Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele
The changing of the calendar from the month of July to August is the constant, yearly reminder that summer vacation is quickly nearing its end – and soon, the sights and sounds of athletes cheering, hitting, kicking, running and spiking will soon be heard throughout the town! And, if you are like me, you’ve been waiting for this very moment since the doors of school closed in June.
In this edition of the Press Box, we will get you ready for what is only going to be the beginning of another busy year for Indian athletes. Are you ready to receive your early taste of what is to come this fall in Hartford sports? Without further ado, it’s time to open the door to the Press Box and jump right into the highlights of all things Indian Athletics!
COLOMA COMET ROCKET FOOTBALL CAMP… Dylan Groendyk takes a hand-off from Comet varsity football player Ian Ishmael during one of the drills, as the Comet varsity and JV players and coaches held a camp for Coloma’s younger generation. The camp was held on Saturday July 25, and was very well attended. (TCR photo by Dave Vollrath)
Hartford fall sports practices begin Monday, August 12
The month of August is upon us, and that means in just a few short weeks, sports practices will begin in earnest. The athletes and coaches of Hartford are just chomping at the bit to get back into action, and they will be able to soon enough. The state calendar is spread out slightly this year, so that means that practices will start on two separate dates. Three sports will begin their season on Monday, August 12 and one other on Wednesday, August 14.
The Hartford Indian Varsity Football team will begin practicing on Monday, August 12. The team will be looking to improve on a 5-4 record from one year ago, which saw them fall just one game short of qualifying for the playoffs. Head Coach Brad Manning returns for his third season at the helm of his alma mater, and despite what is expected to be a smaller group than normal, the team appears capable of contending for a playoff spot again this season.
The team begins their nine-game season on Thursday, August 29 against Southwest 10 Conference favorite, Cassopolis. The Indians will host four games this season – in addition to the season opener, they will host Bangor (Sept. 27), Mendon (Oct. 4) and Marcellus (Oct. 11). So, we encourage you to mark your calendars and be sure to get to Indian Stadium early to cheer the team on!
The Hartford Indian Varsity Soccer team will also begin practice on Monday, August 12. This program has been one of the significant highlights in recent years, with the team winning multiple conference and playoff titles, and making deep postseason runs each of the past several seasons. Last season, the team went 19-4, won the Southwest 10 Conference title and a district championship, before bowing out in the regional semifinals against a talented Kalamazoo Hackett squad that went on to the state semifinals.
Head Coach Nick Blackmer, who has been the leader of the team since its inception as a club sport many years ago, returns to the post with continued confidence. The Indians did lose a talented group of twelve seniors last year; however, the program also boasted one of the more talented younger groups in the area, so watch out for this team. The Indians begin their season with a tournament on the road on Saturday, August 17 at Adrian Lenawee Christian. Their home opener will be against rival Watervliet, new to the varsity soccer scene, on Monday, August 26.
GOING TO STATE… Berrien County Straight Shooters 4-H girls are headed to 4-H State Shoot. Just graduated from Hartford High school 18-year-old Maggie Avery (left) from Hartford will be competing in senior Trap. Darlene Mattson (right), 20, from Benton Harbor, will compete in senior open target Archery. She has completed her first year at KVCC in Kalamazoo and is working at Whirlpool. This year’s state shoot is at the Blue Water Sportsman’s Association of St. Clair County in Kimball, Michigan on August 3. Herman Mattson club Archery leader, Keith Krieger Trap leader, and Julie Holtsclaw club coordinator will be supporting and joining these two girls.
Boys and girls cross country
The Hartford Indian Varsity Cross Country programs are the final group that will begin practice on Monday, August 12. Both of the teams will see no changes at the top, as head coaches Luke Golas (boys) and Doug Paran (girls) are set to return for another year on the running trails. The success of these two teams will be highly dependent on athlete turnout, as the more numbers they have, the better opportunity they will have in competing in the big team events.
