School sports updates

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have extended the pause in winter contact sports – boys’ and girls’ basketball, competitive cheer and wrestling – through Feb. 21. These teams are allowed to condition and shoot. Masks must be worn at all times and athletes must remain six feet apart throughout an entire practice. Bowling was allowed to start. Vicksburg’s team competed in its first match Jan. 25 against East Grand Rapids.

Schoolcraft volleyball team receives honors

The varsity volleyball team. Front row, left to right: Lilli Curtis, Hannah Grochowski, Abbi Curtis. Middle row, left to right: Allie Goldschmeding, Cassidy Bruner, Kayla Onken, Sophie Ridge. Back row, left to right: Allison Bailey, Anna Schuppel, Maggie Morris, Kelby Goldschmeding, Camden Bruner. Photo by Visual Sports Network.

Schoolcraft Coach Erin Onken proudly shared recent Eagles varsity volleyball stats, marveling at the focus her team displayed despite the challenges from COVID-19. The team maintained a 35-3 record on the season and a No. 2 in Division 3 ranking all-season. The Eagles are SAC Champions, District and Regional Champs and won the Niles Quad. The team will compete in the state quarter finals in January. It earned Academic Team All-State honors for the 9th straight year. In addition, six seniors were awarded Academic Individual All-State honors. Five players received SAC 1st Team All-Conference and one player received Honorable Mention All-Conference.

Five players earned All-Region honors and received recognition at the state level: Kayla Onken and Maggie Morris were recognized as 1st Team All State; Anna Schuppel earned 2nd team; Kelby Goldschmeding earned 3rd team; and Allie Goldschmeding earned honorable mention.

The girls worked hard all season long, maintaining their positivity and high expectations for training and competitions. Coach Onken said the uncertainty of the season has been difficult, but added, “Their love and support for one another is inspiring and is what makes this group truly unique.” Practice resumes Monday, Jan. 4, with quarter finals scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 12. “It will be nice to get some closure on our season!” Onken said.

MHSAA fall tournaments to conclude in January

Concluding rounds of Michigan High School Athletic Association postseason tournaments in football, girls’ volleyball and girls’ swimming and diving will be completed during January, the association said in the following press release issued Dec. 26:

The MHSAA continues to follow all emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). 

Football teams may begin two days of outdoor, non-contact conditioning and drills, wearing helmets and shoulder pads with physical distancing, on Monday, Dec. 28, in advance of the first round of testing Dec. 30 as part of an MDHHS rapid testing pilot program. Schools will test players, coaches and other team personnel, with full-contact practice then allowed after a first round of negative results. The testing program will utilize BinaxNOW antigen tests that produce results within 15 minutes.

For football, 11-player regional finals and 8-player semifinals will be played Saturday, Jan. 9. the 8-player finals and 11-player semifinals will be played Saturday, Jan. 16; and 11-player finals will be played during the weekend of Jan. 22-23.

The MDHHS’s current epidemic order – which paused activity beginning Nov. 18 – is set to expire Jan. 15, and if restrictions on non-contact sports are lifted, then volleyball and swimming and diving could practice and compete at that time outside of the required rapid testing program. If the [state’s] epidemic order continues, volleyball and swimming and diving could begin practice, but those teams and individuals will have to follow all requirements of the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program to be eligible to participate.  Specific plans and dates for volleyball and girls’ swimming and diving practice resumption and MHSAA tournaments will be finalized and shared with competing schools in early January.  

Volleyball competition will restart with Quarterfinals, and Lower Peninsula girls’ swimming and diving has advanced to its Finals. The championship events in both sports would be completed no later than Jan. 30.

No spectators will be allowed at the events.

Kelly Fellows wins regional coach of the year award

Coach Kelly Fellows.

By Travis Smola

In a year filled with challenges, winning sub-varsity volleyball coach of the year for Division 1 and 2 was the last thing Kelly Fellows expected. But it came at just the right time.

