By Nate Thompson
It’s been a while since the Holton football team has had those goals within reach.
But that’s now the case for the Red Devils, who have excited their school and community by ripping off four wins in their first five games.
The Red Devils need just two wins in their last four games to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and are in the running to capture a conference title in the Central State Activities Association’s Silver Division.
The playoff goal is a big one. The last time Holton qualified for postseason play, current Muskegon Big Reds coach Shane Fairfield was leading the team
“We’ve discussed that every week,” admitted senior linebacker Draven Wyant, one of the leaders on a stingy Holton defense that is allowing an average of just 12 points per game. “Every Thursday night when we’re all together, we talk about what we’re going to do. So much is aligned perfectly for us to win the conference. We just need to take care of business.”
The Red Devils won their season-opener, 26-18 over Hart, and currently have a three-game winning streak under their belts. Their next challenges is a big conference game at home on Friday against Lakeview.
“We’ve accomplished quite a few goals already, but we have some big ones in front of us,” said Holton Coach Jack Nummerdor. “Next up is beating Lakeview for the first time. And if we do that, that can set us up for at least a share of a conference title if we can beat Kent City.
“We talked about (making the playoffs) at the beginning of the season,” he added. “That’s always where you want to go. If you’re a high school football player and that’s not a goal, there’s something wrong with you.”
Holton’s schedule gets significantly tougher over the next three weeks. The opponents – Lakeview, Kent City and Leroy Pine River – have each made the playoffs in recent seasons. Undefeated Kent City is coming off a perfect 2017 regular season and is a heavy favorite to repeat as conference champs.
But the Red Devils aren’t intimidated.
Nummerdor said they’ve been able to thrive this season with a bend-but-don’t-break defense and an offense that is excelling in the veer offense.
Wyant and fellow linebacker Kaleb Kitchka, a junior, have sparked an aggressive defense. Although similar in intensity, the duo differ greatly in their styles.
“They’re both good football kids and they love to compete,” Nummerdor said. “They’re mean and nasty, the prototypical linebackers. Draven’s the bigger of the two. He’s a smart player and routinely makes the right read and really packs a punch on the ball carrier.”
While the 6-foot, 210-pound Wyant likes mixing it up near the line of scrimmage, the 5-11, 150-pound Kitchka utilizes his quickness to make tackles sideline-to-sideline.
“He’s quick, savvy and just has a nose for the football,” Nummerdor said about Kitchka. “Despite his size, he’ll still take on a 300-pound blocker, but he uses his smarts and quickness to dodge those blocks and get to the ball.”
Nummerdor said switching from a Wing-T to the veer offense this season has helped the team better utilize its exciting playmakers, including rapidly-improving junior quarterback Drew Trygstad, explosive running backs Aaron Herron and Derek Pouch, and tight end Johnny Dominish.
Nummerdor said the offense is balanced enough to go 50/50 on run and pass plays, if necessary.
“Offensively, there’s a lot still hidden in the bag,” said Wyant, who lines up at tackle on the offensive side of the ball. “We haven’t shown everything we can do.”
Holton’s always loyal fan base has taken notice. Nummerdor said he’s always been impressed by the support in the community, but the strong start this season has created more of a buzz.
“These people are always here supporting us, but I think the community members who are a little further out are starting to come out on Fridays,” the coach said. “It’s been nice to create a little more excitement.”