eagle men’s soccer team. There are three juniors: Jose Ramon, Brett Faulk and Myalz Berkheiser. Sophomores are Ronan Thompson, Nathan Riddle, Jacob Ryder, Nate Earles, Asher Puhalski, Luis Moragues, Kaleb Copeland and Alex Stoner. Freshman are Cody Gillespie and Josiah Stuart.

The young Eagles had seven wins, seven losses and three ties overall, four wins, four losses and one tie in Southwestern Athletic Conference play. The highlight of the season came when the Eagles were able to defeat Kalamazoo Lakeside Academy 8-0 in the MHSAA District quarterfinal. They then faced off against Kalamazoo Christian in the District semifinal for the first time in the young Eagles history. They were unable to top the Comets and lost 4-2. The Comets eventually went on to win the district championship. The future of men’s eagle soccer is heading in the right direction, according to Earles.

The following Schoolcraft players made all-conference and honorable mention: Brett Faulk and Myalz Berkheiser were named all-conference. Cody Gillespie, Jose Puente, Josiah Stuart, Nate Earles and Ronan Thompson all won honorable mention.

Schoolcraft Claims SAC Conference Volleyball Title

sch volley 5
Schoolcraft’s volleyball team will play for the District Championship the first week in November. Photo by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.

By Mark Blentlinger

In front of a big home crowd Tuesday night, the top-ranked Schoolcraft Eagles volleyball team took on the No. 3 Kalamazoo Christian Comets for a battle of the unbeatens. Both teams came into the match 15-0 in conference play before the Eagles claimed the SAC Conference title defeating the Comets 25-17, 25-10, 25-19.

“We always look forward to a great game against K-Christian. They’re a great team who works hard and doesn’t quit. They keep you on your toes. I thought we did a great job tonight controlling the ball defensively. Our goal was to stay involved with the play until we won the point and through our communication we did that,” Coach Erin Onken explained.

“Andelyn Simkins lead us tonight with 22 digs. That’s a huge number for a three-set match. She read around our block well, especially against their outsides and took some big swings away from them,” Coach Onken added.

Schoolcraft was impressive defensively and it kept the momentum on its side of the floor. Along with Simkin’s 22 digs, Kelby Goldschmeding contributed 15, and Kayla Onken and Allie Goldschmeding added 9 each. Simkins led the Eagles with 15 kills while Morris, Schuppel, Onken and Goldschmeding contributed five each.

The Eagles head to the Comets home gym to start District play November 4.

Conference Championship Decided By Upsets

By Mark Blentlinger

To end the season, a win would leave Schoolcraft with a perfect 9-0 record and the SAC Lakeshore Championship. It wasn’t to be: Schoolcraft fell to 8-1 with a crushing defeat at the hands of Kalamazoo United’s Titans.

A win by the Titans and the Constantine Falcons created a three-way tie among the three teams. Both the Falcons and Titans were able to put another win in their column in their last game of the regular season.

The contest started out like a usual game, a winning one, by the Schoolcraft Eagles. The first three possessions turned into points, such as the 20-yard pass from Alex Thole to Parker Lawerence. The extra point failed, but the Eagles were quickly up 6-0. The next score was another pass from Thole to Kobe Clark for 15 yards to the end zone. Within the first five minutes the Eagles were able to hit pay-dirt for the third time with an 80-yard pass from Thole to Lawerence.

It was the second quarter before the Titans were able to put points on the scoreboard, reading 20-7, where the score stayed until after halftime.

In the third quarter, the Eagles struck first with another pass from Thole to Jimmy Downs. This put the Eagles up 27-7. However, the Titans knew if they wanted to make the post season they were going to have to beat the Eagles. The coaches and players put their noses to the grindstone and started to march downfield. The Titan’s second score came from Kyle Hoogenboom, after receiving a 43-yard pass from Aiden Allen, 27-14. Next up was Adam Wheaton, who took a handoff 32 yards into the Eagle end zone, 27-21. The Eagles were still up going into the fourth quarter. The Titan’s Allen found fellow teammate Peter Dragan open and hit him with a 25-yard pass that tied the game at 27 until the extra point, which put the Titans up 28-27.

The Titans wanted to make sure that the Eagles were going to need more than a field goal to win the game, so Adam Wheaton took it to the house from 47 yards out to bring the scoreboard to Eagles 27, Visitors 35. With one last valiant attempt and a few seconds left on the clock, the Eagles were able to bring everyone at Roy Davis field on to their feet as Thole threw to Clark who lateraled to Jimmy Downs. He ran the Eagle sideline, headed for the goal, but was forced out of bounds at the Titans eight-yard line as the game clock expired. Titans pulled out the upset and put themselves into the post season, as the Eagles went to 8-1, headed into the playoffs.

The Eagles were to face off against Hartford at Roy Davis field, on Nov. 1, at 7 p.m., for the first round of the MHSSA playoffs and the road to Ford Field.

Schoolcraft Hall of Fame Honors Brian Johnson

IMG_1309
Brian Johnson (second from the right) accepts his award amongst family.

Brian Johnson’s accomplishments at Schoolcraft High School are numerous. Brian graduated in 1986 and was in the top 10 of his class. He went on to excel academically at Western Michigan University. Brian received a U.S. Military Academy offer of admission which he declined and instead “walked on” to the WMU football team, earning a scholarship in his second season. Brian was named “one of the best football players” in the past 100 years at WMU. He was a member of the 1988 MAC WMU championship team.

Brian’s athletic accomplishments at SHS are far too numerous to detail, but a short list is: as a member of the varsity basketball team in his sophomore, junior and senior campaigns the Eagles won two SJV League championships, two District Championships and one Regional Championship before being ousted in the State Quarter Finals.

As a member of four varsity football campaigns, the Eagles won an SJV league championship, a District championship, a Regional championship in his senior campaign prior to losing in the State Semi-finals.

At Homecoming 1985, Brian scored the first touchdown at the new Roy H. Davis field. The first time the Eagles touched the football, Brian took the ball near midfield and ran for a TD at the north end of the field.

Brian is married to Amy and with their two kids they have settled in Vicksburg. He has coached Little League baseball, Shooting Stars Basketball, and Rocket Football. He is currently a volunteer coach for the Vicksburg varsity football team.