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It's in the numbers: Six a tackling machine for Trojans

Nate Thompson • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:11 AM

To ease any confusion, his name matches his jersey number — a number that’s played a prominent role during another successful fall for the Trojans’ varsity football team. Fruitport completed a 7-2 regular season, clinched a share of the Lakes Eight Conference championship with rival Spring Lake, and earned a playoff berth in Division 3 for the second-straight season.

“We set some pretty high goals at the beginning of the season and one of them was winning conference, which we did,” Six said. “Yeah, we shared it, but we still think we met our goal. Now, we want to make a deep run in the playoffs, which we think is still achievable.”

To achieve playoff glory, Six and the Trojans will have to pull an upset and win on the road at East Grand Rapids (6-3 overall) on Friday, the winners of the Division 3 state title five-years running. The Pioneers have one of the most illustrious traditions among all prep football teams in the state, as they’ve won a total of 11 state championships. That championship pedigree alone could intimidate most opponents on any given Friday.

“It’s a factor, but you just got to try to get over it,” Six said. “When you see them on film, you realize they’re not an unbeatable team. (Their tradition) is not it’s all cracked up to be.”

For the Trojans to have a chance, they’ll need to play top-notch defense, which Six has specialized at linebacker throughout the season. He’s one of the leading tacklers throughout West Michigan with 92 total stops, along with one sack. As a fullback, he’s Fruitport’s No. 2 rusher with 476 yards and six touchdowns and has sprung tailback Mike Reyes several times with his tough lead blocking.

But his reputation has been built on defense, where Six has teamed with fellow linebackers Matt Schucker and Zach Goldman to form a disruptive unit. Fruitport head coach Steve Wilson said in the preseason that the trio had the chance to be one of the best linebacker corps he’s ever coached.

“They’ve been very, very good, but they haven’t dominated in conference,” Wilson said. “The biggest problem has been our smaller numbers, and it’s forced all three to go both ways. That’s tough to work so hard on consecutive drives and play an entire ball game. If they would have been able to focus on just one side of the ball, they would have been dominant.”

Six said he started playing football with both Goldman and Schucker in Mini-Mites youth league about 13 years ago. The familiarity formed between the trio has helped improve their play on defense today, Six said.

“We know where each other is going to be at all times, and that helps counter act any weaknesses we may have out there,” Six said. “We all play hard-nosed, blood defense. We have a nose for the ball, play fast-paced and pursue downhill.”

While the bond is tight between Six and his linebacker comrades, he admits he wouldn’t be the player he is today without his father, Dean. Dean Six continues to be an assistant coach on Fruitport’s junior varsity squad.

“My dad has coached me every year I’ve played, until last year,” Six said. “He’s influenced me throughout my career every step of the way. Really, the sport’s been in my blood. My grandpa, uncles all played (in this area). It’s big in my family.”

One piece of advice from his dad that has always stuck with Six is to give full effort every second he’s on the field.

“He always said ‘speed kills,’” Six said. “He stressed to always hustle to the ball and if you make a mistake, it’s better to make it at full speed, at 110 percent. At least then, you’re still hustling to the ball.”

Another coach that was a big influence, Six said, was the late Larry Rueger, a longtime Fruitport assistant who passed way due to liver disease during the summer.

“He coached the linebackers last year, and it was a really good chance to work with him and learn from him,” Six said. “He’s the reason why we formed our linbacker core now and why we’re so good. It’s because coach helped develop the skills we needed to succeed.”

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Six said he’d love to continue his football career at the college level next fall and could see himself studying sports medicine and becoming a personal trainer. But before that, the thickly-built Six, who sports three tattoos — a large tribal design on his shoulder, his name on one arm and his younger brother Levi on the other — isn’t ready to have his high school career come to a close.

“One thing I’ll be thinking (on Friday) is nine weeks, how fast it’s gone by,” he said. “You always hear people say that it goes by quick and it really does. It makes you realize that this could be your last game, even though we don’t feel it will be. Still, you have to give everything, because you don’t know when your last play will be.”

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