COLUMN: A look at fall sports

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, September 16, 2021

We are halfway through the first full month of fall sports, and some things are becoming perfectly clear.

Each of the six schools I have the privilege of covering is successful in at least one or more sports. Some schools are off to a great start with multiple teams looking like they are going to contend for division or conference championships, as well as possibly making long runs in the postseason.

I am going to break this down by school. It will be in alphabetical order so do not read into anything more than that. I am not ranking our schools based on their early success.

At Brandywine, the Bobcats look as if they are poised to make another run at the postseason in football despite dropping last week’s game to Saugatuck. The Bobcats face another strong test when they travel to Sand Creek Friday night.

Brandywine has a strong running game. A big but young offensive line is still developing, as is the quarterback play of Blake Krueger. The Bobcats need to continue to improve on both sides of the ball if they are going to have a shot at winning the school’s second playoff game next month.

The volleyball team lost a tough one at Buchanan Wednesday night to the rival Bucks, but it appears first-year Coach Emily Zablocki-Kohler has a team with the potential to make a move toward the end of the season.

The Bobcats are still working on putting the pieces together and gaining the confidence it needs to put them over the top as the postseason arrives in late October.

Speaking of the Buchanan volleyball team. It has been a big week for the Bucks as they knocked off Lakeshore in five sets and swept the Bobcats Wednesday night.

Buchanan has a good mix of veterans and underclassmen that I feel should be the favorite to win the BCS Athletic Conference and be among the favorites to win the district title.

Buchanan’s girls cross country team is also finding early season success, including winning the freshmen-sophomore division at the Centreville Invitational last Saturday. The Bucks are a contender to win the BCS championship next month.

Coming off a losing season, the Cassopolis football team appears to have righted the ship and is 2-1 heading into the fourth week of the season against a winless Hartford squad.

I was sad to find out that the Rangers had to cancel the JV season in order to field what they felt was a solid varsity squad. It may hurt Cassopolis down the road, but for right now, it appears that the Rangers are going to challenge for the Southwest 10 Conference title and return to its playoff form of two years ago.

Cassopolis is also having success in volleyball under second-year Coach Kaisha Martin. The Rangers finished second last weekend at the New Buffalo Invitational and are getting ready to face the meat of their Southwest 10 Conference schedule.

Dowagiac may be struggling on the football field, but its boys soccer, girls golf and Chieftain volleyball teams are off to a great start.

The soccer team is no stranger to success, having won four straight district championships. Coach Mike Williams had a veteran team that is still working on finding consistency. I have no doubt that come tournament time, the Chieftains will be ready for the “Drive for Five.”

The Chieftain golf team has lost just one match in the Wolverine Conference this season and that was to league favorite Plainwell. Dowagiac has a young squad that is really starting to put things together. It is led by senior Calley Ruff, who should be in the hunt for all-conference honors later this year.

It has been a season of firsts for the Chieftain volleyball team. Dowagiac is undefeated in Wolverine Conference play, having defeated Vicksburg and Plainwell for the first time since joining the league in 2006.

Dowagiac faces another challenge in Otsego tonight. A win over the Bulldogs would be huge with defending conference champion Edwardsburg and league newcomer Niles still to come.

Many around southwest Michigan believe this is the best Edwardsburg football team that Coach Kevin Bartz has ever had. That is saying something based on the Eddies’ track record, which includes a state championship just a handful of years ago.

I know this, the Eddies are big upfront, have speed and talent in the backfield and can throw the ball when they want to with quarterback Jacob Pegura. Heck, Edwardsburg is even kicking extra points with Trevor Houseworth.

On top of that, Edwardsburg continues to play stingy defense, which heading into Friday night against Vicksburg, has only allowed seven points.

The Eddies have gotten off to a bit of an uneven start in volleyball, but I am sure Coach Nikki Bush will put all the pieces together in time for the state tournament so that Edwardsburg can defend its district title. The Eddies’ golf team is also playing well this season as it builds momentum for the postseason.

Niles is making its first year in the Wolverine Conference one to remember so far, especially in volleyball.

Niles has been on a roll since day one and is currently ranked No. 8 in the state by Dig Prep. The Vikings have become the favorite to win the league championship after sweeping Edwardsburg last week. The Vikings are hoping to finally unseat Edwardsburg as the district champion when the state tournament begins.

I have been telling people from the moment Niles hired Scot Shaw as its football coach that things were going to change. I hope some of them are starting to become believers because Shaw has the Vikings off to a quick start with a win in its Wolverine Conference debut and a victory over rival Buchanan.

Forget last week’s loss to Edwardsburg because everyone on the Eddies’ regular-season roster is going to have the same result. This is a key week for the Vikings as the try to rebound from that loss and get back on the winning track. I predicted two weeks ago that Niles could finish as high as second or third in the league this season. It all depends on if they can beat Paw Paw, Vicksburg and Plainwell.

Niles is also having a solid season in girls cross country and boys tennis. Both teams have done well in the early going, and I am looking forward to seeing where they end up by the end of the season.

Well, there is a look at fall sports so far. I will update you on where these teams stand in a few weeks as we reach the midway point of their schedules, or in the case of girls golf, heading down the stretch to the state tournament.


Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at