View from the Press Box
Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath
Coloma wins slugfest against rival Watervliet 52-36; Win ends playoff drought for Comets
The Coloma Comets came into the final Friday of the regular season needing a win to have any chance of making the football playoffs for the first time since 2008, and the Watervliet Panthers came in wanting nothing more than to make sure that drought didn’t end at their expense.
RECOVERY COMPLETE… With a 5-4 record and enough playoff points to make the berth, the Comets of Coloma are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 after rolling over rival Watervliet 52-36 Friday night. Here, Coloma quarterback Zach Goodline recovered a Comet fumble in the second half of play. Coloma’s opponent in pre-district competition will be Kalamazoo United who is undefeated at 9-0. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
The game started with the Panthers setting the Comets back on their heels, as they took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for an opening touchdown capped off by sophomore quarterback Don Smith punching it in from two yards out. The Panthers stuck to a running attack as the Comets defense was set up to stop the normally potent Watervliet passing attack.
The Comets quickly answered back with a touchdown march of their own in a little more than two minutes, and Caleb Ellis took it the final four yards to pay dirt. After tacking on the 2-point conversion the score was knotted back up at 8-8.
Watervliet’s second series brought more of the same, as QB Smith frequently, as he would all night long, called his own number, and the Panthers easily cruised down the field ending with a 10-yard Smith touchdown. The sophomore quarterback would end the night with over 200 yards rushing on 34 carries, with 161 of those yards coming in the first quarter, along with scoring three touchdowns for the game.
However, not to be outdone, Senior Zach Goodline soon came back with a 51-yard touchdown scamper of his own, tagged on the 2-pointer and the game was again tied at 16.
Each team would score once more in the second quarter, and the teams went to the locker room at half time with the score tied at 22-22.
Both teams pretty much kept the ball on the ground as once again rain showers and a pretty stiff wind made throwing the ball a risky proposition.
Coloma started the second half receiving the football, and scored quickly, as Goodline put the Comets on the scoreboard once again on a 40-yard touchdown run. Zack Lake tacked on the 2-point conversion, and the Comets were ahead in the game for the first time, and they would never relinquish the lead. Watervliet scored a couple of minutes later on another Smith touchdown, but on the 2-pointer Kris Lenox tried to go wide, but he was stopped short of the goal line and the Comets led 30-28.
Soon after Watervliet kicked deep for the first time of the night, and with the Comets set up on their own 20-yard line Goodline sprinted down the field shook off a couple of tacklers and went 80 yards for a score that would put them up by 10 points, and that’s the way the third quarter would end.
The play of the game, and the play that put the game away for the Comets, came in the fourth quarter, when, with 8:28 remaining, and the Comets leading 44-28, sophomore defensive lineman James Clay scooped up a fumble at the Watervliet 40-yard line and with an escort of Comets rumbled toward the end zone. He was hit by a couple of would be tacklers, but the 6 foot 3 inch, 330 pound lineman would not be denied, and scored the touchdown that would put the game out of reach.
After the Panthers scored 22 points in about 13 minutes of game time on their first three possessions, Coloma made some defensive adjustments and pretty much held them in check for the rest of the game.
In addition to Don Smith’s big game Kris Lenox also added 64 yards on 15 carries for the Panthers who finished with 412 yards on the night with 315 of those on the ground.
Zach Goodline the senior Comet quarterback had a huge night, making his 27th start at QB for the Comets; Goodline rushed for 270 yards on 17 carries and scored five touchdowns. Lake finished the night with 56 yards in 12 carries, picking up the tough yards hammering it up the middle. Trent Brown and Cody Reese led the Comet defenders with 13 and 12 tackles respectively, and in addition to Clay’s fumble recovery Kenyon Boyd picked off one Don Smith pass. Coloma finished their third consecutive game without a turnover which is no small feat considering they played the last three Friday nights with it raining for much of those nights.
With the win Coloma will get an opportunity to join 255 other Michigan High School teams in the playoffs beginning next Friday night. It is the first time the Comets have made the playoffs since 2008. They are scheduled to play against a conference foe and team they faced earlier this season, Kalamazoo United. The game will be played at Vicksburg because of issues United has been having with their home field; game time kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele
The week and even parts of the weekend were busy for the student-athletes of Hartford in all four fall sports. And while one team was concluding its season on the gridiron, another team on the soccer pitch was looking to find the magic and win a district championship for the second straight season.
Hartford Football scores victory in wild affair
On the gridiron, the Hartford Varsity Football team hosted Bloomingdale for the final game of the regular season. The 4-4 Indians, who had dropped four straight games after starting the season 4-0, still had an outside chance of earning an “at-large” bid of making the playoffs. To keep that possibility alive, they would have to defeat a Cardinals team whose record may have been 2-6 coming in but possessed athletes who could give the Indians fits.
