By Adam Knorr
Local Sports Journal

FRUITPORT – Nathan Kriger has been a defensive force for the Fruitport football team for the past three years.

Last season the fiery linebacker led the Trojans with 74 tackles, earning All-Conference and honorable mention All-State honors.Shoreline football instory art

Building on that type of performance in his senior year would be enough of a challenge.

But this season Kriger has even more responsibility.

He was a running back on offense last season, but was an understudy to starter Derrick White, who got most of the carries. That allowed Kriger to take a breather once in awhile.

But White graduated last spring, so Kriger is suddenly both the leader of the defense and the featured back on offense, which means he’s usually in the middle of the play and rarely leaves the field.

If he’s not carrying the ball, he’s usually attacking the opponent who has it. For many people, even athletes, that type of workload could be overwhelming.

Nathan Kriger

Nathan Kriger

But Kriger seems up for the challenge. He’s dedicated to delivering every bit of effort he can muster on each play, regardless of how deep he has to dredge.

“I have to keep going. I can’t get tired,” Kriger said. “It’s hard catching your breath sometimes, I have to make sure I can keep going at 100 percent, even when there’s a big difference between my 100 percent in the fourth quarter.

“I wasn’t as exhausted at the end of the second game as I was the first, but I don’t have a choice when I get tired… I just have to fight through it and give my all.”

So far the results of Kriger’s double work load have been pretty impressive.

He’s carried the ball 60 times for 325 yards, including 177 yards last week against Fremont. Last year he totaled 42 carries and 149 yards over seven games.

An outdoorsman by heart and genetics, Kriger is one of the sturdiest players in the area. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior is still an imposing force on the defensive side of the ball – his preferred area of operation.

So far this season he has six solo tackles and 19 assists.

He said playing hard defense helps him deal with the frustrations of the game.

“You get upset so you take some of your anger out on defense,” he said  “You’re not on a set play so you can get rid of the frustration with one hit.

“I just like hitting people where you’re giving the hit instead of being the one taking the hit.”

Trojan football is a family tradition for Kriger.

Fruitport's Nathan Kriger rushes past Fremont's Brandon Harris on September 12. Photo/Jason Goorman

Fruitport’s Nathan Kriger rushes past Fremont’s Brandon Harris on September 12. Photo/Jason Goorman

His father, Len, was the first Kriger to excel defensively at Fruitport, graduating in 1988. He raised both of his sons in the game, and coached them from the time they were small.

All the hard work on both sides of the ball makes Kriger a natural leader on his team. According to Fruitport Coach Greg Vargas, it would be difficult to find a player better-suited for a leadership position.

“He rarely comes off the field… He has that quiet workmanlike attitude. He’s always watching film on his own, asking questions and looking to learn. He’s a great kid. That’s as simple a statement as I can make about Nathan.”

Fruitport, which sports a smaller roster than much of its competition, features multiple two-way players in every game. The Trojans have gotten off to a slow start in 2014, going 1-2 with losses to Grand Haven and Mona Shores.