08-17-2017 Tri-City Area Sports

Manning hits the field as Hartford’s new football coach

A very recognizable face is taking over as head coach of the varsity football program at Hartford. Brad Manning, Middle School Literature teacher and track coach, was selected last year to helm the Indian squad.

Manning has been involved in and with football for years. He has nine years’ prior experience coaching the sport at different levels. But, perhaps the most influential component of his interest in the game is what was garnered as his father coached the sport at Hartford for 29 years.

“I have been involved in football all my life,” Manning said.

He is a student of the game. He studies film. He researches teams; labors over offensive spreads; seeks structure in team’s setups.

Manning played football in high school and says of himself, “Football consumes people.” And in Hartford, that is one of the truest testaments there is. Once his high school football playing days ended he watched as his father called plays, reviewed film, built relationships and guided young men.

For Manning, his playing days were over but he did spend time with a clipboard in hand as a coach. Then, he took a year off and spent Friday nights driving around the area and attending football games. He viewed each game with fresh eyes, seeking what worked for each team.

Football practice in Southwest Michigan opened Monday, August 7 and Manning returned to the field, this time as the head coach.

“The call to coach was much too strong when the opportunity in Hartford again came around,” said Manning.

So, he takes the reins of a team that has had a revolving door of sorts at the head coach position over the last four years.

The Indians, once a guaranteed pick for a playoff game, has only seen two in four years. Their last winning season was 2013-14 when the squad ended the year with a 6-4 season.

The Indians then went 4-5 and followed that with a 5-4 regular season and qualified for post-regular season play. The loss in that playoff game gave the Indians a 5-5 record in 2015-16.

Last year, the Indians only won two games. Hartford began the year with a four-game loss before securing their first win of the season.

Hartford would tally two more losses before scoring their second victory of the season. The team ended the year with a loss.

Expect a systematic approach back to the basics of football from Manning. “I enjoy football in the nerdiest sort of way,” he shared. “While I appreciate different schemes and play designs I recognize that no matter what a team does it all comes down to being able to do basic things well.

“Hartford will be a fundamentally sound football team, and we plan to emphasize blocking and tackling as the base for our program. We will stress the fundamentals from varsity all the way down through the younger programs.”

When practice opened on Monday, August 14, the team ran drills, and those drills included tackling… again and again… over and over.

“I think my experience in focusing on the little details and helping players do those things well is key for our overall program.”

Manning will not only rely on basics this year but his relationship with the players. As a teacher, he has watched them grow. He taught them in class. He knows these kids. He is as homegrown as they are.

SOCCER SEASON NOW OPEN… Coloma and Hartford got a jump on the 2017 season Saturday during their scrim-mage on the Indians’ home field. The soccer season offi-cially opened on Wednesday, August 9 with the first practice of the year.

“In having taught most of the players in school we have an understanding of one another. I believe that will help both myself and them immensely.”

And then, Manning himself turns back to what makes the self-proclaimed “nerdiest” football coach around. “I’m most excited to develop a plan of action for a Friday night, work on the plan we can execute properly when it counts.”

Above all, as Manning well knows, coaching is about more than directing plays and seeking the end zone. “In the process of our preparation it is always enjoyable to watch [the players’] growth in becoming outstanding citizens that value the team and all the hard work that goes into being successful.”

Following the first week of practice, Manning stated, “The turnout has been a very positive one thus far at multiple levels. I’m just as excited to watch our JV team as I am our varsity. I expect our numbers to grow.”

But perhaps Manning’s best comment is his final one. “It should be a fun fall in Hartford, just like the old days.”

The Indians will scrimmage Three Oaks-River Valley Friday at 10:00 a.m. in Indian Territory. The Indians’ first regular season game will be on the road in Eau Claire Thursday, August 24.

Watervliet offering middle school volleyball and basketball to sixth-graders

News out of the Watervliet Athletic Department indicates that the schools will be offering middle school sports to sixth-grade students.

Watervliet Athletic Director Ken Dietz announced that the Michigan High School Athletic Association has approved Watervliet to offer middle school volleyball and basketball to six-graders.

Last year, MHSAA approved allowing sixth-graders to participate in cross country, wrestling, and track, and Watervliet offered those sports to the youngsters.

This is the first year basketball and volleyball will be offered to sixth-graders at Watervliet.

SO MUCH SOCCER FUN… Soccer balls and smiles were aplenty last week as Midway Baptist Church in Watervliet held their High Power Soccer Camp for area youth. The youngsters learned basic soccer skills and participated in drills during the five-day camp.

According to Dietz, “The plan is to provide two different seventh grade teams and two different eighth grade teams for volleyball and girls and boys basketball this school year. This should give any kid who wants to participate on those teams a chance to have quality practices and game experiences.”

Practice begins Monday, August 21 and Dietz stresses that middle school players must have a sports physical on file with the athletic department and parents and athletes must register online. Forms can be reviewed and completed online at www.watervliet.finalforms.com.

Dietz also advised practice times for middle school sports as well as their start date.

Middle school cross country opens Wednesday, August 23 and runs from 3:00 p.m. until 4:15 p.m.

Middle school football takes the field Monday, August 21 with practice from 3:00 p.m., until 7:00 p.m. The schedule for Tuesday through Friday will be 3:00 p.m. until 5:15 p.m.

Middle school volleyball takes the court for open gym Wednesday, August 23 through Friday, August 25 from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.  The first practice date is Monday, August 28 from 3:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.

Middle school cheerleading begins the first day of school.

Southwest 10 Conference coming together for military personnel and veterans

The Southwest 10 Conference, of which Hartford is a member, has announced “Patriot Games Week,” an event that will acknowledge the roles and sacrifices of active duty military members and veterans.

