Caledonia (4-5 in 2017)
Coach Tom Burrill and the Fighting Scots have missed the playoffs each of the past three seasons, but they may finally have the pieces and the schedule to return to the postseason. Quarterback and Linebacker Caleb Bronkema returns for his third year on varsity, coming off a season in which he ran for over 1000 yards and was named all-conference at linebacker. He will be joined in the offensive backfield by Seth Morse, Drew Kuzava and Marcus Joplin-Pinero. The offensive line will be anchored by Carter Osborn, a returning starter from a season ago. On the other side of the trenches, the Scots will look to Alex Overla to lead the way.
Non-Conference Schedule: Holt, at Cedar Springs, at Northview
The Fighting Scots have a very favorable non-conference schedule this fall, with three winnable contests. In a very difficult OK Red, it will be vital that the Scots win all three games to place themselves in position to reach the postseason.
East Kentwood (5-4 in 2017)
Coach Tony Kimbrough may have his quarterback Kyle Dent back, but the biggest reason his team is poised to return to the playoffs are the big men up front. A trio of Division I lineman prospects in Logan Brown, Mazi Smith and Dallas Fincher hope to pave the way to the postseason for East Kentwood, a place that they have not been since 2015. The Falcons also return eight starters on the defensive side of the football.
Non-Conference Schedule: Mona Shores, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, at Holland
Once again, the Falcons play a pair of tough opponents to start the season. They open with the always explosive Mona Shores Sailors at Grand Valley State, and then they host OLSM, winners of three straight Division 3 Championships from 2014-2016. Playing in the OK Red, they may need to split these two games, in addition to the must-win against Holland, if they want to make the postseason.
Grand Haven (1-8 in 2017)
Coach Joe Nelson and the Buccaneers had a difficult season in 2017, losing their first eight contests before finally pulling out a victory over Union in Week 9. This year, they will look to build off of the gained experience from a season ago to boost their win total. The leader for Grand Haven will be quarterback Collin Takas, who plays both quarterback and safety.
Non-Conference Schedule: at Reeths-Puffer, Traverse City West, Union
The Buccaneers give themselves to immediately make progress in the win column in the season’s first week as they travel to Reeths-Puffer. Last year, the Buccaneers’ three game winning streak in this series was snapped.
Grandville (6-4 in 2017)
Eric Stiegel’s Bulldogs reached the playoffs a year ago, but they lost their final two games to West Ottawa, leaving them short of a district title and a league crown. This year, Grandville is loaded with experience in the offensive backfield. Landon Poll is calling the shots at quarterback, and he has Shane Baker, Noah Atwell and Nate Nielsen back to run the football. Keith Bush and Damien Napier headline a defensive unit that also has nine starters returning.
Non-Conference Schedule: vs Clarkston, at Warren DeLaSalle, at Forest Hills Central
This is by far the toughest non-conference slate in the OK Red, if not the entire state. All three of these teams reached the state semifinals in 2017, with Clarkston and DeLaSalle winning the Division 1 and 2 State Championships respectively. The Clarkston game at Michigan Stadium will be important, but the road trip to Forest Hills Central will be must watch action.
Hudsonville (4-5 in 2017)
This fall, the Eagles will look to bounce back from their first losing season since 2012 with new leadership on the sidelines. Former defensive coordinator Brent Sandee will take over the head coaching role, and he will have seven defensive starters returning. Though there is competition at the quarterback position, it appears that Drew Martinie will lead the offense. He will benefit from strong protection from Ty Potter and Chad Kunnen.
Non-Conference Schedule: Grand Ledge, Holt, at Jenison
The Eagles open with a pair of CAAC foes, like the past two seasons. They have defeated Holt six of the past seven seasons, and they have split the last two meetings with Grand Ledge. Former league foe Jenison is their crossover opponent, a must-win for both teams trying to get to the postseason.
Rockford (7-4 in 2017)
Coach Munger’s squad finished last season strong, winning six of their final eight games (two losses to West Ottawa). They will be led under center by Drew Bareno, who will take over for Jason Whittaker. He has a supporting cast in the backfield of Jack Richardson and Austin Klein. On the defensive side, their two leaders are Alex Miller and Drew Haddad, both members of the defensive backfield.
Non-Conference Schedule: Loyola (IL), at Lowell, Mona Shores
The non-conference schedule is very tough for the Rams. Loyola finished as the 8A Runner-Up in Illinois, while Lowell and Mona Shores are two of the area’s strongest programs. If the Rams want to reach the playoffs, they are going to need to win at least one of these games. Their best chance is probably the home opener against Loyola.
West Ottawa (10-2 in 2017)
Coach Ryan Oshnock’s Panthers surprised many in 2017, as they went undefeated in the OK Red, marching all the way to the regional finals, when they lost by seven to Clarkston. This fall, West Ottawa returns seven starters on both sides of the ball. Most eyes will be on quarterback Isaac VanDyke, who threw for over 30 touchdowns a season ago. On defense, Jason Fairfield, a member of the State Runner-Up basketball team, anchors the secondary.
Non-Conference Schedule: Stevensville Lakeshore, at Forest Hills Central, Wyoming
There are two highly winnable games on the non-conference schedule, so the attention will shift to the road trip to Forest Hills Central. Last season, the Rangers topped West Ottawa 30-27, their only loss in the regular season. This year, the Panthers will make the return trip to FHC, but they have the experience and the talent to avenge this loss.
The other OK Conference previews can be found at the following links: