The Eagles faced the Comets this past month. At left, #42 Mackenzie Miller drives past her opponent. On the right, #2 Allie Walther goes up for a shot Photos by Stephanie Blentlinger, Lingering Memories Photography.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association has adjusted the spring 2021 schedule, delaying the start of practices in those sports by a week to March 22 and competition to March 26 to accommodate a later end to winter sports.
The calendar change should ease pressure on indoor facility usage and athletes changing seasons, with winter sports concluding up to two weeks later this school year after a delayed start due to COVID-19.
The association’s Representative Council based its decision in part on feedback from a survey of MHSAA member high schools, which saw 74 percent favoring a delay in spring sports activity of at least a week. State coaches’ associations for spring sports also were consulted. Generally, the great majority of Michigan schools are unable to begin consistent spring sports outdoor activity and competition until early April.
All spring sports tournament dates remain as originally scheduled, with MHSAA Finals in baseball, softball and girls’ soccer concluding the 2020-21 postseason June 19.
The entire spring sports season was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, the Council approved an allowance for spring teams to meet for voluntary practices over 16 contact days in September and October. General conditioning with an unlimited number of students is currently allowed, with other out-of-season training (four-player workouts, open gyms/facilities) allowed to continue through March 21, with the council having eliminated the preseason downtime restriction for spring sports this year.
By Mark Blentlinger
High school bowling was able to start up at the end of January since it is not considered a contact sport, though with masks mandated for competition. Schoolcraft bowling returned all underclassmen from last season’s teams; no new bowlers joined this season. Returning for the girls from last season is lone senior Maya Pearce, junior Brynleigh Macinnes, sophomores Alayna Meade, Catie Wright, Molly Pearce, Clair McIntyre and Haley Earles. Boys returning this season are seniors Max Desmond, Kyle Fleck, Zach McGill and Brian Crofoot; junior Simon Sheen; sophomores Shaun Sampsell and Ian McDonald.
With a shortened season – it would have normally started Nov. 16 and finished the first weekend of March for the State Championship – bowling began Jan. 25 and will end March 26-27 for teams that qualify for the state championships. The Schoolcraft boys’ team has a record of 5-3 overall, posting wins against Martin, Kalamazoo Christian, Burr Oak (twice) and Niles. Losses were to Niles, Bronson and Constantine. Leading the boys’ team in average is senior Max Desmond with 194, followed by fellow senior Brian Crofoot with 167. The girls’ team has a record of 5-2-1 with wins against Kalamazoo Christian, Burr Oak (twice), Bronson and Constantine, losses to Niles (twice) and a tie with Martin. Leading the averages for the girls is senior Maya Pearce with 150, followed by sophomore Alayana Meade with 124. The bowling teams will be participating in the divisional tournament on March 12 at Continental Lanes in Portage. They then will head to division 4 regional championships on March 19 and 20 with a location yet to be determined. If either team finishes in the top three places out of 16 teams, they will advance onto the Division 4 state championships on March 26-27. If any bowler ends the day in the top 10 out of 100 bowlers, they will earn a spot in the Division 4 Individual State Championship.
By Mark Blentlinger
Schoolcraft wrestlers have been able to hit the mats finally, with their first contest Feb. 13 at the Allegan Quad match including Fennville and Coldwater. The Eagle grapplers were able to come away the first match of the season 3-0, posting wins against host Allegan 63-18, Coldwater 60-18 and Fennville 69-12. Four days later, they headed south to Constantine to compete against the hosting Falcons, Gobles and Fennville. Again, the Eagles posted wins against Fennville 66-18 and Gobles 70-11.
On the 20th, the Eagles made their way to Bronson High school gym to face off against the hosting Vikings and Bucks from Buchanan. After suffering the first loss of this shortened season to the Vikings, 38-58, they were able to bounce back and post a lopsided win against Buchanan 54-9, giving the Eagles a 6-1 record so far. The Eagles will be on the road again Feb 24th at Lawton High school against the Blue Devils and Rams of Galesburg. New guidelines for this season have the wrestlers able to compete twice a day. The Eagles’ next events will be in Delton, Parchment and Gull Lake before districts start March 17.
