Montague and Whitehall, who placed second and fifth respectively in this year’s West Michigan Conference standings, were each honored when the football all-WMC teams were released recently, as several players from each team received recognition.
The offensive all-conference first team included Whitehall’s Steve Sika at quarterback, Antwan Burks at running back, Joe Sika at split end and Tyler Goerbig at guard. Montague’s Jacob Marsh was the lone Wildcat to receive all-conference first-team mention offensively, at tight end. Marsh caught 16 passes over the course of the year, four for touchdowns.
On defense, Whitehall’s Joe Sika received all-conference mention again, at defensive back. Montague had two first-team defensive selections, with Marsh being honored a second time for his play at linebacker while Sawyer Smith received first-team mention for his defensive line play. Marsh rang up an impressive 117 solo tackles and six sacks on defense, while Smith had 50 solo tackles for Montague.
“Sawyer’s the type of kid that’s worked for that recognition,” Montague coach Pat Collins said of Smith. “He spends time in the weight room to get strong and works on the wrestling team to get quicker. He stands out on tape. In a nutshell, he does it one way, by working his tail off.”
Joe Sika and Jacob Marsh were the only two players in the league to receive first-team all-league recognition on both sides of the football.
“I can’t believe he’s already leaving,” Montague coach Pat Collins said of Marsh. “He started for three years and time flies when you’re having fun. He’s just an all-around football player. He had three games of plus-20 tackles. Some of the stats are stuff I haven’t seen since I’ve coached here.
Montague also boasted first-team picks at both kicking positions, as Wyatt Ford was the all-WMC first-team kicker and Brandon Moore tied with Shelby’s Shane Kajtazi for the punter spot on the first team. Ford recorded touchbacks on 15 of his 53 kickoffs this season and also converted on three field-goal attempts this year.
“Kicking is such a big part of the game and Wyatt’s one of those guys that works hard in the off-season,” Collins said. “He’s winning a lot of awards and really stepped up his game.”
Moore punted 23 times for an average of nearly 40 yards, pinning eight of them inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Moore also played quarterback and safety for Montague and could have received all-league recognition at either position.
“He should have been all-conference in a different capacity, but the way we vote there wasn’t a spot for him,” Collins said. “As a punter, he’s one of those guys that works at it. He takes it really seriously and that’s why he’s good at it.”
Each team also received honorable-mention picks on the all-league team. Whitehall kicker Emmit Mikkelson was named honorable mention all-WMC. Montague got several honorable-mention nods, including Moore at quarterback, Brandon Stine at running back, Tristen Schultz at defensive end and Dylan Lohman at defensive back.
“Programs are all about seniors,” Whitehall co-head coach Brent Sandee said of his team’s all-conference honorees, all of whom graduate in May. “They were instrumental in the run Whitehall had last year in the playoffs. They’re an awesome group of kids. They’ll go on to good things in life. They deserved a better win-loss record for the amount of time they put into this program.”
Reeths-Puffer received one honorable mention pick on the all-conference team from the O-K Black Conference. Senior running back Johndries Betts-Render received the honors after running up impressive numbers on the ground for the Rockets. In the final two games of the season alone, both Reeths-Puffer victories, Betts-Render piled up 369 yards rushing.