You might think that after graduating 16 seniors from last year’s 9-2 team Watervliet varsity head football coach Jeremy Andrews might be concerned. Put that thought aside. Andrews is confident and extremely excited about his team this year. Although the Panthers lost veteran quarterback Blake Kiekenapp, Andrews is confident his replacement will step into the role of starting QB seamlessly. Senior Cam Rendo has earned the spot anchoring the offensive line. Andrews stated, “Rendo is entering his third varsity season, has started and succeeded in a big game and is extremely talented. I honestly don’t think we’ll miss a beat at that position.” Rendo will be replacing Kiekenapp who was a “two-time first team All-Conference, two-time Honorable Mention All-State” quarterback. According to Andrews, Kiekenapp threw for 60 touchdown passes and over 4,000 yards. Backing up Rendo will be Zack Pickens who “is also extremely talented,” Andrews shared. “I would feel very confident if he was forced into action as well.” Rendo is certainly an all-around physical player and is no stranger to the QB position. “He played a game and a half after Blake was injured last year. His only start was in the division title game versus Delton-Kellogg (which the Panthers won).
TIM HILLER SPEAKS AT WATERVLIET’S FALL SPORTS MEETING… Tim Hiller, former Western Michigan University and Indianapolis Colts quarterback, spoke to student athletes and parents at Watervliet’s fall sports meeting. Hiller spoke about the importance of athletes setting goals, defining and playing a specific role within the team, and treating the team as a whole. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
It was one of the best games we’ve ever had a QB play,” Andrews commented. Rendo’s stat line from that game read 21 passes, 16 completions for 317 yards, and four touchdowns. The team will introduce 17 newcomers and has only eight seniors on its squad. Only four returning players were starters. With the loss of so many players you might hedge your bets that this is a growing year for the Panthers. You would be wrong. The team is rock solid, confident in their abilities, and ready to play. “We have a number of talented skill players. Our line is young, but also very talented,” Andrews stated. “I believe we will have the potential to be just as explosive as last year’s team that averaged over 50 points per game. “Defensively, I believe our linebackers are a strength. It’s a smaller group than the last few years (only 25 guys) and has been a tight knit group so far. I’m hoping that will be a strength as well.” Defensive may be the only concern Andrews has…and even that is not worrisome. “We need to be better on defense than a year ago. We have made a few scheming adjustments we hope will help. We have also put a major emphasis on turnovers and working on creating turnovers.” Rendo is joined by Tyler Brant, Brad Yazel, Carlos Hernandez, and Devon Flowers as captains of the team. Andrews believes that Watervliet will contend for the division title and head right back into the playoffs again this year. The Panthers begin their season on Friday against Southwestern Athletic Conference rival Hartford, before welcoming Schoolcraft the following week. Watervliet then hits the road for a three-game stretch, traveling to Coloma, Kalamazoo Hackett, and Fennville before returning home for three games. The Panthers will host Constantine, Delton Kellogg, and Decatur. The squad finishes out the regular season in Bangor on October 21. With a solid JV program in place, Watervliet has created quite a farm system for their football team. It is the continuity of coaching philosophy, offensive and defensive plays, and Panther pride that will give Watervliet a boost on the field. Andrews does have a few surprises up his sleeve this year. But make no mistake, Watervliet has a goal and it is not just making the playoffs. And, a word of advice – with construction continuing at the high school, parking will be a premium. Be sure to get to the game early or you might find yourselves walking a bit farther than you planned.