GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — The Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference’s West division was one of the tighest races in the area in 2012 and no fewer than 4 teams begin 2013 with hopes of a division title. Here is a preview:
The Lancers ran the table during the regular season in 2012 losing in the regional final to eventual division 3 state champion Grand Rapids Christian. Lakeshore does not return many starters from a season ago, but they always seem to find talented players to step up.
The Wildcats were 2nd in the SMAC West last season and advanced to the regional final before falling to Caledonia. Head coach Matt Stephens has done an incredible job thus far, but this season he returns only 4 starters so Mattawan is going to have to get it done with players that don’t have a ton of varsity experience. The Wildcats program might just be to a point where they are ready to reload.
Last season the Huskies eneded their long losing streak to arch-rival Portage Central during the regular season, but lost to the Mustangs in the playoffs. In 2013, Northern brings back a bunch of talented players on the defensive side of the ball and that unit should be very good. Look for Preston Simon to be a leader this season both at running back and linebacker.
The Mustangs are coming off another year of going to the playoffs and they were very young in 2012. Returning 14 starters including 9 on offense, Central is the most experienced team in the league. The early season schedule is tough, they open divisional play against the 3 teams listed above.
The Bears came up 1 win shy of the postseason in 2012. Expect the Bears to be make this a 5-team race with 10 starters back from a year ago.
Niles started 3-1 in 2012 before finishing 4-5.
The Maroon Giants won their season opener over Battle Creek Central last season, then lost the final 8 game of the season. K-Central will look to bounce back in 2013.
The Tigers finished 1-8 for the 4th consecutive season in 2012. Darric Randolph will seek improvemnet in his 2nd season as head coach.