11-08-2018 Tri-City Area Sports

View From the Press Box

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant


Troyer and Hinch run well at Division 3 State Finals

Panther cross country runners Ezra Troyer and Gus Hinch ran at the 2018 Cross Country State Finals on Saturday. Sophomore Troyer finished 119th in a field of 246 Division 3 boys, running the wet and muddy Michigan International Speedway track posting one of his best times at 17:58. Junior Gus Hinch, battling a lingering illness in his second appearance at the finals, finished just behind in 127th at 18:03.

Coach Aaron Weber was pleased with their performance, noting Ezra’s poise in his first exposure to a state final. Gus, despite the illness, finished 18 places better than last year’s finals. Weber said, “The illness and injury bug got us at the worst possible time this season. We only have one senior this season so things look good for next year with so many runners returning.”

Watervliet Football honors 2018 award winners

On Monday October 29, the Watervliet football team held their season-end awards banquet. This is the earliest this event has been held in several years, making its tone a little different than the recent past. At the same time, the student-athletes and parents were all in a good mood.

In his closing remarks coach Jeremy Andrews noted that this season obviously didn’t have the Friday night success they had become accustomed to, and they would have to work hard to get the program back to where it has been recently. He mentioned re-examining everything from off-season workouts to possibly even the offensive and defensive philosophies.

The highlight of the evening is a big potluck dinner, featuring chicken and drinks provided by Watervliet’s busy athletic boosters.

Several awards were earned, starting with The Panther Pride Award which is given to those players who participated in football for six years. Those earning the award were Johnny Benivedez, Jakob Aldrich, Derrick Burkhart, Allen Chapin, Eric Kehrer, and Garrett Matthews.

The quantity of district honors was down a bit from previous years, and the 2018 recipients deserved every award. Earning SAC Conference Honorable Mention were senior lineman Eric Kehrer, senior quarterback and defensive back Garrett Matthews, and sophomore lineman Dylan Lawson.

EYEING THE SITUATION… Koa Marshall keeps her eye on her volley shot last Monday night as the Watervliet Panthers matched wits against host Brandywine on the volleyball court. The Panthers dropped their Division 3 district opener 3-0 to the Bobcats to end their season. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Earning SAC Conference First Team honors were senior receiver and defensive back Jakob Aldrich and sophomore quarterback and linebacker Don Smith. Aldrich caught 58 passes for 1,022 yards, becoming just the fifth Panther receiver to reach 1,000. He also scored 14 touchdowns and was successful on twelve 2-point conversions. Smith rushed for 768 yards on 183 attempts, scoring five touchdowns.

Coach Andrews then presented several individual awards, all but one of which is selected by a vote of the entire team and coaches. The Offensive Player of the Year went to Jakob Aldrich. The Defensive Player of the Year went to defensive lineman Jimmy Collis.

Manny Guzman was voted Most Improved Player. The team MVP award went to Jakob Aldrich.

Finally, Coach Andrews selects the recipient of the Panther Award. This special award goes to an athlete who has given all they have to the program and is a key part of the team regardless of their playing time on Fridays. This year the award went to two players, Derrick Burkhart and Garrett Matthews.

Watervliet’s young swimmers

Sam and Moeko Crago live in Coloma, go to school in Watervliet and swim for Saint Joseph Aquatics in St Joe. Sam, 12, is in the 7th grade at Watervliet Middle School, and Moeko is a 5th grader at North School. The two have been swimming for about five years, starting in Covert then moving to St. Joe after the Covert pool closed. They practice up to five days a week, unless other activities get in the way.

The two recently swam at their first USA Swimming meet of the season. The Spooky Splash was held at Lakeview High School in Battle Creek. In USA Swimming a Q1 time qualifies for the state meet in March. A Q2 time earns a spot in the Junior Olympics, the last chance to earn a Q1 time for the season.

