FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: Portagers look to bounce right back from only loss of season

ONEKAMA — Onekama football looks to bounce back after suffering its first defeat of the season last week.

The Portagers (7-1) will try to get back into the win column with Baldwin (3-5) visiting to finish the regular season.

“The kids have bounced back very well. That was our big question after the game,” Onekama coach John Neph said. “I think it speaks to our senior leadership. These guys are disappointed, but we learned that it’s not the end of the season for us.”

Last week Onekama lost a game between two of the top teams in 8-player, 42-28 at Central Lake. The loss was the Portagers’ first even remotely close game, and some mistakes cost the team down the stretch.

Onekama did have a chance to tie the game late in the third quarter with a first-and-goal opportunity, but squandered that.

“I think Central Lake is a very good team that played a very good game. We had the ball first and goal to tie the game and we made a mistake,” Neph said. “That was a good team, and we made some mistakes that they took advantage of.”

Going into the game with Baldwin, Neph wants his team to focus on making sure a lot of the simple mistakes that happen last week don’t continue to happen, especially with a Panther squad that has some athletes that can break loose.

“We got some things exposed on our defense,” he said. “We have to tighten up something on our defense. Offensively we need to get back to the fundamentals. I know I keep saying that, but the same mistakes seem to keep happening.”

Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at Onekama High School.

Manistee hopes to close on a high note

NEWAYGO — Manistee football may not be playing for a playoff berth in week nine, but they do have a chance to take some momentum into the offseason on Friday night.

The Chippewas (2-6) will visit Newaygo (6-2) with the hopes of pulling off an upset to carry into the off-season.

The two teams played a season ago where Manistee won 33-27, but the Lions brought in a new head coach that implemented a spread offense instead of the T that they used to run.

“They have a new coach. Scott Vanessen came in from Kenowa Hills. He was there for a long time,” Manistee coach Troy Bytwork said. “They’ve gone from the T, which they ran last year, to a spread formation. They are reading a bit out of the backfield and are in the gun. Their offense is certainly different.”

Something that has been an issue for Manistee all season has been its size disadvantage. At nearly every position Newaygo will be bigger, but that’s been the case nearly every week.

“They’re sizable. They have a big sophomore at left guard that’s a nice-looking player,” Bytwork said. “Sizewise it’s typical. They’re going to be bigger than we are essentially across the board.”

Despite the up-and-down season for the young Chippewas, Bytwork hopes that having so many juniors play will help carry the program into next season, and that a win could help start the offseason.

“We’re still so young. We really only have senior starter. Basically the entire team is going to be back next year with a lot of experience. A win is always huge, and they’re a young team, so anytime you can gather a win it’s going to give them a little confidence,” he said.

“This team is going to be confident going into next year anyway. They’re a pretty savvy group. They get it as far as what to take away from this year. We don’t what to accept losses, but I think they learned that they need to close out fourth quarters, watch the turnovers, and everything does speed up at the varsity level.”

Kickoff will be Friday at 7 p.m. in Newaygo.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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