1-East Grand Rapids
3-Grand Rapids Christian
5-Forest Hills Eastern
East Grand Rapids (9-1 in 2017)
Last year, the Pioneers had very little trouble (only two games decided by less than 14 points) in completing an undefeated regular season. In the playoffs however, East Grand Rapids was upset in the first round by Cedar Springs. This year, coach Casey Longo’s bunch will look to defend their league title and move past the district finals. The first question mark that they must solve is at the quarterback position, as they must replace Mike Malewitz. One option is Jalen Broussard, who served as a dynamic receiver in 2017. On the offensive line, Stuart Kettler is gaining Division I attention. He will be joined by Ben Biermacher to anchor East up front. Griffen Caul returns to captain the defense from the linebacker position. He will be joined by Broussard, Mark Boeve and Aiden McCahill as key players on that side of the ball.
Non-Conference Schedule: vs Zeeland East, at Forest Hills Northern, Muskegon
The Pioneers start the season at Grand Valley State against the Chix, one of the area’s best teams. In Week 3, they face the defending Division 3 State Champions Muskegon, historically one of the state’s elite programs. Sandwiched in the middle is a road trip to Forest Hills Northern. The Huskies look to be much improved from their 3-6 campaign a year ago, but the bigger challenges for East lie before and after this contest.
Forest Hills Eastern (3-6 in 2017)
Last year, coach Ben Sherman’s Hawks finished 3-6 for the second straight season. This year, they will hope to snap that streak and move toward a winning season. There is a large amount of experience on their roster this season, starting with quarterback David McCready. He is joined on offense by Sam Volk and Luke Brenner. Brady Doyle will line up at wide receiver as well as defensive end. He is joined on the defensive line by Danson Francis, who also suits up at guard. Another two-way lineman for Forest Hills Eastern will be Matt Andreen.
Non-Conference Schedule: Fruitport, at Holland Christian, at Sparta
The Hawks have a non-conference schedule that provides an opportunity for them to put together a strong count of wins. All three teams finished with losing records a year ago, much like FHE. As all teams are poised to field better squads in 2018, they will be crucial contests across the board for those striving to reach the postseason.
Grand Rapids Christian (7-3 in 2017)
The Eagles reached the postseason for the eighth consecutive season, but their run ended in the first round for only the second time during this streak. Coach Fellows has many holes to fill on their roster this season, but they will look to wide receiver James Patrick to provide experienced leadership on the offensive end. Unlike most teams, Christian High has a pair of star special teams players in kicker Dayne Weldy and punter Luke Elzinga. It appears that they will elect to go with Eason Hardouin at the quarterback position, and the junior will be tested early and often throughout the year.
Non-Conference Schedule: at DeWitt, Zeeland West, at West Catholic
The schedule is difficult for Grand Rapids Christian in the non-league portion. They face DeWitt, a team that beat them 42-10 in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, in the season opener. In week two, they face the Dux who are one of the most consistent programs in West Michigan with four state championships since 2006. Their final non-conference opponent is former City League foe West Catholic, the five-time defending Division 5 State Champion. These two have not met since they were both in the City League in 2007.
Middleville (2-7 in 2017)
Coach Jeff Dock and the Trojans increased their win total by two from a winless 2016 season. The Trojans started their season with a win over rival Hastings, and they ended their season surprising many by defeating Grand Rapids Christian, a playoff team. This year, they will look to grow on their success and play more consistently throughout the year. Conroy Stolsonburg, Michael Moore, Chaz Knorr and Trenton Dutcher are four senior linemen that will be looked toward to set the tone for Middleville. They will create opportunities for Trent Johnson, Logan Tolan and Dylan Podbevsek to make plays from the running back position.
Non-Conference Schedule: Hastings, at Byron Center, Ottawa Hills
The Trojans have a tough week two challenge on the road at Byron Center. The season opener against Hastings and the season finale against Ottawa Hills provide Middleville with a pair of games that are very winnable. There are opportunities for the Trojans to improve their record from a year ago.
South Christian (7-3 in 2017)
The Sailors of South Christian won seven of their first eight contests a year ago, and they were set to play for a share of the OK Gold Championship in the regular season finale. They lost that game to East Grand Rapids, as well as their first playoff contest against Plainwell, leaving South Christian hungry for more this season. The Sailors’ anchors will a huge offensive line, led by a pair of Spencers. Spencer Hulst will be joined by Purdue commit Spencer Holstege in providing a strong foundation on the interior. They will protect quarterback Luke Schrotenboer, who will use skill players Peyton Vis and Jordan Sterk to try and ignite the offense. On defense, all of these players will play along with linebacker Cameron Huyser.
Non-Conference Schedule: at Greenville, Benton Harbor, at Unity Christian
Benton Harbor and Unity Christian both reached the postseason in 2017, and they will provide tough challenges for South Christian. This is the fourth meeting between South Christian and Benton Harbor since the start of 2016, with South holding a 2-1 edge. South Christian has never faced Greenville.
Wayland (3-6 in 2017)
The Wildcats started 3-1 in 2017, but a tough schedule down the stretch resulted in five straight defeats for Wayland. This year, they will look for their experience gained last season to pay off, and hopefully result in more victories. Carson Sevigny returns at quarterback for Wayland, as is his top target Caleb Wolf, who earned all-conference honors at wide receiver and defensive back last year. Another key target in the passing game is Devin Jakey, who also sees action in the defensive backfield. When Wayland has to run the football, they will look to three-year varsity player and honorable mention all-conference tailback Ashton Ordway. Up front in the trenches, Tyler Sikkema aims to give Wayland an edge.
Non-Conference Schedule: Kenowa Hills, at Lansing Waverly, at Hamilton
The Wildcats have three non-conference games against opponents they should defeat. Kenowa Hills is the biggest challenge as they went 4-5 last year, and they have experience returning up front. Lansing Waverly struggled again last year, posting their fifth straight losing season. The road trip to Hamilton should also go successfully, as Hamilton is still a young team after their 1-8 season in 2017.
Wyoming (3-6 in 2017)
The Wolves finished 2017 strong, winners of three of their final four contests. Coach Irv Sigler hopes that this momentum will carry over to 2018, as the team looks to get their third winning season in seven years as a combined football program. Perhaps the best name in West Michigan football, Rush Bash, will serve as a key running back in the Wolves’ offense. He and JD Jones were all-conference both ways last year, playing linebacker and defensive back respectively in addition to running back.
Non-Conference Schedule: at Holland, Comstock Park, at West Ottawa
The Wolves open with the combination of Holland and Comstock Park for the third straight season. Wyoming swept both in 2016 before losing to both teams in 2017. Their crossover opponent has gotten increasingly more difficult as they will take on Holland West Ottawa, the reigning champions in the Red.
The other OK Conference previews can be found at the following links: