08-09-18 Tri-City Area Sports

First and foremost, I have to give a huge thank you to Kristy Noack for all she has done for local sports in our area over the course of the last handful of years. Kristy set the bar super high, but I am excited for the opportunity given to me by Amy and Karl here at the Tri-City Record, to cover the local sports. It will be hard to replicate what Kristy has done, so this will be a fun ride!

Before we get things started, I would like to take a little time to introduce myself. My name is Ben Loshbough and I am a Watervliet Graduate, Class of 2015, where I played basketball for two years, golfed, and ran cross country for three years. In the fall after high school graduation I went on to Lake Michigan College where I graduated with a degree in History. I currently work at Mid-West Family Broadcasting in Benton Harbor on 95.7 and 1400 WSJM Sports.

I have been a huge sports fan since I can remember. Whether it is high school sports or pro sports, I am always involved or watching. After I graduated in 2015, I was brought on as an assistant on the Watervliet Cross Country team by Coach Aaron Weber. From there I have had opportunities in coaching from basketball to track and now to football.

As for professional sports, I love the Detroit Lions and Tigers, and the Denver Nuggets of the NBA.

GLAD TO BE RUNNING… Participants in the Glad-Peach walk and run power off the start line Saturday morning amid warm and muggy temperatures. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Once again, I am super excited to bring you the best in sports in our area. OK, enough about me. Let’s get into some sports!

Football is officially back!

Believe it or not people, football season is officially back. The long-awaited return to the gridiron for our high school athletes began earlier this week when football teams reported to their mandatory team camps.

Eyes on the playoffs for the Hartford Indians

Coach Brad Manning and the Hartford Indians open up their season in Indian territory as they face Gobles at home on August 23. The Indians hit the road immediately and head out on a three-game road trip with their first stop being in Bangor, with Mendon and Marcellus the following weeks. The Indians return home on the 21st of September and take on the Decatur Raiders and then face White Pigeon at home the following week.

The first week of October is a road game in Cassopolis for the Indians. They close out the season on a two-game home stand where they take on Centreville and Bloomingdale.

The Indians returned to playoff action last season with a 6-4 win/loss record but unfortunately their run ended far too short as they lost to Vermontville Maple Valley in the first round of the MHSAA playoffs in a losing effort, 26-7.

The Hartford Indians are coming off a relatively successful season, says Coach Brad Manning.

The Indians had a very balanced offensive attack last season, averaging about 100 yards of passing and 210 yards of rushing offense each game. They will be without their leading rusher from last season, Robert Ledesma, who will be playing this fall at Kalamazoo College. That makes room for the second leading rusher, Evan Parker, to move up in the depth chart and split snaps with Moses Beraza, who spent most of last season playing wide out or tight end. Beraza was the team’s leading receiver. Another thing to look forward to is returning sophomore running back and receiver, Aaron Sinclair, who will be reviving a bigger role with the team this season.

The Indians averaged about 28 points per game last year. “Those totals were due in large part to a mostly senior led offensive line”, says Coach Manning.

Two returning lineman are Corey Arnold and Joe Beebe, who are ready to step up as leaders as the Indians successful JV campaign will bring in several “very capable” newcomers, says Coach Manning.

On the defensive side of the ball, there will be plenty of familiar faces. Noah Wade, Xavier Salinas, Evan Parker, and Alex Cargo will all be returning. “We are hopeful to continue to improve within this unit”, said Coach Manning. “Making the playoffs is a wonderful goal but we also want to continue to be competitive within our conference. We have a lot of questions on our team still, but we should be very entertaining to watch and hopefully we will continue to stay successful.”

OVER AND OVER… With the sun shining and blue skies, near perfect – if not hot – weather greeted the Grand City Show Skiers as they performed courtesy of the Paw Paw Lake Yacht Club on Sunday. The skiers showcased their acrobatic skills as the performers dazzled the crowd. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Veteran leadership will be crucial for the Watervliet Panthers

The Watervliet Panthers hit the practice field at their regular preseason camp, Camp Kidwell, earlier this week. The Panther season kicks off on August 24 at home against Lawton, and then quickly welcomes 2017 State Runner-Up Saugatuck to Panther Stadium the week after. The three game home stand ends on September 7 when the Panthers of Parchment visit Watervliet at home. Lots of maroon and white going on!

Watervliet hits the road for two as they face Fennville and then Kalamazoo United. They return home for one game and take on Delton Kellogg on September 28. The Panthers travel to Constantine the following week and then return home for Senior Night against Schoolcraft on October 12.

The final game of the season will be and instant classic as the 100+ years of football between the Comets and Panthers continue as Watervliet takes on Coloma at the home of the Comets on October 19.

The Panthers have nine returners this season, but only four played major roles a year ago. Veteran leadership will be a key to a successful season for the Panthers. All nine seniors will be featured in much larger roles this season. The veterans of the team are receiver Cubby Aldrich, lineman Eric Kehrer, linebacker Allen Chapin, and QB Garrett Matthews. Derrick Burkhardt, Kris Lenox, Manny Guzman, Jacob Wilmoth, and Johnny Benavidez are all returning seniors as well.

“This year, all nine seniors are expected to play major roles,” says Coach Jeremy Andrews. Manny Guzman and Kris Lenox will be taking on starting receiver duties as Aldrich will be the lone receiver who caught a pass in 2017. Last season, QB Garret Matthews was a top-ten receiver on another very talented Watervliet team. This year Matthews goes back to his roots under center to lead the Panther offense.

The returning panthers are outnumbered this season with newcomers. Coach Andrews has 14 newcomers on his varsity team this fall, including three sophomores. Of the 14, 11 played JV football under Coach Josh Tremblay. The three sophomores of the group, Isiah Yazel, Don Smith, and Dylan Lawson, may end up being two-way starters.

“I believe we have a very tough schedule. Five of our opponents were in the playoffs a year ago with three others just finishing above 5-4. Hard to say who the favorites are at this point,” says Coach Andrews. Jeremy Andrews is heading into his 13th season as the varsity football coach at Watervliet, with all but two being winning seasons. The Panthers look to rely on veteran leadership as the season begins in two weeks on August 24.

PEACH OF A RACE… Martin Quigley of Coloma gives the thumbs up shortly after the 7:45 a.m. start of the bike race Saturday morning during Glad-Peach Fest. Quigley took second in the 5K version of the race with a time of 13:45.17. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

Comets looking for first playoff berth in 10 years

The Coloma Comets head into their 10th year since they last appeared in the MHSAA playoffs. They continue to improve under head coach Joe Stephens after they finished with a winning record but just shy of playoff contention at 5-4. Coloma opens their season on the 23rd of August as they face Brandywine at home. The four-game home stand continues as they face Berrien Springs, Buchanan, and Saginaw Arthur Hill. The Comets then hit the road for a game against Constantine on September 21 and return home on the 28th to take on Kalamazoo United. A two-game road trip kicks off against Schoolcraft on October 5 and Delton Kellogg on October 12. The last game of the season will be the rivalry that will never die and never gets old. Over 100 years of football, Coloma takes on Watervliet in their own backyard.

The Comets will have some new and some returning faces this season. Coach Stephens’ squad will feature 13 first year varsity players alongside 16 returning players. One major returning player will be Zach Goodline. Fans may be familiar with that name on the basketball court, but this will be Goodline’s third year as a varsity football player. He is coming off an impressive 900 passing yards and 500 rushing yards last season. The Comets are excited to have him at th