County football teams each have a different sort of loss from which to bounce back this week as the season nears its halfway point.
Hart must bounce back from a disappointing 35-0 defeat to Montague that deflated some of the early momentum the Pirates had created with their 2-0 start. Shelby must overcome allowing 67 points to North Muskegon in a game that got out of hand early. And Hesperia must mentally recover from a heartbreaking overtime defeat to White Cloud.
Week four is here, and how the teams respond should be enlightening.
Hesperia vs Lakeview
The Hesperia Panthers were close to victory so many times Friday at White Cloud. A stop on the Indians’ final drive in regulation, on which they scored a touchdown to tie the game, would’ve secured the win. Either of the two snaps Hesperia had from the one-yard line in overtime, after the Indians kicked a field goal on their possession, could’ve ended in the Panthers’ first win.
However, White Cloud got that final stop, and the Panthers fell to 0-3 on the season and 0-1 in the Central State Activities Association Silver.
Panthers’ running back Brandon Quinn had another solid game, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on 25 attempts. Hesperia also made a few big plays in the passing game, as Armando Escobedo connected with Travis Kurtz three times for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Escobedo also ran in a touchdown.
It’s those things that Hesperia can perhaps take and translate to a game this week against Lakeview, a game which the Panthers have a good shot to win. The Wildcats have struggled through three weeks, scoring only 13 total points and allowing over 46 points per game. One of their losses was a lightning-shortened 46-0 affair against Tri-County.
If Hesperia is able to collect itself, the Panthers should have some success on defense and could be in position to earn that elusive first win, albeit a week late.
Shelby vs Whitehall
Shelby had a rough time Friday, losing 67-0 to North Muskegon. The Tigers allowed 60 points in the first half and surrendered over 500 offensive yards despite the entire second half being played with the running clock. Nine different Norsemen scored touchdowns in the game.
The Tigers turned the ball over twice on offense. Trey Waller was their top offensive performer, catching two passes for 50 yards. Cade Clement ran for 35 yards, and Travis Boughan threw for 50.
Coach Phil Fortier praised his team for continuing to fight late into the game, and could be seen emphasizing a positive mindset in timeout huddles even as the scoreboard piled up.
That mindset could be important again as Shelby (0-3, 0-2 West Michigan Conference) faces an uphill battle this week against Whitehall. The Vikings are one of the top teams in the West Michigan Conference, as displayed by a 42-0 rout of Ravenna last week. Alec Pruett has piled up over 400 yards rushing in three games, and the Vikings boast several offensive weapons, like quarterback Kyle Stratton and receivers Brodie Fogus, Nate Bolley and Red Watson. Despite an injury-plagued defense, Whitehall has shown strength on that side of the ball as well.
Fortier isn’t as worried about the Vikes, though, as he is about working on the fundamentals with his team and emphasizing getting better.
“This week defensively we will focus on pursuit, tackling, and setting an edge,” Fortier said. “Offensively, we will work on ball security, route combinations, and pass protection technique. Every week we look at getting personnel in a position to be successful as well.
“Our focus remains on ourselves and evaluating what key skills we need to work on to become a better football team...We have to grow as a football team this week.”
Hart vs N. Muskegon
Hart had high hopes of parlaying its 2-0 start into a competitive performance against defending Division 6 state champion Montague Friday, but the Wildcats would have none of it, stonewalling the explosive Hart offense in a 35-0 defeat.
The Pirates (2-1, 0-1 WMC) managed only 104 yards on 41 offensive snaps. Quarterback Kellen Kimes was the top Pirate, managing 51 yards of total offense, 18 in the air and 33 on the ground. Chance Alvesteffer added 45 offensive yards, catching both of Kimes’ completions and running for 27.
The Pirate defense struggled to slow down Montague star back Dylan Everett, who ran for triple digits in yards and found the end zone four times. Austin Martinez led the defensive unit with 10 tackles and Joseluis Andaverde had eight.
“Montague played a clean game against us and we didn’t do all the small things that helped us win the first couple of weeks,” Hart coach Joe Tanis said.
The Pirates will try to bounce back against the same Norsemen team that played so well against Shelby. North Muskegon boasts a multifaceted offensive unit that includes quarterback James Young and backs Denny Belmonte and Nick Dana. With seven different Norsemen catching passes a week ago, North Muskegon can throw a lot of looks at a defense. Tanis called the Norsemen among the most talented teams on Hart’s schedule.
Tanis said his team is hungry and ready to return to the field to redeem themselves.
“For us to win I feel like we need to win the turnover battle, dominate the line of scrimmage, and win the explosive plays battle with them,” Tanis said. “This is a huge game for us because it’s a game nobody would have given us a chance to win a few weeks ago. We will need to play much better than last Friday if we want to win.”