The MSR previews continue with a look at the OK Red. Traditionally one of the area’s strongest leagues, the OK Red is back and loaded once again. As the season begins, everyone will try and dethrone Rockford, the three-time reigning league champions.


Caledonia Fighting Scots

2021 Season: 10-2 (Lost in Regional Finals)

Last Conference Championship: 2014 OK White

Last Playoff Victory: 2021

Non-Conference Schedule: Holt, at North Farmington

The climb back to the top continued for Caledonia last season. After a surprise playoff run in 2020, the Fighting Scots posted an 8-1 regular season in 2021. Under first-year head coach Derek Pennington, Caledonia captured their first district title in 9 seasons before falling to Traverse City Central in the regional finals.

This fall, Caledonia will look to take their climb one step higher. Numerous key skill players return for Caledonia, starting with signal-caller Mason McKenzie. The senior is back for his third season as the squad’s quarterback, coming off of a 28-touchdown season. He has secured scholarship offers to numerous Division 2 and FCS programs. Brock Townsend (10 touchdowns) and Derek Pennington Jr. (3 touchdowns) also return as key skill pieces for the Fighting Scots. They have both received scholarship offers to play throughout the MAC. Caledonia also returns contributors such as Blake Herron, Evan Graham, Kaden DeHorn, and Justice Reed.


East Kentwood Falcons

2021 Season: 2-7

Last Conference Championship: 2018 OK Red

Last Playoff Victory: 2019

Non-Conference Schedule: at Muskegon, Brother Rice

The 2021 season was frustrating for Tony Kimbrough’s Falcons. A challenging schedule saw early losses to Muskegon, Brother Rice, Rockford, and Caledonia. These tough foes, paired with the remainder of the OK Red, led to East Kentwood’s lowest offensive scoring total (114) since 2010.

This fall, East Kentwood hopes to get things rolling once again. Offensively, they should receive a sparl with the hiring of offensive coordinator Justin Michalowski, who was the West Catholic head coach last fall. He will have Casey Joppie back under center, coming off a year in which he threw six touchdowns. Joppie will have Nate Cobb as a key target. They are led in the trenches by Razah Townsend, a commit to Western Michigan.


Grandville Bulldogs

2021 Season: 7-4 (lost in district finals)

Last Conference Championship: 2016

Last Playoff Victory: 2021

Non-Conference Schedule: at Grand Blanc, Byron Center

The Bulldogs started out 1-3 last year, with some heavyweights frontloading their schedule. As the calendar flipped, so did Grandville’s fortunes. They won six straight games, including a playoff opener. In the district finals, Grandville fell to rival Rockford for the fourth time in two years.

Eric Stiegel’s Bulldogs should be a contender to snap their six-year title drought this fall. Carson Smith and Tyson Mann will spearhead an offensive attack that will mirror many of recent Grandville teams, a squad that can run the football and feature a plethora of scoring threats. Replacing Cade Pilczuk will be a large task, but Grandville will use their depth to put together a strong rushing attack once again.


Grand Haven Buccaneers

2021 Season: 3-6

Last Conference Championship: 2010 OK Red

Last Playoff Victory: 2019

Non-Conference Schedule: at Reeths-Puffer, Traverse City West

The Buccaneers raced out to a 3-1 start last fall. Facing 4-0 Caledonia, both rising programs appeared to be at a “crossroads” battle. After Caledonia soared past Grand Haven in a 42-13 rout, the Bucs’ season took a tailspin. Grand Haven suffered five defeats to end the season, snapping a two-year playoff streak.

This year, Grand Haven will be an extremely young team. All 126 points scored last season have departed the program. They also lose their anchor in the trenches, Ashton Lepo. Coach Mike Farley will look to new faces to make key contributions in the 2022 season. With annual rivalry games against Reeths-Puffer and Traverse City West to start the year, these young Bucs will face adversity quickly.