“I feel honored that my name was nominated from other coaches and our district as well as head coach Katrina Miller of our Vicksburg program,” Fellows said. “This year was really different and difficult for everyone with COVID and being a coach through all of it was a huge learning experience,”

Miller was the one who put Fellows’ name forward for the award. The year 2020 is going down as a doozy for high school athletics as teams struggled with strict health guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Volleyball players were required to wear masks in competition. Aside from being an adjustment to how they normally play, the masks sometimes caused communications problems between coaches and players on the court. It wasn’t just hard for student athletes, but coaches too.

“Putting her (Fellows) up for coach of the year was the easiest decision I made this year,” Miller said. “She gives one hundred percent of herself to our program, and to her team, and it’s has just always been committed to everything we do at Vicksburg and everything we stand for.”

Miller cited Fellows’ work ethic and her usefulness to the program, saying that it felt like they have been working together forever. Fellows started off in the middle school volleyball program before making the jump over to the high school.

“I think she’s well-deserving of it and I’m excited for her because she works very hard,” Miller said.

Court challenges aside, Fellows said she was already facing numerous pressures from starting a new business and making sure her own three children were educated at home in a virtual environment.

“It gets busy, so when she (Coach Miller) told me I had won this award, I was in complete surprise. I didn’t even know this type of thing existed and so it was very overwhelming. I feel very honored I was given it and it came at a great time,” Fellows said.

Fellows also said she feels she’s grown as a person and coach under Miller’s leadership, especially this year where, for a while, coaches and athletic directors were uncertain if there would even be a season due to the pandemic.

“I always go out on the court to coach the girls and give them the direction that they need and then also push them a little more each day in every practice,” Fellows said. “That’s what makes them better. They don’t always love me for it, but when they see the success individually and as a team, I know that I’m doing my job as a coach.”

With few losses, Eagle volleyball on a roll

By Mark Blentlinger

With a record of 28-2, the Schoolcraft Volleyball Team is spiking its way through opponent after opponent. The team has lost only to Portage Central and Lakewood (Lake Odessa), ranked No. 1 in division 2. Coach Erin Onken said, “We are having fun and improving daily. Consistency in our play continues to rise and we are looking forward to postseason action starting soon”

The Eagles have hosted Delton, Kalamazoo Hackett, Galesburg and Coloma. They also held a Quad tournament that included No. 1 ranked Mendon in Division 4, No. 2 Ranked Lakewood in Division 2 and Mattawan, which is not ranked this season.

The home match vs Delton resulted in the Eagles winning 25-10, 25-8, 25-11. Kalamazoo Hackett, hoping to be competitive, was next, but Schoolcraft did not allow the Irish to flex too much muscle, shutting them down with scores of 25-13, 25-12, 25-11. The Rams of Galesburg also fell in three, 25-8, 25-8, 25-6. The Coloma Comets came into the gym to face the mighty Eagles. They fell 25-10, 25-9, 25-8.

With a win over Constantine 25-21, 25-22, 25-15, the Eagles secured the SAC Conference Valley Championship, but the games didn’t stop. The Eagles next headed to Battle Creek Lakeview for another quad tournament where they came out victors, beating Portage Northern, Cass Tech and Lakeview.

While the Eagles’ defense stands out, the team is playing very aggressively on both sides of the net. The team leaders are the ever cool and collected. Libro Kelby Goldschmeding has 419 digs this season, followed by her sister Allie Goldschmeding with 301. Onken says, “Allie is a primary passer and a dominant right-side defender.” Kayla Onken rounds out the top three in digs with 284. Offensely, Anna Schuppel leads with .558 hitting efficiency, boasting 241 kills. Leading the team in kills is Maggie Morris with 299.

The Eagles are Ranked No. 2 in Division 3, right behind No. 1 Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central. These 2 teams could end up seeing each other for the third time and second straight year in the Division 3 state championships.

Schoolcraft Eagles soar into playoffs

By Mark Blentlinger

With the MHSAA cutting team play to six games in the 2020 football season, every team will compete in the district championships. The regular season allowed teams to stretch their legs, but the Eagles stretched their wings. The Eagle offense has picked apart opposing defenses with pin-point passes from senior signal caller Alex Thole, allowing his receivers many yards, all supported by a powerful running game.

