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Hawks fall on Saturday, still clinch playoff spot

Brant Brooks celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter. Photo by Marcie Crouch.

Brant Brooks celebrates after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter. Photo by Marcie Crouch.

By Shae Brophy

With the top spot in the MLFA’s Big Eight division on the line, the West Michigan Hawks hosted the Toledo Thunder on Saturday evening at Skinner Field. The teams shared identical 4-1 records coming into the game, and a win for either team would put them in the drivers seat for the top seed in the division.

A tough, hard fought game saw the Thunder come out on top with a 12-7 victory. After returning the game’s opening kickoff 99 yards to the one-yard line, Toledo opened the scoring with a one yard scamper on the game’s first play from scrimmage. After missing the extra point, the score remained 6-0.

The Hawks responded late in the second quarter, when Brant Brooks hauled in a five yard pass for a touchdown from quarterback Charles Manny Hodges. The extra point gave the Hawks a 7-6 lead, which they took into halftime.

Toledo was able to answer early in the third quarter, regaining the lead on a 26 yard touchdown run. Their two-point attempt was stuffed by the Hawks, keeping the score at a reasonable 12-7 margin.

With the score still the same late in the fourth quarter, the Hawks got the ball back at their own nine-yard line with just over a minute remaining. A big play brought them out to the Toledo 45-yard line with 24 seconds left, but a holding penalty and the subsequent 10-second run off put the Hawks in a tough spot, with the ball on their own 45-yard line and seven seconds remaining. On the final play of the game, they completed a long pass down field, but they were not able to find the end zone. Overall, Toledo outscored West Michigan by a margin of 393-242.

Cornerback Omar Haynes finished the game with three interceptions for the Hawks, while linebacker JaVon Welch had 12.5 tackles.

Despite the loss, the Hawks still clinched the franchise’s first appearance in the playoffs as a result of losses from other teams across the league.

“I thought we played a solid football game,” said head coach David Lange. “We missed a few opportunities to take the lead, but overall I thought we adjusted nicely. All we can do is look to the next game.”

The Hawks will be in action again this Saturday at Skinner Field when they host the West Michigan Force. Tickets are $6 a piece, with children eight and under free. The Hawks will be raffling off numerous items from local businesses, such as pizza from Hungry Howies and Vitale’s, gift cards to KC’s, and much much more! We hope to see you there!

FROM OWNER DAVID LANGE:

“An incident occurred in the stands of Saturday evening’s West Michigan Hawks game. Members from the West Michigan Force attended the game to scout our team before our game against them this upcoming weekend. I’d like to personally and formally apologize to the fans who witnessed this incident. The actions from these players were unacceptable, and will not be tolerated by the Hawks or Skinner Field. The Force were reprimanded by the league for their actions, with eight of their players being suspended for this weekend’s game. I have also ensured that there will be a heightened police presence at the game, and a security presence on the field. Our fans and the safety of our fans is our highest priority when we play at home, and we have taken steps to ensure that the integrity of the upcoming game will be of the highest quality.”

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Meet the Hawks: Rick Loper

West Michigan Hawks defensive end Rick Loper.

West Michigan Hawks defensive end Rick Loper.

Meet West Michigan Hawks defensive end Rick Loper. Originally from Grand Rapids, Loper attended and graduated from Cedar Springs High School in 1998. He started playing football in third grade, and played all the way through school until graduation. He also wrestled and ran track in school, and found himself in the sport of mixed martial arts later in life.

Known primarily for his classic “hat and shades” look, and his classic laugh, Loper has entrenched himself as a big piece of the team. Some of his role models include Michael Jordan, Barry Sanders, Shae Brophy, and his father Harrison Loper Sr. When he isn’t on the gridiron, some of Loper’s favorite things to do include hunting, fishing, camping, or anything else that involves being outside.

“When David (Lange) found me in the cage and told me he was starting a team, it was a calling from God,” said Loper. “Ever since high school, I have wanted to play one more time. Playing for two years has been an amazing adventure. I love the coaches, the fans, this team, and Cedar Springs.”

Loper has high praise for head coach David Lange. “What I love about Coach Lange is that he has brought this team together to help the community. It means that I am able to make a difference in my community through playing football. Coach also cares about every single person on this team, and the community as well. It means the world to us players to be able to raise money to help others who are struggling in life, and to help put a smile on their faces in truly priceless.”

Lange’s praise for Loper is quite high, as well. “Loper has heart and dedication like no other. The excitement that he brings to this team when he steps on the field is a huge motivation for not only myself, but for the team as well. He has proven he can be a play maker and I have no doubt that people will continue to hear his name.”