Hudsonville Eagles

2021 Season: 4-5

Last Conference Championship: 2016 OK Red

Last Playoff Victory: 2020

Non-Conference Schedule: at Saline, at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s

A gauntlet non-conference slate started Hudsonville with an 0-2 record. They nearly navigated it to a 2-0 mark, but the final drives left them winless. Hudsonville responded with four wins in their next five, with another narrow loss to Rockford. Needing one win to qualify for the playoffs, the Eagles lost narrowly to Grandville and Caledonia, leaving them out of the postseason with five single-digit losses to playoff teams.

The same non-conference foes remain on the schedule, with a pair of road games. Thankfully for Hudsonville, they return a trio of their top offensive weapons. Trey Carr will lead the offense from under center, as he finished last year with 22 total touchdowns. He will have Eli VanderVeen and Brad Raredon as consistent targets. Raredon is the most regarded player on this crew, as he is committed to play at Navy. Drew Baine rounds out the offensive attack with his ability to run the football. Baine carried the ball across the goal line 12 times last fall.


Jenison Wildcats

2021 Season: 3-6

Last Conference Championship: 2000 OK Red

Last Playoff Victory: 2018

Non-Conference Schedule: at Forest Hills Central, Forest Hills Northern

The 2021 season started out tough for Jenison, as they lost five of their first six games. Jenison ended up with three victories on the year. With two defeats early in the year by three total points, the Wildcats were just a few plays away from being in the postseason.

Jenison returns numerous players in the trenches, including Dane DeVries. Deseante Riley, Jackson Systma and Shaun Beasley are also back as receiving threats. This foundation creates a great supporting cast for the Wildcats’ new quarterback. Finding a consistent signal-caller and replacing Caleb Dean in the run game will be vital for this offense’s success. Owen Snyder, who finished second in the OK Red in field goals made (3) will be back to anchor the special teams department. He has shown the ability to make kicks of up to 50 yards, providing a vital weapon for the Wildcats in clutch situations.


Rockford Rams

2021 Season: 11-1 (lost in regionals)

Last Conference Championship: 2021

Last Playoff Victory: 2021

Non-Conference Schedule: East Grand Rapids, Mona Shores

The Rams’ continued their run atop the OK Red last fall, capturing their third straight league title. In the regional finals, they dialed up a trick play for a go-ahead conversion, and it failed. Rockford’s search for capturing their fourth straight league crown will start with replacing Zak Ahern and his 47 touchdowns.

Mac VandenHout, who scored six touchdowns last season, will open the season at quarterback for the Rams. Alex McLean, who was the second-leading scoring receiver last year, will be a primary target for VandenHout and Rockford. Defensively, Austin Harvey Mike Liggett, Rick Beison and Thy Segard will anchor.

A target sits on the backs of the Rams, as they have won twelve straight league games. In addition to receiving the best shot from each OK Red club, Rockford will face a daunting non-league slate. They will start the year against East Grand Rapids, a program on their rise back to glory. The following week, they will host Mona Shores, one of the state’s predominant programs of the last decade.

**Note: A full-length Rockford preview will be released later in the preseason.**


West Ottawa Panthers

2021 Season: 0-9

Last Conference Championship: 2017 OK Red

Last Playoff Victory: 2017

Non-Conference Schedule: at Northview, Portage Northern

The Panthers began the 2021 season under the direction of a new head coach, Pat Collins. After many years of success at Montague, Collins began instilling a new culture at West Ottawa. Unfortunately, the results were not seen instantly on the field, as the Panthers lost all nine games in 2021. These defeats extended the Panthers’ losing streak to 26 games.

Momentum abounds in this program as the 2022 campaign begins. For starters, West Ottawa will play in a brand-new stadium. This state-of-the-art facility will surely be rocking when the Panthers debut against Portage Northern in Week 2. They return their quarterback, Cole Tulgestke, who threw for 11 touchdowns a year ago. Ryan Stam, who led the team with 6 touchdown carries, will also be back to try and boost the offense. Evan Janetzke, who led West Ottawa with 5 scores as a receiver, is also back. The trenches will be captained by Cooper Terpstra, who has committed to play at Grand Valley next fall. With all of these keys back, and the excitement of a new stadium, expect West Ottawa to snap their drought this season. It’s only a matter of when.




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