Novak: It has been quite a fall for our area teams

Published 11:38 am Friday, November 17, 2023

It has been quite a fall campaign for the teams in the Leader Publications coverage area.

Not only did our teams find success at the conference level, but some of them made spectacular runs in the postseason. Two volleyball teams and one of our football teams made extended runs in the state tournament, and although none of them are still seeking state titles, they did manage to bring home some hardware.

Probably even more important was that some of those teams also achieves academic excellence at the state level. Teams like the Dowagiac girls golf team have made a habit of earning academic all-state honors as the Chieftains are on the Division 3 list for the eighth consecutive season.

Not all of the coaching associations have announced their academic honors, but I do know that the Brandywine tennis received team honors, while Triston Peterson was an individual academic all-state honoree from the Michigan High School Tennis Coaches Association.

At the conference level, Buchanan captured three league titles as the Bucks’ boys and girls cross country team completed the sweep and then went on to sweep the Division 3 regional titles as well.

Buchanan also went undefeated in both the regular season and at the Lakeland Conference tournament to win the outright volleyball championship. Thanks to those titles, the Bucks have vaulted to the top of the Leader Publications Champions Cup standings with 100

Edwardsburg currently second in the standings with 59 points thanks to winning a share of the Wolverine Conference volleyball title, and then going on to win a district and regional championship in the Division 2 state tournament.

Edwardsburg also earn the distinction of being the school that had one of its teams go the the farthest in the state tournament — the quarterfinals.

Niles is third in the Champions Cup standings with 45 points as the Vikings won its first Wolverine Conference football championship and then went on to win its first district championship on the gridiron. The Vikings turned in its best football season in school history as its set records for wins and points, as well as becoming the first Viking team to win two playoff games.

Like Edwardsburg, Niles’ postseason came to an end earlier than it wanted it to, but hats off to the Vikings, who were edged by perennial state playoff powerhouse Portland 21-14 last Friday night in the Division 4 Regional championship game.

Although neither won any championships, the Buchanan and Edwardsburg football teams can consider 2023 successful as both qualified for the postseason in their respective divisions.

The Eddies, under new Coach Dan Purlee, rebounded from an 0-2 start to earn a spot in the Division 4 postseason. Edwardsburg was eliminated from the playoffs by Paw Paw in the opening round.

The Bucks advanced to the Division 5 District championship game before dropping a thriller to postseason powerhouse Constantine on the road, 21-14.

Both teams should be proud of their accomplishments, and hopefully, can build off of their success this season as they look foward to the 2024 season.

While a lot of my focus this fall was on our six high school teams, our two area junior colleges had successful falls as well.

Lake Michigan College capped off its fall season with St. Joseph freshman Olivia Ippel winning the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II National Cross Country championship. Ippel was also the Michigan Community College Athletic Association and NJCAA Region XII champion, which qualified her for the national meet in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Red Hawks battled Lansing Community College for the MCCAA Western Conference volleyball title, falling in the last week of the season. Lake Michigan had to settle for second place, but qualified for the Great Lakes District Tournament once again, which is the qualifying tournament for the NJCAA finals.

Year two for the Southwestern Michigan College volleyball team saw the Roadrunners improve as they turned their 14-20 overall record last season into a 23-13 mark this season. Southwestern Michigan earned sole possession of third place in the Western Conference and once again qualified for the Great Lakes District Tournament.

The SMC cross country teams continued their improvement in year No. 3 since returning to the sport.

The Roadrunners were nationally ranked in both the men’s and women’s divisions and qualified for the NJCAA Division II National Championships with both placing in the top 17.

Southwestern Michigan also put some hardware into its Hall of Champions for the first time in nearly 30 years as the both teams finished runner-up at the Region XII meet in Byron Center.

Well, it is off to cover our winter sports teams. I expect there will be plenty of things to write about as our teams try to make their own history on the court, on the mat and at the lanes.


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