PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1-Muskegon

2-Mona Shores

3-Jenison

4-Reeths-Puffer

5-Fruitport

6-Kenowa Hills

7-Grand Rapids Union

 

TOP FIVE NON-CONFERENCE MATCHUPS

1-Week 1 Mona Shores v Canton (Big House)

2-Week 1 Muskegon vs Ann Arbor Pioneer

3-Week 2 Mona Shores @ Zeeland West

4-Week 3 Mona Shores vs Rockford

5-Week 4 Muskegon @ Byron Center

 

FIVE GAMES THAT WILL DECIDE THE OK BLACK

1-Week 8 Muskegon @ Mona Shores

2-Week 9 Muskegon @ Jenison

3-Week 5 Jenison @ Mona Shores

4-Week 5 Muskegon @ Reeths-Puffer

5-Week 6 Mona Shores @ Kenowa Hills

 

TEAM PREVIEWS

 

Fruitport (3-6 in 2017)

Last year, the Trojans had some ups and downs in their first year back in the OK Conference. They recorded just three wins a year ago, but they played very well in a handful of their losses. This year, coach Greg Vargas’ bunch is inexperienced, but he sees their chemistry as a strong point entering 2017.

There are a pair of shifty tailbacks that Vargas expects to split the carries for Fruitport, including senior Blade Williams and sophomore Dominic Kolgrove. Another offensive threat should be Parker Tawney, who Vargas describes as more of a bruising runner. There are questions about the starting quarterback at Fruitport, as it appears that Jacob Carlisle is the frontrunner, but Jordan Gilbert is pushing him for playing time. Either way, the signal-caller will be inexperienced in 2017. Defensively, Dallas Rogers will lead the way as a third-year starter on the line, and he will be joined by linebackers Parker Tawney and Sam Steinhauer as returning starters.

BIGGEST GAME: Week 2 at Spring Lake

The big rivalry matchup against the Lakers is on the schedule yet again, though these two teams are no longer in the same league. Last year, Fruitport won a close 14-13 battle, and this year they need this victory yet again if they have any thoughts about the postseason.

 

Grand Rapids Union (0-8 in 2016)

 Last season was another rough go-around for the Redhawks, as they lost seven of their eight games by at least four touchdowns. This extended their losing streak to sixteen consecutive games, and they have now lost forty-two of their last forty-three games. This year, Union will be young yet again as they only have a handful of returning upperclassmen. Junior Yona Calderon will call the shots this year at quarterback for the Redhawks, who will play just one playoff teams from a season ago (Muskegon). A young bunch will have many roadblocks to hurdle to try and snap their losing streak this fall.

BIGGEST GAME: Week 8 at Kenowa Hills

When looking at Union’s schedule to survey potential wins, two games stand out. In Week 1, they take on the Wayland Wildcats at home, though they are much improved from a year ago. This leaves Kenowa Hills, a conference opponent that they lost to 51-8 last year, as their next best option.

Jenison (5-4 in 2016)

Jenison had a winning season in 2016, their first in eleven years. There were tons of positives last year, as the Wildcats matched or improved their record for the third straight season. They did fall short of the playoffs however, extending their drought that dates back to 2003.

This year, they will return their quarterback in junior Kyle Nott, who led a formidable Wildcats offense that averaged 20.4 points per game last season. In the running game, look for junior Jarel Jackson and senior Taylor Witteveen to share the work load. When Nott airs the ball out, his primary target looks to be junior Mitch Doxey.

BIGGEST GAME: Week 6 vs Reeths-Puffer

Last year, Jenison fell one game short of reaching the postseason. When looking at their schedule this year, there are three games (Forest Hills Central, Reeths-Puffer, West Ottawa), that will make or break their playoff push. The middle contest will also have third place OK Black ramifications.

Kenowa Hills (4-5 in 2016)

Last year, the Knights ended the season strong, winning their final two contests. Unfortunately, they began the year with a 2-5 record, so they would miss out on a winning record. This fall, they hope that they can continue the momentum of their strong finish, but under the direction of a new coach as Sam Becker steps in to take over the reins.

At quarterback for the Knights, look for senior Jared Conrad to lead the way. There are four running backs that are strong for Kenowa Hills, Ben Racalla, Dylan Mackey, Keegan Benkhardt and Mark Fluit. The offensive line, a strong point a year ago, will be inexperienced this fall, other than center Felix Ramos.

Sam Becker, the new head coach, brings his T-Offense that he had strong success in implementing as the offensive coordinator at Grandville, and then as head coach of Wyoming. He will be looking for a way to include senior Bryson Alexander in the fold, as he is a tremendous athlete. The tactical challenges of defending a T-Offense may provide the edge for the Knights to reach the playoffs.

BIGGEST GAME: Week 3 vs Jenison

Last year, this game was the start of the slide for Kenowa, as they proceeded to lose four of their next five games. This year, if they want any chance in playing meaningful football in late October, this is a game the Knights need to win.

 

Mona Shores (5-4 in 2016)

The 2016 campaign was a tough one for the Sailors, as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012. They started the year slow at 1-3, though their schedule was brutal, and two of their losses were by under a touchdown.

Coach Matt Koziak’s team is loaded this year with experienced players. They return all eleven offensive starters and eight starters on the defensive side of the ball. Returning at quarterback is senior Tristan Robbins. He is a run-first quarterback, and he will be joined by Dee Davis in running the dynamic veer offense. Robbins can also find Damari Roberson and Jacob Wahlberg as reliable targets in the passing game.

This team is one of the most experienced in West Michigan, returning nineteen of twenty-two starters, and they have a coach who knows how to motivate his players. The Sailors are three years removed from a trip to Ford Field, and two years removed from an undefeated regular season, and this team could possibly achieve both of those things.

BIGGEST GAME: Week 8 vs Muskegon

The Sailors and the Big Reds are two cross-town rivals that have had a handful of matchups decide the winner of the OK Black in the last five seasons. This year, expect this game to be much of the same. Two of the best teams in the state will face off in Week 8, with the OK Black on the line.

 

Muskegon (12-2 in 2016)

Last year was one of the most successful for the Big Reds, as they set a school record by scoring 681 points, and they won the OK Black by outscoring the six league opponents 346-46. They fell short of yet another state title however, as a last second touchdown by Orchard Lake St. Mary’s gave them the 29-28 victory.

Coach Shane Fairfield benefits from a plethora of experience returning this season, starting with quarterback La’Darius Jefferson. A year ago, he shared the quarterback duties with Kalil Pimpleton, but he will take over full-time this fall, as Pimpleton will now star at Virginia Tech. Jefferson, a commit to Central Florida, will benefit by having a strong returning offensive line, including Penn State commit Antwan Reed.

The Big Reds are one of Michigan’s most storied programs, as they have made the playoffs every season this millennium, and reached the state finals four of the last five years. They are hungry to win Coach Shane Fairfield his first title, as they are 0-4 in those state title games.

BIGGEST GAME: Week 8 at Mona Shores

The Sailors and the Big Reds are two cross-town rivals that have had a handful of matchups decide the winner of the OK Black in the last five seasons. This year, expect this game to be much of the same. Two of the best teams in the state will face off in Week 8, with the OK Black on the line.

 

Reeths-Puffer (4-5 in 2016)

The Rockets started hot last year, winning three of their first four contests. In the last five games, they lost four, including two by a touchdown or less. As a result, they missed the playoffs for the third season in a row.

Coach Kyle Jewett is back for his sixth season this fall, and he will have a strong offensive line returning, anchored by third-year starter Logan Santose. The rest of Jewett’s team is very inexperienced, as they have to replace a plethora of skill positions. This bunch will be tested throughout the year, as they play the likes of Muskegon and Mona Shores.

BIGGEST GAME: Week 1 at Grand Haven

The opening game of the season is huge for the Rockets, as they take on a Grand Haven team that is in the same boat. Two inexperienced teams will face off in Grand Haven in the season opener, and they will both learn a lot about their teams’ prospects after just one contest.

OTHER 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEWS

OK BLACK

OK BLUE

OK GOLD

OK GREEN

OK RED

OK SILVER

OK WHITE