What was your reaction to the SMCC victory over Glen Lake and the Falcons winning the Division 6 State Championship?
Chris: I though from the beginning of the season that SMCC would make a run at a State Championship. Obviously many things need to go right and/or fall into place to make that happen. To me this was undoubtedly the best roster the Falcons have had since the 2014 Championship team. They were senior laden and were relatively healthy when it mattered. Coach Kipf pressed all the right buttons in the post season and the defense was at it’s best when it mattered most.
Frank: There’s an old saying in football that offense wins games, but defense wins championships. That line could not have been truer for the Falcons, as they played championship-caliber defense in a 7-0 shutout of Glen Lake. In fact, the Falcon defense only gave up 49 points combined in all five postseason games, which is the best postseason mark since the playoff format went to five rounds. A lot of credit goes to the defensive coaches Brian Flint, Pat Ignagni, Lonn Passon, and Nate Geiger for coming up with masterful game plans these playoffs. And I would be remiss if I did not mention defensive players making championship-caliber plays on that side of the ball in the championship game. With Glen Lake deep in Falcon territory, Wyatt Bergmooser (aka “The Swiss Army Knife”) recovered a fumble to stop the momentum the Lakers had after they themselves had recovered an SMCC fumble earlier in the quarter. The Falcon defense had to rise up again, as Glen Lake got the ball back with 2:27 remaining and no timeouts. It started with a Gus Flint sack on first down. It would end with Caden Smith picking off Reece Hazelton on 4th down in what truly was the play of the game. We have talked a lot about the Falcons’ offense being hard to stop, but when it mattered the most, it was the defense that won them their third state championship in school history. An added note: I was amazed that the Falcons did not get called for a single penalty the entire game. That is truly a testament to being a well-coached team.
Gary: Great performance by the defense. Glen Lake couldn’t really get anything going all game and never really threatened the endzone. I thought Bergmoser, among many, played great. The senior tallied the games only touchdown, recovered a fumble and was 2nd in the team in tackles with one for loss. The interior offensive line of Sloan, Hawkins, Patterson, Bogdanski and Bilan controlled the LOS throughout the game, making the trap go with Morgan. I also thought coach Kipf called a great game. Sticking with his game plan and having the courage to go for it on 4th down when the game was on the line.
Which Championship game/result surprised you the most?
Chris: I think it is safe to say that River Rouge’s 30-7 manhandling of Muskegon was the biggest surprise. It was fun to watch Panther coach, Corey Parker coach with so much passion for the game. I really thought the Big Reds would do more offensively and seemed very one dimensional. I think it is safe to assume that the River Rouge speed neutralized an advantage that Muskegon usually brings to every game.
Frank: Apparently, I had the wrong Muskegon team bringing home the hardware. Raise your hand if you thought Muskegon Mona Shores would beat Detroit King. Anyone? Didn’t think so. Now raise your hand if you thought that River Rouge would beat Muskegon, much less stop the best player in the state? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? King came in loaded with Division I athletes and had destroyed anything in their way leading up to this game. Mona Shores survived three close games before the final. On paper, King was clearly the better team. But everyone knows that games aren’t played on paper. As for River Rouge knocking off Muskegon, I remember a conversation I had with my good friend, Zach Harig, who works at Fox 17 in Grand Rapids. I had mentioned D3 being a brutal division, and he said that Muskegon was the best, and it wasn’t close. Count both of us as guys who were fooled. Give a lot of credit to Corey Parker and the rest of the Rouge staff for coming up with a masterful game plan to stop the best player in the state in Cam Martinez.
Gary: Definitely the whooping Rouge put on Muskegon. I thought Rouge had a shot to win but not in blowout fashion, no way. Musky was considered to be the best team in the state but it was Rouge who controlled the game and the LOS.
Which FNV teams, if any, jumps out as a team that could make a strong run in the playoffs next season?
Chris: If I had to venture a guess, it would be Whiteford and Riverview. Both fielded young competitive teams and have solid coaches in place. I wouldn’t count out SMCC. I fully expect the Falcons to reload and be a threat in the playoffs next season, despite heavy graduation losses.
Frank: It’s too early to call, as a lot can happen between now and the start of practice in August. Right now, there are a lot more questions than answers facing all the teams on the blog. SMCC loses 20 seniors from a championship winning team. Can the returning players, coupled with a lot of new faces, ride the wave from this past season? Milan will be coming off their best season in school history, but they will have to replace the best player to ever don a Big Reds uniform in Tristen Hines, as well as other key players. Who will be the next man up? Riverview could be primed to make some noise with players like Jimari Moultrie and Cal Lockhart returning. Will it be enough to springboard them on another deep postseason run? Dundee, Bedford, Whiteford, Airport, and Carlson all made it to the playoffs, yet got bounced in round one. Carlson and Bedford both must replace explosive players in Ian Stewart and Christian Brown, and will have to show that they learned from losing by double digits in Week 10. As for the other three who made it but lost by a combined seven points, the returning players will have to realize that the bar is set high for them for 2020 and beyond. For the remaining teams who missed out, right now, I really like New Boston Huron and Ida to take steps forward and make a push to get in the postseason. I also like Erie Mason to finally get over the hump as they will move to the less-rugged Tri-County Conference. Even Monroe, who returns a lot of players who played as juniors and sophomores, to take a step forward. 2019 was a fun season. I’m excited to see what 2020 brings.
Gary: I think there are a few teams who will be much improved next season. Riverview will be plenty good and will face the DRL again come playoff time. I can see a Regional Title in the very near future, with some fortune, maybe more. Huron also will have plenty coming back next year. Huron has it all, size, some speed, good Wr’s and a good QB. Watch out for the Chiefs in 2020.
Look for the Friday Night Victors All Blog team within the next week. Plans are to do a video and a written piece on those players who will make up the All Blog offense and defense along with Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year and the Overall FNV Player of the Year.