The OK Green is shaping up to be an exciting league this fall. With the traditional heavyweights loaded once again, and the bottom of the league improving, there should be great football each week. Michael Markoch, who will be the voice of our Union broadcasts this fall, brings you the first OK Green preview.
**ARTICLE BY MICHAEL MARKOCH**
Wyoming at Forest Hills Northern
The Wyoming Wolves enter the 2022 season following a disappointing year one under head coach Carlton Brewster. The Wolves went 1-8 a year ago with only a 1-6 record in league play.
The Wolves lost their experienced signal caller in Bernie Varnesdeel, who paced the Wolves with 14 touchdowns through the air and another two on the ground a year ago. Senior wide receiver Avion Joye, who finished last season with five touchdown receptions, including two in the Wolves only win last season against Grand Rapids Union, is returning and will play a large role in easing the Wolves’ new quarterback into action.
Forest Hills Northern comes out of the OK White conference and, like Wyoming, enters this season as a team looking to find their footing in 2022. Except for the unique season in 2020 where every team was eligible for the postseason, the Huskies haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016.
When talking about FHN, one must mention senior running back Curt Andrews, who was one of the main weapons in the Huskies offensive arsenal in 2021. The Huskies also will have a new quarterback under center this season after last year’s signal-caller, Travis Myers, graduated. Junior quarterback Drew Dabaja may be in line for his first season as the starter and if that’s the case, he’ll certainly have some large shoes to fill.
Last season, these two schools also met in their respective season openers. The Huskies defeated the Wolves 37-13 in Wyoming.
Zeeland West at Stevensville Lakeshore
Zeeland West has been a postseason mainstay under head coach John Shillito and his “Wing-T” formation, who enters his 17th season as head football coach of the Dux. However, in 2021, the Dux season came to a stunning halt when the Dux lost to the St. Joseph Bears in the first round of the playoffs.
Both quarterback Trevor Waller and running back Skyler Geurink return to the backfield for the Dux this season. Geurink is one of the best running backs in the conference, he finished last season with 17 total touchdowns and will look to improve that number in his final year at Zeeland West. Junior fullback Parker Holman also had an impressive 2021 campaign, with 11 touchdowns of his own. It would be wise to expect a high-powered rushing attack from the Dux in week one.
Stevensville Lakeshore of the Southwest Michigan Athletic Conference was a team with a good mix of youth and experience in 2021. Like the Dux, the Lancers had their season end at the hands of St. Joseph. After a 6-3 regular season, the Lancers defeated Zeeland East in the district semi-final before falling to the Bears 17-14 in the district final.
Now, with another year under their belts, the Lancers will look to build on last season’s successes under second-year head coach Danny Thompson.
The Lancers love to air the ball out with quarterback Ryan Korfmacher, who does remain under center for the Lancers in his senior season. Korfmacher threw 21 touchdown passes a season ago and added four with his legs. And after losing multiple senior contributors like Cage Davison and Andrew Lies to graduation last spring, there are plenty of targets and rushes up for grabs at Lakeshore in 2022.
Zeeland East at Williamston
Zeeland East is coming off a 5-5 season in 2021 in which the team made yet another playoff appearance. Unfortunately for the Chix, it was a short trip as they lost in the first round to Stevensville Lakeshore in a 30-23 overtime thriller.
In the second year of Joe Woodruff’s system, the Chix will have a lot of production to replace. Cebe Hunderman is now gone, and his contributions will not only be missed on offense, where he scored eight touchdowns, but also on special teams, where Hunderman had three return scores.
Quarterback Austin Keur will be taking over full-time responsibilities this season after splitting reps a year ago with Max Cochran. The Chix have several returning starters on both sides of the ball in 2022, including their leading tackler from a year ago in Nick Williams, and will certainly be leaning on their defense in key situations to help generate wins this season.
Williamston will meet the Chix out of the Capital Area Activities Conference. Last season, the Hornets went 5-4 and lost in a low scoring district semi-final to Olivet, 3-0.
Senior Alex Petersburg leads the Hornets into battle offensively at quarterback and is a key contributor in the secondary as well. Petersburg had 17 total touchdowns in 2021, with nine of those coming through the air. Seniors Joey Mahaney and Kam DeMarco also are key players to look out for on the field this weekend.
Reeths Puffer vs. Grand Haven
The Rockets of Reeths-Puffer did not finish last season on a relative high note. After a fast start, the Rockets stumbled down the stretch, finishing their season 3-6. In comes new head coach Cody Kater, who comes to Puffer with a whole new energy that just may help the Rockets find their stride.
The Rockets’ leading rusher, Brody Johnson, and receiver, Tayte Vanderleest, are both back in the fold and looking to build on their impressive 2021 seasons. And with questions at the quarterback position, expect the Rockets to lean on their veterans early in a large capacity.
Grand Haven is two years removed from a winless 2020 season, but also only three years removed from their last winning season in 2019. Buccaneers’ head coach Mike Farley is looking for his group to build on last year, which got off to a hot start before fading down the stretch.
This is one of the teams with the most turnover in the entire state, losing almost all their production from a year ago. The Buccaneers will have question marks across the roster but keep an eye out for the younger players on the field this weekend. Last year, the Buccaneers opened their season with a 16-8 slugfest win over Reeths-Puffer and will look earn a similar result early on this season.
Mona Shores v Manitowoc Lincoln (WI)
The Mona Shores Sailors have been a dominant force in the state of Michigan for a while now, winning back-to-back Division 2 state titles in 2019 and 2020. Last year, however, the Sailors lost in the District Final, which was a surprising end to their season. But in terms of having a possible “redemption season”, head coach Matt Koziak will certainly have a team up to the task.
The Sailors will be on their third quarterback in three seasons, which is obviously not ideal, especially when trying to replace Mark Konecny’s incredible 30-touchdown season in 2021. The good news for whoever the quarterback is, however, is that they will be able to lean on an incredible supporting cast.
Brandon Bankard, Dahmir Farnum and Kewaun Farnum and their 17 combined touchdowns are all back in the Sailors’ backfield. Jaylen Vinton and CJ Ivy are back to help catch passes and man the defensive secondary. If there’s any team that can handle the turnover at the most important position, it will be the 2022 Sailors of Mona Shores.
The Sailors will be challenged by Manitowoc Lincoln, a high school in Wisconsin. The Ships finished last season with a 4-6 record and a first-round playoff loss at Bay Port.
Muskegon v East Kentwood
The Muskegon Big Reds will open their season against the East Kentwood Falcons. The Big Reds are another team looking for a bounce back season after an uncharacteristic early exit in the playoffs in 2021.
Head coach Shane Fairfield has a loaded group once again but will have a changing of the guard at quarterback with M’Khi Guy taking over for Myles Walton. Even without first team reps a year ago, Guy still put-up solid numbers, with four passing touchdowns and three touchdowns rushing. Guy will be joined by experience all over the offense in both the backfield and out wide. Pair that with a very solid offensive line and defense and the Big Reds will be a lot to handle in their pursuit for their first state championship since 2017.
The East Kentwood Falcons are coming off a 2-7 campaign in 2021. Tony Kimbrough is in his ninth year as the head coach of the Falcons and has yet to find a lot of consistently. But 2022 is a new year for East Kentwood and playing Muskegon in week one is quite an opportunity to start off on the right foot.
Casey Joppie is coming off a six-touchdown season a year ago and will return to the Falcons this season. You also cannot talk about the Falcons without bringing up defensive end Razah Townsend, a Western Michigan commit, who will be looking to cap off a stellar high school career in 2022.
Union v Ottawa Hills
Union has been the feel-good story of the conference over the last few years. Just two years ago, the Red Hawks were in the midst of a 45-game losing streak, but last year in their second year under head coach Don Fellows, the Red Hawks went a respectable 4-5. With a reasonable non-conference schedule, Union could certainly surprise in 2022.
That would be in no small part to Tommy Stevens, the senior quarterback who has certainly played a key role in Union’s turnaround. There’s a lot of touchdowns up for grabs at Union this year, but players like Jersey Broen and Chris Ware-Murphy are looking to step up. On defense, the Red Hawks return six starters, including linebacker Alec Martinez and defensive linemen Najah Thornton and Meciah Reed, just to name a few.
The Red Hawks will look to get out to a fast start against the Bengals of Ottawa Hills in week one. The Bengals had another disappointing 2-7 season in 2021, but they did beat Union in week one of last year.
Running back Keymarion Gibson is back after an 11-touchdown campaign last year and will certainly be the workhorse back. Anthony George will also remain the quarterback in 2022 looking to build off his 2021 season. This game is truly a matchup of two teams trying to change the narrative of year’s past and it should be a good one at Houseman Field.
**For the Holland preview, please visit the OK Blue link below**
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2022 MSR WEEK 1 PREVIEWS