Besides Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Fruitport are kicking off their seasons with critical non-conference match-ups. There will also be plenty of blockbuster games that could have a sizable impact on the playoffs across the state with west side and east side powerhouses clashing in rare contests.
To get you ready for the loaded slate of football, here’s a deeper look at some of the local matchups and our predictions for how each game will shake out.
Grand Haven vs. Reeths-Puffer
Time: Today, 7 p.m.
Location: Gene Rothi Stadium, Grand Haven High School
When Grand Haven has the ball
The Buccaneers will continue to be a run-oriented team like they were in 2016, which suits the team well with the returners they have along the offensive line.
Parker Kingma (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) will help generate a push down in the trenches along with Nate Podein and Carter Williams. Playmakers Malic Love and Charlie Young will see the majority of the work out of the backfield, while Adam Nelson will be the signal caller who can also be running threat in the open field and between the tackles.
On defense, the Rockets will attempt to slow down the run game of the Buccaneers and force them to pass the ball in uncomfortable situations. However, the Rockets only return four starters from last year’s team that struggled to slow down the playmaking ability of the Bucs. Linebackers Trent Kovalcik and Gino Romanelli, along with defensive end Jakob Slater, will have to play against the run if the Rockets are going to have any chance of slowing down the Buccaneers’ run game.
When Reeths-Puffer has the ball
The Rockets will be inexperienced at the quarterback position this year with sophomores Logan Hekkema and Evan Moska both likely to see time under center. Their offense is expected to revolve around tailbacks Nick Dailey and Blake Farwig, but the Rockets will also try to get the ball out in space to their wideouts Cole Aerts, Carter Fulton and Gary Humphrey.
The Buccaneers will need solid play from their back seven in order to get the Rockets’ offense off the field. Generating a pass rush would go a long way in making the inexperienced Rockets’ quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket and force bad throws and turnovers. Look for defensive end Collin Monsma to be a key pass rushing threat, while safety Ryan Mattson will be a playmaker in the back of the defense.
KEY TO THE GAME
Field position. Both teams will be trotting out some inexperienced players at important positions on offense, so maintaining good field position will be critical in determining who gets more scoring opportunities in the game
Josh: “I think Grand Haven’s offensive and defensive lines will win the battle of the trenches, and the Buccaneers will hit a few big plays in the second half to pull away for the win. Grand Haven 27, Reeths-Puffer 18
Duncan: “I’m excited about Love and Young out of the backfield, I think the two speedsters, combined with veteran line play, will be too much for a shaky Rocket run defense. Throw in a few succesful passing plays and the Bucs are off to the races. Grand Haven 21, Reeths-Puffer 14.
Spring Lake vs. NorthPointe Christian
Time: Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Location: Lubbers Stadium at GVSU
When Spring Lake has the ball
The Lakers will focus on a junior varsity-proven running attack behind Joe Chittenden and Gavin Paul. Chittenden scored 18 touchdowns in the minor leagues last year on the way to an 8-1 finish. The two will have to prove themselves against a fearsome NorthPointe front line featuring All-Conference performers Ty Tjoelker and Ben Farrell. Should they bust through, a stout linebacker corps is ready to corral the young speedsters, anchored by Jalen Shaffer.
Creativity will benefit the Lakers as they look to utilize all of their assets on offense. Griffin Lorimer has been experimenting under center as a tricky, oversized alternative to starter Caleb Montgomery.
When NorthPointe has the ball
With 13 seniors returning to the team, many of which saw action in the 2015 Division 6 semifinals, the Mustangs will be a tough bunch on both sides of the ball.
Shaffer isn’t just a beast on defense, the returning senior rushed for over 1,200 yards last season and is already NorthPointe’s all-time rushing leader. He will hit holes created by a trio of All-Conference linemen with Farrell over the ball joined again by Tjoelker and Micah Visser.
Senior quarterback C.J. Curtis will return to the field after being sidelined last season with a stress fracture. If he retained his strong arm and solid speed, he will be a problem for the Laker defense.
Spring Lake will take those potent weapons on under a new scheme, implemented by first-year defensive coordinator Jason Carpenter. The 3-5 look will allow for more blitzing from an athletic group at linebacker, featuring Paul, Chittenden and Montgomery.
KEY TO THE GAME
Run defense. The Mustangs have run protection locked up with their star-studded defensive line, while the Lakers have a tall task in handling Shaffer. If Spring Lake can tire out a two-way front and contain Shaffer, their dynamic duo may have a shot at breaking through.
Josh: “With NorthPointe Christian returning so many experienced senior starters, especially along the defensive front, I have a difficult time seeing the Lakers move the ball consistently in this matchup. I think the Mustangs will wear down the Lakers and leave Grand Valley with a win. NorthPointe Christian 26, Spring Lake 14
Duncan: “Coach Start and the Lakers must have a bas taste in their mouth from this game last season. With a normal sized team this time around and playmakers all over the field, I don’t see them dropping another lead. Early touchdowns put them ahead without looking back.” Spring Lake 21, NorthPointe Christian 17
Fruitport vs. Coopersville
Time: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Location: Doc Pierce Stadium, Fruitport High School
When Fruitport has the ball
The Trojans will go with backfield by committee in an effort to replace the production of Levi Six, who graduated last year. Sophomore Dominic Colegrove, seniors Blade Williams and Parker Tawney will team up for form a varsitile running attack for the Trojans. Williams operates best in space, with some upside as a receiving target. Colegrove will take the punishment inside, with big play-potential.
Sam Steinhauer and Lucas Kleyn will take on the edges, hoping to reel in passes from an uncertain quarterback situation. Junior Jacob Carlyle was the front runner for the position in camp, but senior Jordan Holbert and sophomore Cru Cooper will be ready in the wings for their shot.
When Coopersville has the ball
The Broncos picked up just one win last season, it came in Week One over the Trojans. First-year head coach Ed Kaman will be eager to start off on the right foot.
Junior quarterback Riley Johnson will be calling the shots with his best weapons on the outside. Two six-foot, senior recievers in Connor Hilton and Brenden Wright will take the majority of targets, while an expereince backfield adds versatility to an unproven system. Junior Cayden Schneider and senior Devin Smith will take on a fearsome Trojan defense.
The defensive-mided Vargas has prepared for the high-octane offense of the O-K Black, lineing up Steinhauer and Tawney at linebacker. Kleyn will stick to the edges as a speedy defensive end, while a slimmed-down Dallas Rodgers will anchor the defensive line. Fruitport has athletes all over the field on defense, more than ready to deal with a versitile Bronco attack.
KEY TO THE GAME
Quarterback play. With two young atheltes under center with a plethora of weapons at their disposal, a weak link at quarterback could easlily stifle any eplosive potential on offense.
Josh: “Fruitport has some inexperience along their offensive line, but I think their smashmouth-style offense will help them create some chemistry early on in the season. I think the Trojans have the scoring threats at running back to break some big plays and the experience at linebacker to limit any splash plays for the Broncos. Fruitport 30, Coopersville 12
Duncan: “A stacked Trojan defense won’t have any trouble containing Coopersville’s potent rushing attack, while a hungry Fruitport running core is eager to let loose after watching Six do his work all those years. Big plays and crushing defense give the Trojans a Week One win. Fruitport 28, Coopersville 7.