Martin indeed will open its football season Thursday evening at 7 .m. at Fennville. There has been conflicting information, but the game will not be Friday night.
The season openers for the Wayland, Martin andHopkins football teams will be Thursday evening, even though there isn’t a Labor Day weekend immediately afterward.
Hopkins will visit Wayland at 7 p.m. Thursday to commence the 2015 season, which will be the varsity coaching debut for Mike Doupe at Wayland. Randy Hunt will coach his first game for Martin the following night.
Doupe, who was named to the post last January, will lead the Wildcats against veteran Viking coach Cody Francis, who is seeking Hopkins’ sixth straight O-K Silver Conference championship and ninth straight appearance in the post-season playoffs. Hopkins won the game 27-8 from a year ago and has won all three contests since the neighborhood rivalry was renewed in 2012.
The second game of the season for all three local schools also will be on a Thursday evening, Sept. 3.
Vikings hope to reload, not rebuild
Hopkins put together a pretty good season again last year, going 9-2 overall, losing in the second round of the playoffs to eventual Division 5 state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic. Key Vikings such as all-stater Quincy Collings, quarterback Ryan Pierce, fullback Wyatt Stegeman and lineman Jalen Kisner graduated last spring, but Francis likes to think that he’s not rebuilding, he’s just reloading.
Jimmy Lipscomb, an often used running back from last year, is being moved to quarterback for a team that really likes to run the football out of the storied wing-T. He’ll be joined in the backfield by veteran seniors Sid VanderTuin and Shawn Marshall and junior Cyrus Miner.
The experienced line will be led by guards Zack Blank and Clint VaderMoore, tight end Devin Smit, tackle Clayton Frank and defensive backs Hayden Graczyk and Michael Smith.
The Vikings will face stiff tests in the O-K Silver from Division 7 semifinalist North Pointe Christian and Calvin Christian.
Wildcats looking for a fresh start
It was a particularly ugly season in 2014 for Wayland, which went 0-9 and sometimes suffered through blowout losses.
Key returning veterans include linemen Chad Stoepker, McCarty Carpenter, Mike Velting, Caleb Boyle, backs Tanner VanDyke, Mike Kelly and Logan Sevigny and linebackers Justin Kiry and Brody Place.
It’s a keen grasp of the obvious to say the Wildcats are looking to improve. But the O-K Gold Conference is no cakewalk, with perennial powers South Christian and Grand Rapids Catholic Central.
Clippers shooting for .500 after ending skid
Martin last year halted a 56-game losing streak by beating Bellevue and later shutting out Bloomingdale. However, in an unusual series of events over the summer, first-year coach Travis Farris stepped down, was replaced by former eighth-grade coach Randy Hunt and since has returned as an assistant coach.
Quarterback Garrett Dill is an experienced returnee, as is junior tight end Tanner Curry.
The Clippers also will have returning lettermen in receiver Jared Classen, linemen Austin Pillars, David Morse, August Shettler and Dakota Elkins and speedy running back Collin Warner.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the Clippers’ drive for .500 ball is the low numbers, with only 14 boys being listed on the varsity roster.
Martin will have its hands full in its opener on the road against a Blackhawks’ team that went 6-3 and made the Division 7 post-season playoffs.
The Clippers are joined in the newly-aligned Southwest Athletic Conference with Marcellus, Eau Claire, Decatur, Bloomingdale and Saugatuck.
PHOTOS: Hopkins’ Devin Smit (84) sacks the North Pointe Christian QB in a game from last year.
Michael Doupe Cody Francis