Manistee well represented in All-Lakes 8 selections

Manistee senior Trevor Johns earned first team honors offensively and defensively in the all-Lakes 8 Conference selections. (News Advocate file photo)

Manistee senior Trevor Johns earned first team honors offensively and defensively in the all-Lakes 8 Conference selections. (News Advocate file photo)

This season rapidly became a statement by the Manistee Chippewas.

Win after win after after win, until there was nine with no losses by regular season’s end: the best campaign in the history of the program.

Within that dominant run was a 4-0 record in Lakes 8 Conference play, which earned the Chippewas their first outright conference title in football since 1961.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Manistee was well represented in the postseason all-conference selections.

Just ask the Lakes 8 coach of the year recipient, Troy Bytwork.

“Part of this selection process is fighting for your guys and promoting them to the other coaches,” said the Chippewas head coach. “Obviously, when you’re undefeated in the conference, there’s a lot of good things to say about a lot your guys. 

“And the other coaches were receptive to it.”

By vote of conference coaches (who can’t vote for their own players in the process), the Chippewas earned eight first-team honors and six second-team selections, totaling the most representatives of the five conference teams, which include Manistee, Ludington, Muskegon Catholic Central, Orchard View and Muskegon Heights.

“I thought we were really well represented,” Bytwork said. “Overall it worked out. I thought the guys who are on there certainly deserved it.”

Bytwork was especially pleased with the recognition his linemen received, on both sides of the ball.

Manistee seniors Ty Phillips and Joe Stocki earned first-team nods on the all-conference offensive line, while senior Kyle Pefley and sophomore Brady Mikula were first-team representatives on the defensive line.

“We had well over 3,500 yards rushing and that doesn’t happen simply because of an athleticism of a quarterback or a toughness of a running back,” Bytwork said. “(Phillips and Stocki) have been playing together for quite a few years now … and I was very impressed, especially this year, with how physical they played.

“Being able to have some size up front and incorporate it with the speed of (our backs) really allowed them to often times go untouched for 2, 3, 4 yards into the hole.”

The physicality was mixed with astute minds for the game as well, he said.

“Especially with the type of offense we run, there’s a lot of work that has to be done up front in identifying techniques and who we’re going to block or leave unblocked,” Bytwork explained. “So, probably above all else, they’re a very intuitive group.”

The same can be said for the first-team defenders.

“Kyle Pefley was the third leading tackler in the conference,” Bytwork said. “He just had a whale of a year. And Brady Mikula, as a sophomore, the sky’s the limit to say the least. … Both of those kids I figured would be recognized in the way they were.”

Manistee senior Logan Buren joined the first-team defenders by earning the honor as a linebacker.

“Logan was such an impressive kid over the last four years,” Bytwork said. “He made it a point to really spend an incredible amount of time in the weight room and he just got so much stronger and so much more physical because of it.

“And that just added to his confidence on both sides of the ball. He was really able to shine this year.”

Chippewa senior Trevor Johns was a first-team selection on both sides of the ball: as a defensive back as well as the conference’s best quarterback.

“When it got to (selecting a first-team quarterback), there really wasn’t much of a discussion,” Bytwork said. “Trevor had a heck of a year, especially in the conference. … It almost went without saying. The stats speak for themselves.”

In conference play alone, Johns racked up 407 yards rushing while scoring nine touchdowns on the ground. He also threw for four scores.

Bryson Jensen was also a key cog in Manistee’s offense this season and the senior running back earned a first-team spot on the conference’s offensive skill position list.

“The physicality of Bryson’s running this year was very impressive,” Bytwork said. “He worked so hard in the offseason and it showed. He runs so hard.”

Jensen bullied his way to 478 yards rushing and six touchdowns in the Chippewas’ four conference victories.

“Those two have played together for a while and worked pretty seamlessly back there,” Bytwork said of Johns and Jensen. “For what we do offensively, it’s necessary for the quarterback and the running back to have a pretty trusting relationship.

“Neither of them are the tallest in stature, but they’re very strong and were able to break so many tackles this year.”

The Lakes 8 Conference’s second team selections are broken down in two broader categories: offensive and defensive, regardless of position.

Representing Manistee on the second-team all-conference offense were seniors Buren and Kyle Mantych as well as junior Blake Mikula, who, Bytwork said, just missed a first-team nod.

Jensen, senior Isaac Reynolds and junior Connor Barke represented the Chippewas on the conference’s second-team defense.

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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