FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: One-and-done starts early for Chippewas

Manistee’s Jack Sandstedt (22) uses a block from teammate Logan Buren (21) during the Chippewas’ win over Ludington on Sept. 8. Manistee is looking for its second win this week at Muskegon Orchard View. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee’s Jack Sandstedt (22) uses a block from teammate Logan Buren (21) during the Chippewas’ win over Ludington on Sept. 8. Manistee is looking for its second win this week at Muskegon Orchard View. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — With last week’s loss to Muskegon Heights, Manistee football has its back against the wall.

The Chippewas must win out to automatically qualify for the state playoffs, starting with Friday’s Lakes-8 game at winless Muskegon Orchard View.

Manistee head coach Troy Bytwork said that the game is a must-win.

“It has to be,” Bytwork said. “This will be the halfway point of the season and you’re sitting on three losses, so you’re hitting a fever pitch as far as a sense of urgency. All the cliches apply, back to the wall, do or die, but we have to get a win this week.”

The good news going forward is that only one of the five teams left on Manistee’s schedule currently has a winning record.

The bad news is, that one team is undefeated four-time defending state champion Muskegon Catholic Central.

But, first things first. Despite a rich football history Orchard View has really struggled recently, winning just five of their previous 17 games, and posting just one winning record in the past seven full seasons. The Cardinal defense has given up over 40 points in each of their four losses this season, and is coming off a 42-0 pasting by Belding last week.

But then, the Chippewas are coming off a tough loss of their own, a turnover-filled 30-20 defeat at the hands of Muskegon Heights.

“It was tough,” Bytwork said. “We’ve had some close ones against quality opponents early in the year, this is one with error after error with turnovers. But you can’t talk about a loss forever. You can’t talk your way out of it, you can’t practice your way out of it, you’ve actually get out on the field and get a ‘W.’”

Orchard View is looking to reboot its program, going to the T formation it used in the 90’s, when it was a state powerhouse. They will line up and try to run the ball between the tackles, with a size advantage in the trenches with which the undersized Chippewas will have to contend once again.

“There is no game on our schedule right now that I can even think about looking past,” Bytwork said. “It certainly does concern me. They’re going to line some dudes up that are hanging out in a different weight class.”

Kickoff for the game in Muskegon will be at 7 p.m.

Lakers need a victory over woeful Crossroads

BEAR LAKE — After being beaten, literally, by league-leading Marion last week, Bear Lake will face a foe at the other end of the West Michigan D League standings, winless Big Rapids Crossroads.

Crossroads is a team that nearly everyone else pencils in as a win. After all, 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.

This season is no different. Crossroads has lost its four games by a combined score of 243-14, including a 63-0 pasting by Brethren last week, the Cougars’ 16th consecutive defeat.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are almost as eager to get back on the winning track, having lost their previous two games following the program’s only win to date over Baldwin in Week 2.

But despite the records, Bear Lake head coach John Prokes said that he is not convinced that the Cougars represent an easy win.

“People are saying this a break in the schedule a little bit, but the way we played last week and the way our practices have gone the past three days, I’m not assuming anything,” Prokes said. “We’ve got to come out and play, and for whatever reason, the guys’ confidence is lacking a little bit and we’re vulnerable right now.”

Prokes said that the team, the bulk of which came into the season never having played competitive football before, may be suffering from an emotional letdown from the beginning of the season.

“At some point, the novelty wears off,” he said. “You’re excited because it’s a new program, you’re starting a season and there’s a lot of enthusiasm and energy, but now you’re into the thick of it. We’re sitting at 1-3, we had our rear ends handed to us last weekend, and now you truly start to find out who can take this game.”

With the Lakers sitting at 1-3, the game is crucial for the young program going forward. A win gives the squad some much-needed confidence, while a loss could start it into a tailspin.

But that’s all emotional. Prokes insists that his team has what it takes to come out victorious and play out a successful first year of existence.

“There are times when we’re playing well. We watched film of Marion and we see times when one or two blocks would have made all the difference,” Prokes said. “I truly believe that we can play with anybody if we play a good, solid, entire game. We haven’t done that yet. I believe in our guys. Let’s get a win, let’s make some adjustments and let’s get some momentum going into the second half of the season.”

The Lakers are fighting a few key injuries, especially in the trenches. Starting lineman Daniel Aguilar suffered a head injury, and may miss the game due to the concussion protocol. Another starting lineman, Dane Mertes, is nursing a back injury, and will only play on the defensive side of the ball.

Kickoff for the game will be at 7 p.m. Friday.

Brethren has a bye this week, coming off its 63-0 thrashing of Crossroads, and will play Bear Lake on Friday, Sept. 29.

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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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