The girls team is coming off of a season in which they finished second in the Southwest 10 Conference, and in an MHSAA Regional meet, which qualified them for the state finals. Last year, thirteen young ladies participated in cross country, and only three were lost to graduation. So, in essence, having made that run to state last season, the team has the depth to make another significant step forward this season.
The boys team is coming off a season in which they started slowly, but finished the year showing signs of rapid improvement. The roster was a bit of a concern for the team, as they ended the season with just nine runners. The good news, however, is only two runners graduated, so if all of the other seven runners return, and there is a group coming up from the Middle School this fall, the team will have sufficient depth to return to competitive heights.
The cross country teams will make their season debut on Wednesday, August 21, when they will travel to Bridgman to compete in the Bridgman Invitational. The team will host just one home meet, the Teske Invitational, on Thursday, September 5 at the Van Buren County Fairgrounds. The annual meet honors former coach and educator, Robert Teske, whose untimely passing in 2007 at the age of 65, still reverberates around this small community.
The Hartford Indian Varsity Volleyball team will begin practice on Wednesday, August 14. The team, under the direction of returning Head Coach Patty Matheny, will be looking to improve on a 9-35 record from one year ago. The advantage she has this season is although last season’s record looks rough on paper, the team was also very young (with just two seniors graduating) and inexperienced at the varsity level, and the nucleus of the team is returning this season, leading to much higher expectations in 2019.
The team will tip-off their season on Saturday, August 24, by traveling to Lawton to compete in the Lawton Invitational. Two days after that, they will host Three Oaks River Valley to open the home slate of their schedule.
More detailed, in-depth previews will be available in the Tri-City Record in the weeks to come, so we encourage you to stay tuned for them! You will not want to miss your first chance to meet the 2019 Hartford Indian Fall Sports teams.
Athletes, and their parents, are reminded that in able to participate in any practices or games, a physical must be on file with the Hartford Athletic Department. So, if you have not done so yet, now is the time to do as such. Also, the Hartford Athletic Department is streamlining its paperwork process for athletics. It was mentioned in the Press Box a few weeks back, but more information may be found at https://www.hpsathletics.org. All athletes and parents must complete the online process in due diligence.
As this column always concludes, GO INDIANS!
Press Box Player of the Week
By Dave Vollrath
This week’s Tri-City Record Player of the Week is Coloma 10U All-Star Softball player Jaidyn White. Jaidyn was a top notch catcher on the 10U All-Star softball team that won the championship at Hartford and finished runner-up in Coloma and Berrien Springs.
Jaidyn is 11 years old and will be entering the sixth grade in Coloma Schools this coming year. Jeremiah and Kylie White are her parents, and she has a sister Amaria Echols, and a brother Isaiah Perysian.
When she’s not playing softball, Jaidyn also plays basketball, loves to dance, and plays tuba in the band. But her first love is softball. Jaidyn is also a very good student and has grades to match.
Jaidyn’s coach, Tony Jacobs, says that she has great athleticism, which makes her an outstanding catcher and hitter. Her positive attitude makes her an outstanding team mate, who is very coachable. She also likes to clown around a little that helps keep the team loose, but when the game is on the line, she is ready to lead the way.
Jaidyn led her team in most offensive statistical categories, hitting .792, scoring 26 runs, with five triples, six doubles, and two inside the park home runs. She is truly an MVP on a team of All Stars.
Congratulations Jaidyn and best of luck in all you do.
Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant
Watervliet fall sports preparing for start of seasons
With fall sports getting started in just three short weeks, the Watervliet Athletic Department remains as busy as ever. They recently hired head and assistant coaches to fill out the varsity and junior varsity football programs, a boy’s basketball coach, and a middle school volleyball coach. We will have more on those people and positions in the coming weeks.
Varsity Boys Soccer
As noted in last week’s issue, Tom Isbrecht played a key role in the effort to bring boys varsity soccer to Watervliet for the first time. Tom was on an international business trip when the previous article was being written, but he kindly followed up with much more information about the team creation process, which follows.
Building a team from scratch is a time consuming process, which involves many people. The most involved has been Athletic Director Ken Dietz, and plenty of credit goes to Angie Gutierrez.
