Fruitport (2-7 in 2017)
The Trojans won a pair of games in 2017, but both came against teams who would finish the year winless. This year, they are under new direction as Nate Smith has taken over the reins. There are fourteen starters back on both sides of the ball combined for Fruitport, including quarterback Jakob Carlisle. The main man in the trenches is senior David Cadena, who will start on the offensive and defensive lines.
Non-Conference Outlook: at Forest Hills Eastern, Spring Lake, Coopersville
Two long-time rivals, Coopersville and Spring Lake, remain on Fruitport’s schedule. The Trojans have won four in a row against Spring Lake, and they have lost the last five against Coopersville. The season opener is the first ever meeting against Forest Hills Eastern.
Jenison (5-4 in 2017)
Last year, Jenison posted their second straight winning season, but they missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. All four of Jenison’s losses came against teams that won a playoff game, by a combined 197-28. This year, the schedule is a bit more favorable for first-year head coach Rob Zeitman and his bunch. He will have quarterback Kyle Nott, a dual-threat, under center calling the shots. Nott is joined by weapons such as Payton Young and Ray Russo.
Non-Conference Schedule: Forest Hills Central, at Northview, Hudsonville
The Wildcats have an easier non-conference schedule than 2017, but it still presents challenges. Forest Hills Central has defeated Jenison each of the past six years, and they are fresh off of a run to the state semifinals. The potential is there for Jenison to defeat Northview and Hudsonville, as each has question marks. If they want to play in the postseason, they will need to be victorious in both of these games.
Kenowa Hills (4-5 in 2017)
The Knights started and ended their season on high notes in 2017, but the football in between was more frustrating. This year, coach Sam Becker and the Knights will try to break the three-year streak of four-win seasons and perhaps place Kenowa Hills in playoff contention. They will look to senior Mark Fluit for a majority of the carries, and he has three strong seniors blocking for him. Two all-conference players, Jaden Hanson and Ethan Anderson, will team up with Jackson Harris to pave the way for the Knights running game. On defense, the senior leaders will be Bode DeVriee up front, Ben Racalla at linebacker, and Nick May and Josh Bersgma in the defensive backfield.
Non-Conference Schedule: at Wayland, at Mt Pleasant, Forest Hills Northern
For the first time since 2004, former OK Gold foe Wayland returns to the schedule. Forest Hills Northern, another former conference foe, this time a member of the OK White, returns to the schedule. The third opponent however, Mt Pleasant, has posted a winning season every year since 2013. The slate is tough, but given the two tough league foes (Muskegon and Mona Shores), slip ups are minimal if they are thinking about reaching the postseason.
Mona Shores (9-2 in 2017)
A season ago, Matt Koziak’s bunch won nine games, with their two losses coming against teams that advanced to at least the state semifinals. This year, a senior laden bunch (22 on the roster) will try and win the OK Black and advance further in the state playoffs. In the ground game, Sincere Dent will be the featured back with Josh Hill, Colt Stout and Tyler McDonald paving the way on the line. Caden Broersma will take over at quarterback this year for the Sailors, and he will look for Ke’sean Sandifer to record many targets. On the defensive end, Jacob Wahlberg, Jackson Neely and Isaiah Williams will lead the linebacking core.
Non-Conference Schedule: vs East Kentwood, Bay City Central, at Rockford
The Sailors once again are challenging themselves in the non-conference portion of their schedule. Rockford and Bay City Central both reached the postseason a year ago, and East Kentwood finished with a winning record (5-4). Last year, the Rockford game was a thriller, as the Sailors emerged late winners by a 30-24 score.
Muskegon (14-0 in 2017)
After four state finals losses since 2012, the Muskegon Big Reds finally got their championship this past season. Coach Shane Fairfield’s bunch won all fourteen games, outscoring their opponents 722-88 to earn the Division 3 State Championship. This fall, the Big Reds will look to defend their state title, and this starts in the trenches. Four of their offensive linemen return, led by Anthony Bradford. The quarterback competition will be decided in camp but look for Muskegon Catholic Central transfer Cameron Martinez to take over under center.
Non-Conference Schedule: Warren DeLaSalle, Detroit King, at East Grand Rapids
The Big Reds, as always, have a difficult non-conference schedule. They open with defending Division 2 State Champion Warren DeLaSalle, whom they last defeated in the 2008 State Championship game. Detroit King is loaded with talent, and the Big Reds swept them in a non-conference set in 2008 and 2009. The Big Reds play another state powerhouse in East Grand Rapids, whom they beat in the 2016 district playoffs. The team will be tested early and often before OK Black play begins.
Reeths-Puffer (5-4 in 2017)
In 2017, Kyle Jewett’s Rockets needed a win in the final game of the season against Kenowa Hills to qualify for the postseason. Unfortunately, they fell four points shy, and the playoff drought still dates to 2013. An advantage for this year’s team is returning experience at quarterback as junior Evan Moskwa will return under center. He will also return a plethora of offensive weapons such as Carter Fulton, Jalen Williams and Daven Fox.
Non-Conference Schedule: Grand Haven, at Orchard View, at Greenville
The three teams on the non-conference slate for the Rockets provide an opportunity to rack up wins outside of OK Black play to position themselves for a playoff berth. All three teams finished with a losing record last season. These wins would be pivotal to guaranteeing the Rockets a spot in the postseason.
Union (0-9 in 2017)
The number of consecutive losses for Grand Rapids Union has reached twenty-five, dating back to a week one win over Wyoming Lee in 2015. The Red Hawks have lost 50 of their last 51 games, and 76 of their last 80. Fourth year coach Rick Angstman hopes that the third-year starting battery of quarterback Yoni Calderson and center Cody Garrison will be able to lead a Union offense that has scored over 100 points in just one of the past four seasons.
Non-Conference Schedule: at Ottawa Hills, Sparta, at Grand Haven
The best opportunity for the Red Hawks to win a game since the 2015 Lee contest is the season opener against former City League rival Ottawa Hills. The Bengals are also on a large losing streak, having been defeated 21 consecutive times. Somebody has to win this contest, and perhaps the experience of Calderson and Garrison can get the job done.
The other OK Conference previews can be found at the following links: