FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: Portagers look to stay undefeated for Homecoming

Onekama’s Jacob Mauntler (22) and the Portagers will face defending state semifinalist Wyoming Tri-Unity in their Homecoming game Friday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Onekama’s Jacob Mauntler (22) and the Portagers will face defending state semifinalist Wyoming Tri-Unity in their Homecoming game Friday night. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

ONEKAMA — Traditionally, high-school football teams try to schedule easier teams for their homecoming games, to increase the chances of sending the large, festive crowd home happy.

This year, not so much at Onekama.

Wyoming Tri-Unity could very well be the toughest opponent unbeaten Onekama (3-0 overall, 2-0 MC8MFC) will face this season. The Defenders are coming off an 11-1 season in 2016, losing only in the 8-player state semifinals, and outscoring its opponents by an average score of 48-6 going into that 36-6 semifinal defeat.

Tri-Unity (2-1, 2-0) is coming off of a 34-8 win over Atlanta, and is one of three teams, along with the Portagers and Central Lake, sitting atop the Midwest Central 8-Man Football Conference standings.

But Onekama is on a serious roll after steamrolling Fife Lake Forest Area 64-6 last Saturday.

Portagers head coach John Neph said that his team is using its momentum well during its Homecoming Week.

“When you win, you want to keep on winning,” Neph said. “They do a lot of things, and they do a lot of things well. We’re going to have to really be ready to play on Friday night.”

The Defenders will look very familiar to Portager fans, with several playmakers who prevent defenses from loading up on any one or two players. It will be a much different game from the last one, in which Forest Area tried and failed to run between the tackles.

Tri-Unity, in contrast, will hope to stretch the width of field and get its athletes to the sidelines.

“We have been spending some time making sure that we can tackle in the open field,” Neph said. “Tri-Unity presents us with a lot of challenges with its outside game, and they have a very shifty quarterback.

“We have to play great team defense, with everyone doing their job and swarming to the ball. It’s definitely going to be a challenge.”

The game will kick off a half-hour earlier than normal, at 6:30 p.m.

Chippewas hope to get back to Square One vs. Muskegon heights

MANISTEE — After starting the season 0-2, but picking up a huge win over rival Ludington, Manistee will hope to continue to ride that momentum and stay unbeaten in Lakes-8 Activities Conference play this week against struggling Muskegon Heights.

Chippewas head coach Troy Bytwork said that his team has a little extra spring in its collective step in practice this week.

“Those are the type of Monday mornings you like,” Bytwork said. “They’re still going to Econ class or math class, but they have a different look to them. (The Ludington game) came down to the fourth quarter and we closed it, and you carry yourself different after something like that. You have a little more confidence than you did before.”

Heights (1-2 overall, 0-0 Lakes-8) has been a Class B school for most of its existence, and was as recently as 2011. But a plunging enrollment now sees the Tigers in Class D, with an enrollment of 188 students in grade 9-12.

The fortunes of the Heights football program has paralleled its enrollment. The Tigers went 10-3 in 2009, for example, before being bounced out of the Division 5 playoffs by eventual champion Jackson Lumen Christi.

But the next season was Heights’ last winning season to date, and the Tigers have won a total of nine games in the past five seasons.

Despite that recent history, Heights is coming off of a win, 39-20 over relatively new Class C charter school Detroit Community.

As has been the case all season, Manistee (1-2, 1-0) will give up some size to the Tigers up front on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

“They’re not in the ballpark of McBain or Hopkins, but they’ve certainly got us in that area,” Bytwork said.

They run multiple sets, which will challenge the Chippewa defense a bit. But Bytwork is not terrible concerned about any offensive trickery.

“Whatever offenses you face, there are always some similarities,” he said. “You’re still just working technique and making reads on guards if you’re a linebacker or making reads of tackles and tight ends if you’re a (defensive) end. There are only so many ways you can block your linemen.”

Bobcats strive to put Marion loss behind them

BRETHREN — Brethren’s football season has been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster.

The Bobcats are 1-2 overall and 1-1 in West Michigan D League play after a lopsided loss in Week 1 (68-14 to Forest Area), a lopsided win in Week 2 (54-22 to Manistee Catholic Central) and a crushing loss to Marion (54-0) last week.

Crushing, literally, since the Eagles used an enormous size and strength advantage to simply push Brethren around at the line of scrimmage.

Rather than dwelling on the Marion defeat and emphasize not taking the Cougars lightly, Brethren head coach Alvin Rischel has encouraged his team to be confident going into this week’s contest.

“We got it handed to us last week, and there’s no way around it,” Rischel said. “We still continued to line up, we still continued to fight, and I think our kids are going to have that attitude all year.

 

“We can’t afford to overlook anybody, but I told the guys that we’ve got to go out and be the better football team. I think we can be, we’ve just got to go out and prove it.”

But Crossroads (0-3, 0-1) might be just what the doctor ordered to restore some confidence to the struggling Bobcats. The Cougars have never posted a winning record in 10 years of existence, and have gone winless in six of those ten seasons, including last year, when they were outscored by opponents 449-65 in nine losses.

Brethren earned one of their two wins last year against the Cougars, a 60-6 rout in Week 5.

“Defensively, I think we’re going to be fine,” Rischel said. “I think we can attack them and play on their side of the line of scrimmage. We’re not a big, smash-mouth type of team, but fortunately neither is Crossroads. They’re looking to get their athletes out to the perimeter and move the ball that way. I think the matchups favor us, we’ve just got to go out and execute and take care of business.” 

Sabers hope to build on big win

MANISTEE — Manistee Catholic Central started out the season with two disappointing losses, but appeared to have righted the ship last week in a 64-42 win over Bear Lake.

MCC (1-2, 1-1) has a good chance of using that momentum to get back to the .500 mark this week.

The Sabers will face a Mesick team that won just one game all last season, and that was no fluke. The Bulldogs went into this season having won a total of just seven games in six years. They may have reached that quota already after downing woeful Baldwin 54-8 last week.

MCC head coach Jake Szymanski said that his Sabers match up well against the Bulldogs (1-2, 1-0).

“They have some pretty good size, and they have a couple of guys with some speed,” he said. “We’re hoping that we can keep their speed contain and their size we can wear down toward the end of the game. I think we have a little more team speed, and I think our team has the stamina and the speed to counteract their size.”

Szymanski said that the Bear Lake win showed his team’s improvement over the course of three games this year.

“For the first time this season, the film looked pretty good,” Szymanski said. “There weren’t really a lot of things that I took away as negative, just a few little things, mental mistakes that we have to fix.” 

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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