The 2022 MHSAA Football season is here! As the season ramps up, the MSR team has begun their previews of local teams.
Our coverage continues with the CSAA Gold, which is down to eight members. They also suffered attrition after the WMC realignment, with Fremont departing for that league.
**ARTICLE BY HUDSON HARKNESS**
Big Rapids: Veteran Led Cardinals Look for Another Playoff Season
With the first day of fall camp closing in quickly, there is a lot of hope for Coach Mike Selzer going into his eighth season in Big Rapids.
“Our first goal is to win the conference; you win the conference you make the playoffs,” Coach Selzer said during a preseason interview. Big Rapids is coming off a season where they reached the postseason for the second season in a row and finished third behind Reed City and Tri-County in the CSAA Gold.
The Cardinals finished the season with three consecutive losses to end the season, including games against Tri-County and Alma that were lost in the closing seconds of the game. “Our focus will be finishing out games and putting ourselves in the right position,” Selzer stated.
“Our defense will be the best it has been in years.” Big Rapids will be returning multiple starters on the defensive side of the ball including All-Conference linebacker David Miller as well as middle linebacker Noah Brandt. The Cardinals also return defensive backs, Zander Prince and Brody Sleeper.
Coach Selzer’s team will be led by their All-Conference and 3-year starting quarterback, Wil Stickler. “He really understands the offense and has the green light.” Stickler will lose two of his favorite targets in All-State receiver Jamal Strickland and Justin Gorczewicz. The Cardinals open the season at home against Coopersville on August 25 in a game that will be broadcast LIVE on Michigan Sports Radio.
Chippewa Hills: Young Talent to Boost Warriors
Second-year Head Coach Mark PeLong is looking for a bounce back season with his young squad.
“The fans should see a dramatic improvement from our program,” Coach PeLong answered in a preseason interview. Last season the Warriors went 2-7 but picked up those two wins in the final games of the season. So there is a lot of hope for the young Chippewa Hills team this season.
Chippewa Hills will be yet again one of the youngest teams in the area. There will be two seniors on this season’s roster. While that does sound like a bad thing for the Warriors, Coach PeLong sees it as a strength. “We will return a lot of game experience.” Chippewa Hills will be returning eight two-way starters including All-Conference lineman Brock PeLong. The Warriors do lose their starting quarterback from last season’s team in Logan Davis but filling his shoes will be junior Tyler Geer. Returning will be one of the top targets for the Warriors in Austin Humphrey lining up in the backfield with Geer.
On the defensive side of the ball, the secondary is where the strength will be for the Warriors. Chippewa Hills will be bringing back junior strong safety Brayden Hunt and his counterpart will be Tyler Geer at the free safety position.
The Warriors will host the Flying G’s of Gladwin on August 26th to open the season.
Central Montcalm: Hornets to Fill Holes with Youth
Hornets 4th year Head Coach Scott Cripe has high expectations for his new group of players since they set foot in the weight room in the winter.
In the final five games of the season, the Hornets went 1-4, losing to the top two teams in the CSAA Gold, Tri-County and Reed City, and the top two teams in the West Michigan Conference, Ravenna and Montague. When asked about how the Hornets are planning to come into this season after a tough finish Coach Cripe said, “We have to look at the conference, year in and year out it is a very competitive league.” Central Montcalm ended the season with a 4-6 record and finished 4th in the CSAA Gold. This season, the Hornets are looking to replace five All-Conference players.
This season Central Montcalm is looking for big play out of the new group of Seniors and some youth. “There is no substitute for experience,” Coach Cripe replied, “I feel confident in their abilities.” Although the Hornets have number of returning seniors, they will be looking to players will little varsity experience. Coach Cripe said they will be looking at bringing up sophomores and potentially some freshman.
The Hornets will have to dig into their system and find replacements for All-Conference players Fisher Hill, Kaleb Crooks, Mitchell Herald, Jared Schultz, and Preston Scott. They won’t have to replace All-Conference running back Isaac Johnson, along with Gavin Bush, Lucas Hirkaway, Blake Guilford, JP Zacharda, Kade Olson, Keaton Keeler, Carter Jeffrey, and sophomore Waylon Lingeman, as they are all returning for the Hornets.
The Hornets open the season on the road in Morley-Stanwood. You can catch that game on Michigan Sports Radio!
Grant: Tigers are “Loving Each Other” Every Day
Tigers’ first year coach, Jason Hill, is trying to bring a new culture to Grant, after the Tigers’ move on to their third coach in as many years.
Hill looks to build a culture of tightness and brotherhood. “Teams that are the tightest are the ones that win.” The Tigers mantra this season is ‘Love Each Other.’ Coach Hill is initiating a program wide culture of brotherhood
Last season, Grant reached the playoffs but was bounced in the first round to conference foe Tri-County. The Tigers finished the season with a 4-6 record and placed 5th in the CSAA Gold. Coach Hill wants to do more than just make the playoffs, “Our expectation is to compete in division 5. We want to be at the level of the GR Catholic Central’s and Montague’s of the world.”
