Category Archives: High school football

Schoolcraft Football Season Roundup

Photos by Stephanie Blentlinger of Lingering Memories Photography.
Photos by Stephanie Blentlinger of Lingering Memories Photography.

By Jef Rietsma

Coach Terry Haas said as time passes, members of Schoolcraft’s 2013 varsity football team will recover from a season-ending, playoff loss and recognize the upside to an otherwise successful season.

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 6.14.48 AM“A district championship and co-champions of the (Kalamazoo Valley Athletic Association) league … if anybody told us back in August we’d reach those accomplishments this season, I think we would have been pretty happy,” Haas said. “Yeah, it was a tough ending but they understand that’s part of the game and they certainly don’t have anything to be ashamed of.”

The Eagles ended their 10-2 season Nov. 16, after bowing out of the playoffs in a 33-7 loss to the Shelby Tigers. Haas said his counterpart said after the game it was the toughest 48 minutes he’s seen his team play all season.

Haas said that was evident early on, when the Tigers got on the board quickly and forced Schoolcraft to play catch-up all day. Shelby would go on to lose the following week in a 49-3 shellacking at the hands of the Clinton Redskins.

Addressing the 35-man team after the season-ending defeat was tough for Haas, he said. The squad’s roster featured 19 seniors.

“You try to be positive, point out what we did this year and if they haven’t already, someday they’ll understand what a special season this was,” Haas said. “It just wasn’t our day that day.”

The three post-season games marked the deepest playoff run Schoolcraft had made since its 14-0, state-championship team of 2001.

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 6.15.09 AMHaas said the 2013 squad has its own place in history, and that success started right away with a pair of wins over two big-time conference squads. Schoolcraft’s season-opening, 41-14 victory over a tough Parchment team was a good primer for its Week 2 showdown against rival Constantine.

Haas said he told his players before the season started that having Parchment and Constantine to open the year – followed by a Week 3 contest against Olivet – would provide a strong measuring stick to see where the Eagles stood three weeks into the season.

“That win against Parchment was big, they play tough and they showed in their opening playoff win (against perennial football juggernaut Jackson Lumen Christi) that they were for real,” Haas said. “To come home a week later and stop Constantine was big. That was a start we needed.”

Constantine would go on to a 5-4 regular season but still have the league’s most productive offense – scoring 366 points.

The Eagles’ lone blemish occurred a week later against Olivet, a team that Haas said has always had Schoolcraft’s number. This year was no exception, as Olivet dealt Schoolcraft its only regular-season loss, a 28-14 setback.

Olivet and Battle Creek Pennfield would go on to share the league title with Schoolcraft as a trio of one-loss teams.

Schoolcraft bounced back after the Olivet loss and won a pair of one-sided affairs against Galesburg-Augusta and Kalamazoo Hackett to up its record to 4-1 going into a huge came against Pennfield.

Haas said he knew the league title was on the line and a loss to Pennfield would set Schoolcraft a game behind Olivet and Pennfield for the league crown.

“The Pennfield game, in my opinion, might have been our biggest game of the season … we went over there as underdogs and played a mistake-free game,” Haas said, of the 28-22 victory. “I don’t know if we would have beat them any other way because teams like Pennfield will make you pay for your mistakes.”

At 5-1, the Eagles won the final three regular-season games they were supposed to win against the league’s lower-tier squads before starting its fifth-consecutive year of participating in the playoffs.

Schoolcraft won a district title with a pair of nail-biters:  28-21 over Niles Brandywine and 28-26 against Watervliet.

“Those were a couple of close games that really gave the fans their money’s worth,” Haas said. “There’s nothing easy about the playoffs so even though it would have been nice to be playing at Ford Field, we have a district title and there are a lot of schools out there that would love to have a 10-2-season.”

Haas, who has 32 years in the books as Schoolcraft’s head coach, said a trademark of his 2013 team was a game-day work ethic. They weren’t unique that practices were never any fun, Haas said, but on game day, he never once had to get his players fired up.

The school’s fall sports banquet was November 25, when recipients of the “Coaches’ Choice” team awards were issued.

With a 10-team league, Schoolcraft will face the same group of opponents in 2014. He will do so with a roster of young players who gained critical playoff experience this year.

“We’re losing a lot of seniors, a group of guys who worked hard and really made a name for themselves out there on the field,” Haas said. “They ended the season 10-2 as seniors, 10-1 as juniors, so they had a great run at Schoolcraft and I wish them well.”

 

Schoolcraft Rocket Football 2013 Season Comes to an End

Screen shot 2013-12-05 at 6.10.07 AMBy Ashlee Gorham

The 2013 Schoolcraft Rocket Football program had big successes.  The Upper and Lower Purple teams both finished their seasons undefeated, each with a record of 7-0. The Upper and Lower Gold teams also had outstanding seasons with records of 5-2 for the Lower division and 2-5 for the Upper division.

There were many highlights this season, including the addition of a Rocket Cheer Program and Flag Football League. Cheer director Heather Smith says the Rocket Cheer program got off to a great start. “We started the season with six girls and by the end of the season, the number grew to 12. We hope the program continues to grow. The high school cheerleaders do a great job at the varsity games and were a big help to us during the season. Our Rocket cheerleaders really look up to them.”

Under the direction of Matt and Ashlee Gorham and Zac Marnell, the Flag Football League is also off to great start. “It’s very important for the players to not only have fun but to start off learning the correct fundamentals of the game,” says Matt Gorham. With over 40 players participating in its first season, the future is looking very bright for these soon-to-be Rocket players.

Also highlighting this season were the two football tailgates the program hosted. Each team had the chance to play “Under the Lights” for a night game, their last home game of the season. The Upper and Lower Gold Teams hosted a “Golden Tailgate”, October 12. Players and families participated in a pregame meal and festivities before facing Sturgis in front of a packed crowd that night.

The Upper and Lower Purple teams hosted a “Pink Tailgate” for their final game against Centreville on October 19.  Along with the great food and tailgate games, the Rocket Program was also able to raise over $400 during a halftime fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. “The coaches, players and fans all wore pink during both tailgates to support Breast Cancer research,” says Coach Benny Clark Jr. “It was great to see our community come together and support not only our Rocket Football program but cancer research as well. I am so proud of all of these kids and the Schoolcraft community”.

The Schoolcraft Rocket Football program is also happy to give back to the Schoolcraft schools to continue to grow and improve its football facilities. A portion of the money raised by the Rocket program is put back into the school for improvements. “This year we were able to give $3000 to the school to help purchase a John Deere Gator that is a huge help in maintaining the football field,” says Benny Clark. “It’s great that our players are able to grow up playing on the varsity field.  I love that we are able to give back to the program.”

Schoolcraft Wins District Title Game On Late Interception; Next Up Shelby In Regionals

Brenan Vaughn #11, Kyle Santman #21, Charlie Schultz #15 accept the District Title trophy.
Brenan Vaughn #11, Kyle Santman #21, Charlie Schultz #15 accept the District Title trophy.

By Jef Rietsma

WATERVLIET – Schoolcraft High School’s varsity football team struggled for most of Friday’s Division 6 district-title game to stop opposing quarterback Luke Traver.

No matter, the Eagles left Berrien County with a 28-26 win thanks to what boiled down to a trio of game-changing plays:

*Phil Pelton’s interception and return for a touchdown proved to be the game-winning score for the Eagles. The pick-off came with just under four minutes to play in the game.

*Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game at 28-all with less than two minutes to play, Watervliet saw its attempt swatted down by Schoolcraft’s Brennan Vaughn.

*The Panthers’ last-gasp effort to score in the final seconds had momentum until Pete Schultz nabbed an interception to secure the Eagles’ tenth win of the season. The interception was forced when linesmen Carter Fowler and Cody Mikel hit Traver as he released the ball, causing the pass to be underthrown.

sch district actionFor Schoolcraft, it was a 48-minute roller-coaster ride that extends its season into a twelfth week. The 10-1 Eagles travel to Shelby to take on the Tigers at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The fact Schoolcraft remains in the playoffs after Friday’s aerial clinic by Traver is notable, as Watervliet’s quarterback completed 38 of 49 pass attempts for a mind-boggling 460 yards.

“We knew he was good, but he played better than what we had seen on any of the two game films we had studied,” Schoolcraft Head Coach Terry Haas said. “We don’t see that kind of an offense in our run-dominated league, so this was a test for our defense and they hung in there long enough to win it for us.”

Traver’s touchdown passes of 23 and 5 yards put the Panthers up, 12-0 early in the second quarter before Schoolcraft answered with two scores of its own to knot the game at 12-12 at halftime.

Josh Zemek’s second-quarter runs of 5 and 4 yards accounted for Schoolcraft’s first-half scoring. The second of the two touchdowns came late in the half, when Zemek intercepted a pass and returned the ball to Watervliet’s 16 yard line to set up the tie score.

The teams combined for three missed extra-point-kick attempts and one failed two-point conversion in the first 24 minutes.

Schoolcraft took its first lead of the game three minutes into the third quarter, when Mikel reached the end zone on a 17-yard run. Zemek’s two-point conversion put the Eagles up, 20-12.

Watervliet would tie it at 20 with a score in the fourth quarter. The deadlock would remain until Pelton’s interception and touchdown return on a bobbled pass.

Haas said his team’s defense had to adjust to a no-huddle, up-tempo offense employed by Watervliet.

“They spent a lot of the night chasing down (Traver), so they had a good workout,” Haas said. “But in the end, defense wins championships and I preach that all the time.”

Haas said it was an especially memorable night for senior Charlie Schultz, who turned 18 years old Friday.

Haas said he also felt good about Vaughn and his role in breaking up Watervliet’s two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

“Brennan was pretty down about missing the two extra-point attempts early in the game … he had only missed one all year,” Haas said. “So, he got redemption and that two-point conversion attempt was a big moment.”

The win advances Schoolcraft to its deepest post-season run since the 14-0 state-champion team of 2001. The Eagles, whose only loss this season was to co-league champion Olivet in Week 3, bowed out in the Week 11 district title game last year to Constantine, 40-27.

Shelby, meanwhile, is a 10-1 team with its only loss to Spring Lake, 27-0, in the final Friday of the regular season. The school is located in Oceana County, halfway between Ludington and Muskegon.

Haas said he and his coaches will spend Sunday looking at game film of Shelby, a squad he admitted he doesn’t know much about. The game against the Tigers was originally scheduled to take place Friday, but Haas said considering the 130-mile distance, he objected to a Friday game and was awarded the matinee game Saturday.

Sportsmanship: What is it? How is it defined? The answer is complicated

By Sue Moore

Mike Roy, Vicksburg High School’s athletic director (AD), is bothered by parents who think they can yell and scream at the officials and coaches, since they have paid their $5 to get into the contest. He contends that kids hate it when their parents and other adults in the audience act that way.

What they really want is support in the form of conversation that goes like this, “I loved to watch you play,” and then on to whatever else is happening that day. If parents think their kid is going to earn a college scholarship through their sport, they should think again, Roy contends. A focus on their studies will yield more and better money in the long run with many academic scholarships going untouched every year, he says.

Each year, the helicopter parent seems to get worse, the AD says. He feels that parents should let their kids take risks as it is ok to fail, otherwise, how do they learn to accept failure? If the parent is over protective and overbearing, it hurts the kid and the sport they have chosen. These are key lessons in growing up, Roy believes. A good example of parenting in sports has been Steve Hettinger, who would be what Roy calls a model parent. He is supportive of the coaches and their decisions. He lets his son Chad accept the challenges of playing multiple sports, attends all the games as does Chad’s mother, Gail. Hettinger gives back by donating his time with the youngsters and the high school sports programs, and Chad has picked up that same attitude in his teamwork, Roy says.

FIVE SIGNS OF AN IDEAL SPORTS PARENT

Let’s hear it for the parents who do it right. In many respects, consultants Brown and Miller, who are long-time coaches and administrators, say, it’s easier to be an ideal sports parent than a nightmare. “It takes less effort,” Miller says. “Sit back and enjoy.” Here’s what they recommend:

1. Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis. Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.

2. Model appropriate behavior: Contrary to the old saying, children do as you do, not as you say. When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.

3. Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child.

4. Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says. “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.

5. Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child’s biggest fan. “Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers,” Brown says. And, of course, don’t be sparing with those magic words: “I love watching you play.”

 

Vicksburg Stadium Shines

vicksburg stadium

By Mari Smith

Thanks to the generosity of several organizations, the Vicksburg High School Stadium received a nearly $8,000 facelift in time for its football season home opener and the Community Tailgate event on September 6.

New banners greeted fans on the stadium’s south-side parking lot, as well as a new banner on the north side of the stadium, courtesy of the Athletic Boosters. The Boosters contributed $4,700 to replace the old banners which lasted seven years.

The front of the press box now identifies the pride of the Bulldogs with newly-installed signage as a result of the joint effort of the Class of 2013, the Class of 2013 Project Graduation, and from the Athletic Department’s spirit-wear sales, for an additional $2,400. The finishing touch of new goal post pads was through the joint efforts of the Vicksburg Rocket Football program donating $500, and the Athletic Department donating $250, all to add to the District’s pride in its top-of-the-line facilities, according to Athletic Director Mike Roy.

 

Schoolcraft football outlasts Constantine 37-28 to stay unbeaten

Schoolcraft's defensive unit stepped up in the fourth quarter Sept. 6 against Constantine.
Schoolcraft’s defensive unit stepped up in the fourth quarter Sept. 6 against Constantine. Photo by Jef Rietsma

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
By Jef Rietsma
South County News contributor

SCHOOLCRAFT – Schoolcraft varsity football team’s pursuit of a Kalamazoo Valley Athletic Association title passed a major test and remains intact following a 37-28 win over league nemesis Constantine Sept. 6.

