Spring Lake had a nightmarish start to their matchup at Sparta, with the Spartans feeding on back-to-back turnovers by the Lakers to build a 21-0 lead midway through the first quarter. The Lakers never recovered in a lopsided loss.
Fruitport ran into the buzz saw known as the Muskegon Big Reds last Friday, and had no answer for the No. 1-ranked team in Division 3 in a 68-0 loss at Hackley Stadium. Muskegon Catholic Central broke out to an early lead over Orchard View and used its speed and athleticism on defense to snuff out any attempt of an upset by the Cardinals.
Here’s a look at this week’s matchups:
Grand Haven vs. West Ottawa
Buccaneers’ Record: 0-3 Last Week: Lost to Grandville, 41-7
Falcons’ Record: 2-1 (1-0 O-K Red) Last Week: Defeated Caledonia, 35-7
Last Meeting: Grand Haven defeated West Ottawa, 42-23, on Sept. 16, 2016
Time: Friday, 7 p.m. Location: Gene Rothi Stadium
When Grand Haven has the ball
The Buccaneer offense has struggled mightily to get any type of rhythm going through the first three weeks of the season. The bright spot in the team’s loss to Grandville last Friday was the Buccaneers rushed for 165 yards and converted on five of nine third-down attempts.
Charlie Young continues to be the team’s go-to back with 61 yards on 14 carries, while Malic Love adds a change-of-pace look to the offense, rushing for 52 yards on seven carries. Quarterback Adam Nelson also showcased his rushing abilities with 42 yards on seven carries.
If Grand Haven is going to pull off the win at home, they will need establish the running game early and often, but that might be difficult against the Panthers. Senior linemen Bryan Johnson (6-foot-5, 330 pounds) is a large obstacle to run around, and senior linebacker Liam Cavanaugh (6-4, 210) is a hard-nosed linebacker who will be crashing down on every play to stop the run.
When West Ottawa has the ball
West Ottawa’s offense revolves around the playmaking ability of wideout Xavier Wade (6-5, 190). Last week against Caledonia, Wade collected 203 receiving yards and two touchdowns to spark the Panthers’ offense. When Wade isn’t creating highlight plays in open space, senior running back Seankesse Townsend (6-0, 200) is taking carries out of the backfield and usually making a few splash plays of his own. Isaac Van Dyke is the team’s signal caller and passing leader. The quarterback threw for 373 yards and four touchdowns last week, and adding a rushing touchdown of his own to the mix.
The Grand Haven defense will have to make tackles in space in order to slow down this multiple-look attack by the Panthers. Unlike Grandville and Traverse City West, West Ottawa will use the passing game to open up the running game, and that could create some problems if the Buccaneer defense isn’t able to get off the field on third downs. It will be key that the Grand Haven secondary stands tall against the talented wide receiving corps of the Panthers.
Key to the Game
Third-down conversions. It will be critical that the Grand Haven defense forces West Ottawa into third-and-long scenarios on Friday, and hold the Panthers short of the marker in order to let the Buccaneer offense wear down the West Ottawa defense.
Josh: “Grand Haven’s defense will be up to the task, but I have a tough time seeing the Grand Haven offense make enough plays to win this matchup.” West Ottawa 28, Grand Haven 17
Duncan: “The Bucs’ defense looked solid early on against Grandville, holding them scoreless through the first quarter. They continued to sniff out the shifty offensive scheme of the Bulldogs, but couldn’t catch a on the bench due to four offensive turnovers in the first half. They looked worlds better than they did in Week 2. If the defense can hold on for more than the first half, and the offense limits turnovers I see the Bucs finally getting that first win under coach Nelson.” Grand Haven 17, West Ottawa 16
Spring Lake vs. GR West Catholic
Lakers’ Record: 0-3 Last Week: Lost to Sparta, 49-7
Falcons’ Record: 2-1 Last Week: Defeated Zeeland West, 17-6
Last Meeting: West Catholic defeated Spring Lake, 45-7, on Sept. 16, 2016
Time: Friday, 7 p.m. Location: Grabinski Field
When Spring Lake has the ball
The Lakers haven’t been able to establish a consistent rushing attack so far this season. In Week 3, the scoreboard quickly became their enemy and forced the Lakers into uncomfortable passing situations.