The Eagles have won the SAC Conference Valley Championship. Offensively, the team has scored 250 points, allowing opponents only 85, with 42 of those points coming from the trip to Chelsea which gave the Eagles their only loss of this season. The Eagles have accumulated 2,271 total yards of offense, while allowing the defense just 1,190 total yards.

Schoolcraft’s only loss during the regular season, 42-21, came at the hands of Divison 3 Chelsea, a much larger school compared to the Division 7 Eagles.

Thole and the offensive attack still had 337 yards with 301 coming through the air. It took until the second quarter before the visitor side of the scoreboard added points with a 32-yard interception by Jimmy Downs. Alex Thole went 19/38 on passes, with three interceptions and two touchdowns. Sophomore Tagg Gott led the Eagle rushing attack with seven attempts for 28 yards.

Regular season ended with the Eagles winning the last three games. First was at Saginaw High School where the Eagles blanked the Trojans 55-0, keeping Saginaw to 18 yards of offense. Lawton then visited Roy Davis field with the hopes that the Blue Devils could end a three-game losing streak to the Eagles; however, Coach Ferency and the team kept Lawton to 14 points while scoring 45 for the home team with 452 total yards of offense. Thole went 11/22 for 189 yards, the first game since his sophomore year in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass. Tagg Gott lead the ground attack with 19 carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns. Jimmy Downs had four catches for 105 yards, with Harmon DeVries snagging three for 44 yards.

For the last game before districts, the Eagles visited the Panthers of Delton Kellogg for a drizzly, cold game on the Panther’s new turf. The Eagles had 351 total yards, with 151 in the air and 200 on the ground. Leading the attack was Tagg Gott again with nine rushes for 85 yards. Thole had 10 rushes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Jimmy Downs followed up with five touches for 24 yards, hitting paydirt three times. Senior Jett Gott led the defense with five tackles and four assists. Fellow senior Carl Taylor added five tackles and six assists.

Post season has started throughout the state. The Schoolcraft team trounced Galesburg’s Rams, 53-6, on Oct. 30.

Athletic director talks limited event attendance

By Travis Smola

Schoolcraft Athletic Director Jeff Clark briefly spoke about attendance at sporting events in response to the coronavirus pandemic at the Schoolcraft board of education meeting.

Clark noted that he has spoken with the MHSAA and the health department on the issue. The MHSAA put out guidelines allowing for up to 1,000 people at events, but only if facilities allow that – and Schoolcraft’s do not. The district will allow 30% capacity at outdoor venues and 20% capacity at indoor ones.

Tickets will be prioritized to each parent of a student athlete. If a family is separated with divorced parents, they will be able to get four tickets if they need them. After parents, priority shifts to student spectators starting with seniors first, juniors second.

Clark noted that capacity at Roy Davis Stadium is 480 fans under the rules and that attendance must be split between home and visiting teams – 240 for each team. For volleyball, the limit will be 280 fans and for the upcoming basketball seasons only 180 will be allowed in. Clark said this is due to the configuration of the bleachers and the court.

He said they will continue to stream sporting events live via YouTube for anyone who can’t attend in person.

Schoolcraft’s equestrian team improves

Senior Annabelle Ledlow and her horse.

Over the past three years, the Schoolcraft High Equestrian Team has improved, increasing placings and points in its division. This year, the Class B team, coached by Christine Rosey since May 2018, produced enough points to challenge the second-place qualifying team, missing qualifying for regionals by just three points. This may be the best performance Schoolcraft’s team has had.

Three seniors have completed their high school equestrian career: Katelynn Delaney, Annabelle Ledlow and Alana Reed. Delaney, a determined showmanship competitor and rider, faced challenges with her horse’s health, limiting her competitions in the past two years. Ledlow has won high point district awards multiple times and has been the team’s high point award winner for the past two years, all the while competing on two of the most challenging horses on the team. Reed attends many horse shows and fairs, excelling at jumping. All three contributed to the success of this year’s team.

Looking to next year, Rosey states that she has talented riders coming up from the middle school, as well as returning underclassmen Mariah Flynn, Brooklyn Hamelink, Clara Ledlow, Ridley Reed and Faith Westfall.

