11-16-2017 Tri-City Area Sports


Lynch gains a game but Hildebrand retains lead in the race for top AQB

By Kristy Noack

This week the Tri-City Record Armchair Quarterback contest went a little topsy turvy as a couple of ‘back made their move up the leaderboard.

The AQBs were evenly split on the Watervliet/Jackson Lumen Christi game, so that created some movement. Add into the mix was a lone AQB picked Saugatuck over Cassopolis and Miami to top Notre Dame and upsets aplenty sent shivers through the docket.

However, when the dust settled, Tim Hildebrand retained his spot at number one.

It was Rodney Lynch who posted the best weekly record. Lynch went 6-2 for first place.

RoxAnn Rodney-Isbrecht and Hildebrand both went 5-3 for the week, so the Watervliet tie-breaker game came into play.  Jackson and Watervliet combined for 66 points, giving Rodney-Isbrecht the nod in second place with her 78 point guess.

Hildebrand held onto third place as he predicted 80 points would be scored in that contest.

Greg Krell and Bryan Conrad each put up 4-4 records for the week, so their placement came down to the tie-breaker game as well.

Krell crept into fourth place; he guessed 77 points would be scored.  That left Conrad in fifth place with his 98 point guess.

Rounding out the field in sixth place was Chris Leach, who went 3-5 for the week.

Overall, Hildebrand retained the lead with an overall record of 72-24.

Lynch moved up a game and is now in sole possession of second place. His overall record is 71-25 and he gained one game on Hildebrand and Rodney-Isbrecht.

Rodney-Isbrecht is in third place overall with a 70-26 record. Only two games separate first place from third.

Krell held onto fourth place. He posted a 64-32 overall record.

Conrad gained a game this week, and Leach lost one, which means they are tied for fifth place and hold identical 60-36 records.

As high school football closes out for the season, more college and professional games will be added to the roster.

This week, the ‘backs must determine the winners of the following contests:

Edwardsburg @ River Rouge

Maryland @ Michigan State

Michigan @ Wisconsin

Navy @ Notre Dame

Texas @ West Virginia

Detroit @ Chicago

Kansas City @ NY Giants

Washington @ New Orleans

The tie-breaker game will be the Wolverines taking on the Badgers. Things to watch will be the outcome of the Chicago/Detroit matchup and Edwardsburg’s continued push to Ford Field.

Check back next week to see how your favorite Armchair Quarterback fared!

Final four championship field is set for Homestead

Four drivers will make the chase for the championship as the final field for Homestead is set. Following Sunday’s running of the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Brad Keselowski made the cut and will compete in the winner-takes-all race.

First, however, the drivers had to make their way around Phoenix Raceway Sunday in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line first. He led 50 laps. Kenseth has one win this season and 10 top five finishes.

Second place went to Chase Elliott. Elliott led 32 laps and picked up his 11th top finish.

It was Elliott’s banging and clanging with Denny Hamlin that provided one of the most exciting storylines of the race. The two traded paint and eventually Hamlin crashed his way out of final four contention.

But, Elliott fell short, too, and will spend the final race of the season not chasing the championship.

Martin Truex Jr. drove to a third place finish. He has seven wins this year, a season-high.

Rookie Erik Jones earned a fourth place finish and picked up his top five finish.

Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five. Harvick has two wins and 13 top fives out of the 35 races run this year.

Other drivers who led laps but did not finish in the top five include: polesitter Ryan Blaney (10), Hamlin (193), and Kyle Larson (12).

The 312-lap event saw nine lead changes and featured seven caution periods for 41 laps.

The field of four is set and all eyes will be on Homestead – Miami Speedway in the Ford EcoBoost 500 on Sunday, November 19.

Jimmie Johnson won the series championship last year but is out of contention this year, leaving the field open to the four qualifiers.

Smart money would put Truex Jr. hoisting the championship cup. But, this is NASCAR and anything is possible!

TOHTZ CLAIMS BRONZE… Jennifer Tohtz won a bronze medal at the WAKO world championships held in Budap-est, Hungary, November 3-10. Tohtz, a point fighter, was the defending gold medal winner

Watervliet loses quarterfinals game to Jackson Lumen Christi

 Watervliet’s varsity football team ended their march to Ford Field Saturday after suffering a 44-22 loss to Jackson Lumen Christi.

The Panthers were taking part in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 6 varsity football quarterfinals playoffs.

Jackson Lumen, now 11-1 and regional champion, will take on undefeated Warren Michigan Collegiate (12-0) in state semi-final action.

Watervliet’s win streak may have ended but the Panthers can still celebrate their perfect 9-0 regular season record and district championship title.

Saturday’s game, held in temperatures you might call brisk – the thermometer hovered in the mid- to low thirties – was going to be a challenge. Anyone who follows Watervliet football knew that.

The Panthers had tangled with Jackson Christi previously, in last year’s pre-district game which Watervliet lost 55-28.