Sam qualified for the Junior Olympic meet in March at East Grand Rapids, where he swam the 50 freestyle in 30.47, a Q2 time, and the 100 freestyle in 1:06.96, also a Q2 time. He’s hoping to also qualify for 50 breaststroke and 50 backstroke.

Moeko had the best meet of her career, with personal best times in five of her six races. She qualified for the Junior Olympic meet in four events and made State Q1 times by winning the 50 backstroke and 100 butterfly. She swam the 50 backstroke in 34.58 and the grueling 100 butterfly in 1:20.95.

The next USA swim meet will be later this month at East Grand Rapids High School. Good luck Sam and Moeko!

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath


Emma Vandermolen competes in Cross Country State Finals

Emma Vandermolen capped a very successful Cross Country season for the Coloma Comets, by competing in the Division 3 State Finals, which was held at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, on Saturday November 3.

Emma had a rock star sendoff on Friday morning, with the North Berrien Fire Department escorting her from the high school through Coloma and on to the highway.  Several of the Coloma Band members, many students, family, and friends stood along the streets waving her on, and wishing her luck.  She was accompanied Friday, by her parents, her coach Courtney Churchill, and siblings, Ethan and Abby Vandermolen who also run for the Comets’ cross country team.

With temps in the 30s and 40s on race day, it’s really tough to get the muscles loose enough to run great times for any runner, but running for the state championship would generate plenty of adrenaline to offset some of the cool temps.

Emma finished in a time of 21:56, which was a bit slower than her best time of the year, but it was one second better than her time of 21:57, which she ran in the regional meet that got her into the state finals.  Emma finished in 151st place out of a total of 238 runners competing in division 3.

Being a junior at Coloma High School, Emma has another year to attempt making it to the finals and improving on this year. Her competitive nature makes that probable.

Emma’s best two finishes this year were a second place finish on October 16, at the River Valley Mustang Invitational, when she finished in a time of 21:34, and a 3rd place finish at the Schoolcraft Invitational, where she ran on September 19 in a time of 22:18.

SETTING THE PACE… Hartford’s Megan Nelson sets the ball Monday night, Oct. 29 during Division 3 volleyball district opening round action at Brandywine. The Indians won the first game against Eau Claire, but the Beavers chomped back to win the next three games and end Hartford’s season. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


According to Athletic.net statistics, Emma has the 13th best time of the year, in Division 3, region 22, with her personal best time of 21:21.8, which she ran on September 26, in the SAC Cross Country Jamboree #2.

Emma has made Comet Nation proud.

Comets Volleyball team defeats Buchanan in District Semi Finals

The Coloma Comets Volleyball team coached by Kim Gear reached the semi finals of the Division 2 District Volleyball tournament by defeating the Buchanan Bucks, 25-23, 25-22, and 25-23, which Coloma was hosting.

Each game was extremely close, with Coloma scoring the final four points to win the first game.

Coloma trailed in the second game until a 5-point run gave them the lead 18-14, and they stayed ahead the rest of the game.  In the 3rd game, they reeled off eight straight points, built a 13-8 advantage, and again they never relinquished that lead.

Comet coach Gear said that she was extremely thrilled at the way her team battled all night, and that she had been waiting all year for her team to compete in this manner.  She stated that, “I believe they all played well, they all played their position, and contributed in their own way.”

Megan Neubecker, one of the team leaders, led the way on this night for the Comets, with 15 kills, three aces, nine digs, and 11 blocks.  Kelsey Ellis contributed two kills, one ace, and 26 digs. Hannah Mathis added three kills, nine assists, 15 digs, and four blocks.  Sam Stewart had 18 digs, Maurissa LaGrow had 10 digs, and Madison McQuillan had 15 assists.

Coloma falls to Lakeshore Lancers in District Finals

The Coloma Comets were the surprise team to make it to the finals of the District 2 Volleyball tournament and faced the Lakeshore Lancers at the Comet gym Thursday night. Coach Kim Gear’s team came out charging and took an early lead on the Lancers, with the tallest player on the Comet team, Megan Neubecker leading the way with three kills and a block; the Coloma squad built an 8-5 lead.  Lakeshore then ran off six straight points to take an 11-8 lead.   With Coloma trailing 22-17, they scored three straight points to cut the lead to 22-20, but that was as close as they would come as they fell in the first game 25-20.