Rosey is proud of her team and optimistic for the team’s future. She also discusses the bigger picture, stressing that being part of an equestrian team teaches important life lessons like “responsibility, emotional control, self-discipline and time management.” She teaches her young competitors, “You can do whatever you set your mind to if you don’t give up.”

Vicksburg football blanks Otsego 38-0

The Bulldogs celebrate a job well done.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity football team blasted by Otsego in the annual “battle of the Bulldogs” with a 38-0 shutout to bring their regular season record to 4-2.

“I thought we played probably our most complete game all year on both sides of the ball,” Head Coach Tom Marchese said, “tackling, blocking and just making some plays when we had to do it.”

Vicksburg started off that complete game on a strong statement of an opening drive. Jacob Conklin capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Toby Stock. It was the second of eight receptions Stock had in the game. Seven of those catches came in the first half alone. For a while it seemed that Otsego had no one covering him.

“They were playing off him a lot, so we took what they give him,” Marchese said. “That’s the good thing about Conklin being a third-year starter; you know it doesn’t always have to be the home run or the deep ball, he can give it to the guy 10 yards downfield and he makes something running, so that was pretty good.”

Conklin also scored twice in the game using his legs, first on a four-yard run with four minutes left in the first half and again on a designed 13-yard QB keeper in the third. Conklin also tossed a second touchdown to Breckin Burdette, a 20-yarder on a fourth down and eight that was just outside of field goal range.

Vicksburg also had arguably its strongest game of the year running the ball. Elijah Bombich and Xavier Wadley took turns plowing through the Otsego defense all evening, churning yards and chewing up clock. Bombich carried the ball 12 times and Wadley seven times. Bombich finally found the endzone from one yard in the game’s final minute.

“Up front and offensively, I thought we played one of our better, more complete games up front blocking,” Marchese said.

Kyler Dean missed two extra points in the contest, but he also connected on two field goals from 20 and 23 yards out to help give the team a well-rounded performance on special teams. The defense made an especially strong showing, forcing two turnovers on downs. Burdette had an interception that he nearly turned into a pick-six, and Vicksburg also recovered a late fumble to stop a late Otsego drive.

“I thought defensively we ran to the ball like no other,” Marchese said. “We did a really good job keeping (Ashton) Atwater at check because he’s a really good back.”

All four of Vicksburg’s wins this year were shutouts and all were by at least 30 points. Their two losses came against Edwardsburg in the season opener and against Paw Paw in a tough home loss.

Bulldog tennis comes up short in conference meet

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity tennis team had a strong year but came up just short against Edwardsburg in District play to end the season. Previously, Head Coach Warner Offord had hoped the team had a chance at going to state.

“We had the opportunity, but we let it slip away,” Offord said.

The team had a good start to the season and down the stretch picked up a 7-1 win over Paw Paw on Sept. 23 before losing to Saint Joseph and Stevensville Lakeshore six days later.

Against the Eddies in District play, sophomore Jackson Bowles was the lone Bulldog to pick up a win, beating his Vicksburg opponent 6-3, 6-2 in the No. 2 singles. Senior Zachary Myers lost the No. 1 singles 6-1, 6-2. Senior Andrew Reno lost 6-0, 6-2 in the No. 3 singles and Jorge Cortes lost 6-3, 6-3 in the No. 4 singles.

In doubles play, Conner Rugg and Gage Stenger won by default in the No. 4 singles. Sean Kelly and Drake Steele lost 6-1, 7-6 in the No. 1 doubles. Ben Dilly and Thomas Harsha lost 6-0, 6-2 in the No. 2 doubles. Gage Bainter and Logan Schwenk put up a fight against the Eddies, but ultimately fell 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

It wasn’t the season Offord or the boys had hoped for, but there were some bright spots along the way. Offord was awarded Boys Regional 3-18 Coach of the Year by the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association. While he was excited to receive this honor, he’s already looking forward to next year, even if he anticipates it being a rebuilding year due to the loss of multiple seniors.

“It is what it is,” Offord said. “We’ll just have to wait for next year. I just hope the guys play a lot over the winter break and we can get better for next year.”