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Categorized | Sports

Red Hawks rule the Knights

Coach Kevin Martens

By Judy Reed

Cedar Springs football was fresh off a record-setting win over Ottawa Hills (70-36) and preparing for last Friday’s game against Kenowa Hills when they were blindsided by a tragic event—the death of longtime assistant football coach and middle school teacher Kevin Martens. 

Martens, 46, of Sparta, passed away of an unknown heart condition on Thursday, September 16, 2021 at his home in Sparta.

Martens had been a teacher at Cedar Springs Middle School since 1999. He coached middle school track and was a Cedar Springs High School assistant football coach for over 20 years. 

“Kevin was the first coach I hired when I became the head coach 9 years ago,” said Cedar Springs Head Coach Gus Kapolka. “His passion for young people and helping them succeed was obvious the first time I met him.”

Ryan West runs with the ball.

Martens made a big impact on both Kapolka and the athletes. “I will miss Kevin’s calming, positive personality that was a foundational rock of our football program,” said Kapolka. “We will all miss Kevin’s ability to make strong, deep, personal connections with children from different backgrounds. Kevin served as a great role model to our boys as to what constitutes being a ‘good man.’”

How is the team dealing with the loss of their coach?

Quarterback Aiden Brunin with the ball.

“The grieving process is different for everybody, so we are trying to give our guys as much support as we can, while at the same time, giving them the time and space they need to work through this. Our CSPS Mental Health Crisis Team has done a great job providing support to all of our players through this difficult time,” he explained.

The Red Hawks were pumped up to win the game Friday, in spite of the loss. They took the field like they were on fire. They scored five times, racked up over 400 yards total, and limited Kenowa Hills to only 48 yards in the 38-0 win.

Antwuan Nicholls with the ball

“I couldn’t be prouder of how our guys were able to focus and come out and dominate Kenowa Hills on Friday.  It is a credit to them and to the culture of our program that we were able to perform at such a high level,” remarked Coach Kapolka.

Leading rushers for Cedar Springs were Antwuan Nicholls (133); Carter Falan (92); Ryan Mitchell (66); Aiden Brunin (29); Ryan West (17); Kyle Hoort and Alex Ream both had 9; Nolan Myers had 4; and Nate Slager had 1. Brunin also completed two passes, a 20-yard pass to Carter Falan, and a 21-yard pass to Ryan West.

Heading into the fifth week, Cedar Springs is now tied with Catholic Caentral for first place in the OK-Gold conference. The Red Hawks are 2-0 in conference, and 3-1 overall. 

This week’s game will be at home against Forest Hills Eastern. It could be an emotional one without Mr. Martens there on the sideline.

“Friday will be the first home game since Kevin’s passing,” said Kapolka. “It will be difficult, but we will get through it together. The outpouring of support from the Cedar Springs community has been amazing. I’m sure we will have great support Friday night and that will make things a little bit easier.”

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