Finishing in the top two spots in the West Michigan Conference proved fruitful for Montague and Whitehall football players this season, as a slew of them received all-WMC first team honors.
A total of 13 local players — eight Wildcats and five Vikings — were named to the first team, with seven more earning honorable mention. Montague won the WMC title with a 6-0 record, with Whitehall finishing second at 5-1, its only loss a double-overtime classic at Montague.
Montague’s leading offensive players each earned first team all-league honors, with quarterback Drew Collins, running back Dylan Everett, and receiver Sam Smith each picking up the hardware. (Smith was actually a two-time first-teamer, also earning the recognition at defensive back.)
Collins, the senior signal-caller, had his best season yet; in nine games to date, he had accounted for 2,025 yards of offense, with 1,412 through the air and 613 more on the ground, and 32 total touchdowns. He only threw two interceptions on the season and completed 69 percent of his passes, piloting the top-ranked Wildcats to a district championship.
Everett battled injury during the season, but despite that had solid numbers, rushing for 568 yards in seven games and averaging eight yards per attempt. Everett ran for 11 touchdowns and also caught two more, and on defense he recorded an interception.
Smith, the two-time first-teamer, has been Collins’ favorite target, with 326 yards receiving on 25 catches, with five touchdowns. Smith also carried most of the rushing load while Everett was injured, and did well, rushing for 184 yards and seven touchdowns. On defense, where Smith was also named to the first team, he had 35 tackles, 22 of them solo stops, and two interceptions.
Wildcat offensive linemen Walker Martin and Chris Kessler were each named to the first team as well, keeping Collins’ jersey clean and paving the way for much of Everett’s success on the ground. On defense, Martin recorded 43 tackles, 20 of them solos, and seven takedowns for a loss, and Kessler had 26 tackles (eight solo).
Rodney Brassfield and Alec Waruszewski were also named to the first team on defense. Brassfield leads the team in tackles this season, with 59, including 25 solo takedowns. He also has seven tackles for a loss, which ties for a team high, and a sack. On offense, Brassfield scored twice and had 164 yards receiving.
Waruszewski has 31 tacles on the season, 15 of them solo, with four tackles for a loss and a sack.
Kicker Andrew Kooi also earned first team honors. The Wildcat offense was so good this year that Kooi has only had to attempt two field goals all season, but they were both against Whitehall in the Wildcats’ double-overtime triumph, and they were both successful, including the game-winner. Kooi also made 52 of his 56 PAT attempts. The junior isn’t ‘just’ a kicker, though, serving as Collins’ backup at quarterback. He is 21-of-28 for 426 yards and four touchdowns passing, with 12 carries for 93 yards and three scores on the ground, and also plays some wide receiver, hauling in 23 catches for 292 yards and four scores.
Honorable mention picks for Montague, all on defense, were Hayden McDonald, Trey Mikkelsen, and Izac Jarka. McDonald has recorded 55 tackles, 25 of them solo stops, with seven tackles for loss and two sacks, a team best. Mikkelsen has 50 tackles (18 solo), with four tackles for a loss, a sack, and a forced fumble. Jarka has the most solo tackles on the team, with 28 (49 total tackles), and a team-best six interceptions. On offense, Jarka has 128 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Whitehall had five first-teamers. On offense, Brodie Fogus earned the recognition at wide receiver, totaling 14 catches for 211 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Lineman Gabe Reavey was also honored; he was one of the team’s top performers. On defense, Reavey had 31 tackles, seven of them solo, with 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Viking defenders to earn all-league honors were Ira Jenkins, Connor Young, and Mario Moore. Jenkins, who was dubbed the “Nordic Nightmare” by Whitehall PA announcer and assistant wrestling coach Craig Christensen, had a huge year back on the gridiron, recording 16 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks, scoring three safeties for the Viking defense. He had 40 total tackles.
Young compiled 55 tackles, 27 of them solo, with 12.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. Moore, playing in the secondary, recorded 18 tackles, 12 of them solo, and a half a tackle for a loss. Moore also played wide receiver and caught 12 passes for 175 yards and three touchdown.
Honorable mention Vikings were Graycen Shepherd, Alec Pruett, Jacob Haynes, and Andrew Durbin. Shepherd was named to the team as a tight end due to his blocking prowess, and had a strong defensive year too, with 43 total tackles (17 solo), with 10.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks. Pruett had 703 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns and also had 16 tackles on defense. Haynes came on strong on the defensive side of the ball late in the season and posted a team-high 17 tackles for a loss on the year with seven sacks. He led the team overall with 60 tackles (28 solo). Durbin got the ‘at-large’ honorable mention spot after a strong year at quarterback, throwing for 787 yards and nine scores and running for 523 yards and five touchdowns.
Reeths-Puffer had three all-O-K Green Conference first team performers: lineman Marco Fields, linebacker Justin Nelson, and running back/linebacker Landon Mechem.
Fields is the Rockets’ top collegiate prospect; coach Matt Bird said the R-P lineman has drawn interest from several Mid-American Conference schools, as well as the Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Fields played almost every snap for the Rockets this season. On defense, he recorded 33 tackles, five of them for a loss, and two sacks. He also forced a pair of fumbles.
Mechem was a valuable two-way player for the Rockets, running for 367 yards and four touchdowns and recording 63 tackles, including four for a loss, and three sacks on the season.
Nelson was a key cog in the defense all year, posting 65 tackles and a forced fumble. Nelson is, more impressively, a 4.0 student, Bird said, and is considering several collegiate options, including in-state Michigan Tech.
Taking honorable mention spots for R-P were wide receiver/defensive back Jeremy Ardshahi and running back/defensive back Monyae Franklin.