If the Lakers are going to hang with the four-time defending state champions from West Catholic, they will need to establish the run, get into favorable down-and-distance situations and use the play-action pass as surprise weapon, instead of a forced play call. If the offensive line can create some running lanes, Gavin Paul, Austin Schubert and Caleb Montgomery may be able to create some positive momentum for the home squad.
When West Catholic has the ball
The Falcons return third-year starting quarterback Gaetano Vallone to the mix, along with senior wideouts Zaavon Scott and Domenic Stornant. West Catholic will also have a strong special teams unit with kicker Liam Putz holding down kicking and punting duties.
The Falcons will use their aerial expertise to put pressure on the Lakers’ secondary. Against Muskegon Heights in Week 2, West Catholic tossed the ball around for 255 yards and three touchdowns with Scott and wideout Alex King were the headliners in that game.
Spring Lake’s Gavin Alban, Jason Keena and Caleb Montgomery will have to hold their own in pass coverage in order for the Lakers to have a chance at an upset.
Key to the Game
Rushing Yards. The Falcons don’t depend on the rushing game to run their offense, but if they are able to outrush the Lakers, it could be a long night for Spring Lake. If the Lakers are able to run the ball consistently and shorten the game, however, this could get interesting.
Josh: “The Spring Lake offense hasn’t been able to establish themselves through three weeks of the season, and this might be their toughest game yet. West Catholic’s passing attack will be a big problem for the Lakers to contain for four quarters.” West Catholic 42, Spring Lake 7
Duncan: “The Lakers have their work cut out for them now as they get into the top-end of the O-K Blue Conference. West Catholic may have graduated a healthy crop of seniors from their state-title team a year ago, but the four-straight championships speak for themselves, they will have reloaded and will have no trouble choking out a lackluster Laker offense.” West Catholic 49, Spring Lake 6
Fruitport vs. Kenowa Hills
Trojans’ Record: 1-2 (0-1 O-K Black) Last Week: Lost to Muskegon, 68-0
Knights’ Record: 1-2 (0-1 O-K Black) Last Week: Lost to Jenison, 40-29
Last Meeting: Kenowa Hills defeated Fruitport, 42-20, on Sept. 16, 2016
Time: Friday, 7 p.m. Location: Doc Pierce Field
When Fruitport has the ball
There isn’t much to take away from Fruitport’s Week 3 performance against the Big Reds. Not many teams can match Muskegon’s size, speed and athleticism. Fruitport will hope for better results against Kenowa Hills in Week 4, with sophomore tailback Dominick Colegrove finding easier running lanes, quarterback Jordan Carlisle mixing in some rushing and passing yards, and tailback Blade Williams adding some spark plays, as well.
The Knights have a strong linebacking corps in Jack Barrett and Alex Wilson and safety Josh Bergsma is also active in run defense. The defensive line is still a work in progress for Kenowa, which could be a weakness the Trojans are able to exploit with their power rushing attack.
When Kenowa Hills has the ball
Kenowa Hills deploys a T-Formation rushing attack, which will test the front seven of the Fruitport defense. That might not a bad thing, as the Trojans’ defensive line and linebackers have been solid through the first three weeks of the season.
Senior quarterback Jared Conrad runs the offense, while seniors Dylan Mackey and Keegan Benkhardt are the main rushing treats out of the backfield. Juniors Ben Racalla and Mark Fluit will also be used in the playing rotation at running back. Juniors Oscar Barrientes and Luke Beekins anchor the offensive line from their tight end positions, while junior center Felix Ramos is the linchpin in the trenches for the Knights.
