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Tag Archive | "West Michigan Hawks"

West Michigan Hawks improve to 2-0 in conference play


Running back Brant Brooks running to the end zone. Photo by M Crouch.

Running back Brant Brooks running to the end zone. Photo by M Crouch.

Fresh off a 50-8 drubbing of the Kalamazoo Grizzlies to open the conference portion of their schedule, the Hawks welcomed highly touted Southern Michigan Timberwolves to Skinner Field on Saturday. The Timberwolves had scored 84 points in a non-conference game this season, and were coming off a 62-24 victory the week prior. To say the odds were against the Hawks would be an understatement.

With emotions running high, the Hawks took the field on a mission to make a statement. In the end, they did just that. West Michigan squeaked out a 19-18 victory in double overtime, officially putting the rest of the Minor League Football Alliance on notice.

Running back Brant Brooks started the scoring on a 30-yard touchdown catch on a pass from quarterback Charles Manny Hodges, putting the Hawks up 6-0 in the first quarter. From that point on, the game turned into an intense battle for field position. The score remained 6-0 at halftime.

Both teams continued their defensive intensity in the second half. The Timberwolves were finally able to break into the end zone with 12 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, evening the score at 6-6.

Fireworks ensued in the final minute of regulation. With the Hawks pinned down at their own one-yard line, Hodges found wide receiver Monta Swanigan on a deep pass for a 99-yard touchdown with 43 seconds remaining, the longest scoring play in team history. That made the score 12-6 in favor of the Hawks. Southern Michigan responded by marching down the field and scoring the tying touchdown seconds later, but opted to go for the two-point conversion for the win, which was stuffed by the Hawks.

The overtime session was played under NCAA rules, with both teams getting a chance with the ball. Neither team scored in the first overtime. The Timberwolves found the end zone in the second overtime period, pushing the score to 18-12 in favor of Southern Michigan. On the following Hawks possession, Hodges found the end zone on a one-yard quarterback sneak, tying the score at 18, and setting up a dramatic extra point attempt for kicker Dontae Ensley. After missing on his first attempt, a penalty on the Timberwolves gave him another chance to seal the deal. His second attempt was up and good, securing the 19-18 Hawks victory.

“We knew this game was going to be a tough one,” said Ensley.  We were facing the best opponent we have seen yet. We stuck to our game plan, and blocked out all of the predictions saying that we would be blown out. We showed them that we are not a push over team. It may have taken us two overtimes to do it, but we came home with the win.”

Omar Haynes, Robert Bell, and Darnell Madison all had interceptions for the Hawks, and Javon Welch also secured a fumble recovery.

“I think all questions concerning the heart and dedication of the Hawks have been answered,” said head coach/owner David Lange. “We played against a team with a 56-man roster who had fresh legs almost every play, and still found a way to win in. It was very inspiring.”

This week, the Hawks will find themselves playing in enemy territory for the first time this season. The team will travel to Kalamazoo for a matchup with the West Michigan Bulls. For information on this matchup, be sure to follow the team on Facebook.

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West Michigan Hawks win over Grizzlies


West Michigan Hawk Ryan Williams holds on to the ball while being tackled by a pack of Grizzlies. Photo by M. Crouch.

West Michigan Hawk Ryan Williams holds on to the ball while being tackled by a pack of Grizzlies. Photo by M. Crouch.

By Shae Brophy

A soggy Saturday evening at Skinner Field saw the West Michigan Hawks start the conference portion of their schedule with a dynamic 50-8 victory over the Kalamazoo Grizzlies.

While both teams were fighting the turnover bug, the Hawks refused to let that stop them from having a big night. Running back Brant Brooks got the scoring started in the first quarter with a 31-yard touchdown run, and wide receiver Ryan Bell got on the board with his first touchdown of the season, an 18-yard catch from quarterback Charles Hodges. After one quarter, West Michigan led 13-0.

 WM Hawk Ryan Bell did a flip when he crossed the goal line to celebrate a touchdown. Photo by M. Crouch.