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Baseball tryout and hitting camp

 

Coast to Coast Baseball would like to invite local players (ages 14–18) to one of their upcoming tryout events. At the tryout, staff will evaluate player’s skills in four areas: hitting, fielding, arm strength, and speed.

Since the summer of 2001, over 3500 athletes from 46 different states have participated in the Coast to Coast Baseball program. Our alumni now compete at every level of collegiate baseball and even professionally.

Players accepted to the program will join college coaches and pro scouts at the $28 million Roger Dean Complex in Jupiter, Florida for games and instruction.

In addition to the tryout, an instructional hitting camp will be held the same day. The goal of the camp is to help players improve hitting fundamentals as well as their mental approach at the plate.

The events will be held at Elite Baseball, 5930 Clyde Park Ave. SW, Wyoming, MI 40509 on Monday, August 1; at Hillsdale College, 201 Oak Street, Hillsdale, MI 49242 on Tuesday, August 2; and the Genesee Fieldhouse, 7383 Grand Parkway, Grand Blanc, MI 48439 on Wednesday, August 3.

Tryouts begin at 10 a.m. Hitting camp follows the tryout. For more information, players and parents can visit the website at www.CoastToCoastAthletics.com. Register for an event either on the website or by calling the office at 740-236-8390.

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Hawks suffer first loss this season

Brant Brooks manuevers his way through the Coyotes defense. Photo by Marcie Crouch.

Brant Brooks manuevers his way through the Coyotes defense. Photo by Marcie Crouch.

By Shae Brophy

The West Michigan Hawks traveled south for their game against the Battle Creek Coyotes on Saturday, June 9. The Hawks brought an undefeated 4-0 record into the game, while the Coyotes entered the game at 2-2.

West Michigan got off to a quick start, taking a 7-0 lead on an Eric Woodfork 47-yard touchdown run. That would be the only scoring of the half for the Hawks. Battle Creek scored the next 18 points to close out the first half, taking an 18-7 lead into the locker room.

After another Coyotes touchdown early in the second half, the Hawks turned up the pressure. Brant Brooks hauled in a pass from Charles Manny Hodges for a touchdown, making the score 24-14 in favor of the Coyotes. Donell Jones added another touchdown for the Hawks in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to 24-20, but that was as close as the Hawks would ultimately get.

With a chance to get the ball back in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Hawks made a costly mistake. Battle Creek punted the ball away with 2:30 to go, but after a miscue from the Hawks punt returner, the Coyotes were able to recover a fumble on the return and resume possession. Battle Creek scored another touchdown, opening the lead to 30-20, which held as the final score.

“I think we beat ourselves,” said Hawks head coach David Lange. “We were hit with adversity, and didn’t respond the way that we needed to.”

“Both teams played hard until the whistle”, said Coyotes head coach Robbie Hattan. “I thought it was a good game. David and I are close friends, so I hated to be their first loss because I want to see him succeed. I think we let a up bit after the half, and they almost pulled the comeback, but the ball fell our way. It was a good game all around.”

The Hawks will be back in action this Saturday, as they return to Skinner Field for the first time in July. They will host the reigning national champion Toledo Thunder, who will bring a matching 4-1 record into the contest. Doors open at 5pm, with kickoff scheduled for 6. Tickets are $7, with children 10 and under in free. We hope to see you there!

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Meet the Hawks: Michael Henderson

 

By Shae Brophy

S-Meet-the-Hawks-hendersonMeet Hawks defensive coordinator Michael Henderson. Originally from New York, Henderson graduated from Mount Vernon High School in New York in 1977. This year, his first with the Hawks organization, is his 41st year of coaching.

Henderson has a wealth of experience at numerous different levels, including every level from youth football all the way up to the semi-pro ranks. He has also coached wrestling in Michigan since 1991. He also owns his own wrestling company, which has seen his wrestlers achieve state championships and all-american status. Henderson is well versed in judo wrestling, and teaches all styles of wrestling, and is also a member of the USA/AAU Wrestling League. He has held a certification as a nutrition/fitness trainer since 1992, and was also a bodybuilder on a national level in the past.

Henderson’s role models include (former tennis player) Arthur Ashe, (former football player) Dick Butkus, (former Olympic wrestler) Dan Gable, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Vince Lombardi. When he isn’t scheming how to win football games, Henderson enjoys working on cars, being a handyman, and mentoring children.

“I joined the Hawks because I want to be involved with a good program that is involved in the community, and is changing the face of semi-pro football,” said Henderson. “I have high respect for head coach David Lange and what he is trying to accomplish by working with the community. I look forward to continuing to work with him to make this the best semi-pro football team in the state of Michigan!”

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Red Hawk wrestlers experience competition camp

Red Hawk Varsity wrestlers attended a competitin camp in Iowa, and are shown wearing their Wrestling for A Cause shirt, supporting their friend Brison Ricker, a Cedar Springs high school student who is currently battling an inoperable brain tumor.

Red Hawk Varsity wrestlers attended a competitin camp in Iowa, and are shown wearing their Wrestling for A Cause shirt, supporting their friend Brison Ricker, a Cedar Springs high school student who is currently battling an inoperable brain tumor.

Cedar Springs Varsity Wrestlers recently traveled to the University of Iowa to attend a four-day Competition Camp.

Each wrestler got 10-12 matches with other high school and collegiate wrestlers around the same weight. Iowa Head Coach and three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, Tom Brands, and his staff, observed the matches live to give instant feedback on what the wrestlers did well and skill sets that needed improvement. Technique sessions were available to give them the opportunity to break up into groups and learn and apply the advice given to them. They were pushed to improve on all aspects of their wrestling.

Every wrestler wants to be a state champion, a national champion, an Olympic champion. “I would like to see these wrestlers take what they learn at camp and apply it to their upcoming 2016-2017 season,” said head coach Nick Emery. “This will help our wrestlers attain their personal goals and will set them apart from other teams. Wrestling for a cause bigger than yourself gives you twice the strength as wrestling for your own glory.” #Greater than yourself. Wrestling is a physically and mentally tough sport. If you are interested in joining a program that focuses on individual achievement while competing in a team environment, please contact Head Coach Nick Emery through their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/cedar.springs.wrestling/

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West Michigan Hawks win big again 

S-West-Mich-hawks-vs-grizzlies

Improve to 4-0

By Shae Brophy

Saturday evening, the Hawks paid a visit to Vicksburg High School to square off with the Kalamazoo Grizzlies. After a 50-8 Hawks victory in the first matchup of the season, the Hawks took the field with plenty of confidence. Considering that the Grizzlies also guaranteed a victory this time around, the Hawks used the word “guarantee” as the mantra for this game.

After a bit of a sluggish start, the Hawks took a 3-0 lead on a 38-yard field goal by kicker Jacob Hardy. That score held until the end of the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, running back Eric Woodfork took a 15-yard run to the house for a touchdown, improving the score to 9-0. Wide receiver Monta Swanigan added to the lead later in the quarter with a 17-yard receiving touchdown, giving the Hawks a 15-0 lead at the half.

Quarterback Charles Manny Hodges rumbled his way into the end zone in the third quarter on a one-yard quarterback keeper, extending the lead to 21-0. The Grizzlies found the end zone for the only time of the evening on their next drive, returning an interception for a touchdown. After three quarters, the Hawks held a 21-6 lead.

The Hawks put the pedal to the medal in the fourth quarter. Swanigan pulled in his second touchdown of the game, a 22-yard pass, early in the quarter. Defensive end Rick Loper found the end zone after returning an interception the distance for a touchdown, and Swanigan scored his third touchdown of the game on the next Hawks possession. The Hawks’ defense also recorded a safety in the quarter. When all was said and done, the Hawks brought home a 45-6 victory.

Chaz Watford had an impressive day defensively, pulling in two interceptions, as well as breaking up another pass. In total, the Hawks forced seven turnovers (two interceptions for Watford, Loper interception, Court McSwain interception, Darnell Madison interception, Javon Welch interception, Nick Steimel interception), while they also had six turnovers of their own.

It was just another day at the office for Swanigan, who ripped off his second consecutive game with three receiving touchdowns.

Although West Michigan won big on the scoreboard, the Hawks were penalized for a total of 150 yards, including six personal foul penalties.

“We played a solid game,” said head coach David Lange. “We got off to a slow start, which has become somewhat of a trend, and is something that we need to work on. We also need to work on our consistency, but in the end, it’s hard to be too upset about a 45-6 victory.”

With the victory, the Hawks are now the only undefeated team remaining in the Minor Leauge Football Alliance’s “Big Eight” division.

The Hawks will enjoy the holiday weekend with a bye week, and will be in action again on July 9, when they make the trip to Battle Creek for a tilt with the Coyotes.

