This week marks the beginning of the fall sports season. We’ll head to Fruitport and Muskegon Catholic Central later this week to cover the first week of football practices.
SPRING LAKE – Focusing on what’s next.
That’s the mentality for head coach Dan Start and his Spring Lake football team heading into fall camp.
Start heads into his fourth year on the job on the heels of success a year ago. After going 0-9 in 2017, Spring Lake finished the regular season 5-4 and earned a playoff bid before bowing out to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the opening round. The Lakers’ trip to the state playoffs was the first in Start’s tenure and after clearing that hurdle, it’s only natural that his team wants more of the same in 2019.
“Last year was a big testament to the first two years,” Start said. “We were transitioning into what we really wanted to do. I think it started to pay off last year and I expect that to continue this year, really showing how the offseason work can help.”
That said, even with that success there was still a feeling of an opportunity missed. The Lakers won their first five games before losing the next four to sneak into the state playoffs.
“It’s good to get the first day out of the way,” Start said. “We’re excited, we’ve got a lot of kids out and they’re all excited to be here, we’re already working.”
Quarterback Caleb Montgomery has graduated, and there are a pair of players in line to take up that mantle this year.
“(Senior) Zach Keyser and (junior) Zach Mitchell are going to share the quarterback spot, they both have their own unique athleticism. Caleb was really a dominant quarterback running the football, he carried a lot of what we did. Zach Keyser has great leadership qualities, he leads by example and is physical. Zach Mitchell gives us a bit of a different dynamic. He’s smaller, but he’s the fastest kid on the field. We’ll go between both of them, they’ll both play defense.”
Start considers this year’s team the most athletic he’s had to date.
“Top to bottom, with the kids we have we’ll be athletic more so than in the past,” Start said. “With that, there will be growing pains. We’ll work through that as we go.”
Here are three questions facing Start and his Lakers team as fall camp kicks off:
Who will your impact players be?
Start: “On defense, our impact guys are going to be Blake Kelsey - he’s a defensive end for us, Steve Ready, who’s a safety. Hunter and Travis Throop are both defensive linemen, they’re going to make a lot of plays for us and be a big part of what we do defensively.”
The Throops were the two freshmen on the varsity roster last year. Start mentioned that this year’s team will have at least one freshman and up to six sophomores seeing playing time.
“On offense, we’re looking at a host of people playing running back. That’s good, we’ll be able to rotate guys through. As a whole, I think our offensive line – that’s going to be a strength for us this year.”
What’s the key game on your schedule?
Start: “Week one. That’s the only one we care about right now, we’ll get to the other ones when we get to them. We’ve got to win the first one, you can’t be 2-0 until we’re 1-0. That’s our goal and our focus. Obviously, Fruitport’s a big game for us. If we can get out to a good start, that’s great, but we’re focusing on week one right now.”
What values and mindset are you looking to instill in the team during these first few weeks of camp?
Start: “Intensity. Doing everything in an intense way, being violent. We’ve got a great group of kids, they’re all great kids. They’re strong, they’re athletic and we’re looking to breed that violence that this game demands. You have to play that way.”
Jewett joins Lakers staff
After seven years as the head coach at Reeths-Puffer, Kyle Jewett moved to Spring Lake’s coaching staff during the summer. Jewett cited his family as a reason for stepping down from his previous job last fall, and you could call the move to Spring Lake family-related as well.
“This is where my kid will go to school,” Jewett said. “I’m trying to invest in Spring Lake as a whole. When another teaching job opened up, it was a no-brainer.”
Jewett will look to use his experience as a head coach while helping out the offensive line this year.
“As coaches, we couldn’t ask for more right now,” Jewett said. “We’re young and it’s early but I feel pretty good about it.”
Spring Lake starts their season on Aug. 30 with a trip to Muskegon to face Orchard View. The following week is their annual clash with local rivals Fruitport. After O-K Blue action they’ll face Holland Christian to round out the regular season in late October.