The back-and-forth affair was poised to come down to a white-knuckle, “last team to have the ball could be the winner,” ending. But the Eagles’ stifling secondary took advantage of an exhausted Constantine offense in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

“We kind of made plays at the end of the game, a big pass and we mixed it up enough to get them off balance,” coach Terry Haas said. “Our defense really hung in there and made some big plays and big stops at the end to hold on to the win.”

The victory puts the Eagles at 2-0 and serves revenge on the opponent that dealt Schoolcraft its only loss of the season a year ago: a 40-27 defeat in the second round of the playoffs.

Haas said his team and its fans had good reason to engage in what developed into to a raucous, on-field celebration.

“We’ll certainly enjoy this one, then move on,” Haas said. “Right now, we don’t care about whether or not we’ll see Constantine in the playoffs, we’re just going to enjoy this one and keep our focus on a league championship.”

Coach Terry Haas goes over strategies with his defense during a timeout in the Sept. 6 contest against Constantine.
Coach Terry Haas goes over strategies with his defense during a timeout in the Sept. 6 contest against Constantine. Photo by Jef Rietsma

Prognosticators who forecasted a close game were on target for three quarters. Schoolcraft took a 14-8, first-quarter lead, thanks to a crucial fourth-down conversion during its second possession of the game and a turnover during a later series.

After giving up a 97-yard touchdown run to Constantine’s sophomore quarterback Matt Hasbrouck and falling into an 8-0 hole, the Eagles mounted a nine-play, 62-yard drive to cut the deficit to 8-6. The series was highlighted by a 25-yard pass play to Trevor Stoddard and capped by a 6-yard run by senior Charlie Schultz.

Senior Brennan Vaughn later helped put the Eagles on top, as he recovered a Constantine fumble and ran 66 yards to the Falcons’ 10-yard line. Two plays later, a pitch to Schultz from four yards out – coupled with a 2-point conversion pass to Stoddard – resulted in the home team’s six-point lead.

Schoolcraft broke a 14-14, second-quarter tie on a series of just four plays, covering 67 yards. Senior Cody Mikel created his own highlight reel, with runs of 25 and 31 yards to make it a 21-14 game.

A third-quarter possession covered 65 yards in four plays for Schoolcraft, which saw senior quarterback Tom Hurst score on an eight-yard run. Hurst then connected on a pass to Nick Cakmakci for the two-point conversion and a 29-21 margin at the 7:27mark.

Schoolcraft would not relinquish its lead, and it put the game out of reach with a short pass play to Vaughn, whose speed turned it into a 47-yard pass play for a touchdown. Senior Blake Zemek’s run for the two points concluded the game’s scoring. The series was set up by a Vaughn fumble recovery on a muffed center-to-quarterback exchange near midfield.

Haas conceded going for the two-point conversion on what would be his team’s final score of the night was a gamble.

“They were offsides, so we had a yard and a half to go and we figured if we could get up nine, it’s a two-score game and that makes a different mentality in the offense, especially when there’s under four minute to go,” Haas said. “Then they have to throw the ball and that’s not their nature. It’s a gamble, for sure, but you play the game to win and that’s what we tried to do.”

His counterpart, Shawm Griffith, said all things considered, he was surprised to head to the locker room at the half with a lead.

“We’re a young team and it showed tonight,” he said. “We came out and we were tired. I can honestly say that might be the first time in 20-odd years of coaching football at Constantine that I’ve looked out and seen a tired football team … especially in that second half.”

The Eagles amassed 219 total yards on the ground, led by Mikel with 83 and Cakmakci with 55. Meanwhile, Vaughn (48), Stoddard (25) and Cakmakci (13) accounted for the all 86 receiving yards in seven attempts by Hurst.

Schoolcraft hits the road Friday to Olivet, where the Eagles hope to continue their unbeaten season.

Rocket Football Starts New Heads Up Program This Fall

Rocket football
By Mari Smith

Vicksburg High School stadium came to life on a Saturday evening in August with the sights and sounds of football. While summer is winding down, football safety is gearing up.

Vicksburg Rocket football announced at its inaugural event that it has aligned itself with USA Football and the organization’s “Heads Up Football” program. Josh Baird, vice-president of Vicksburg’s Rocket Football, states that this USA program, which is funded by the National Football League (NFL), emphasizes safety first for its youngest players.

