PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
2-Grandville Calvin Christian
TOP FIVE NON-CONFERENCE MATCHUPS
1-Week 2 Calvin Christian @ Allendale
2-Week 1 Northpointe Christian vs Spring Lake (GVSU)
3-Week 1 Kelloggsville @ Whitehall
4-Week 8 Calvin Christian vs Leroy Pine River
5-Week 5 Godwin Heights vs Cadillac
FIVE MATCHUPS THAT WILL DECIDE THE OK SILVER
1-Week 5 Calvin Christian @ Kelloggsville
2-Week 3 Calvin Christian @ Godwin Heights
3-Week 7 Kelloggsville @ Northpointe Christian
4-Week 8 Northpointe Christian @ Godwin Heights
5-Week 8 Belding @ Kelloggsville
TEAM BY TEAM PREVIEWS
Belding (5-5 in 2016)
2016 was a strong season for Belding, as the Black Knights (then known as the Redskins) reached rallied off five straight wins to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2013. This year, they have changed their nickname as well as their non-conference schedule, as they leave off traditional rival Greenville.
Coach Joe Schwander is looking to get Belding back to the playoffs for the second consecutive year, a feat that has not been done 2002-03. His offense will be led by three-year starter Trent Collins at quarterback. They return a pair of running backs in seniors Nolan Barker and James Daniel, as well as their top three receivers from a season ago in Josh VanDyke, Tyler Saucier and Tyler Smith. Defensively, look for Mitchell Ward to lead the way at linebacker.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 3 vs Hopkins
The Black Knights face two opponents in the non-conference that made the playoffs last season (Laingsburg and Lake Odessa Lakewood), so the conference home games are crucial to their playoff opportunities. A hot start, including the conference opener against Hopkins is critical.
Godwin Heights (5-5 in 2016)
A season ago, the Wolverines got off to a hot start at 3-1, and they had just enough playoff points to reach the postseason without the six-win requirement. This was the second season in a row in which Godwin Heights reached the playoffs, an impressive feat considering that they did not field a team in 2012. Unfortunately for the second straight season, the MHSAA Playoff Committee matched the Wolverines up with Grand Rapids Catholic Central, and for the second straight year the Cougars ended their playoff run in the first round.
This year, Godwin Heights will have a chance to reach five wins for the fifth year in a row, and qualifying for their third straight playoffs thanks to the superb play of their quarterback. Susu Davenport is one of the best quarterbacks in West Michigan, and the All-OK Silver gunslinger has garnered a handful of college scholarship offers. He has bulked up in the weight room this offseason, and will look to have a stellar senior season.
Another all-conference star, Jamar Bennett will provide leadership on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker, as well as spending some time at H-Back on offense. Occasionally, he will slide to the defensive tackle position, where he joins defensive end Adam Dekoster to form a tough front line. Dekoster will also start at tackle on offense, where he will be responsible for protecting Davenport in the pocket.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 3 vs Calvin Christian
The Squires return a strong bunch this season, and last year they defeated Godwin 36-14. The Wolverines host Calvin and Kelloggsville this season, and winning both will be essential to their chances in the OK Silver race.
Grandville Calvin Christian (6-4 in 2016)
Last season, the Squires ran off victories in six of their final seven regular season contests to qualify for the playoffs and take second place in the OK Silver. In the first round of the playoffs, they were handily defeated by Portland, but the season was a big step in the right direction for the program.
This year, they are under the direction of new coach Dan Kapenga. He will have a full cupboard of talent to play with this season as the Squires are loaded with experience. Senior quarterback and linebacker Eric Hoogland returns to captain both sides of the football. He will have seniors Sam Elliott and Brandon Steenstra as weapons spread out wide, and junior Blake Thomasma in the backfield.
In the trenches, the Squires will be led by seniors Anthony Hoffman and Vinny Niewick, who will play on both sides of the ball. Coach Kapenga’s squad has experience all over the field, and they have a chance to reach the postseason, and contend for the OK Silver crown this fall.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 5 @ Kelloggsville
The Rockets are defending champions in the OK Silver, and if the Squires could get a road upset in their third league game of the year, they could be the frontrunners.
Hopkins (3-6 in 2016)
The 3-6 record that the Vikings had a year ago does not truly indicate how they played. Four of their six losses were decided by a touchdown or less, including one loss in double overtime. Because of these close losses, the Vikings missed the playoffs for the second season in a row, which is the longest drought since 2005-2006.
This year, the Vikings will look to snap their playoff drought, and they will be one of the most experienced teams in the area. They return eleven letter winners, including seven seniors. Quarterback Nolan Smith is back under center for Hopkins, and he has six two-way lineman returning to man the trenches. Hopefully taking advantage of the holes created by the offensive lines will be running backs Mason Schaendorf and Ryan Haveman, who also both contribute defensively at the linebacker position. When Smith must throw, he can look to a pair of solid junior tight ends in Grey Castello and Bryce Smith.