What happened can only be described this way – the game just turned into a track meet. Both teams’ offenses moved the ball up and down the field all night long. One drive, Hartford would score. The next drive, Bloomingdale would score. In the end, the Indian defense was able to get a couple more defensive stops then the Cardinals, as Hartford scored the victory, 50-38, in front of an excited, yet wet, crowd at Indian Stadium.
Hartford was outscored 16-14 in the opening stanza but managed to put together two scoring drives during the first 12 minutes of the game. The quarter was dominated by Aaron Sinclair, as he scored all the points for the men wearing green and white. His first score was on a 3-yard run to begin the scoring and he then added the 2-point conversion, via the run, on the very next play. Later in the quarter, he would run the ball 63 yards, untouched, for another Indian touchdown. The 2-point conversion attempt after the score failed.
The Indians would go on to score just once in the second quarter but held Bloomingdale in check to take a 22-16 lead into halftime. The lone score was once again created by Sinclair, who took the handoff five yards into the end zone for the touchdown. The point after attempt proved successful, as quarterback Kyle Manning threw the ball and found receiver Javier Naranjo in the end zone to complete the 2-point conversion.
Hartford came out in the second half looking solid on both sides of the ball, scoring eight points in the third quarter on offense and once again holding the Cardinals scoreless on defense. The lone touchdown was scored on 4th down and goal from the 1-yard line, as Manning kept the ball and earned six points for the Indians via the quarterback sneak. He also played a pivotal role in the Indians completing the 2-point attempt, as he found Evan DeLaRosa in the end zone with a pass, to make the score 30-16 after three quarters of play.
AT ANY COST… Hartford’s Karla Robles used her head October 16 in a varsity volleyball match against Berrien Springs. The ball ricocheted off Robles’s head and was returned over the net to help the Indians win the point. Hartford went on to win the first game 25-22. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
The fourth quarter was where the game turned into a track meet. Hartford and Bloomingdale would go on to combine for 42 points in what was the highest scoring 12 minutes of the season for both teams. In the end, the Cardinals outscored the Indians in the final stanza, 22-20.
Hartford opened the scoring in the fourth by once again using the feet of Sinclair. The talented running back found a hole and took the ball 46 yards for the touchdown. The Indians once again went for the 2-point conversion and were successful, when Manning threw a screen pass to Moses Beraza, who evaded multiple defenders and ended up in the end zone.
After Bloomingdale scored on a long kickoff return for a touchdown, Hartford would be forced to respond – and they did so, on the very next possession. This time, Beraza decided he wanted to join the touchdown party, as he ran the ball into the end zone from 15 yards out for the score. The Indians would go for the 2-point conversion once again, but this time, the attempt was unsuccessful.
The final points of the night for Hartford were scored by Sinclair, who carried the ball into the end zone from 50 yards out to score his fifth touchdown of the game. Like all the previous scoring drives in the game, the Indians went for the 2-point conversion, but the attempt once again proved unsuccessful.
On offense, Hartford gained 438 total yards, with all but three yards coming on the ground. Manning was 1-for-2 passing for three yards, while adding eight yards and a touchdown on the ground. The lone pass was caught by Ricky Baker. In addition to five rushing touchdowns, Sinclair added 307 yards on 25 carries to lead the rushing attack, while Beraza added 114 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown.
On defense, Hartford was led by three players with eight tackles each: Beraza, DeLaRosa and Corey Arnold. Baker and James Gideon recorded three tackles a piece.
With the win, Hartford moved to 5-4 on the season and 4-4 in Southwest 10 Conference play. The win kept the Indians playoff hopes alive, but in the end, they would fall just a few playoff points short of reaching the postseason. Congratulations to Coach Manning, his staff and the players on a fantastic season.
Hartford Soccer continues postseason tradition, nets district title
On the soccer pitch, the Hartford Men’s Varsity Soccer team, ranked #8 in the MIHSSCA Coaches poll, began its postseason journey during a very busy week. When it was all said and done, they played in three district matches. If the Indians went on to win all three matches, they would score a district championship, a feat they had accomplished four of the past eight years.
On Tuesday, the team hosted their first-round district match against #10-ranked Holland Black River. In front of a packed house, the Indians dominated the first half, scoring three goals in the opening 40 minutes to take a commanding 3-0 lead into half. Things didn’t get any better for the River Rats in the second half, with the stifling Indian defense limiting Black River to just five attempts on the Indian goalkeeper. When the final whistle sounded, Hartford had defeated Black River, 3-0.
The Indians three goals were scored by Joel Soto (2) and Brandon Galvan. Assists were credited to Miggy Cardoso, Nick Pultz and Soto. Goalkeeper Rudy Martinez recorded five saves in the winning effort.
