ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A weekend filled with excitement and entertaining football is to be expected when Ferris State and Grand Valley clash.
This year, for the first time since 2018, both the Lakers and Bulldogs are undefeated at a perfect 5-0 on the young season.
“It’s kind of been this way the past few seasons where it’s between two teams at the top of the (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic) conference and also taking a look at things in regard to postseason play,” GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said. “I think we’ve both gotten used to the fact that this game isn’t just being played for the trophy but also there’s a lot riding on this game in competing for a conference championship.”
Any Anchor-Bone Classic in recent memory would back that up. Since 2014, neither team has had more than one less heading into the annual clash.
But for Mitchell’s group, the matchup has been a challenge of late. The last four contests have ended in favor of the Bulldogs, with the last victory for GVSU coming in 2016, 35-23 at home. GVSU has also lost eight of the last 10 outings.
This time, the game is even more meaningful, with both teams ranked in the top 10 in Division II nationally. The Bulldogs check in at No. 3 while the Lakers are closing in behind them at No. 7.
Hunter Rison, the highly talented transfer who spent time at Michigan State and Kansas State, will be playing in this game for the first time. He said battles like this game are why he came to GVSU.
“I came (to Grand Valley) for the prestige of the program and these types of games are what need to happen here,” Rison said. “I’m really excited for the atmosphere but more so just to be out there with my guys and hopefully come back with the win.”
Rison and Laker quarterback Cade Peterson are among the biggest reasons for the offense averaging more than 48 points per game. Rison leads the team with 281 receiving yards and has added three scores. Peterson has thrown for 889 yards with a 60.2% completion percentage (59 of 98) and 10 touchdowns.
Peterson, a sophomore who played special teams in 2019 against the Bulldogs, says he’s trying to view this one like any other game.
“It’s not like we have this date circled on our schedule,” Peterson said. “We’re taking everything week by week, we’re excited for this one but we try to be every single week.”
On the Bulldogs side of things, head coach Tony Annese has been at this for a while. In his ninth season leading the program, Annese has his offense firing on all cylinders. The Bulldogs are averaging more than 548 yards per game, scoring just over 50 points per contest.
Despite both teams having powerful offenses, Annese doesn’t think that means this game will be a for-sure shootout.
“This has been predicted before and then all of the sudden it is a grind,” Annese said. “I think (Grand Valley’s) offense is great, I think their defense is probably equally as great, they’ve done a lot of nice things and we expect them to bring all of that, so it’s not necessarily going to be a battle with all these points. It could go either way.”
The offense for the Bulldogs has been led by an unlikely source coming into the season. Quarterback Mylik Mitchell started the season as the third-string quarterback and was pressed into the starting job due to injuries. He has answered the bell.
The sophomore from Cleveland, Ohio, has a 67.5% completion percentage (52 of 77) through five games, totaling 808 yards and seven touchdowns to just one interception.
Mitchell has a similar view on the game as opposing quarterback Peterson.
“To us, it’s just a game on the schedule,” Mitchell said. “We know it’s a big game, so we’re just going to handle our business and go out there and win. That’s what we’re going to do.”
The Saturday game will be played at Lubbers Stadium in Allendale for the first time since 2018, when the Bulldogs pulled out a 35-31 thriller.
Last weekend, when the Lakers dropped 70 points on Northwood, the stadium was packed. The atmosphere was electric and full of excitement in the stands and the parking lots full of tailgaters around it. For this one, you can count on it always being even louder. This time, though, the Lakers hope to reward the home crowd to a victory.
“We just have a great atmosphere with all the energy coming from great people that support us,” Mitchell said. “We have to make plays to take advantage of the crowd to make sure it is on our side and not sitting back silent because we’re not doing anything on offense and defense.
“A lot of that noise and excitement comes from what we do between the white lines.”