Angie was instrumental in getting a list of interested players along with contact information. This needed to happen before the school year ended so that once a coach was named, they could reach out to the players and get things going. Angie did a great job in a limited amount of time to gather those contacts. Some of the players who were most interested did their own player recruiting at the school, and they did a great job in generating interest in the team.
Special thanks should go to Brennan and Brady Bornas, Javier Gutierrez, and Nathan Isbrecht in this regard. There were others recruiting, but these young men would speak to anyone. Also, once it became obvious the team would be very young for a varsity team, heavy on freshman and sophomores, they did a good job of targeting upper classmen as well.
Once the Board of Education approved the creation of a team, the first step was to hire a head coach. The position was posted and given the appropriate amount of time to gather applicants. Dietz held several interviews and chose to hire Doug Bornas on July 9. Together they also hired Mackenzie Houlehen as an assistant coach. Doug also asked Tom Isbrecht to help out as a volunteer assistant coach.
Voluntary conditioning workouts began on July 16. Players get together on Tuesdays and Thursdays for conditioning workouts to prepare for the upcoming season. These are not official practices, which won’t begin until the week of August 12. The voluntary workouts focus on conditioning, but also include some passing and short sided scrimmaging.
Isbrecht has been focusing on the middle school boys club team. Those signups were last week, but if anyone is interested they can still reach out to Angie Gutierrez at 269-757-1009. The middle school club program serves as the developmental feeder for the high school team, and as such the coaches look at these two teams as one program, even though the middle school team is not an official school team, so far. Continuing to prepare the younger players will only benefit the high school team in the future. Tom said he truly appreciates coach Manny Alvarado and his willingness to coach the club team on a volunteer basis.
Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath
Coloma 10U Softball All-Star team caps fantastic run with Hartford Championship
The Coloma girls 10U softball All-Star team, coached by Tony Jacobs, had a tremendous run through the recently completed All-Star season. They entered three tournaments and made it to the finals and the championship game in all three. They really played championship caliber ball in all of the tournaments, but lost a couple of close championship games in both Coloma and Berrien Springs. The team put it all together in taking home the championship trophy from the long running Hartford All-Star Tournament.
The tournament run started with the long standing Coloma tournament, where they rolled over the competition in getting to the championship game. They defeated the All-Star squads from Watervliet, Bangor, Hartford, and then defeated Dowagiac in the semi finals. They met another top notch team in the championship, a team they would be facing several more times before all the tournament action had been concluded, South Haven.
Coloma lost in the championship game in an absolute thrilling game, that saw South Haven jump on the Coloma girls for six runs in the first inning, which put them in a 6-run hole before they came to bat. These gritty girls battled all the way back however, and eventually tied it 8-8 when they scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth. South Haven then scored one run in the 7th, which is extra innings for this age group, and held Coloma scoreless in their half of the inning coming away with a 9-8 victory. Jaiden White led Coloma with three hits in the game while Aislin Henagan and Bethany Rose each contributed a triple.
The next week the girls were playing in Hartford, but this time they had a much tougher road, as they lost their first game to South Haven. This meant they would have to fight through the losers bracket. The Coloma girls were certainly up to the challenge as they beat Hartford, Watervliet, River Valley, and Vicksburg to win their way back to the championship, where once again South Haven was waiting. Coloma would need to beat them twice to take the trophy.
Rain was the winner the first night as the scheduled game for Monday had to be moved to Tuesday. On this night Coloma easily won 10-0, but the rains came again, and the second game again had to be moved to Wednesday night. The second championship game was a much tighter affair, worthy of a championship. Coloma won by a final score of 7-6, and again these two squads had to go extra innings before the game was decided.
In addition to the championship trophies, Coloma’s first baseman, Aislin Henagan, was voted as the tournament’s MVP, as she swung a hot bat hitting .667, and scored 13 runs.
The final tourney of the season found the Coloma girls in Berrien Springs, where they defeated Lakeshore team #2, Bridgman, Lakeshore team #1, and then Bridgman again in the semi finals. They once again found themselves in the championship game, but they couldn’t add to the success they found in Hartford, and fell to a very tough Buchanan team to finish as runner-up.