On Thursday, the team traveled to district-host Saugatuck to face conference-foe Bloomingdale in the district semifinals. While the Indians had defeated the Cardinals twice during the regular season, both matches were competitive, and this one was no exception. Like the previous two matches, Hartford jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the half thanks to a pair of first-half goals. The two teams traded a goal each in the second half, and, when the final whistle sounded, Hartford had defeated Bloomingdale for the third time this season by a score of 3-1.
The Indians three goals were scored by Galvan (2) and Roy Rodriguez. Assists were credited to Danny Gutierrez and Rodriguez. Goalkeeper Martinez recorded four saves in the winning effort.
Finally, on Saturday, the team loaded the bus once again destined for Saugatuck, this time to play in the district final match against Covert. The two teams had played in the postseason before, with the Indians winning every time they have played. It could be said the advantage belonged to Hartford – and the Indians proved in this one why they are a contender year-in and year-out. Hartford dominated on a very windy day along Lake Michigan, scoring three goals in the first half and two in the second half, while the defense played strong all match long once again. When the final whistle sounded, Hartford had defeated Covert, 5-1, winning yet another district championship and adding to an already packed soccer trophy case.
The Indians five goals were scored by Soto (2), Rodriguez (2) and Cardoso. Galvan added assists on two Hartford goals. Goalkeeper Martinez recorded five saves in the winning effort.
After winning their fifth district title in nine years, Hartford moves on to regional play with a record of 19-3. The Indians played on Tuesday at Portage Northern against Kalamazoo Hackett, a team that defeated Hartford, 2-1, during the regular season. (Results were not available at press time.) Should the Indians win that match, they would take on the winner of Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian and Marcellus Howardsville on Thursday night, also at Portage Northern. Results from regional play will be reported in next week’s Press Box.
Hartford Volleyball plays lights on, lights off
Last week on the volleyball court, the Hartford Varsity Volleyball team played one match and competed in an invitational during the weekend. On Tuesday night, they hosted non-conference opponent, Berrien Springs, before traveling to Saint Joseph on Saturday morning to compete in the Saint Joseph Invitational.
In Tuesday’s match, the team won a thrilling five-set affair against the Shamrocks: 25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 22-25 and 15-11. The Indians were led in kills by Mikenzie Chambers with 16, while Megan Nelson added 10 kills, Jaelyne Galvan added five kills and Janell Babcock added three kills. Galvan led the team in aces with three, while three other players: Lainey Goodson, Nelson and Karla Robles added two aces each. Hartford was led in digs by Nelson with 34, while Galvan added 23 digs and Robles added 15 digs.
In Saturday’s invitational action, Hartford suffered three straight-set losses during pool play. They lost to Paw Paw (25-18, 25-18), Saint Joseph (25-6, 25-16) and Dowagiac (25-17, 25-16). After the third pool play match, the electricity went out at Saint Joseph High School and play was called for the day due to the length of the outage.
The Indians were led in kills by Chambers with nine, while Nelson added six kills, Galvan added three kills and Babcock added two kills. Nelson led the team in aces with three, while Galvan added one ace. Hartford was led in digs by Robles with 19, while Chambers added 13 digs, Nelson added 12 digs and Goodson added 10 digs.
Hartford is currently 9-34 on the season. They take a week off before beginning district play on Monday, Oct. 29 against Eau Claire at Niles Brandywine High School.
Hartford Cross Country sets season bests during cold, windy week
On the Cross Country trail, the Hartford Varsity Cross Country teams competed in two meets during the week. They traveled to Mendon on Wednesday to compete in the final conference jamboree of the season, before loading a bus to Gobles on Saturday morning to compete in the “Little Guys” Invitational.
In Wednesday’s final conference jamboree, the Hartford ladies finished in 2nd place in a field of seven teams, led by MacKenzie Brinsfield in 7th place with a time of 20:56, while Adrianna Morseau placed 9th with a time of 21:30. Other runners that contributed to the team result were Jovana Naranjo (14th place, 22:14), Brianna Morseau (15th place, 22:24) and Jamie Smith (18th place, 22:44).
In the same conference jamboree, the Hartford men finished 6th place in a field of eight teams, led by Joey Lehmkuhl in 10th place with a time of 18:37, while Aldo Acevedo placed 30th with a time of 20:37. Other runners that contributed to the team result were Francisco Loera (31st place, 20:46), Keith Sayre (38th place, 21:47) and Francisco Medrano (46th place, 22:52).
The course in Mendon was running very fast, as twelve runners – three men and nine ladies, all achieved personal best times during the meet.
