Gielczyk: Mesick on the Cusp of History
It’s been almost 50 years, half a century, since the Mesick football team last won an outright conference title, and there have been some mighty lean years since including several winless seasons.
But the Bulldogs, who were 4-5 last year, are on the verge of being the undisputed Western Michigan D League champion in eight-player football if they can defeat Bear Lake in the conference finale Friday night.
While he’s not counting his eggs before they’re hatched, Mesick’s first-year coach Otto Ream is confident the Bulldogs can take care of business against the winless Lakers as long as they don’t take anything for granted.
Last week’s 42-12 homecoming victory over Brethren clinched a share of the WMD championship, the Bulldogs’ first league title since they shared the Northwest Conference crown with Frankfort in 1998 when they went 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
The Bulldogs won the Northwest outright in 1972, when they finished 7-0 overall and in the league, with two open dates at the start of the season.
Mesick is 6-1 overall and 5-0 in the WMD. Last week’s loss was the first in the league for defending champion Brethren, which is 4-3 overall.
Brethren scored with about 1:30 left in the first quarter to take the early lead against Mesick. The Bobcats wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter, and by then Mesick was in command.
“It was really a good defensive game,” Ream said. “It’s what they’ve been working for since the summer. We went down south to Eagle Village for team bonding and team building.
“That all started it right there. I knew this group of juniors and seniors was going to be good. We just started putting one foot in front of the other, and kept on going.”
Ream, a long-time coach in the program, said that the Bulldogs belief in themselves and what they can do on the football field has been the biggest thing.
“I don’t think there’s been a day when we’ve taken it easy in practice,” added Ream. “They know they have to keep working hard and be aggressive. At Eagle Village they came up with the idea that no one could say anything negative.
“If someone did say something negative, they would say ‘That’s below the line,’ and that person was say ‘Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry.’ They just kept everything above the line.”
Joey Stewart, a senior, runs the offense at quarterback, and is a big kid who is just as capable running the ball himself as handing off to one of his backs or passing the ball.
He had three rushing touchdowns and one TD reception in last week’s win over Brethren.
Another leader is junior Gabe Parrish, who steps in for Stewart at quarterback and accounted for two passing touchdowns and 68 yards through the air against the Bobcats.
Mesick has a solid offensive line with Jack Mikowski, Evan Spoor and Ethan Kline throwing the blocks that spring the Bulldogs’ backs, and give Stewart and Parrish protection in the passing game.
The Bulldogs have a couple of quick and elusive backs in Logan Thomas and John Teachout who regularly alternate under the play calling of offensive coordinator Brandon Thomas.
“It works pretty good, because it gives them each a break,” said Ream. “Logan is more of an outside runner, and John will run the inside when we needed it. “When either of them wants to come out, they just tap the other guy on the shoulder and he goes in.”
Tight end Cole Spencer is very quick and a good blocker. Defenses have to respect him because of his speed, and how he does things. Wide out Tanner Ford gives the Bulldogs another excellent receiving target, and is also a capable blocker.
Defense has been consistently strong for the Bulldogs.
Ethan Russell tips the scales at 340 pounds and Jovon Simerson weighs about 280 and give the Bulldogs size and strength at the defensive tackles. But Ream has two other groups that come in to keep everyone fresh.
The Bulldogs have three excellent linebackers in Parrish, Stewart and Spencer. Stewart plays in the middle. Ream estimates that they make about 85 percent of the tackles on defense.
“Logan is the safety and is really smart, and can read the offenses,” Ream said. “Tanner Ford and Robert Spoor are the corners, and they do a great job.”
Mesick is eager to take the next step on its journey this season.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas.