Editor’s note: Leading up to the season’s first Football Frenzy Thursday, our team is breaking down what to expect from local lineups.
This article examines the teams in the O-K White conference: Forest Hills Central, Lowell, Cedar Springs, Forest Hills Northern, Northview, Greenville and Ottawa Hills.
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Forest Hills Central football team turned in one of the best seasons in school history last year.
So what will they do for an encore?
The Rangers went 12-1 last season and reached the Division 2 state semifinals. They have the potential to be just as dangerous in 2018 with the return of a pair of offensive weapons.
Senior quarterback Luke Majick and senior wide receiver Tate Hallock are back to drive an offense that racked up a school-record 454 points.
“Luke is a dual threat who can beat you running and throwing the ball,” FHC coach Tim Rogers said. “He comes back with a wealth of experience, and Tate is a threat to score on every down on offense.”
Senior Cam Deines will be the Rangers’ primary ball carrier, while Justin Hoving and Ethan Vredenburg are back as the team’s top linebackers.
Kyle Wojczynski returns as the team’s top lineman.
“He will anchor both units on the line, which will be inexperienced but talented,” Rogers said. “We have a group of juniors with bright futures.”
CEDAR SPRINGS RED HAWKS
Cedar Springs fell one game short of an O-K White title a year ago after a 35-20 loss to Forest Hills Central. It was the Red Hawks’ lone conference defeat.
They went 7-4 overall, with a rare win over Lowell and an upset of previously unbeaten East Grand Rapids in the playoff opener.
As the Red Hawks prepare for a new season under coach Gus Kapoka, there’s reason for even more optimism with the return of several starters on a stingy defense, including all-stater Ryan Ringler, Gage Gardner and Lucas Pienton.
Ringler and Pienton also will lead the charge in the backfield behind senior quarterback Kolby Swank.
LOWELL RED ARROWS
It’s the beginning of a new era in Red Arrow country as Juston Miller takes over for longtime coach Noel Dean.
Miller served as an assistant coach in Lowell for 15 seasons and is excited for the opportunity to lead the program.
“No matter what institution you go to, when you are part of a great one, you benefit from being a part of it,” Miller said. “So what I’ve dealt with over here the last 15 years being a part of the program has helped me as a baseball coach and also had me ready for the first day of practice.
“A lot of these kids have seen me, they know who I am and we’re moving forward to this year’s goals.”
Lowell finished 6-4 last season, its most losses since 1999, and had an early exit from the playoffs after a loss to Flushing.
The Red Arrows graduated several key starters and return only center Zach Post and tight end Jordan Dent on offense. Seniors Avry Mutschler (defensive back) and Andy Anschutz (cornerback) are returning starters on defense.
FOREST HILLS NORTHERN HUSKIES
Forest Hills Northern stumbled last season en route to a 3-6 record and an end to its run of four consecutive playoff appearances, but shows signs of returning to form.
The Huskies possess more experience with seven starters back on offense, including quarterback Xavier Webster, running back Brandon Matthews and wide receiver Ian Rampersad.
Head coach Matthew Moffett also hopes to see improvement on the defense after allowing nearly 300 points last season.
Eight starters return on defense, led by a front seven that includes seniors Czareon Long and Jake Masco.
GREENVILLE YELLOW JACKETS
The Greenville Yellow Jackets went 4-5 last season and 2-4 in the O-K White, struggling down the stretch as their postseason hopes were dashed amid losses to Wyoming and Forest Hills Northern.
However, a young Greenville team has matured and plenty of starters are back in the mix in their quest to return to the postseason.
Third-year head coach Eddie Ostipow returns a solid core of linebackers, led by senior Cam Tucker and juniors Sam Plate and Matt Laudenslager.
Quarterback Cam Heppe returns, along with wide receivers Ryan Olsen, Jake Rasmussen and Cody Varney.
The Northview Wildcats struggled to a one-win season in 2017, but the return of a large senior class has heightened expectations.
Northview, guided by Tripp Gallery, has six three-year starters back on a defense that surrendered more than 400 points a year ago.
Senior Kennedy Smith, a third-year player, is back to engineer the offense. His main target is senior Cody Tierney, an all-state receiver.
The ground game will be led by Jakaurie Kirkland, along with an experienced offensive line consisting of Trent Rector, Ryan Castle and Dominion Hurt.
OTTAWA HILLS BENGALS
Ottawa Hills suffered through its second straight winless season, but has the potential to break through in 2018.
The Bengals and coach Christian Verley have seen an increase in numbers and experienced players.
Senior Larry Phillips is back as the team’s dual-threat quarterback and senior running back Sylvester Crump will get a majority of the carries.
Senior tackle Julian Peterson leads an experienced line, while senior Viquente Sanders anchors the defensive line.