PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
2-Forest Hills Central
4-Forest Hills Northern
TOP FIVE NON-CONFERENCE MATCHUPS
1-Week 2 Lowell @ Rockford
2-Week 3 East Grand Rapids @ Lowell
3-Week 1 Lowell @ Warren DeLaSalle
4-Week 1 Greenville v North Farmington (at GVSU)
5-Week 1 Cedar Springs v Zeeland West
FIVE MATCHUPS THAT WILL DECIDE THE OK WHITE
1-Week 7 Lowell @ Forest Hills Central
2-Week 4 Forest Hills Central @ Greenville
3-Week 5 Greenville @ Lowell
4-Week 6 Forest Hills Central @ Forest Hills Northern
5-Week 6 Lowell @ Cedar Springs
Cedar Springs (4-5 in 2016)
There were high aspirations for the Redhawks a season ago, but three close losses kept Cedar Springs from a winning record and the playoffs for the first time since 2012. This year, they have to replace three-year quarterback Colin Alvesteffer, and the starting quarterback remains uncertain to this point.
The key for Cedar Springs seems to be their defense as they return Ryan Ringler, their star linebacker the past two seasons. They also bring back defensive lineman Jacob Galinas, who earned all-conference honors a season ago. The schedule is very tough for Cedar Springs as they will face seven teams that reached the postseason in 2016. This bunch will need to come together and solve some question marks fast if they want any chance at returning to the postseason.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 3 vs Greenville
Cedar Springs is a team that finds itself in the middle of the pecking order in the OK White. In just their third game of the year, Greenville comes to town, and gives the Redhawks a chance to make an early statement.
Forest Hills Central (9-3 in 2016)
Last year, the Rangers were a pleasant surprise in the OK White as they finished 9-3 and second in the conference. They qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and reached the regional finals. In the regional final against OK White foe Lowell, Forest Hills Central fell just short in a 22-19 defeat, their second loss to Lowell by less than a touchdown.
This year, Forest Hills Central will look to return to the postseason, and perhaps finally beat Lowell for the first time since 1999. Tim Rogers’ bunch does return some experience, but they also are looking for a few players to step into big roles. Jace Thornton is expected to step in to take over the quarterback role this season, and as he makes the transition, he can turn to some experienced skill players. Senior captain Bryce Clay will be a reliable target with great hands for Thornton and the Rangers, and he will also make some key contributions starting at free safety.
Running the ball for the Rangers this season will be a combination of Moise Guerrier and Cam Deines. Those two will have senior captain Elijah Gurley to run behind, as he anchors the offensive and defensive lines. On defense, Tate Hallock will join Bryce Clay in the defensive backfield trying to stop elusive passing attacks of the OK White. Returning from injury a season ago and captaining the Rangers will be senior linebacker Andy Trapp.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 7 vs Lowell
The Rangers lost twice to Lowell a year ago, but in two contests that came down to the final plays. This year, both teams expect to be at the top of the league again and the Week 7 battle may decide the winner of the OK White.
Forest Hills Northern (5-5 in 2016)
Forest Hills Northern was a team that underwent some coaching changes in 2016, as head coach Matt Moffett began his tenure as the leader of the Huskies a season ago. Much like Greenville, FHN found early success as they made the playoffs in Moffett’s first season. Their postseason run was very short-lived however, as they were defeated by Muskegon 63-14 in the first round.
This fall, Forest Hills Northern will have a change at the quarterback position as Xavier Webster will take over as the signal caller. Though he has experience, there is comfort for Webster in the fact that three of his offensive linemen are returning starters from a year ago. Brandon Matthews appears to be the leader in the running game in 2017.
Defensively, Forest Hills Northern returns five starters, including defensive end Ben Casterline, and junior linebackers Kyle Delamielleure and Adam Gill. The Huskies have now made four consecutive playoff appearances, and it appears that they should be in the mix for a fifth in 2017.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 6 vs Forest Hills Central
The two Forest Hills schools in the OK White face off in the sixth game of the season, and it’s a big game for both teams. The Huskies have the ability to get a key win, that will not only give them a chance in the league standings headed to an end of the year gauntlet (at Lowell and Greenville), but propel them closer to the playoffs.
Greenville (5-5 in 2016)
The Yellow Jackets were one of three teams in the OK White that were under the direction of a new coach in 2016. First year coach Eddie Ostipow had a successful first season, as he led Greenville to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They, much like Forest Hills Central, were bounced out by conference foe Lowell, losing 42-17 in the pre-districts.
This year, Greenville will have to replace a few key starters, but the cupboard is not empty for Coach Ostipow’s bunch. Junior Cam Heppe is expected to step into the quarterback role this season, and he will benefit from having senior receiver Brockton Kohler to target. In the running game, Kyle Lorenz is a two-year starter that will also provide consistency offensively.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defensive line will be led by Casey Rigney (defensive end) and Brandon Parris (defensive tackle). When opponents air out the ball, Bryce Priebe will be leading the secondary. The familiarity of Coach Ostipow’s system will look to make a difference this season, as Greenville attempts their first back-to-back playoff stretch since they made three straight playoffs in 2004-06.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 9 vs Forest Hills Northern
Though the games against Lowell and FHC could go a long way in determining their league standing, the regular season finale against the Huskies will more than likely determine which of the two teams will qualify for the playoffs.
Lowell (12-1 in 2016)
In 2016, Lowell was the best team in the OK White, and one of the best teams in the state of Michigan. The Red Arrows rattled off 12 consecutive wins to start the year, en route to winning the OK White title and a regional championship. In the state semifinals, Walled Lake Western had their number, emerging victorious in an epic 37-34 contest.
This year, Coach Noel Dean and the Red Arrows will benefit by the return of senior quarterback David Kruse. Kruse was one of Michigan Sports Radio’s Core Power Performance Impact Players of the Year, and he is a preseason favorite to be a two-time honoree this fall. Three other seniors, Addison Buckius, and the Douma twins (Brady and Connor), will make an impact this fall for Lowell on both sides of the ball at running back and defensive back.
Lowell is perennially one of the best teams in West Michigan, as they have reached the playoffs eighteen seasons in a row. Expect much of the same from the Red Arrows this fall, as they are the favorites in the OK White and to make a deep postseason run.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 2 at Rockford
The week seven road-trip to Forest Hills Central may very-well determine the winner of the OK White, but the Red Arrows are more concerned about their preparedness for a state championship run. A strong non-conference schedule, including this week two journey to Rockford, will show how legitimate this team is, and fast.
Northview (1-8 in 2016)
The Wildcats struggled in eight of their nine contests a year ago, mainly due to their youth and inexperience, and they only recorded one win (Week 8 against Ottawa Hills). This year, they hope things will go better under new leadership, as they have a new coach in Trip Gallery.
Quarterback Kennedy Smith will be back again this fall, after starting last season as a sophomore. Seniors Khalil Graham and Tylan Bufkin will share the carries in the backfield for the Wildcats, much like they did a year ago.
In the defensive secondary, Northview returns all-conference junior Cody Tierney. This Northview team returns a plethora of starters on both sides of the ball, as a result of their youth a season ago, but the OK White is difficult. This team will be more talented than a year ago, even if their record does not indicate.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 1 vs Comstock Park
The Wildcats are looking for wins this season, as even just a pair of wins would be an improvement from a year ago. There are not many better opportunities on their schedule than in the season opener, against a Comstock Park team who struggled to win games a season ago.
Ottawa Hills (0-9 in 2016)
The third team to roll out a new coach in the OK White, the Bengals had a tough season in 2016. Christian Verley’s bunch lost all nine contests a year ago, as they struggled offensively, scoring just 6.4 points per game.
This year, Verley has twenty-two seniors on his team, nine of which were in the 2016 starting lineup. Four of those starters are their entire defensive backfield, led by senior Dajalon Copeland. There is a lot of athleticism in this bunch, shown best in star running back Jaier Harden and dual-threat quarterback Larry Phillips. Ottawa Hills should be much improved this season, but much like Northview, their record may not reflect said improvements.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 1 at Kenowa Hills
The Bengals are now losers of twelve consecutive contests, a streak of futility that has not been matched in the program’s history. Their best opportunity for a win this season comes in the opening game, when they travel to Kenowa Hills to take on the Knights.
OTHER 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEWS