Week Six - Thunderstruck

Jeffrey Cottrell

MHSAA

It’s amazing how fast football season goes by. I swear it was just yesterday I was chomping at the bit waiting for the first day of practice to start. Now we are about to start the month of October. After this week’s slate of games, there will only be three weeks left in the regular season. Time flies when you’re having fun! For the Spartan Nation Games of the Week, I tried to pick some games with playoff implications and/or conference championships on the line. If you ever have a game you think I absolutely need to profile, click on over to the Phalanx Forums and start a new topic. I’m in there all the time so I should see it and will consider it. Now that we are Thunderstruck, let's get to the games.

Mid Michigan

Byron (5-0) at Genesee (5-0) (Friday October 1, 7pm)

Byron is trying to be more balanced. They want to pass more but they have a stud running back in Zane Brugger. He has gained 976 yards so far this season. Last week in the Genesee Area Blue Division match up with Morrice, Brugger ran for 199 yards and three touchdowns on 20 rushes. Quarterback Alex Caron kept the balance when he completed 15 of his 19 passes for 123 yards and a score. The touchdown reception was made by AJ Morley, who hauled in two passes for 22 yards. Caron also ran six times for 27 yards and a score. Jordan Coffey pulled in five receptions for 32 yards. Leading in reception yards was Gavin Shepard with three catches for 41 yards. This game is only the first test. Both teams still have to play 5-0 New Lothrop before the playoffs start.

This offense is vastly different than what they used to run. Coach Steve Verburg has moved the Wolves from the spread to a power rushing attack. Genesee had a great game against Burton Atherton. Brandon Small and Carl Youry combined for 324 rushing yards and six touchdowns. It started quick with Youry’s 93 yard kickoff return to open the game. He scored four touchdowns and gained 151 yards on eight carries last Friday night. Small rushed 13 times for 154 yards and the other two scores…with his shortest touchdown run coming form 48 yards out. Small is averaging 12.9 yards per carry! That is an amazing feat. The defense has only surrendered 15 points on the season and all of those came against Burton Bentley. On offense, they have put up 228 with the lowest scoring game being that 22-15 win over Bentley. This game is going to be one of those classic, “this is what we do, try and stop us” type of game. Genesee is an honorable mention in the Division 7 rankings this week.

Capital Area

DeWitt (5-0) at Fowlerville (4-1) (Friday October 1, 7pm)

We have profiled DeWitt multiple times in the past two seasons. They have played top notch football and are tied for third place (with Mount Pleasant, who will be profiled next week) in Division 3. Last week they were involved in a high scoring affair with Charlotte, which they triumphed 62-41. The majority of their points came in the first half as they took a 49-20 lead into the break. Quarterback Caleb Higbie tossed three touchdowns and completed 18 of his 27 passes for 262 yards. He also ran in a score from 21 yards out. Nathaniel Deak only ran the ball 11 times, but gained 220 yards and scored three times. Receiver Jacob Higbie (Caleb’s brother) caught two touchdown passes and ran in two more scores. This game will be a battle. The Panthers have good players at the skill positions and will be able to put points on the board. It will be up to the defense to shut down Fowlerville.

Other than a hiccup against a very good Lansing Catholic, Fowlerville has been rolling along this season. The Gladiators used their tough defense to get the 21-7 win over Haslett. Quarterback Tim Wedesky managed the game well and completed 10 of his 18 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Those touchdowns went to Josh Sefton (24 yards for the score…his only reception on the night) and Nate Wilkinson (14 yards to paydirt, his only catch of the night as well). Sefton carried the ball 25 times for 68 yards and another score. Wilkinson carried 17 times for 98 yards. The defense didn’t allow a score until the fourth quarter. Ryan Balazy intercepted two passes and Garrette Tomlin made 12 tackles. They will need the defense to come through in a huge way and shut down the potent offensive attack of DeWitt if they want a chance to win the game. Fowlerville may be 4-1, but they are undefeated in league play so this game has major consequences as far as league standings go.

Detroit

Macomb Lutheran (5-0) at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard (5-0) (Saturday October 2, 1:30pm)

Macomb Lutheran North has quite a season going. They are off to the first 5-0 start since 1998 when they rattled off seven straight wins. The Mustangs have more wins already this season than they had in the previous two seasons (both 4-5 records). Last week they took on Cranbrook-Kingswood. Zak Bielecki ran for 87 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns. He also intercepted a ball and returned it 25 yards for another score. Quarterback Mike Visbara ran 46 yards for a score and completed five of his nine passes for 62 yards. Eric Hecker intercepted another football and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown. I’m not sure what to think of Macomb Lutheran North. They are doing fantastic this season, but only one of the teams they have played currently have a winning record. This game will be a real litmus test to see exactly how they stack up against a good program like Gabriel Richard.

It’s been a good month of September for the Fighting Irish. They have only given up 28 points on defense and scored a lot. Last week they played Livonia Clarenceville and won 34-7. Quarterback Don Eaton completed seven of his 13 passes for 156 yards. He also ran three times for 115 yards which included a 96 yard run for a score. Dennis Olszewski ran 15 times for 144 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Matt Wagner hauled in two passes for 78 yards. Nathan Donnellon only caught one football for three yards, but it was a score. The game was almost a shut-out, but Livonia scored with less than two minute to play. Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard hasn’t played any teams that are too tough either. Again, only one team has a winning record. This game is HUGE for both teams to put themselves in the driver’s seat to make the Catholic League championship game on October 22.

North

Grayling (5-0) at Elk Rapids (5-0) (Friday October 1, 7pm)

It’s weird to be talking about the Lake Michigan Conference and have Traverse City St. Francis a few games out of the lead. This year, it is wide open and these two teams are taking advantage. Grayling took it to East Jordan last week with a 39-13 victory, despite the fact that they turned the ball over five times. Quarterback Zach Wilcott passed for 295 yards and a touchdown while also running for 57 yards and scoring again. Riley Zigila ran for 233 yards on 21 carries and scored three times. In addition, he caught five footballs for 66 yards. Many of the fumbles that Grayling gave up were deep in opponents’ territory. They will need to clean that up before they play Elk Rapids. These two teams will battle hard and the winner will have a great shot at the Lake Michigan Conference title. Grayling is currently ranked #1 in Division 5

Elk Rapids took a week off. Not on purpose, but they won on forfeit against Harbor Springs (they had a lot of injuries and not enough players to put on the field). The Elks have some major accomplishments on the season so far; they were the team to break Traverse City St. Francis’ 55 game conference winning streak. In the game two weeks ago against Kalkaska, they went down early, answered back on the next play, and put the ball into the end zone three times in the first half. Quarterback Andrew Trautman scored on the first play following the Kalkaska kickoff on a 58 yard option run. It will be interesting to see how these teams battle it out. After years of domination by TCSF, both are eager to bring home that banner. Although Grayling may be ranked higher, Elk Rapids is ranked #4 in Division 5.

West Coast

St. Joseph (5-0) at Portage Central (5-0) (Friday October 1, 7pm)

At one point (between 1980 and 1999) virtually all the league championships went through either St. Joe or Portage Central. Last week, the Bears of St. Joe beat Benton Harbor 42-0. Coach Elliot Uzelac has his team humming along at the half way point. His defense held Benton Harbor to a negative 10 yards on the night! NEGATIVE YARDS! This squad is ranked sixth in Division 3. Sophomore Alex Rutherford scored three touchdowns and ran for 119 yards on 15 carries and scored three times. He has just over 500 yards on the season. Quarterback Jeremy Rush only threw six passes but completed three of them for 12 yards. He also ran seven times for 93 yards. Eddie Montgomery toted the rock 12 times for 79 yards and two touchdowns. The defense will be a key for the Bears. Portage Central puts up a lot of points and is another tough squad on the St. Joseph schedule.

It may be Mick Enders first season as head coach, but he has his Mustangs playing very good football. Last week they routed Kalamazoo Lay Norrix 56-14. They were led by Aaron King who rushed 10 times for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Brian Wise rushed eight times for 147 yards and a score. Angelo Latora only had three carries for 12 yards, but scored on two of those runs. Kyle Cutler attempted four passes but only completed one for 37 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Jankowiak intercepted a football and returned it 91 yards for a touchdown. Many of the touchdowns came on long runs; Wise ran 87 yards for a score and Cutler ran 68. On the game, Wise averaged 18.4 yards per carry. That is astonishing! Portage won’t run wild on St. Joseph like they did against KLN. It should be a tight game and turnovers/mistakes will make the difference.

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