Key to the Game
Turnovers. The Trojans and Knights will likely engage in a battle in the trenches, with the team that establishes the running game taking the advantage. The big difference between the two similar attacks will be who hangs onto the ball. If turnovers rear their head for the Trojans again, like they did in a Week 1 loss to Coopersville, then the Knights will have no problem making they pay.
Josh: “This will be an interesting battle between two teams that will want to run the ball 50 times a game if the game script allowed it. After a tough loss to Muskegon, I think the Trojans will get back to the basics of running the football on offense and gang tackling on defense. Colegrove will carry the Trojans to an O-K Black Conference win. Fruitport 21, Kenowa Hills 13
Duncan: “The Trojans took a beating by Muskegon last week. The Bid Red’s MAC-sized lines stifled what has the potential to be an explosive rushing attack. After hitting the line for no gain so many times last week, I see The Trojans racking up considerable yardage on the ground against Kenowa and getting back on track.” Fruitport 21, Kenowa Hills 14
Muskegon Catholic Central at Ludington
Crusaders’ Record: 2-0 (1-0 Lakes Eight) Last Week: Defeated Orchard View, 43-7
Orioles’ Record: 2-1 (0-1 Lakes Eight) Last Week: Lost to Manistee, 42-28
Last Meeting: MCC defeated Ludington, 42-12, on Sept. 16, 2016
Time: Friday, 7 p.m. Location: Oriole Field in Ludington
When Muskegon Catholic Central has the ball
The Crusaders used big plays to jumped out to a 19-0 lead over Orchard View last Friday, and worked through 10 penalties and a few miscues to still record a sizable 43-7 win over the Cardinals.
Sophomore quarterback Cam Martinez continues to the engine that fuels the Crusaders attack, using his dual-threat ability as a rusher and passer to be a nightmare for opposing defenses. Sophomore speedster Tommy Watts has become a playmaker in his own right, while Dawson Steigman and Avery Evans-Davis are also becoming key components for the Crusaders.
On defense, the Orioles switched to a 4-2-5 front to utilize their speed on perimeter, which will be tested against an athletic MCC squad. Luke Fountain and Nate Patterson will be the two linebackers for Ludington, while Garrett Meeker, Brandon Atkins, Brain Hansberger and Jevon Robinson will be playmakers in the defensive backfield.
When Ludington has the ball
Meeker will be the Orioles’ starting quarterback, while Anthony Tenney and Fountian will be the team’s primary ball carriers out of the backfield. Jennings will be the team’s primary receiving target when the Orioles decide to throw the ball. The offensive line will be young and inexperienced, but seniors Donte Vela and James Kraunch will look to help out an otherwise young supporting cast upfront.
The Crusaders will look to use their speed along the defensive line to live the Orioles’ backfield. Senior Jacob Martinez and sophomore Tiovanni Knight have been nearly unblockable for most offensive lines this season, and will likely create problems for a young offensive line. The linebacking unit of Nolan Convertini, Riley St. Armour and Avery Evans-Davis will clean up whatever the frontline doesn’t handle, while the Cam Martinez, Steigman and Watts will make passing difficult for the Orioles.
Key to the Game
Penalties. The Crusaders were flagged for 10 penalties last week against Orchard View, but had already built a healthy lead when the miscues started to pop up. If that happens again in a tighter contest on the road, the Orioles have enough playmakers to string together some scoring drives and keep the game close.
Josh: “Muskegon Catholic Central has more playmakers on both sides of the ball than most teams in the area, and they overcame a sloppy second quarter against Orchard View to roll the Cardinals at home. I think Ludington’s inexperience will prove costly and the Orioles’ mistakes could make this one ugly.” Muskegon Catholic Central 47, Ludington 7
Duncan: “The Crusaders had a sloppy win over Orchard View by their standards, racking up considerable penalty yards and failing to capitalize on all of their scoring chances. The beating was still sound, but unfocused. I expect them to come out dialed in against Ludington after a hard week of practice. No contest.” Muskegon Catholic Central 63, Ludington 9