Chips look to stay undefeated vs. Calvin Christian

Manistee quarterback Trevor Johns (11) runs to daylight during the Chippewas’ game against Perry earlier this season. Johns is an injury question mark for this week’s game against Grandville Calvin Christian. (News Advocate file photos)

Manistee quarterback Trevor Johns (11) runs to daylight during the Chippewas’ game against Perry earlier this season. Johns is an injury question mark for this week’s game against Grandville Calvin Christian. (News Advocate file photos)

MANISTEE — After an emotional few weeks in which the Manistee football team has run the table in the Lakes-8 Activities Conference, defeated a seemingly annual nemesis, won its first outright league championship in nearly six decades and started a season 7-0 for the first time since the Kennedy administration, the Chippewas face a path to an undefeated season which looks, on paper, to be an easy one.

The last two games on the regular-season schedule are two Class C schools with losing records, starting with this week’s matchup with Grandville Calvin Christian (1-6), a team that has won just one game in each of the last two seasons.

The Squires have scored 117 points on seven games, but the bulk of those came in their only win, 49-28 to even more hapless Wyoming Lee. In their other six contests, Calvin Christian has put up an average of just over 11 points per game.

One of those losses, the only close game they’ve played, came at the hands of Grand Rapids North Pointe Christian (3-4), Manistee’s Week 9 opponent, 17-16.

Chippewas head coach Troy Bytwork said that keeping his team focused for this week’s game has not been a problem.

“I don’t think they’re overconfident,” Bytwork said. “There are a lot of individual goals, and a lot of team goals that are still available, and these are things that you can carry with you for a long time.”

One of those team goals is becoming the first 9-0 team in the history of the program. In that last undefeated season of 1961, the Chippewas played just eight games. The closest they have come to 9-0 was in 1957, when they went 8-0-1, with just a 12-12 tie with Alma in the last game of the season to blemish perfection.

“After meeting Monday night, we’re not talking about that stuff any more,” Bytwork said. “In order to go 9-0, you have to go 8-0, and the kids have bought in. Since Monday, we haven’t talked  9-0, we haven’t talked home-field (in the playoffs), it’s all been Calvin Christian.”

One injury concern is quarterback Trevor Johns, who picked up an arm or shoulder knock in the win over Muskegon Catholic last week. Johns did not play on defense after the first quarter of that game, and had not practiced with the team at all this week.

If Johns can’t go, Logan Buren will likely call the signals for Manistee against Calvin Christian. Buren has been taking the bulk of the first-team snaps this week.

Another little slice of history that the team is chasing is the single-season scoring record, which was set in Manistee’s last playoff year of 2015. That year’s team put up 327 points in ten games after being bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.

This year Manistee has scored 283 with two games left in the regular season, just over 40 points per game. With just 45 points required to set the new mark, it is not inconceivable that they could do it this week, two games sooner than the previous record.

Onekama has Homecoming test

ONEKAMA — Normally, schools will try to schedule weaker teams for their Homecoming games, in order to ave a better chance to send their large, festive crowd home happy.

Whether on purpose or not, Onekama did the opposite of that. The Portagers will play the second-toughest team on their 2018 schedule for Homecoming, Suttons Bay. The Norsemen sport the identical record to Onekama, 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Midwest Central league play, with each team’s lone loss coming to the same team, league-leading Wyoming Tri-Unity.

The conference finale for both teams will almost certainly be a battle for second place in the standings, as first-place Tri-Unity closes their league season at last-place Bellaire.

Local fans may be familiar with the Norsemen, as this is their third trip this season into Manistee County. Suttons Bay defeated Bear Lake 62-0 in the 2018 season opener back on Aug. 24 and came back to down Brethren 48-0 on Sept. 21.

Onekama coach John Neph said the key to preventing a County clean sweep by the Norsemen will be controlling the line of scrimmage.

“They are an outstanding football team” Neph said. “They execute their stuff very well, and their size is really impressive as well.”

Both Onekama and Suttons Bay have clinched a playoff spot, so they will essentially be playing for pride.

But that is something both programs take very seriously.

“Our guys are pretty competitive, we want to win every game we’re in,” Neph said. “Suttons Bay is going to be a challenge, and we know that if we get the win, it will be hard-earned. We want to have those kinds of victories in our program.”

Suttons Bay will often line up with two tight ends and look to bully the defense up front while running the ball between the tackles. But they mix in just enough passing looks to keep defenses honest.

“We have to play with an incredible amount of intensity,” Neph said. “The second thing is ball security, we have to keep our turnovers down. They run a heck of an offense, so our defense will definitely have its hands full this week.”

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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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