WM Hawk Robert Bell did a flip when he crossed the goal line to celebrate a touchdown. Photo by M. Crouch.

The second quarter saw the Grizzlies get on the board by way of a blocked field goal that was returned 70 yards for a touchdown. With a two-point conversion, the score was 13-8. Hawks recevier Monta Swanigan brought in a 10-yard pass from Hodges to close the scoring in the quarter, and the Hawks took a 19-8 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Brooks scored his second touchdown of the game early in the third quarter on a

15-yard run, extending the West Michigan lead to 25-8. Swanigan, having already scored earlier in the game, upped the lead to 31-8 with an 84-yard touchdown reception on the Hawks’ next drive. Next, cornerback Omar Haynes returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown, making the score 37-8 after three quarters.

Safety Robert Bell continued the scoring early in the fourth quarter with an astounding 97-yard interception return for a touchdown, extending the lead to 44-8.

Haynes concluded the scoring with his second touchdown of the game, a 58-yard punt return.

“It was a great day to be a Hawk,” said head coach David Lange. “What’s not to love about a 50-8 victory over a conference opponent?  I think one thing we do need to work on is the exchange of play calling from sidelines to the huddle. I would also like to see a little bit more consistency on offense, as well as improved ball control. We had way too many fumbles on the quarterback/running back exchange that could prove to be costly in future games. But overall, I think it was a great performance.”

We hope to see you at Skinner Field this Saturday when the Hawks host the Southern Michigan Timberwolves at 7 p.m. This week’s benefit is for Alan Beamer in his continued battle against Alzheimer’s Disease. Ticket are $6, with children 10 and under free.

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Meet the Hawks: Charles Hodges


West Michigan Hawks quarterback Charles “Manny” Hodges

West Michigan Hawks quarterback Charles “Manny” Hodges

Meet West Michigan Hawks quarterback Charles “Manny” Hodges. A 2008 graduate from Creston High School, Hodges has experience in numerous different sports dating back to his high school days. Those sports include football, basketball, and track.

His biggest idols in life are his hard-working parents. When not on the football field, Hodges likes bowling and enjoying time with his kids.

“What made me want to be a West Michigan Hawk was the love and dedication of everyone that I tried out for this team with,” said Hodges.

Head coach David Lange is thrilled to have a competent signal caller on the team. “Manny is a phenomenal quarterback, and a great leader. He is definitely a guy who can take charge, and is also quite a play caller,” said Lange. “It definitely takes quite a bit to get him rattled.”

You can see Hodges and the West Michigan Hawks in action again this weekend, when they host the Southern Michigan Timberwolves at Skinner Field on Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m.

This week’s benefit is for Alan Beamer in his continued battle against Alzheimer’s Disease. Ticket are $6, with children 10 and under free.

We hope to see you there!

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Meet the Hawks: Brant Brooks Sr.


S-Meet-the-Hawks-Brant

Pictured with ball is West Michigan Hawks’ running back Brant Brooks Sr.

By Shae Brophy

Meet West Michigan Hawks running back Brant Brooks Sr. A 2006 graduate from Muskegon Heights High School, Brooks has always been a stand out on the football field. During his high school playing career, he earned All-Area honors at running back and corner back. After high school, he joined the semi-pro ranks. He has also played for two different arena league teams, and got a couple looks from college teams. He has played in three different championship games, but is still looking for his first championship ring.

Outside of playing football, Brooks’s hobbies include spending time with his family, coaching football, and helping his son achieve his dreams in the game of football.

His biggest idol is his older brother David Sain, who recently passed away. “He has always inspired me, and I still look up to him,” said Brooks.

“I wanted to join the Hawks because I heard nothing but good things about them,” he said. “When I came to check them out, Coach Lange and the rest of the staff welcomed me with open arms and made me feel right at home, like this is where I’m supposed to be. I love this team and my teammates, and I’m honored to be a part  of this movement. This is going to be a great year for the Hawks, and I’m proud to be able to say that I’m a part of it.”

“Brant is a very hard worker,” said head coach/owner David Lange. “He never stops moving his feet, and hits the holes with a lot of power. It’s no easy task to bring him down once he hits his stride. His tackle-breaking ability is top notch, as well. He brings an element to this team that we desperately needed, and we are very grateful that he is on our side.”

You can see Brooks and the Hawks in action this Saturday at Skinner Field, when they begin the conference portion of their schedule. The Kalamazoo Grizzlies are coming to town, as the team hosts a benefit for Alan Beamer in his continued battle against Alzheimer’s Disease. There will be a 50/50 raffle, prizes, and donation jars, with all proceeds going to the Beamer family.

Tickets are $6 a piece, with children under 10 receiving free admission. Gates open at 5 p.m. with kickoff scheduled for 6. We hope to see you there!

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WM Hawks battle on breast cancer awareness night


The West Michigan Hawks played for breast cancer awareness last Saturday. Photo by Marcie Crouch.

The West Michigan Hawks played for breast cancer awareness last Saturday.
Photo by Marcie Crouch.

By Shae Brophy

A beautiful evening at Skinner Field on Saturday led to an incredible football game. The Indiana Wolf Pack made their way to town to take on the West Michigan Hawks, in a game that ended in a 22-22 tie.

The Hawks came out swinging to start this one. After forcing a three-and-out on the first Indiana possession of the game, West Michigan quickly marched down the field and scored the first touchdown of the game on a Robert Bell quarterback keeper from two yards out, making the score 7-0, which held up as the score at the end of the first quarter.

The Wolf Pack made some adjustments after that point, and took control of the game. After scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter, Indiana carried a 16-7 lead into halftime.

Taking possession to start the second half, the Hawks fumbled on their first two offensive plays, one of which was returned all the way back to the end zone for an Indiana touchdown. The score was 22-7 in favor of the Wolf Pack early in the third quarter, when the Hawks changed the tide of the game. On the ensuing two point conversion attempt by Indiana, Jalin George picked up a fumble and ran it from one end of the field all the way to the other for two points, making the score 22-9.

Wide receiver John Ross made a tough catch over the middle of the field and ran 47 yards for a touchdown on the next Hawks possession, which made the score 22-15. After forcing a turnover on defense, the Hawks scored again on their next drive after a pass was tipped into the air and grabbed in stride by wide receiver Monta Swanigan. The play was good for an 80-yard touchdown, which tied the game.

After a scoreless fourth quarter, which featured scoring chances for both teams, it was determined that there would be no overtime and the game ended in a tie.

“Nobody likes a tie, especially as we made a huge comeback and had momentum on our side. I thought we fought hard,” said head coach David Lange. “We  faced adversity and overcame. We still have a lot to work on, but we definitely took a step in the right direction. I’d say we are ready for the Kalamazoo Grizzlies.”

Stephanie Cornwell, who was the recipient of the benefit for breast cancer awareness, received an anonymous $1,000 donation as a result of the benefit.

With Memorial Day weekend slated as an off week for the team, the Hawks will be back in action on June 4th at Skinner Field when they welcome the Kalamazoo Grizzlies to town. The benefit for this game will for Alan Beamer, who is battling Alzheimer’s Disease. We hope to see you then!

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Meet the Hawks: JaVon Welch


West Michigan Hawks linebacker JaVon Welch

West Michigan Hawks linebacker JaVon Welch

By Shae Brophy

Meet West Michigan Hawks linebacker JaVon Welch. A versatile athlete, Welch played numerous sports in high school, including basketball, football, track and field, swimming, and bowling. After high school at Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills, Welch went on to play college football at Valparaiso University. Upon the conclusion of his time at Valparaiso, he jumped on the opportunity to join the semi-pro ranks.

After playing with the Lakeshore Cougars last season, a season in which he was voted into the All-Star game and named as the All-Star Game MVP, he decided to make his way over to Cedar Springs to play with the Hawks.

Welch, whose biggest idols are his father Kevin Welch and brothers Keyven Welch and Amir Harris-Welch, also has some coaching experience in semi-pro ranks. He spent a full season as a defensive coordinator.

When Welch isn’t on the field, he enjoys hunting and fishing with his father and brothers.

When asked why he wanted to come to Cedar Springs and be a member of the Hawks organization he said, “I played a tournament game with them, and I noticed what they did off the field. I was very impressed. I wanted in!”

Head coach/owner David Lange is glad that Welch is on his side, and not an opponent. “JaVon is a proven leader. He shows it time and time again. He is an outstanding linebacker, and is the kind of hitter that make running backs think twice before running to his side.”

You can see Welch and the Hawks in action again a week from Saturday at Skinner Field when they host the Kalamazoo Grizzlies at Skinner Field. We hope to see you there!

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Hawks fight elements to benefit Brison Ricker


 

By Shae Brophy

On a cold Saturday evening at Skinner Field, the West Michigan Hawks went to battle with a very game Lake Michigan Havoc team in a benefit game for Cedar Springs resident Brison Ricker.

A scoreless first quarter was highlighted by a blocked field goal by Hawks safety Robert Bell. The second quarter saw Lake Michigan jump out to a 12-0 lead, which they brought into the locker room at halftime. Bell had another highlight reel play in the quarter, however, when he intercepted a pass over the middle of the field.

The Hawks struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, as the Havoc opened up a 24-0 lead. Darius Bell recovered a fumble in the quarter for West Michigan, which was the lone highlight of the quarter for the Hawks.

The Havoc scored another touchdown early in the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 30-0. Darnell Madison gave the Hawks some momentum on the ensuing kickoff, as he rumbled all the way up to the Havoc 35-yard line before finally being caught. The Havoc also committed a personal foul penalty on the return, allowing the Hawks to start from the 20-yard line. Javon Welch got the Hawks on the board later in the drive on a seven-yard touchdown scamper, closing the gap to 30-6.

After a botched snap on an attempted Havoc punt, the Hawks recovered the ball in Lake Michigan territory on the next drive. Monta Swanigan capitalized on the good starting field position, reeling in a pass from Brant Brooks for a 22-yard touchdown. After the two-point conversion, the score was 30-14, which held up as the final score.

“We had a tough night,” said head coach David Lange. “We learned a very important lesson in this game. Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard, and we didn’t work hard enough. We made a lot of little mistakes on defense, and our offense wasn’t consistent enough.”

Despite the final score, the Hawks were able to raise $247 for Brison Ricker, as he continues his fight against a brain tumor.

The Hawks will be in action again this Saturday at Skinner Field, when they host the Indiana Wolf Pack. The team will be putting on another benefit during this game, as well. Stephanie Cornwell, who is battling breast cancer, will receive the benefits from a 50/50 drawing, as well as other giveaways. Gates open at 5 p.m. with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!

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Meet the Hawks: Eric Freeman


West Michigan Hawks linebacker Eric Freeman

West Michigan Hawks linebacker Eric Freeman

By Shae Brophy

Meet West Michigan Hawks linebacker Eric Freeman. A 2007 graduate from Wyoming Park High School, Freeman has always stood out on the gridiron. After being named a captain in each of the first three years of high school, he took his senior year off to prepare for college ball. Freeman was a preferred walk-on at Michigan State University under defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi. After careful consideration, Freeman decided to transfer to Grand Rapids Community College to not only be able to play, but also to see if he was mature enough for the college lifestyle.

Freeman’s biggest idol is his grandfather, German Lopez. “He worked at a camp in Cuba for two years basically for free so that he could legally come to the USA with my mother and grandmother,” said Freeman. “He came here knowing zero English, building his life from the ground up, allowing my siblings and I to live the blessed and fortunate lives that we live.”

When he isn’t laying devasting hits on the football field, Freeman enjoys trying to identify which sports his three-year-old son enjoys, lifting, playing basketball, and his PlayStation.

“Mr. David Lange is very serious about this organization,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and bigger than football. Mr. Lange and I had multiple conversations, and the simple fact that we play all of our games for a greater cause, whether it be Mr. Alan Beamer and his fight against Alzheimer’s Disease, or Brison Ricker and his fight against a brain tumor, made this a very easy decision. Every game is played for a much bigger reason than just the game we love.”

Head coach/owner David Lange sees something special in Freeman. “Eric is our run stopper without a doubt,” he said. “You’d have better success trying to run through a wall. He is very smart at his position and is a great teacher as well. He brings so much intensity and tenacity to our defense, it’s scary. Eric is a monster and a go-getter, exactly the type of player you want on your team.”

We hope to see you at Skinner Field on Saturday evening as the Hawks benefit Stephanie Cornwell in her fight against breast cancer. The Indiana Wolf Pack are coming to town, and the Hawks have vengeance on their minds!

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Meet the Hawks: Robert Bell


Robert Bell

Robert Bell

Meet West Michigan Hawks safety Robert Bell. A graduate from East Grand Rapids High School, Bell earned a scholarship to play collegiate football at the University of Toledo. He also played for Team USA in the World Junior Championships in 2009, when the team earned a gold medal. Bell took his talents to Europe to play professionally for two seasons after college.

When not on the football field, Bell enjoys doing whatever comes to mind with his girl friend Amanda. Two-day vacations, golfing, and swimming are among their favorite activities.

Bell’s biggest idol is his mother, Dawn Wright. “She still works overtime at her career job and for the past seven years has picked up a second job just to keep herself busy,” said Bell. “She’s taught me positive ways to deal with adversity and I thank her everyday for being my mother and a great example of the way to be in life! Loving, caring, hardworking!”

Bell is ecstatic to be a part of the Hawks organization. “I’ve been a part of many different organizations, whether I’ve been paid, or paying to play, and I believe this organization is headed in the right direction,” he said. “The fact that Coach Lange implements playing for causes is the simple fact as to why I put my body on the line for this team. I want to be a Hawk for every reason that we are out helping the community and giving back to those who are in need of the awareness!”

Coach David Lange enjoys the experience that Bell brings to the table.

“Robert Bell is by far above and beyond one of the most humbling and easy people to be around,” he said. “His love for the game is second to none. His football background is enough to make any coach smile, playing college ball for the Toledo Rockets, then taking his talents over seas. This guy is good and is the kind of hitter that makes your jaw drop. His knowledge of football is at the top. He is definitely a great leader that I think a lot, if not all, can look up to.”

Bell and the Hawks are in action again this Saturday, when they host the Lake Michigan Havoc at Skinner Field. This game is a benefit for Cedar Springs resident Brison Ricker, who is battling a brain tumor. Tickets will be $6, with doors opening at 5 p.m. and kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. We hope to see you there!

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Meet the Hawks: Neil Gillett


Neil Gillett

Neil Gillett

Meet West Michigan Hawks center Neil Gillett. A graduate from Kent City High School, Neil played football until his sophomore year of high school, then chose to wrestle. He ended up wrestling at Pima Community College in Arizona.

Gillett’s biggest idols off the field are his mother and Jesus. His biggest sports idols are Larry Bird, Brett Favre, Kirk Gibson, and (golfer) Fred Couples.

Outside of football, Gillett can be found at church, doing volunteer work, golfing, or eating sushi.

“I love football, especially the team aspect,” he said when asked why he chose to be a Hawk. “Being part of a functioning organism is special. Nothing brings you closer to a group of guys faster than going out to fight with them. Being one of the older guys on the team, I think I realize how limited my time is still playing the game, so I really relish every moment I get practices, games, everything.”

Head coach/owner David Lange had great things to say about Gillett. “Neil is a guy that every coach would love to have. He is talented as a center, and he is uplifting for the

team. Outside of football he is a big teddy bear. Put a helmet and some pads on and the man can do some serious damage up front! I love Neil as a player and as a person, and I think he will contribute a lot in to the success of this team.”

You can see Neil and the West Michigan Hawks in their next game on Saturday, May 14, when they host the Lake Michigan Havoc at Skinner Field. This game will feature a benefit for Cedar Springs resident Brison Ricker, who is battling a brain tumor. Tickets will be $6 at the gate, with children 10 and under free. We hope to see you there!

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