Editor’s note: With the high school football season set to kick off Thursday, our Frenzy team is looking at how the competition is shaping up.
This article examines the teams in the O-K White: Cedar Springs, Northview, Forest Hills Central, Forest Hills Northern, Greenville, Lowell and Ottawa Hills.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Cedar Springs totaled 440 points as a team last season, the most in program history. It led to another winning season, which is starting to become a normality for the Red Hawks.
After losing their season opener to Saginaw Swan Valley, the Red Hawks rattled off 10 consecutive victories. Their next loss came in the Division 3 semifinals against Muskegon, where the Big Reds won 34-18.
Cedar Springs has now won the O-K White three of the last five years and made the state playoffs four times in six years.
Seventh-year head coach Gus Kapolka said this season isn’t the same team, but that doesn’t mean the results in the win column can’t be similar.
“I see this team being more like Cedar teams we’ve had here in the past,” Kapolka said. “We have a team here full of unity that likes to play for each other. These kids know we are going to be physical and make other teams earn everything they get.
“We are really just going to go out there and do what we do as Redhawks.”
Under center, junior quarterback Jeremy Campione will be asked to make the adjustment to varsity quickly and lead this team. Joining him in the backfield is running back and linebacker Zak Schmid.
The Red Hawks do have to replace six linemen from a season ago, which could present some growing pains up front.
Cedar Springs will open the 2019 campaign Thursday with a rematch at home against Swan Valley. Conference play kicks off Sept. 13 against Northview.
2018 O-K White standings:
- Cedar Springs – 10-2 overall, 6-0 conference
- Northview – 7-3, 5-1
- Forest Hills Central – 5-5, 4-2
- Forest Hills Northern – 5-4, 3-3
- Greenville – 2-7, 2-4
- Lowell – 1-8, 1-5
- Ottawa Hills – 1-8, 0-6
Turnaround: That would be the word best used to describe what Northview head coach Trip Gallery has done for the program over the last three seasons.
In 2017, he watched his team squander away game after game to a 1-8 finish. 2018 was a completely different story as the Wildcats went 7-3 and made the state playoffs for the second time in school history.
They fell to Grand Rapids Christian 28-21 in the first round, but nevertheless, six more wins than the season before can’t be ignored.
Northview will lose a lot of seniors from the season before, but returns two very key players. Jakaurie Kirkland, a running back, has offers from Ferris State and Northwood. Senior strong safety Kolbe VandenBerg earned all-conference honors last year and will be back for one more go around to guide the defense.
The season will begin for Northview Thursday at home against Comstock Park. The Wildcats will travel on the road Sept. 13 to play defending O-K White champion Cedar Springs.
FOREST HILLS CENTRAL RANGERS
To go along with Cedar Springs and Northview, Forest Hills Central quietly made some history of its own a season ago.
The Rangers 5-4 overall resume was enough to push them into the playoffs for the third straight year, which had never been accomplished for FHC. It was, however, it was a down year from 2017, when the Rangers advanced to the semifinals. Mona Shores, the Division 2 runner-up, knocked FHC out of the playoffs.
Tim Rogers, who is in his seventh year as the head coach, said close isn’t enough for his program.
“It was honestly a heart-breaking loss to Mona Shores,” Rogers said. “To come within six points of an opponent like that was hard to accept. We lost (quarterback Luke) Majick and that was a big part of it, but we want to go further this season.”
The Rangers open the season Thursday against Jenison and start conference play in Week 4 at rival Forest Hills Northern.
FOREST HILLS NORTHERN HUSKIES
Forest Hills Northern was so close to making the playoffs a season ago, but instead had to watch FHC advance over them.
This season, the Huskies look to first-year head coach Eddie Ostipow to help them get over that hump.
Ostipow has coached for 21 years, the last three seasons at division opponent Greenville.
The Huskies return seven seasons, which is a rather small group. Those seniors were a big part of what led FHN to a 5-4 finish before being knocked out of playoff contention by Cedar Springs in Week 9.
They will look to bounce back into the playoffs in 2019, starting Thursday at home against Byron Center. Sept. 13 will bring league play to the Huskies as they take on Ottawa Hills on the road.
GREENVILLE YELLOW JACKETS
As said previously, Ostipow left Greenville to go coach FHN this season. That left new Yellow Jackets head coach Nick Davis to take the keys of the football team for the 2019 campaign.
What was waiting for Davis? A lot of returning players who have been around varsity football.
Matt Lauedenslager, Sam Plate and Zane Bigelow are all three-year players who have played big roles in Greenville’s offense and defense.
However, the Yellow Jackets stumbled to 2-7 a season ago and both wins came in league play.
They will look to change that tide in the nonconference schedule Thursday when they travel to South Christian. They open conference games Sept. 13 at Lowell.
LOWELL RED ARROWS
For Lowell Red Arrows football, it has been an odd time in the powerhouse’s longtime history.
Last season, the school hit about rock bottom on the football field, finishing sixth in the O-K White with a 1-8 record. It’s only win came against Ottawa Hills (which finished winless in league play).
On top of that, the Red Arrows have their third new head coach in just over a year. Jacob Henige has been given the job and will attempt to turn the program around quickly.
Last season was the first without Noel Dean, who had an overall record of 219-41. He made the playoffs 19 consecutive times, won three state titles and 10 conference championships during his legendary 22-year tenure. Juston Miller, who took over for last season, resigned in the winter, leaving the program to Henige.
One of his first challenges? Playing against six teams who made the state playoffs in 2018.
Lowell will start the year Thursday against Detroit Loyola and then kicks off conference play Sept. 13 against Greenville.
OTTAWA HILLS BENGALS
The clear goal this season for Ottawa Hills is to earn a win in league play; a season ago, it didn’t snag one.
The Bengals finished with a 1-8 record and their only win came against Union, which went winless in 2018.
They will open the season Thursday against Union once again, this time at home. Then the Bengals start league play Sept. 13 against Forest Hills Northern.