Patience pays off for Chips’ Bialik

Manistee senior Alex Bialik picks up rushing yards during Friday’s win against Muskegon Heights Academy. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

Manistee senior Alex Bialik picks up rushing yards during Friday’s win against Muskegon Heights Academy. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — For the first nine weeks of the season, Alex Bialik was a Chippewa in almost every way.

The Manistee senior attended the three-day camp at Fort Custer and was part of every practice and film session. But when the lights turned on and the bleachers filled up, Bialik was reduced to a spectator on the sidelines because a Michigan High School Athletic Association rule forced him to miss the first six games after transferring from Manistee Catholic Central in February.

Bialik finally got to take the field with his teammates Friday and played a big role, rushing for 161 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries while also throwing a touchdown pass in a 34-14 win against Muskegon Heights Academy.

“Three months and a long time coming,” Bialik said after the game. “I’m glad I finally got to get out here.”

Although that was the first chance for Bialik to make an impact in a game this season, he’s quietly been contributing behind the scenes since August.

“It’s a credit to the young man,” said Manistee coach Tod Miller. “I don’t know how many people, including adults, would go through nine weeks and be our scout team quarterback and get pummeled, be our defensive back, he played defensive line — wherever we wanted him. He just kept sticking in there and going with it. I think our kids have total respect for that effort all along in practice. It’s not like he’s stepping in and taking somebody’s spot. I think they all understand he’s part of the team.”

Bialik, who split quarterback snaps with Tyler Kempf and lined up at multiple positions on both sides of the ball, helped contribute to the best offensive performance of the season for Manistee (2-5) as the Chippewas racked up 465 yards of offense en route to a season-high point total.

“Two different guys, two different things they can do,” Miller said of Bialik and Kempf. “It gives us multiple options, multiple looks. It keeps the defense talking and moving and guessing what’s going to happen. That does help a little bit when the defense has to keep thinking.”

Kempf also had a productive game — 10 rushes for 54 yards to go with 60 yards passing — and said Bialik is a key addition to the lineup as the Chippewas prepare to host Coopersville (1-6) on Friday.

“It’s another weapon to our arsenal and that’s a good thing,” Kempf said. “I don’t have a problem with it. It’s just another way we can get all those yards and get the scores that we need.”

Coming off his first game in almost a year, Bialik said the outlook this week isn’t much different than in any other this season.

“The same mentality is there: Go out and make everyone better, make yourself better and work as hard as you can,” he said Wednesday.

Bialik said he’s focused on helping his team finish strong and will get a chance to do so in a variety of ways on offense, defense and special teams.

“He can play receiver, running back, quarterback,” Miller said. “He can play linebacker, he can play defensive back, he can cover the opponent’s best player. He’s like a wild card player right now.”

From scout team player and gameday cheerleader to a starter on both sides of the ball, patience paid off for Bialik.

“It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Bialik said of missing the first six games. “I’m just glad I finally got to get out here and putting in the work definitely made it all worth it.”

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