CHISEK’S CHURN… Watervliet’s Ryan Chisek churns up field Saturday afternoon during the Panthers’ contest against Jackson Lumen Christi. The game, part of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s state football quarterfinals contest, was won by JLC 44-22. Watervliet, however, was 11-1 overall and went undefeated (9-0) during the regular season. (TCR photo by Shawn Mead Photography)

Jackson Christi holds eight state titles in football – 1977, 1979, 1996, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2009, and 2016. They made it to the state finals twice – in 2005 and 2007 – and lost.

Watervliet, meanwhile, continues to hunt for that yet elusive title under the direction of head coach Jeremy Andrews.

Jackson Lumen Christi kicked off the ball Saturday to Watervliet to open the first quarter.  The Panthers then went to work, picking their way downfield.

Unfortunately, the Panthers could not get past Jackson’s 30-yard line and stalled out, turning the ball over on downs.

After their own first possession failed to yield points on the board, Jackson was forced to punt to the Panthers.

Ball in hand, Watervliet quarterback Zack Pickens fumbled at the Panthers’ own 29-yard line, with Jackson making the recovery and getting excellent field position to start a scoring drive.

Quick as lightning, Jackson worked downfield. Their effort resulted in a rushing TD. The point after attempt was unsuccessful, but Jackson took the early 6-0 lead.

Following the score, Watervliet’s onside kick was downed by Jackson. A scant two minutes later, Jackson returned to the end zone on an 11-yard scamper.

Jackson converted the two-point pass and led 14-0.

Watervliet tried another onside kick and it was recovered by Jackson in Panther territory.  With under two minutes left in the quarter, Jackson scored another rushing touchdown. They also picked up the two-point conversion on a rush and jumped out to a 22-0.

“We actually had a nice drive on the opening possession that stalled on about the 30-yard line. We then forced a three and out, so it wasn’t a terrible start,” Andrews said following the contest.

“Then the wheels fell off.  Three straight turnovers; fumble and two muffed kickoffs. We ran one offensive play and found ourselves down 22-0. To be honest it sort of killed our morale. We were behind the eight ball from that point forward.”

Watervliet would have possession of the ball as time ran out in the first quarter. To start quarter number two, the Panthers were unable to churn up much real estate and were forced to punt.

Fifty-five yards later, Jackson was back in the end zone and picked up another six points. Their two-point conversion attempt failed but their lead widened to 28-0 over the Panthers.

Watervliet turned the ball over on downs on the Panthers’ next possession, and Jackson made them pay. JLC scored another pick six and converted the two-point rush to take the score to 36-0.

Pickens settled in under center and did what he does best – the hurry up offense. With under a minute left in the half, he aired the ball out to Jakob Aldrich, who made the reception.

Pickens and party continued to work further downfield and, as time expired in the half, a Pickens pass was caught by Bryant Kieft for Watervliet’s first score of the night.

The Panthers attempted a PAT but it sailed outside the uprights. Watervliet trailed 36-6 at intermission.

Andrews stated, “At the half we just talked about taking it one play at a time.  Had to get something going and then let’s see what happens. We also discussed trying to strip the ball, create some turnovers.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t really get the offense moving good enough until the fourth quarter. By then it was too late.”

With the game in hand and first possession of the second half, Jackson began gaining ground. Three minutes into the third quarter, they found the end zone again for a TD.  The squad rushed for the successful two-point conversion and opened their lead to 44-6.

Watervliet was forced to punt following their last possession of the third quarter. They turned the ball over on downs.

Fourth quarter action found Watervliet finally hitting their groove.

The Panthers blocked a Jackson punt early in the fourth, a move that seemed to spark some life into Watervliet.

Minutes later, Kieft plucked a six-yard Pickens pass from the sky for a Panther TD. Kieft also caught the two-point conversion from Pickens, and Watervliet closed the gap 44-14.

Jackson was forced to punt on their next possession, and as time ticked off the clock, Watervliet went to work.

With Pickens leading the charge, the Panthers moved downfield. A one-yard rush by Dylan Lynch gave Watervliet another six points. That TD was followed by a one-yard pass to Garrett Matthews for the successful two-point conversion. Watervliet inched closer, 44-22.

Unfortunately for the maroon platoon, there just wasn’t enough time on the clock for the rally. Watervliet lost 44-22.

Pickens was 16 of 28 for 172 yards. He also picked up 80 yards on 12 carries for the Panthers.

The top receiver of the afternoon was Kieft with six catches and two TDs for 81 yards.

Ryan Chisek led the defense with nine tackles.

Watervliet was simply shell-shocked in the first quarter. They were outscored 22-0, the first time all season.  Hand it to Jackson, they got out in front early, taking a page from the Panthers’ playbook, and made Watervliet pay dearly.

“[We] could not have predicted three first quarter turnovers,” Andrews shared. “We had seven for the entire season coming into the game.”