By Mark Blentlinger
After the MHSAA cleared them to move forward with winter contact sports earlier than first planned, the Eagles picked right up where they left off last year. The Schoolcraft boys’ basketball team was the only team left in the state with an undefeated record, 21-0. On Feb. 11, it continued the undefeated streak, defeating Delton Kellogg 62-47. The Rams from Galesburg-Augusta were next to fall, 86-34. With Hackett Catholic prep, the Eagles were able to continue winning, defeating the Irish 70-54. The team’s record continued with a lopsided win 61-15 Feb. 18 against the Tigers from Gobels. Constantine was the next hopeful. The Falcons lost as well, 67-23. The team next traveled across town to Kalamazoo Christian High School , defeating the comets 63-53. The Eagles were scheduled to head to Parchment on the 26th, to Covenant Christian High on the 27th, and to Delton March 3.
By Mark Blentlinger
On Nov. 15, three days after the Schoolcraft volleyball team beat Kalamazoo Christian to win its fourth consecutive Regional Championship, the MHSAA made an announcement: Every fall sport was being put on a three-week pause, no competition and no practice. Volleyball had just three games left to complete the entire season – state quarter-finals, semi-finals and the state championship. MHSAA on Dec. 29 announced that the fall season could resume practice Jan. 4. With just eight days of practice after being idle for weeks, the Eagles would face off against Calvin Christian in the quarter-finals at Loy Norrix High School. Two days prior to the game it was announced 50 fans per team would be allowed.
In the Division 3 state quarter finals, Schoolcraft jumped out to an early lead of 5-0, over Grandville Calvin Christian, with Kelby Goldschmeding serving and showing some great defense. Calvin was able to close the gap slowly with some unforced errors by the Eagles. Neither team looked like it had missed a beat with the weeks of delay.
Both teams were making some tremendous defensive plays but the front line of the Eagles, consisting of Kayla Onken , Maggie Morris and Anna Schupel, just seemed too powerful for the Knights. The Eagles were able to take game one, 25-16. In game two, Calvin Christian was able to break out a lead on the Eagles 7-3, but a hard kill by Schupel led to a five-point rally. The Eagles put some great teamwork together to take the game, 25-17.
Game three was the deciding one. Either the Eagles would punch their ticket to Kellogg for the second straight year to play in the state semi-finals, or they’d play game four. The Eagles were working on a 10-point run before the Squires head Coach Amanda Bremmer called a time out to give her girls a chance to catch a breath and calm down. The Eagles had other plans. They began to strike back, keeping Calvin Christian on its heels. With the score sitting at 20-8 Eagles, another time out called by Calvin Christian gave the Eagles the little breather they needed.
Game three ended on Maggie Morris’ kill and a score of 25-12, sending the Eagles back to the semi-finals for the second year in a row.
After their quarter-final win, the Eagles headed back to play at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena where they expected to play Valley Lutheran High School, a Saginaw team which defeated Royal Oak’s Shrine Catholic 3-0 in a Jan. 12 quarter-final. But 13 days before the scheduled match, Valley Lutheran was forced to forfeit the game due to a positive COVID test.
The Eagles continued to practice, following health guidelines.
For the second straight year, the Schoolcraft team prepared for a face-off with the Kestrels from Monroe St Mary Catholic Central. Last season’s championship had come down to a tie-breaker match that the Kestrels won 15-12. These two powerhouse teams first met in 2014; the Kestrels came out on top. The Eagles were hungry for payback.
Monroe started out tough in Set 1, stretching a 6-0 point run before Eagles Coach Onken called a timeout to give the team a breather. With a tremendous block by Anna Schupel, the Eagles were able to get some momentum, bringing the score up to 11-8 Kestrels. Monroe came back to add more points, stretching the score to 17-10. The Eagles found it hard to get a momentum going, especially at the net – the Kestrels front line blocked almost everything.
Set 1 belonged to the Kestrels as defense became a factor between these two teams. The Eagles came on late bringing the score closer, but the Kestrels won, 25-19.
Kelby Goldschmeding started off serving in Set 2, but the Eagles quickly fell behind 8-4. It seemed that wherever the Eagles hit the ball a Kestrel was there with a save. Soon, the Kestrels started to make some unforced errors, allowing the Eagles to work their way back a little. Unfortunately, the Eagles dropped Set 2, 25-14.