“Patriot Games Week” will be held at all schools in the SW10 Conference the week of September 18 through September 22.

To commemorate the week, all varsity fall sports will play their games in honor of a veteran or member of the military. According to Hartford Athletic Director Nick Blackmer, during Patriot week, players will wear specially-designed jerseys with the military honoree’s surname printed on the back. The jersey will then be presented to the honoree or family during a game throughout “Patriot Games Week.”

Sponsors of jerseys are actively being sought. The cost to sponsor a jersey is $75 for football, while cross country, soccer, and volleyball sponsorships are $50.

Additionally, Blackmer shared, “We know many student athletes have a military family member they may ask to recognize. However, some athletes will not. If you would like to sponsor an athlete in any of the above sports at any of the ten schools, please contact the Hartford Athletic Department at (269) 621-7103.

T-shirts will also be available for sale for the special week. The shirt will serve as an added bonus. If you purchase a t-shirt, it will be your pass into all home and away games that week!

Blackmer shared that the “Patriot Games Week” will conclude for Hartford at Decatur and – tentatively – the Paratroopers will be delivering game balls during pregame festivities.

Hartford will donate all proceeds to a local veterans’ organization. Contact the Hartford Athletic Department today to see the t-shirts and jerseys and to place your order.

Ladies Monday Night Happy Hour Golf League

Monday, August 14 golf report from the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club:

This week’s Event Winner – Kathy Osborne; Low Gross – Colleen McKeown with 54; Low Net – Colleen McKeown with 39; Low putts – Cheryl Hutchins with 17; Pars – Colleen McKeown on #13; Birdies – Colleen McKeown on #14.

Larson is purely masterful at Michigan

Kyle Larson knows his way around Michigan International Speedway. The driver earned his third win of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series Sunday and his third consecutive victory at the track.

Larson, who started the race in fourth position, held off until the last laps before charging to the front of the pack.

The Pure Michigan 400 race was scheduled to run 200 laps, or 400 miles, but due to a late-race crash, the 23rd race of the season required a two-lap overtime period.

Larson led the final two laps for his fourth career victory.

Martin Truex Jr. led 57 laps and screeched into second place. Truex Jr. has four wins this season and 10 top five finishes.

Erik Jones continues to improve this season. He led five laps on Sunday. Jones began his NASCAR Cup Series journey in 2015 when he drove in three races at the age of 19. He led one lap and did not record a top 10 or better finish. He was not on the Cup circuit in 2016 but returned in 2017 at 21 years of age. Jones scored his second top five finish coming in third and eighth top 10 finish on Sunday.

Ryan Newman took fourth place. Newman was one of the biggest movers on race day. He started in 25th place.

Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five in fifth place.

For Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, your favorite finished in 14th place in his final outing in Brooklyn.

Pole sitter Brad Keselowski finished 17th after leading a race-high 105 laps.

Other drivers who led laps but did not finish in the top five included: Kyle Busch (14), Denny Hamlin (16), and Daniel Suarez (3).

The race featured five caution periods for 28 laps and had 14 lead changes.

Truex Jr. currently leads the driver standings as we approach the home stretch of racing this season. He holds a 129-point lead over Larson.

Kyle Busch in third overall trails Truex by 136 points. Kevin Harvick and Keselowski are 146 and 213 points behind Truex, respectively.

Bristol Motor Speedway is up next on the drivers’ dance cards. The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will be held Saturday, August 19 and is the final race of the month.

Jimmie Johnson won here earlier this year and would like to pick up another trophy as we approach playoff time. Can he return to Victory Lane? Get the results in next week’s Pit Stop article.

TCR ABQ season begins next week; Conrad joins roster

By Kristy Noack

It’s that time of year, football fans! Time to kick off the 2016-2017 season of the Tri-City Record Armchair Quarterback contest!

Six super fans of football try their hand at predicting high school, college, and professional gridiron games each week. They are tasked with producing the best record possible, and the TCR AQB who holds the best stat line at the end of the season wins a jaunty TCR AQB championship cap.

Our stellar six includes last year’s reigning and two-time consecutive champion RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht. The Hartford City Clerk tallied her way to the top last season by predicting a 121-43 overall record, correctly predicting 65% of the games selected.

Tim Hildebrand, who represents Hartford Harding’s, came on strong late in the season and finished in second place with a 116-48 record. Hildebrand predicted 59% of the games correctly.

Watervliet Athletic Booster representative Greg Krell battled Rodney-Isbrecht all season long but trailed as the season waned. Krell gambled on underdog picks in the hopes of overtaking Rodney-Isbrecht but lost ground. Krell finished the season with a 114-50 record (56%).

Rodney Lynch, of Loma Theatre fame, took a 110-54 record (49%) into the offseason. Lynch had a couple spot on, stellar weeks and hopes to improve this season even though he was only 11 games out of first place.

Chris Leach represents West Street Station, another fantastic business in Coloma, and will be back to try her hand at the pigskin picks. As AQB fans know, Leach is a die-hard supporter of the home teams. She got burned quite a bit last season, but there is no questioning her dedication and support of the Comets, Indians, and Panthers. Leach finished the season with a 96-68 record, accurately predicting 29% of the contests.

Tom Gear of Tri-County Computers in Watervliet bowed out of competition this season. The former champion posted a 95-69 record last season and is retiring – for now – from his AQB duties as his professional workload increases. We wish Tom well!

Joining the roster for our new season will be Bryan Conrad. Conrad owns Watervliet Hardware along with his wife Jan. Conrad admitted that he does not spend all day Sunday in front of the television watching football but he’s going to give the AQB game his best shot.

Next week the TCR AQB team will hit the field to make their initial picks of the new season. Be sure to check back and see what games are on the docket and who predicts what.

Let’s play some AQB football!


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