That would be the only close game of the night as Lakeshore ran off strings of points which held Coloma at bay, and the Comets just couldn’t seem to slow down the Lancers.  They ultimately lost the last two games by 25-7, and 25-10.

Coloma finishes the season with an overall record of 8-29-4.

Megan Neubecker led the way for the Comets, with nine kills, two digs, and seven blocks. Sam Stewart had seven digs; Hannah Mathis had six assists, four digs, and two blocks.  Kelsey Ellis also had nine digs for the Comets, with Taryn Blazier chipping in with five kills.

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele


Games, matches and meets in high school sports are like the change in seasons: they are often impossible to predict. This week, the Hartford Volleyball team took part in district competition, while the Ladies Cross Country team raced alongside the state’s best in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Cross Country championships.

Hartford Volleyball spiked out in first round

On the volleyball court, the Hartford Volleyball team began postseason play on Monday night, Oct. 29, traveling to Niles Brandywine High School to face Eau Claire in the first round of districts. The Indians and Beavers played once during the regular season, back on Sept. 11, with the good guys winning a five-set thriller. With a berth in the district semifinals on the line, you would expect this match could go either way.

In the first set, Hartford received strong play on defense and at the net and took the set by four points, 25-21. In the second set, Eau Claire would build an early 13-2 lead and hold off a fierce Hartford rally to take the set, 25-21. In the third set, Eau Claire would use eight straight points to turn a four point deficit (10-14) into a four point lead (18-14) and would go on to win the set, 25-18. In the crucial fourth set with their backs against the wall, the Lady Indians fought hard and played tough. But, in the end, they would be defeated, 25-19, thus ending their season far too soon.

THE AIR UP THERE… Marissa Sherburn, a junior on the Coloma varsity volleyball squad, leaps for a return volley last Wednesday as the Comets faced off in a Division 2 district semi-final match against Buchanan. Coloma, enjoying home court advantage, topped the Bucks 3-0 but lost 3-0 to Lakeshore in the finals on Thursday. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


Statistically, the Lady Indians were led by Mikenzie Chambers, whose final stat line featured 9 kills, 11 digs, four blocks and an ace, while Megan Nelson added nine kills, nine assists and an ace. Janell Babcock and Karla Robles added eight digs a piece, while Jaelyne Galvan assisted on 11 winners. Hartford also received service aces courtesy of Babcock, Ariah Jordan and Robles to bring their team total to five aces for the night.

Hartford finished the season with a record of 9-35. The Lady Indians will only graduate two seniors this season, and with the nucleus of the team coming back, expect some major improvement in the years to come. Congratulations to Coach Matheny, her coaching staff and the Volleyball team for sticking it out and playing hard all season long.

Hartford Ladies Cross Country runs to 21st Place at State Finals

On the cross country trail, the Hartford Ladies Cross Country team competed Saturday morning in the MHSAA Division 3 state finals, held at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. This marked the first time since 2007 that Hartford fielded a full, seven-runner team at the state finals. The ladies on this year’s team looked to improve on the 27th place finish that the 2007 team accomplished more than a decade ago.

When the dust settled, the Indians would indeed improve on that mark, finishing in 21st place out of 27 teams, with a team score of 559. The team was led by MacKenzie Brinsfield, who finished in 118th place with a time of 21:22, while Adrianna Morseau finished in 139th place with a time of 21:46. The remainder of the top-5 runners for Hartford included Jovana Naranjo (147th place, 21:51 – PR), Jamie Smith (184th place, 22:40 – PR) and Brianna Morseau (191st place, 22:48). The final two runners that made up the team were Mayra Naranjo (194th place, 22:52 – PR) and Asuzena Loera (236th place, 26:10).