Set 3 was a championship set for Monroe St. Mary and a stay-alive set for Schoolcraft. The Eagles started with some success, making it 5-5. The Kestrels stretched the lead going on a 15-3 scoring streak, eventually defeating the Eagles 28-8 to claim back-to-back Division 3 titles.
Leading the Eagles was senior Maggie Morris with 9 kills, 2 digs, 2 blocks and an ace. Senior Anna Schupel added 6 kills and 2 blocks. Senior Kayla Onken had 3 kills, 15 assists, 6 digs, 1 block and 1 ace. Senior Allie Goldschmeding contributed 15 digs, 3 assists and Senior Kelby Goldschmeding added 15 digs and 3 assists.
By Mark Blentlinger
After defeating Lawton to claim a third straight district championship and enduring a six-week state-imposed delay, the Schoolcraft Eagles football team needed to get ready to face off against the Titans of Jackson Lumen Christi for the third time since 2016.
Jackson had pulled off a 37-34 win in the District Championship at Schoolcraft. In 2019 the Eagles traveled to Jackson to face the Titans for the Regional Championship. They lost, 30-35.
But 2020-21 was a different story, and just as exciting as the last two.
Playing at Macamly Field at Portage Central on a sunny day, the Eagles got their win and handed the Titans their first .500 season since 1988.
The first half of the game was a defensive battle; neither team saw the end zone until nine seconds before the end of the half when senior Alex Thole scored from 7 yards out. The extra point was wide and gave the Eagles a 6-0 lead going into halftime. A fumble from the Titans was recovered by the Eagles and led to a second score by Schoolcraft with a pass from Thole to Jimmy Downs. The 2-point conversion was successful from Brandon Newland to put the Eagles up 14-0. The Titans took just one play to add points off a 65-yard run from Basil Hampton. Jackson scored again, taking the game into the fourth quarter at 14-14.
With a perfect pass to Harmon DeVries, the Eagles opened it up to 21-14 – until Basil Hampton from Jackson took the ball 80 yards to the house and a 2-point conversion to give Jackson the lead, 22-21. After working their way down the field, sophomore Tagg Gott hit paydirt from 7 yards out. With a successful 2-point conversion pass to Harmon Devries, the Eagles took the lead again 29-22 with 5:53 showing on the clock. The Titans did everything they could to work their way down the field. On a long pass into the end zone from the Titans, senior Jett Gott stepped in front of the receiver to intercept the pass and seal the championship for the Eagles.
Coach Nathan Ferency told the team how proud he was by beating one of the best programs in the state of Michigan and earning the Eagles their first Regional Championship since 2001. He told the players and coaching staff to “enjoy this win for the day but tomorrow we are back at it and getting ready for the State Semi Finals.”
Four teams remained in the Division 7 hunt for the state football championship Jan. 16. One was Schoolcraft’s: The Eagles faced off against the Hornets of New Lothrop at Fenton High School.
The Eagles struck first, with senior Jimmy Downs taking the ball 87 yards down the sideline, the only score in the first quarter. But the Hornets went on a scoring streak and added three touchdowns combined with three two-point conversions. At halftime the Hornets led, 24-7.
With two more scores from the Hornets and a 36-7 lead, senior Jake Olvitt stepped in front of a pass, bringing some life back to the Eagles and making the score 36-13. In the fourth, Alex Thole found Harmon DeVries from five yards out. Jett Gott added the two-point conversion, bringing it yet closer at 36-21. That’s where the scored remained, sending the Hornets on to the Division 7 State Championship.
The Eagles ended the season at 9-2, scoring 441 points and allowing 170. The team secured its third straight district title and first regional title since the 2001 state championship team. The New Lothrop Hornets had not come that close to losing a game all season, scoring 485 points and only allowing 92. The Eagles will graduate 20 seniors this year.
Statistically, the game ended with the Eagles running 72 offensive plays to the Hornets’ 64. The Eagles netted 430 yards of total offense while the Hornets netted 456. Senior Alex Thole went 22/39 for 300 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Jimmy Downs carried the ball 6 times for 99 yards while sophomore Tagg Gott had nine carries for 37 yards. Jett Gott led the Eagle receiving corps with seven catches for 135 yards, Jimmy Downs had five for 67 and Harmon DeVries added three for 48 with one touchdown. Defensively, Brandon Newland led the Eagles with five tackles and Bryce VanderWeire had four with six assists and one tackle for loss.