Grant was led by All-Conference quarterback, Brady Jacobs who accounted for a majority of the Tigers offense, they will be looking for the successor of Jacobs. Coach Hill says that this season’s squad will be loaded at the skills position and be able to go a strong two-deep at multiple spots. Overall, the Tigers are looking to use their speed in the open field with the likes of Zak Barnhart and Chase Geers. Leading the Tigers on the defensive side is returning Middle Linebacker, Hunter Crosby.
When asked about what game stands out to Coach Hill on his schedule this season, he responded with, “Week 5!” The Tigers will face Newaygo for the M37 Trophy during week 5, a rivalry that will be played for the 73rd time. “The first day on the job, everyone told me ‘Newaygo is the big rival’ from what I have heard the rivalry runs deeper than football.” Grant opens the season at Coach Hill’s old stomping grounds, Comstock Park on August 25th.
Newaygo: Lions is Bringing Energy On and Off the Field
Newaygo’s first-year Coach Scott Force has set lofty goals for his players on and off the field.
The Lions had a disappointing season according to many around the Newaygo football team. The team ended their season with a 2-7 record and last place finish in the CSAA Gold. The good news for the Lions, they are returning nearly their entire team. Newaygo does lose All-Conference lineman Cam Goodin and All-Conference running back Jayden Joseph. Newaygo has All-Conference receiver Remy Wells returning. Also with Wells is his battery, Grant Harkness. Harkness will also have targets in Josiah Long and Ethan Reyburn. Coach Force says that the wide receivers on this year’s team are the biggest strength.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Lions will have sophomore Blake Kerr stepping up in the linebacker room. Expect to hear similar names on the defensive side of the ball, Harkness, Reyburn, and Wells.
Coach Force has set two important goals for his team this season. “Our first goal is to make the playoffs. Secondly, I want to be recognized for our grades, I want to be Academic All-State.” How is he going to reach these goals? “Energy… the kids have and will bring energy every day.” Coach Force would like to set the standard high for the Newaygo football program on the playing field and in the classroom.
The Lions open their season at home against Kent City on August 25th. You can listen to that game on Michigan Sports Radio!
Reed City: The Kings of the Gold Look to Reign Once Again
Reed City 4th year Head Coach Scott Shankel is taking it week by week as the Coyotes are defending another CSAA Gold title.
The Coyotes are looking to win their 11th CSAA Gold championship in 12 years this season, and they will be doing so by returning all but seven players. The key losses for Reed City is four of their nine All-Conference selections from last season’s squad. Those being Dylan Schebil, Blake Vanalstine, Logan Ringler, and Blake Daggy. Reed City finished last season with a 9-2 record and a District Finals appearance before losing to Montague. When asked about how his team returns to the District Finals, Coach Shankel answered, “Take it one game at a time. We hope to be put in that situation again.”
Reed City will still rely on their ground and pound game this season and will be led by returning quarterback, Xavier Allen. Allen will have Spencer Hansen, Noah Morgan, Nick Wirgau, and Zach Erickson in the backfield. The Coyotes will also have Seth Jackson flanked out wide. Anchoring the offensive line for the Coyotes is All-Conference senior Kyle Crusan. Jackson will be leading the Coyotes on defense as he returns off his All-State season in the secondary.
Coach Shankel knows they are going to get the best out of everyone when they play Reed City because they are the reigning champs. “We have to come out and play our best. We have to be prepared.” There is also talk around the Reed City program about legacy. “We want to keep the legacy going, we really stress that with the senior class.”
The Coyotes start another title defense on August 25th against Orchard View at home.
Tri-County: Vikings Looking to Take Next Step
Phil Butler is leading the Vikings for his 11th season as the head coach. Although, Tri-County has made a leap in recent years, Coach Butler is working with his team to be the toughest team in the conference.
Last season the Vikings ended with a 9-2 record and hosted the District Final before falling to Oakridge for the 2nd consecutive season. Coach Butler wants his team to realize that that season is in the past, “Last year’s 9-2 isn’t going to win us a game this year.” Tri-County has been focused on being the toughest team in the conference. The team motto “Tough People Win” came from the multiple comeback games that the Vikings had last season, including the two-point victory they had over Big Rapids on the final play of the game. Coach Butler has set the goals high this season for his team. The Vikings want to win the conference and bring that District Championship home. “We have to be mentally tough if we want to make that jump.” Tri-County finished 2nd in the CSAA Gold behind Reed City.
The Vikings return nearly all of their skill players, including 1200-yard rusher Trent Behrenwald. Also returning for the Vikings is Stuart Gould, Ian Boden, Chase Dewey, Logan Hallman, Blake Nelson, Owen Behrenwald, and play caller David Sheehan. Tri-County graduated their entire starting offense line and some key players that have stepped up this off-season have been Mikey Stout and the Rosso twins (Loren and Lucas). On the defensive side of the ball the Vikings will return seven starters with Dewey anchoring the defense line. These players will have to fill the voids of Tyler Tompkins, Nate Lovell, Bryce Thomas, Zach Princer, Joey Meyer, Andrew Bogart, and Devin Keech. Tri-County opens the season on Michigan Sports Radio visiting Lakeview on August 26th.
2022 MSR FOOTBALL PREVIEWS