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Meet the Hawks: Ryan Williams

 

Ryan Williams

Ryan Williams

By Shae Brophy

Meet West Michigan Hawks safety/kick returner Ryan Williams. Originally from Muskegon, Michigan, Williams graduated from Muskegon High School in 2012. This is his fourth season playing in the semi-pro football ranks.

One of his biggest role models is Martin Luther King Jr. “I look up to historical figures who did more than just talk,” said Williams. When he isn’t on the field for the Hawks, Williams enjoys playing basketball and flag football.

“Ryan is an incredible safety,” said head coach/owner David Lange. “He is a huge asset for the defense, and a big contributor towards the overall success of our defense. His explosive speed is tackle breaking ability is a big reason as to why he has success returning punts and kickoffs.”

Like a lot of his teammates, Williams heard big things about the Hawks and was hopeful to be a part of the team. “I heard about the team and the things they do, and wanted to give it a try. I liked what I saw,” he said. “I also love that Coach Lange wants everyone to get involved with the community. It’s a good feeling to know that we have created a fan base for the team, as well.”

Williams and the Hawks will enjoy a bye week over the holiday weekend, and will be back in action on July 9th when they travel to face the Battle Creek Coyotes.

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Officials registration underway

 

The Michigan High School Athletic Association is accepting registrations by mail and online for game officials for the 2016-17 school year.

The MHSAA annually receives registration by more than 10,000 officials, and had 10,043 during the 2015-16 school year. The highest total of officials registered for basketball, 4,265, with football, softball and baseball all with more than 2,000 registered officials during this school year.

For all new and returning officials, those who register online again will receive a $5 discount off their processing fees. A $15 fee is charged for each sport in which an official wishes to register, and the online processing fee is $35. Officials submitting registration forms by mail or on a walk-up basis will incur a $40 processing fee. Officials registered in 2015-16 will be assessed a late fee of $30 for registration after Aug. 1. The processing fee includes liability insurance coverage up to $1 million for officials while working contests involving MHSAA schools.

Online registration can be accessed by clicking “Officials” on the home page of the MHSAA Website at www.mhsaa.com. Forms also are available online that can be printed and submitted by traditional mail or hand delivery to the MHSAA Office. More information about officials registration may be obtained by contacting the MHSAA at 1661 Ramblewood Drive, East Lansing, MI, 48823, by phone at (517) 332-5046 or by e-mail at register@mhsaa.com.

There is an officials’ registration test for first-time officials and officials who were not registered during the past school year. The test consists of 45 questions derived from the MHSAA Officials Guidebook, which also is available on the Officials page of the MHSAA Website. Additional 50-question exams must be taken by those registering for football or basketball for the first time or those who were not registered for those sports during the previous school year. Manuals for both sports also are available on the Officials page. New officials also must complete the online MHSAA Principles of Officiating course, also available on the MHSAA Website.

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Meet the Hawks: Nick Steimel

West Michigan Hawk Nick Steimel and his girlfriend, Brittney McCarthy.

West Michigan Hawk Nick Steimel and his girlfriend, Brittney McCarthy.

By Shae Brophy

Meet West Michigan Hawks defensive end/tight end Nick Steimel. Originally from Grand Rapids, Steimel moved to Cedar Springs during second grade, graduating from Cedar Springs High School in 2007. He has played football since his youth, and has also coached one year of rocket football. While in school, he also played baseball and was on the bowling team, and also played AYBT basketball during the summer.

Nick’s biggest role model is his father, Walter Steimel. “He’s the most hard-working person i know,” Nick said. “He’s the one that has shown me with dedication and hard work you can accomplish anything in life. Growing up he made sure i had all the right tools to succeed whether it was bringing me to practice, or in my later years helping me pay for college. I can’t express how grateful I am to have him as a father.”

When not on the football field, Steimel enjoys disc golf, recreational basketball and softball, and spending time with friends and family.

“What makes me want to be part of the West Michigan Hawks is the positive influence and impact the team strives to have on people,” he said. “You won’t see that out of other semi-pro teams. The fact that I can be part of a team that can help a person in need while doing what I love is truly a blessing. The people we dedicate games to are people that are part of the community I grew up in, which makes this team that much more special to me.”

“Nick has amazing work ethic,” said head coach/owner David Lange. “His motor never stops going, and he is a great teammate. He’s the kind of guy that any coach would be glad to have on their team.”

Steimel and the Hawks will be on the road again this weekend, as they travel to Kalamazoo for a matchup with the Grizzlies. As always, you are encouraged to make the trip with the team and cheer them on in enemy territory!

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