And with the state finals in the history books, this concludes another successful season for the Cross Country program. In all, just five runners – two men and three ladies – will be graduating. If this season is indicative of what’s to come, the Hartford Cross Country teams will be back in contention once again next season. Congratulations to Coach Paran, Coach Golas and the Cross Country teams on a job well done.

Press Box Player of the Week!

This week’s Press Box Player of the Week is Watervliet’s Ezra Troyer. Ezra, a sophomore, ran a near personal-record time on a cold, wet, and muddy course at the Division 3 Cross Country State Championship meet on Saturday November 3. He finished 30th among all D3 10th grade runners.

Asked what he thought at the starting line in the biggest race of his life so far, he said, “I don’t want to do this, but yet I do. It’s a weird feeling.” Later, he described the typical runner’s lament at the 4K mark: “I have 1K of pain left so just finish the race.”

Speaking of pain, the best advice he received from his coach Aaron Weber was, “The kid next to you is in just as much pain as you are.” Ezra set a goal next year to break the 17:00 mark, which is just 48 seconds better than his PR. He’ll work on that goal during track season where he runs most of the long distance events.

Coach Weber said, “Ezra is very free-spirited which helps to keep things fun during some of the more grueling workouts.  He showed nice improvement from his freshman to sophomore year. With two years still left, he can accomplish some great things if he is willing to put in the work.”

Ezra’s been running since the 6th grade, or probably all of his life if you ask his parents, Kendall and Julia Troyer. His plans are to go to Bethel College or Grand Canyon University to study mechanical engineering and computer science. Congratulations, Ezra!

November comes but the TCR Armchair Quarterbacks remain hot; excellent week keeps the standings at a standstill

By Dave Vollrath

As the calendar turns another page and November brings us colder weather, it had no effect on our local football experts, as they remain red hot, and had an overall accuracy rate of 84 percent winners in picking week 11 games. Because they all had a very good week, it means there are no changes to the overall leaders, and the first four places are still separated by just a few points.

The TCR AQB competition is held weekly as six local football fans compete against one another to predict the winners of a pre selected group of games from high school, college, and the professional ranks.  Following the conclusion of the Super Bowl, one winner is crowned champion, and will have the great honor of wearing a new Tri-City Record Armchair Quarterback hat.

In the event that two or more ‘backs have the same record for the week or the yearly total, their place in the standings will be determined by a tie breaker game.  In addition to trying to select the winners for each week’s games, they try and predict the score of a specially selected game.  The AQB who comes closest to the final total points scored by those two teams will get the higher spot in the standings.

For the week, our top four prognosticators each went 7-1, an accuracy rate that would make your local bookie very nervous.  Top picker of the week honors go to Tim Hildebrand who was closest on the tie breaker game, with a prediction of 33 points, Central vs. Eastern, they scored a total of 24 points.  Greg Krell was next predicting a total of 47 points, followed by Rodney Lynch with 49, and RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht with 51.  Dan Jones and Chris Leach each had a very respectable week at 6-2, with Dan winning the tie breaker at 28 points and Chris predicted 52.

Rodney and RoxAnn remain tied at the top in overall points, with each having an excellent record of 64-20.  For the second consecutive week, Rodney takes the first place position based on the tie breaker game, leaving RoxAnn in second place once again.

Tim keeps pace with the leaders and remains in third place, just three points back with an overall 61-23 record. Greg stays right on Tim’s heels at 59-25, and is hungry to try and make up some ground.

Dan and Chris both keep their places of 5th and 6th respectively as they boast records of 52-32 and 46-38.

The games that will be testing their skills for week 12 of competition include:

Rutgers vs. Michigan

Ohio State vs. Michigan State

Florida State vs. Notre Dame

Penn State vs. Wisconsin

Detroit vs. Chicago

New Orleans vs. Cincinnati

Miami vs. Green Bay

Dallas vs. Philadelphia

Tie breaker game is Detroit Lions in Chicago against the Bears.

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