LSJ preview: New coach begins rebuilding process at Reeths-Puffer

Last month, the Local Sports Journal published a 24-page high school football preview section. Here is the preview story on the Reeths-Puffer Rockets. If you would like to purchase a copy of the football section, send an email to sports@localsportsjournal.com
By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
After years of relative football futility, Reeths-Puffer is looking in 2012 to make a statement to the entire Muskegon area.
By tapping first-year coach Kyle Jewett, who comes from an impressive coaching tradition, to lead the program, the Rocket community is hoping that the bygone days of consistent success in football will return.

Marquis Livers is a key addition to the Rockets after his transfer from Muskegon Heights. Photo by Mark Lewis.

Jewett noticed early on in his tenure that there was as much talent at Reeths-Puffer as any other area school. It’s just that some of those talented athletes weren’t coming out for football.
“I realized right away that we had to get creative to find ways to get those players not yet in the program involved with what we are trying to do here,” said Jewett, at 29 is one of the state’s youngest big-school head football coaches.
“We needed a way to reach out to those kids and let them know we have a place for them on the football team. We needed to aggressively recruit our own school,” said Jewett, who quarterbacked the 2001 Muskegon Catholic Central team to a state runner-up finish, and more recently was running backs coach at Grand Rapids Community College under Tony Annese.
What followed were a series of pick-up games, such as dodge ball and basketball, in an attempt to meet some of those kids on their own turf. While that stuff is fun, said Jewett, what he really noticed was that meeting the kids face-to-face had the greatest impact.
“Getting to know some of them, talking with them and just being there, it made all the difference,” he said. “We were able to help them get a feel for what we were trying to do.”
Senior Kevin Polk, known more around the school for basketball skills, was one of Jewett’s first “gets.” Polk, who could have a big impact at the wide receiver position, has never before played varsity football.
“The kid comes out as this basketball player, and now, he may be starting both ways for us. Obviously, that’s talent we may not have known about had we not made the effort to reach out,” Jewett said.
Then there was the uncertain future surrounding Muskegon Heights.
When the school closed for good earlier this summer – before finding new life as a charter school – most of its student-athletes were left to scramble for alternate opportunities.
The Rockets landed two players from the Heights, Marquis Livers,  who may end up starting at tight end and linebacker, and Jewell Glover.
Livers, a big, strong kid, said that after a brief period of transition, he now feels like he’s just one of the
team.
“The chemistry was off at first,” said Livers, who wears No. 1. “But I adjusted and now I know this is where I belong. It’s been a learning thing for everybody.”
Livers, who also plays basketball, said that he knew Coach Jewett was the right man for the job when he saw how he conducted himself.
“He’s going to be a great head coach,” Livers said. “He has a plan for us, and when there’s a plan, we can see how things go from where we are now to where we want to be.”
Likewise, Jewett said his new players needed some time to adjust to his approach.
“I think they needed to get used to our coaching style, the way we want to do things,” Jewett said. “I think most of them, and this includes kids who have been here all along, were a little shook up at first, because of what we demanded of them. But everyone has conformed pretty well to what we’re doing here.”
Junior offensive guard Matt Hoover will be an anchor on the line, while Drieus Bett should be a standout at running back. Fullback Corey Plichta will do plenty of blocking, while junior Garrett Blanshine is slated to take over at quarterback.
Hoover will occupy a spot on the defensive line as well, with Plichta and Livers at the linebacker spots. Bett, Glover and Polk will be manning spots in the secondary.
Needless to say, with so many players playing both ways, life could be tough for the Rockets in the newly configured OK Black Conference, which now includes Zeeland East and perennial powerhouse Muskegon.
Forest Hills Central and Holland have moved to the O-K Red.
But then, those were teams Reeths-Puffer lost to a year ago by a combined 88-3. At any rate, Jewett looks at the tough schedule as a chance to play with, and learn from, the best.
“When you’re a top team, you’re going to play a lot of good teams anyway, especially as you make your way through the playoffs,” Jewett said. “We look at (the schedule) as an opportunity to play against some of the strongest programs in the state. That’s where we want to be, so there is no reason to try to duck them now.”
With such a tough conference schedule looming, Jewett is laser-focused on the opener.
“Fruitport is going to be an important game for us,” he said. “We want to go hard right out of the gate.”

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