And as for the suggestion that perhaps this was the best team Watervliet has fielded under Andrews’ reign, he counters, “It’s hard to compare teams. This one is fresh, so it seems like the best. The teams in ’11, ’13, ’14, and ’15 were all very good as well.  I will say this, we played the toughest schedule we have played since I’ve been head coach and we won 11 games to start the season.  You could definitely make a strong argument that this is the best team I’ve coached and one of the best teams in school history.”

For now, the boys of fall will turn in their jerseys, hang up their pads, and, for some, end their football career on a high – but disappointing – note. They should be commended for their hard work, dedication, and commitment to the program, sport, and each other.

Additionally, they can take Panther pride in the fact that they brought the town together and infused a spirit of maroon and white in the community in a way seldom seen, but one that every sports fan knows exists.

Ultimately, the team played a heck of a season. Kudos to the young men, coach Andrews, and his staff as well as the fans for their support of a great football team!

Hagar resident earns bronze medal at international competition

Hagar Township resident Jennifer Tohtz is serious about her craft. The 46-year-old has spent 20 years studying, training, and competing in martial arts competitions, and it has paid off.

Tohtz, originally from Lafayette, Indiana and a 1989 graduate of Portage Central High School in Kalamazoo, now splits her time between Bartlett, Illinois and Hagar Shores, where she, her husband Bill, daughter Karli, and son Liam own homes.

Tohtz developed a love for kickboxing in her mid-20s.

“I always had an interest in martial arts. When I moved to Bartlett, a karate school opened up in my neighborhood. I started with a kickboxing class which morphed into a martial arts class. I enjoyed it.”

As her skill level progressed, Tohtz’s journey took her across the United States and the world as she participated in regional and international competitions.

Her first competitive tournament was in Rhode Island when she wore a black belt. “I fought the best fight. It was my best performance.” She finished third in the competition.

Tohtz competes in 12-15 tournaments in a typical year. Most of her competitions were through North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) and World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO).

“Doing WAKO,” Tohtz explains, “I get to fight the best athletes in the world. WAKO seems to be more a fighting circuit, where NASKA focuses more on forms than fighting. WAKO is one of the most professional organizations out there.”

In 2013, Tohtz earned both a silver and bronze medal when she competed in the World Karate Confederation (WKC) championships.

In WKC, each country can send four qualifiers per division; the pool of athletes was huge.

In WAKO-sanctioned competitions, only one person per country per division is allowed to compete. This creates smaller pools of competitors, but you’re facing the best of the best.

WAKO holds regional competitions in each country where they have a presence in seven different kickboxing styles, according to their website. They offer semi contact, light contact, kick-light, full contact, low kick, K1 rules, and musical forms. Each style is broken out into male/female divisions and further segmented by age and weight.

The winner of the regional event is the lone representative of that country. For WAKO USA, Tohtz attends regional competitions in Philadelphia.

In 2015, she competed in the WAKO championship held in Dublin, Ireland. Tohtz, who is a points fighter, earned the gold medal in her division and weight class.

With competitions held every other year, she had to wait to 2017 to defend her title.

This year, the championships were held in Budapest, Hungary November 3 through 10.

Tohtz earned a first-round bye, which gave her a bit of breathing room. She also had the opportunity to watch the first-round match between two potential competitors.

Hungary’s Betty Kovacs won that match and was tapped to face Tohtz in a semi-final match.

For those uneducated about the sports – the writer included – watching Tohtz compete was almost like watching a fencing match.

Both competitors suit up with elbow, hand, shin, and foot pads as well as a helmet and mouth guard. They take their place on the mat and stand facing each other before a referee yells, “Fight!”

The two competitors maneuver through a delicate dance, bouncing on their toes as they parry back and forth.

“I go from being nervous” stepping onto the mat “to taking a deep breath and finding focus,” Tohtz shared. Time, she commented, “slows down. You get tunnel vision; there’s nothing around you.”

When someone scores a point, the action stops, and the competitors go back to their original positions on the mat facing each other. Two rounds of two minutes make up the match, and whoever has the most points following the final round wins.

“Strategy is very time-driven. If I have a lot of time and I’m up, I’ll run the ring. If I have a lot of time and I’m down, I’m probably going to be more aggressive,” Tohtz said.

This day, Wednesday, November 8, the two competitors battled back and forth. In the end, Kovacs earned the win and chance to compete in the finals, while Tohtz had to settle for a bronze medal.

The loss, according to Tohtz “means I have some work to do. I made mistakes. It just wasn’t my day.”

But, it’s not just competition that heightens Tohtz’s passion for the sport. “I’ve developed a family. When it comes right down to it, it’s become who I am.”

To that end, Tohtz became a coach. She has spent the last 18 years at Bartlett National Karate as an instruction, teaching and leading by example.

As for coaching, Tohtz said, “I love it. Being a part of my school, training, coaching, the community. I’m the most proud of the students I’ve taught.”