Local gridders earn all-league honors

Manistee Catholic Central’s Nick Hansen was one of several local players named to the first-ever West Michigan D League first-team All-Conference teams for their play this season. (News Advocate file photo)

Manistee Catholic Central’s Nick Hansen was one of several local players named to the first-ever West Michigan D League first-team All-Conference teams for their play this season. (News Advocate file photo)

The regular season was a bit of a roller coaster for the West Michigan D League 8-player football teams in Manistee County, but a handful of players were able to earn all-league honors for their play.

Manistee Catholic Central (4-4) was led by Nick Hansen making first-team all-league as a running back. He had 76 carries for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 21 receptions for 309 yards and 3 touchdowns. Hansen was also on the first team for his special teams play. He averaged 33 yards per kick return and 15 yards per punt, while returning one of each. He finished the season with 15 touchdowns.

Hansen also made the second team as a defensive back with 25 tackles and 2 interceptions.

“Nick was our lightning rod. If Nick was on and we could get him into open space then he would have a chance to go all the way every time he touched it,” MCC coach Jake Szymanski said.

“That’s a lot of points that will be hard to replace, but I think we have enough guys coming back next year that we should be able to cover some of that.”

Preston Picardat made the second team as a quarterback with 968 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 723 yards and 9 touchdowns. He was also on the second team as a linebacker with 61 tackles, 1 sack and 2 interceptions.

“Being able to improve as a passer definitely opened things up for us,” Szymanski said.

“As much as his running helped, Preston’s development over the last couple of years has been amazing. From being a freshman who could barely handle a snap to last year he took almost every snap. He grew to this year to where I wanted him to have the ball with the game on the line.”

Brayden Perkins made the second team as a receiver with 20 catches for 519 yards and 10 touchdowns.

John Slivka made the first team as a kicker, and he was honorable mention as a linebacker with 105 tackles.

Brethren (3-5) added four kids to the all-league teams after going 3-3 in conference play. Logan Tighe made the first team as a running back/wide receiver with 31 catches for 384 yards and 27 carries for 231 yards. He had 7 touchdowns in conference play.

“We knew Logan had the potential to be one of our kids that we could rely giving the ball to. We saw what he could do last year,” Brethren coach Alvin Rischel said.

“I honestly think he’s still capable of much more. I’m excited to see what he can do in the future. We’re pretty happy that he stepped up for us.”

Hunter Wojciechowski also made the first team on offense from the offensive line. This was his second season to earn all-conference honors on the offensive line.

On defense Gavin Asiala made first team as a linebacker after 68 tackles and 6 for loss.

Jake Riggs also earned second-team recognition as a defensive lineman with 43 tackles, 14 for a loss and 6 sacks.

All of the Brethren players are juniors and could return next season, setting the team up with an experienced nucleus.

“That’s a pretty talented group of kids,” Rischel said. “Even Adrian Dean played well for us this year. Talon Luzier stepped up. There are some other kids in that class that I think will step up. It’s a nice problem to have.”

Bear Lake (2-7) had some ups and downs over its first season in existence, but the Lakers were able to get four kids conference recognition.

Zach Belinsky made the first team on both sides of the ball (offensive and defensive line) with 48.5 tackles in conference play.

“Zach never came off the field for me. It didn’t matter what we were playing. He never came off the field,” Bear Lake coach John Prokes said. “He gave it all he had. He stayed healthy and he was able to perform.”

Travis Johnson embraced his role as a running back and Wildcat quarterback by making the first team with 696 yards on 145 carries and 8 touchdowns in league play. He also had 107 receiving yards and 452 passing yards.

“He was our horse. He was our quarterback, our running back, he did it all on both sides of the ball. He never came off the field,” Prokes said. “He had over 1,000 all-purpose yards. I was very proud of him to step up and to do it for Bear Lake was special.”

Dane Mertes had to battle through a couple of injuries during the season, but even with that he was able to make the second team as a linebacker. He had 63 tackles and 7 sacks.

“This kid made all kinds of sacrifices for the team,” Prokes said.

Reagan Merrill earned honorable mention as a running back and a defensive back. He carried the ball 62 times for 408 yards and 3 touchdowns, while catching 11 passes for 241 yards and 3 touchdowns. On defense he had 38.5 tackles and 2 interceptions.

All stats from Brethren and Bear Lake are from conference play only.

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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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