In Saturday’s wind-swept Gobles “Little Guys” Invitational, the Hartford men finished in 10th place in a field of thirteen teams, led by Lehmkuhl in 15th place with a time of 18:51, while Loera placed 46th with a time of 20:40. Other runners that contributed to the team result were Acevedo (60th place, 21:20), Sayre (74th place, 22:11) and Medrano (84th place, 23:27).
In the same invitational, the Hartford ladies finished in 3rd place in a field of eleven teams, led by Brinsfield in 6th place with a time of 21:23, while Morseau placed 12th with a time of 21:47. Other runners that contributed to the team result were Morseau (24th place, 22:57), Smith (26th place, 23:03) and Mayra Naranjo (30th place, 23:24).
The Hartford Cross Country teams will complete their season on Saturday morning at the MHSAA regional meet. The regional host site is at Centreville High School. Results and times will be posted in the Press Box next week.
Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant
Panther Volleyball wins at Coloma
In addition to the big football rivalry the girls had their own cross-town rivalry match at Coloma last week. The Lady Panthers traveled a few miles down Red Arrow Highway on Tuesday, Oct. 16 to face the Comets.
The Panthers started out strong, leading the first game 10-3 then 14-7. The Comets worked their way back to within two points at 19-17, but Panther coach Edie Daugherty took a time out to make adjustments and the Panthers never let the Comets get any closer. Strong net play at the end helped the Panthers win the first game by a score of 25-21.
Both teams were fired up to start game two. After falling behind 11-6, Comet coach Kim Swisher called a time out and her Comets responded, tying the game at 19-19. That was as close to a lead as the Comets would get all evening as the maroon and white held tight, playing great team volleyball and finishing well on several exciting volleys at the end to win 25-20.
In game three the confident Panthers built an 18-10 lead then cruised to a 25-18 win to take the match 3-0. The Panthers improve to 2-2 in Lakeshore division play and the Comets fall to 1-4.
Senior Emma Armstrong had her best offensive night of the season, leading the team with 14 kills. Grace Smith led the defense with 13 digs and several outstanding rally saves. Setter Mikalah Clay had 25 assists and led with three aces.
PANTHER POWER CLIPS COMETS… Watervliet’s Emma Armstrong volleys a shot over the net Tuesday, Oct. 16 as Coloma’s Hannah Mathis (3) and Megan Neubecker (10) work to block the shot. Watervliet won the match 3-0. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)
Full stats: Grace Smith, 13 digs, one kill; Mikalah Clay, 25 assists, six digs, four kills, three aces; Emma Armstrong, 14 kills, five digs, two aces; Elaine Koshar, seven kills, one dig, two aces, two blocks; Susanna Van Lente, four digs, four kills, one block, one ace; Emma Yazel, two kills, three blocks; Koa Marshall, two digs, four assists, two kills; Caley Simmons, three digs; Emma Kraklau, one dig; Brionna Myers, two digs.
Panther Volleyball falls to Galesburg-Augusta
On Thursday, Oct. 18 the Panthers hosted the Galesburg-Augusta Rams. Galesburg won the non-division match 3-0.
Stats: Grace Smith, 23 digs, one kill, one ace; Elaine Koshar, 11 kills, five blocks; Mikalah Clay, 11 assists, nine digs, three blocks, two aces; Emma Armstrong, two kills, three digs, one ace.
Cross County boys take 5th Place at Kzoo Christian Comet Invite
The Panther boys continued their impressive season by finishing 5th at the Comet Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 20. Fortunately the race took place before the windstorm that ravaged the area and race time conditions were clear, cool, and just breezy. The race involved 11 schools, most of them from the Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids areas.
In a field of 155, junior Gus Hinch led the team at 17:47, finishing 11th overall. Ezra Troyer crossed the line at 18:10, finishing 18th. Kade Van Niel ran a great race, setting a new personal record (PR) and finishing 30th at 18:38. Trever Pelton was also running fast, finishing 32nd and setting a new PR at 18:43. Matthew Hanks completed the top five at 19:26.
Other runners and their times: Austin Roberts 19:54, Issa Yamaguchi PR 20:22, Camdon Geisler 20:17, Mason Pennington PR 21.31, and Jake Kropel PR 24:01.
The girls raced too, continuing their steady improvement. Sophia Tavolacci ran her best race of the season, finishing at 23:55 and setting a new PR by 43 seconds. Keyona Klimkiewicz finished at 25:28, Jasmin Moron ran 25:38 knocking nearly a minute off her PR, and Alexa Little finished at 29:23.
The MHSAA regional meet is the next stop, Saturday morning in Centreville. The boys’ team has a chance to qualify for the state finals on November 3.
Press Box Player of the Week!
By Jerrod Birmele Joel Soto, a junior at Hartford High School, is this week’s Press Box Player of the Week.