This safety goal will be made easier by the generosity of the United Way and Vicksburg Rotary Club, each donating $750 to Vicksburg Rocket football. Carol Lohman of the United Way and Mike Tichvon of the Rotary Club presented their checks to Kip Young, president of Vicksburg Rocket Football. Young gratefully stated that with these donations, the organization will be able to be equipment-compliant with USA’S Heads Up Football.

Hunter Van varsity quarterback shows Cody Roy how to throw.
Hunter Van varsity quarterback shows Cody Roy how to throw.
More than 580,000 players and 83,000 coaches nationwide have joined this program, which is also endorsed by organizations including the PAC 10 and Big 10. Through its training and certification, it teaches coaches their Heads Up Tackling method in a step-by-step directive that uses five basic skills to teach and reinforce the mechanics of tackling while reducing helmet contact.

It also teaches concussion awareness and what to do if one occurs. In support of this, players, parents and fans will notice the program’s banners reminding “When in doubt sit them out.”

This effort will be great early support of Vicksburg High School, who has, according to Coach Tom Marchese, been at the forefront of concussion monitoring. All high school players receive base-line impact testing before their freshman and junior years, as well as all new players. The motto to avoid head-on impact at the high school level is “Hit what you see. See what you hit.”

Young describes the USA Heads Up tackle method as staying low and coming up on the tackle, keeping the child’s head out of the impact. The five steps to accomplish this are identified as “Breakdown, Buzz, Hit, Shoot and Rip.” The anticipated three teams of 8/9 year olds and three teams of 10/11 year olds will be taught this new tackle method from the outset. Brenden Hoffman, a third grade student at Sunset Lake Elementary, knows that the helmets are worn to protect players’ heads and felt that a concussion was, “A really bad headache.” Indian Lake third graders Zeke Bombich and Luke Bainter are aware you can get a concussion “ . . . when you hit your head really hard.”

This knowledge by the young participants will help the coaches in implementing the new tackle method.

Among the different stations that the players participated in on Saturday was a station that demonstrated the USA’s tackle fundamentals.

Rick Holmes, Vicksburg Rocket Football’s Player Safety coach, summed it up by saying that Heads Up Tackle, “ . . . means these boys are going to walk off the field instead of being carried off.”

The United Way and Rotary Club donations will go a long way toward this goal of protecting young Vicksburg football players

2013 Vicksburg Rocket Football Schedule

Coach Klinger 8/9
Week 1 September 7 @Three Rivers A 12:00pm
Week 2 September 14 Mattawan B 10:30am
Week 3 September 21 @Kazoo Christian A 1:30pm
Week 4 September 28 @Allegan 11:00am
Week 5 October 5 Galesburg Augusta 2:00pm
Week 6 October 12 Three Rivers B 9:00am

Coach Minnis 8/9
Week 1 September 7 @Three Rivers C 3:00pm
Week 2 September 14 Mattawan D 1:30pm
Week 3 September 21 @Delton 12:00pm
Week 4 September 28 Paw Paw B 12:00pm
Week 5 October 5 @Plainwell B 1:30pm
Week 6 October 12 Three Rivers A 12:00pm

Coach Smith 8/9
Week 1 September 7 @Three Rivers B 1:30pm
Week 2 September 14 Mattawan C 12:00pm
Week 3 September 21 @Kazoo Christian B 3:00pm
Week 4 September 28 Paw Paw A 10:30am
Week 5 October 5 @Plainwell A 3:00pm
Week 6 October 12 Three Rivers C 10:30am

Coach Baird 10/11
Week 1 September 7 Three Rivers B 10:30am
Week 2 September 14 @Mattawan A 10:30am
Week 3 September 21 Plainwell A 9:00am
Week 4 September 28 Hackett B 9:00am
Week 5 October 5 Paw Paw B 6:30pm
Week 6 October 12 @Parchment B 3:00pm

Coach Conklin 10/11
Week 1 September 7 Three Rivers C 12:00pm
Week 2 September 14 @Mattawan B 12:00pm
Week 3 September 21 Plainwell B 10:30am
Week 4 September 28 @Gull Lake B 12:00pm
Week 5 October 5 Allegan B 8:00pm
Week 6 October 12 Kazoo Christian A 1:30pm

Coach Thomas 10/11
Week 1 September 7 @Galesburg C 1:30pm
Week 2 September 14 @Mattawan C 1:30pm
Week 3 September 21 Paw Paw* 12:00pm
Week 4 September 28 @Gull Lake C 1:30pm
Week 5 October 5 Hackett A 3:30pm
Week 6 October 12 Kazoo Christian B 3:00pm
*Possible Waldo Stadium Game

Coach Verner 10/11
Week 1 September 7 Three Rivers A 9:00am