The leading hitters for this All-Star team were catcher Jaiden White (.792), Shortstop Madison Marfia (.648), first baseman Aislin Henagan (.642), and second baseman Tatum Arend (.627).
Karsyn Jacobs did an outstanding job in the pitchers circle, and Jaiden White did the catching for every game through the All-Star season. Their ability to hold the runners from stealing was one of the keys to Coloma’s success defensively.
The team members are Karsyn Jacobs, Callie Crisenbery, Bethany Rose, Madison Marfia, Lizzy Hardin, Aislin Henagan, Lila Groendyk, McKenzie Harris, Tatum Arend, Bristol Stewart, Campbell Kirby, and Jaiden White. In addition to head coach Jacobs were coaches, Brenda Crisenbery, Jason Stewart, and Marshall Champion.
Coloma High School football players and coaches host clinic for Rocket players
On Saturday, July 27 the Coloma varsity and junior varsity players and coaches hosted a football clinic for the players signed up for the Rocket Football program. It was very well attended with about eight high school players and head coach Joe Stephens with members of his coaching staff leading about 43 players ranging from the first through sixth grades in a variety of drills. The leaders taught them some of the basic football fundamentals, such as a 3-point stance, proper techniques in taking a hand off, catching a football, throwing a pass, and some proper blocking and tackling techniques. It was about a two and half hour clinic, and the older players looked to be having just as much fun as the younger ones.
Coloma Comet Football golf fundraiser
The annual football fundraising golf outing, hosted by the Coloma Varsity football team, is being held at Blossom Trails Golf Club in Benton Harbor on August 4. Check in begins at 8 a.m., with a shotgun start at 9. Cost is $65 per person or $260 per team. This includes golf, cart, and food following play. Come out and support the Comet football program.
Coloma Press Box correction
A correction to the Coloma Press Box column from the July 18 Tri-City Record, in the story involving the 10U Coloma All-Stars about their triple play, the catcher involved in that play should have been identified as Ethan Schelling. Tri-City Record apologies to Ethan, he had a great weekend of playing ball.
Unique spin on scoring in GateWay annual softball fundraiser
GateWay Services held their 34th annual “A Play for GateWay” softball marathon fundraising event on July 26 and 27. The event took place at Plangger’s Field in Benton Harbor and featured twenty-four teams from businesses throughout Berrien County and surrounding areas. Gast Manufacturing took home the (not so) coveted title of Tournament Champions, as they spent the most money bribing umpires, which is the “scoring” method GateWay uses each year.
FIRST PITCH… Rep. Pauline Wendzel threw out the ceremonial first pitch in “A Play for GateWay” softball fundraiser July 26-27. This annual event raised over $31,000 for GateWay Services, a 501(c)(3) private not-for-profit organization that provides habilitation and rehabilitation supports and services to individuals with disabilities or various other barriers to independent community living. In addition, GateWay also provides respite services to parents and primary caregivers of adults and children with disabilities.
GateWay will use the more than $31,000 raised during the two-day event to develop a center-based respite program for the families, loved ones, and primary caregivers of disabled adults. This program will offer some measure of relief from the often overwhelming responsibility of caring for a disabled adult. “We look forward to this event all year long, and each year I am amazed and humbled by the generosity of this community,” said GateWay’s Executive Director, Tim Smith. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” This GateWay event was honored to have State Representative Pauline Wendzel, from Michigan’s 79th House District in attendance to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Smith added, “Agencies and events like ours do not garner a lot of attention, so having Representative Wendzel here was extra special.” Wendzel is a lifelong Watervliet resident from a fourth generation Bainbridge Township farming family. “I was incredibly honored to throw out the first pitch at GateWay Services annual softball marathon! GateWay is doing incredible work right here in our community to help those with disabilities and other barriers to independent living. The money raised at this event will ensure they have the resources necessary to carry out their mission in the coming year. Thank you to everyone who participated in this event!”
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