Belding (9-3 in 2017)
Last season, Belding made consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since three straight trips between 2001-03. The Black Knights won their first two playoff games, and a district title, before falling to eventual State Champion Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the regional championship game. This year, they return fourteen starters, seven on each side of the ball. Cole Reeves will serve as the team’s quarterback and spend some time in the defensive backfield. Jonny Ross and Donovan Greene will anchor the offensive and defensive lines for Belding. Riley Hart, Tyler Cooper and Nick Heintzelman are a trio of running backs that will make an impact on offense for the Black Knights. Cooper and Heintzelman will also play in the defensive backfield, and Riley Hart will play linebacker.
Non-Conference Schedule: at Laingsburg, Lake Odessa Lakewood, at Orchard View
The Wolfpack have made three consecutive playoff appearances, and they defeated Belding in the season opener last year 18-15. Lakewood has also made three straight trips to the playoffs, and they have defeated Belding each of the past three years. The third non-conference battle is against Orchard View, who went 3-6 a year ago.
Calvin Christian (1-8 in 2017)
The Squires struggled last year, with only a single win against conference foe Lee on their record. This year, Calvin Christian looks to be more improved as a team. They will look to senior Blake Thomasma to be their jack-of-all-trades offensively. He will see some action at quarterback and running back this year. The Harvey Brothers, Baldwin and Isaac, provide two strongholds on both the offensive and defensive lines.
Non-Conference Schedule: Olivet, at Delton Kellogg, at Manistee
Calvin Christian faces three foes in the non-conference that are not members of the OK Conference. The season opener pits them against Olivet, a team that has made ten consecutive trips to the postseason. In week two, they travel to Delton Kellogg and face a Panthers team that reached the playoffs in two of the last three years. In week eight, Calvin hits the road again to face Manistee, a team that finished 2-7 a year ago, including a loss to fellow OK Silver team Hopkins.
Godwin Heights (7-3 in 2017)
Last year, the Wolverines made their third straight playoff appearance. They have won at least five games in every season since the 2012 season that they did not field a team. This year, they will look to win the school’s first ever playoff game under direction of new coach Brandon Kimble. The first question they must solve is who will take over at the quarterback position. A pair of seniors, Carlos Hernandez and Jose Vasquez, are battling each other for the job. Whomever wins the job will have Kalen Brown and Ze’Veon McDonald as their main targets in the passing game. In the trenches, Caleb Dean leads the way as a three-way starter.
Non-Conference Schedule: Hamilton, Unity Christian, at Cadillac
For the second straight season, Godwin Heights opens their season against Hamilton, a team they defeated last year. The Crusaders of Unity Christian reached the playoffs last season, and they will serve as the toughest non-conference foe for Godwin Heights. In week five, they will travel to Cadillac, a team that struggled last year to a 2-7 record.
Hopkins (4-5 in 2017)
Last year, Hopkins outscored their opponents but fell one victory shy of a winning record. This year, coach Cody Francis and the Vikings have eighteen returning starters with hopes of getting to the postseason for the first time since 2014, when they made their eighth straight trip. The offense is led by senior quarterback Nolan Smith, who is in his third-year starting. Ryan Haveman, Cole Marschall, Brad Langlois, Hunter Leweyll and Colin Weber will all see carries in the backfield. On defense, Hopkins will look to Drew VandenBerg and Drew Webber will man the trenches. Ethan Guilder will lead the linebacking core, and Mason Moomey will spearhead the defensive backfield.
Non-Conference Schedule: Ravenna, at Olivet, Buchanan
The Vikings face zero OK Conference teams in their non-conference slate. The Ravenna Bulldogs finished 3-6 a year ago as members of the West Michigan Conference. Olivet went 8-2 last season, making their tenth straight playoff appearance. Buchanan struggled a year ago, going 1-8. Hopkins defeated Buchanan 42-14 in 2017.
Kelloggsville (10-1 in 2017)
The Rockets won their second straight league crown last year but going undefeated in the regular season was a surprise to many. This year, the key skill players have graduated, but all their lineman return for a strong core. The anchors of the offensive line include Walker Baker, Ray Childs, Devin Hoisington and Austin Kles. They will hope to pave the way up front for Chris Nesbitt and Jaevion Willis to run the football. The 29th year head coach Don Galster will look to get the playoffs for the ninth time in his tenure, and the third straight trip.
Non-Conference Schedule: Whitehall, Ottawa Hills, at Ogemaw Heights
For the seventh straight season, Kelloggsville and Whitehall will open their seasons against each other. Kelloggsville won a year ago, but they have lost four of the six meetings. In week two, the Rockets host Ottawa Hills for the first time ever. The Bengals enter this season on a twenty-one-game losing streak. Ogemaw Heights is a three-hour road trip, but it should be a manageable game. The Falcons have lost twenty-eight of their last twenty-nine games.
Lee (3-6 in 2017)
A season ago, the Rebels took tremendous strides in recording the most wins since 2012. The offense also scored the most points in a year since 2006, the last Lee team to make the playoffs. There are many questions as skill players, but there is a strong offensive line protecting the team. Eddie Carter-Cook and Alan Jimenez will captain the interior line for Lee. On defense, these two will be joined by Reuben Blanco (who also plays tight end) to form a strong defensive line.
Non-Conference Schedule: at White Cloud, Blanchard Montabella, Ludington
For the fifth straight season, Lee will face White Cloud in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Last year, they finally got the best of the Indians with a 48-0 victory. In week two, Lee will host the Mustangs of Blanchard Montabella who went 4-5 a year ago. The final non-conference game takes place in week seven when they host Ludington. The Orioles also went 4-5 the season before.
Northpointe Christian (6-4 in 2017)
After a one-year hiatus, the Mustangs made the playoffs again last fall. This year, Northpointe Christian has a relatively young team with just four seniors. There are four all-conference players that return, lineman Will Koehler, cornerback Caleb McKuski, wide receiver Josh Roede and lineman Adam Lambert. They will count on junior Drew Wurn to call the shots from the quarterback position.
Non-Conference Schedule: St. Clair Shores South Lake, Muskegon Heights, at Manistee
The Mustangs face three opponents who do not belong to the OK Conference. SCSSL finished 2-7 in 2017, but they had reached the playoffs in the two seasons prior. Muskegon Heights turned in their sixth straight three or less win season last year. In the season finale, they will travel to Manistee. The Chippewas finished 2-7 a year ago.
The other OK Conference previews can be found at the following links: