COLUMN: The highs and lows of Week 1

Published 10:46 am Saturday, September 2, 2023

It was quite a first week in high school football with our six area teams having to schedule, and then reschedule their contests due to excessive heat at first. and then thunderstorms.

But by the end of Saturday night, all six teams had gotten their games in. Some had more success than others, but it is only the first week of the 2023 season, so we will have wait and see how things shake out moving forward.

After all, the old coaching adage of “teams make their biggest improvements between week one and week two” is notjust a saying. In my experience, it is a fact. You can really start to get a feel for where a team is going as they play their second game of the season.

The best performance of the opening weekend was by far the Niles Vikings, who routed rival St. Joseph 55-0 as they    played on their new turf surface for the first time. The lopsided win not only snapped a 17-game losing streak to the Bears, but it also was St. Joseph’s most lopsided loss since at lest 1950.

Niles dominated every phase of the game. The Vikings ran at will on the Bears’ defense, threw the ball a few times with succes and played great defense. The special teams play was also solid.

While Niles was enjoying a successful opener, the same can not be said of the other five schools, all of which suffered defeat. Dowagiac came the closest to winning as the Chieftains had a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter before South Haven came storming back.

Dowagiac had its bright spots during the first three quarters, but when it came to crunch time, the Chieftains were unabe to close the deal. It is not surprising because a team that has not had a lot of success in recent years, must learn how to close out games.

Dowagiac ran the ball well at times, struggled throwing it, and played solid defense until late when fatigue from the heat and humidity might have played a hand in the Rams’ late comeback.

If the Chieftains can get over the hump and win one of these close games, there is no telling how far that confidence will take them.

Buchanan and Brandywine suffered a fate similar to Dowagiac in that with a lot of new faces in key positions, both teams will need to learn how to handle the pressures of playing varsity football.

Both teams had their moments, and I believe both will find success in 2023.

A couple of coaching debuts were spoiled as Edwardsburg and Cassopolis were defeated in their opening games of the season.

Defending state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic showed the Eddies and their fans that they are ready to make another run at a title.

While the Rangers were defeated by 30 points by Allegan, the positive news is that Cassopolis scored 33 points in the contest. The Rangers scored just 40 points all of last season.

The Eddies Dan Purlee and the Rangers’ Jeremiah Lee were looking to pick up their first victories this week. I wish them good luck, and hopefully those wins will come sooner than later.

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