On defense, Hopkins has a strong linebacking core of Schaendorf, Haveman, Jake Lincoln and Cameron Kennedy. Down on the line are seniors Jacob Claypool, Nathan Roberts and Levi Miller, as well as juniors Johnathan Ryan and Noah Young. Hopkins does not have depth in numbers, as they have a roster of under thirty players, but a large majority of their players have strong playing experience. If they can stay healthy, the Vikings will be in the hunt for the OK Silver and the playoffs.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 9 at Kelloggsville
As the old saying goes, you must beat the champ to be the champ. Kelloggsville is the reigning champion in the OK Silver, and these two teams meet in the season finale. The OK Silver should be highly competitive and this game (and others) will be crucial to crowning a champion.
Northpointe Christian (4-5 in 2016)
The Mustangs are entering their tenth season of football in 2017. Year nine was an off year for Northpointe, as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010. All seemed well to start the campaign as the Mustangs won their first three contests, but they then lost five contests in a row, four of which were by a touchdown or less. The experience that this year’s team has hopes to be the difference in getting Northpointe back to the playoffs.
Thirteen seniors return to the Mustangs roster, including four of their starting offensive linemen, including all-conference center Ben Farrell. Jalen Shafer, the school’s all-time leading rusher, is also back in the backfield for his final season in the blue and yellow. When Shafer and the Mustangs score, look for all-conference kicker Quinten Huckaby to convert the extra point.
Defensively, the front line is the strongest asset as they field a pair of all-conference players in tackle Micah Visser and defensive end Ty Tjoelker. There are fourteen total starters returning for Northpointe in 2017, and their experience should help them finish the close games they lost a season ago. Expect Northpointe to be playing meaningful games in late October.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 7 at Kelloggsville
The Mustangs finish the regular season with a non-conference matchup against Holton, so this will be their fifth league game in week seven. The Rockets are going to be a strong team in the OK Silver this year, and the Mustangs appear to be one of their top challengers for the conference crown.
Wyoming Lee (1-8 in 2016)
The Lee Rebels took a huge step last season, as coach Tom DeGennaro’s bunch snapped a 27-game losing streak by recording a 22-0 shutout victory over Detroit Public Safety Academy. This fall, they will be looking to record their first multiple-win season since 2012.
Lee is led by senior running back Aridel Torres, who was All-OK Silver a season ago. He will have the luxury of running behind senior center Ivan Martinez, who was honorable mention all-conference in 2016. The leader of the team is senior quarterback Valentino Savala, who had a strong campaign last year.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 7 at Three Oaks River Valley
The Rebels have a schedule this year that is perhaps its most favorable in years. While the OK Silver looks tough, they currently hold a 22-game conference losing streak that dates to 2012, their non-conference schedule is weak. They open at 3-6 New Buffalo, followed by a matchup at 3-6 White Cloud. Their easiest non-league game however comes in Week 7 when they take on Three Oaks River Valley, a team that has lost 25 consecutive games.
Wyoming Kelloggsville (8-2 in 2016)
Last year, the Rockets were the surprise team in West Michigan as they posted an 8-2 record. After a tough season-opening loss to Whitehall, Kelloggsville rattled off eight consecutive wins to win their first OK Silver championship since 2009, and in the process, they also qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
The 2017 Kelloggsville team will be very experienced, as they return a lot of seniors, and a handful of them are three-year varsity players. One of those three-year varsity players is star running back Thomas Griggs. Last season, Griggs rushed for over 1300 yards and 20 touchdowns, and another big year is in store in 2017. Handing him the ball off will be dual-threat quarterback Alex Guzman. In 2016, the senior was explosive as he connected with his receivers for 1000 yards and sixteen touchdowns. Using his legs, Guzman also was able to rush for over 400 yards.
Defensively, the Rockets will be led by three-year varsity defensive lineman Jacob Wohlgemuth. The 6’5, 310-pound senior has been a dominant force up front for Kelloggsville. In the defensive backfield, Demarion Smith will be the strongest player yet again, as he is coming off a seven-interception season. The Rockets should be considered front-runners in the Silver, but they will be looking to win their first playoff game since 2009.
BIGGEST GAME: WEEK 7 @ Northpointe Christian
This contest is the final road game for the Rockets in their pursuit of the OK Silver crown, and it may be the most difficult. Northpointe took a step back a year ago, but they were one of the toughest games that Kelloggsville played, and this year should be no different.
OTHER 2017 FOOTBALL PREVIEWS