Reed City football reigns as area’s 2015 top sports story

Area athletes are gearing up for the 2016 sports schedule, but it’s not too late to look back at the top 10 stories in the area for 2015:

1. Reed City football

It’s becoming virtually the same old story: Reed City football goes undefeated during the regular season, wins the Central State Activities Association title and does well in the playoffs.

When the Coyotes went 9-0 in 2015, it was their fourth regular-season undefeated mark in five seasons and their fifth straight league crown. The only season they didn’t go 9-0 in that stretch was 2014 when they still won a district title. They  lost 21-14 in the district final this season to Grand Rapids West Catholic, which went on to claim its third straight state championship.

Again, there were many outstanding players including all-stater Taylor Pelton on defense and Andre Jones on offense. They were the two Pioneer Dream Team Players of the Year.

2. Reed City boys basketball

Reed City had not won a Class B district title in 22 years. But this was the Coyotes’ season and coach Dean McGuire’s team got the job done after getting past defending champion Big Rapids 54-44 in the district to win the title. Reed City was led by senor forward Chris Barton with 12.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, and junior guard Andre Jones with 10.2 and 2.0 steals per game.

3. Santana Scott

Evart’s cross country boys team had another strong season with a Highland Conference title and a strong state appearance for eighth place. Senior Santana Scott capped a strong career by winning the Division 4 individual state title in 16:05.7. He led the race from start to finish on Nov. 7 at Michigan International Speedway. His teammate, Josh Woods, was 29th overall and also earned all-state honors.

4. Kassy Nelson

A solid four-year varsity career came to a close for Kassy Nelson at Pine River. Nelson also earned all-state honors. Prior to the season, she signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at Saginaw Valley State. She is one of three Pine River girls basketball players to break the 1,000-point mark. She also won the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan 3-point shooting competition, March 21, at the Michigan State University’s Breslin Center. In her last season, she averaged 23.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 3.5 assists per game, shooting 81 percent in free throws and 38 percent in 3-pointers.

5. Shawn Ruppert

Long-time Pine River baseball coach Shawn Ruppert was honored in May when his baseball team swept a doubleheader against Evart, giving Ruppert more than 500 wins in his coaching career. Ruppert, a former Pine River athlete and current girls basketball coach, also directed his baseball team to another successful season and won a Division 3 district title. The Bucks lost to Muskegon Oakridge in the regional semifinal. They lost two close games in the Highland Conference to perennial power Beal City.

6. Pine River wrestling, Jones

Pine River’s wrestling team again had a strong season for 2014-15 with a conference title, and also claimed a regional crown. The Bucks advanced to the state final round of eight at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena, but lost in the quarterfinal. To start out the 2015-16 campaign, the Bucks honored veteran coach Tim Jones for having reached the 500-win mark in his stints at South Haven and Pine River.

7. Evart wrestling

The 2014-15 season marked the debut of Evart High School wrestling, under coach Ryan Hopkins. The Wildcats purchased a new mat and conducted practices at the Evart Middle School. Hopkins usually only had five wrestlers for a match. That total has increased to eight for the 2015-16 season. Evart’s strong youth program in the lower levels is promising to supply future high school teams with plenty of talent. Wrestlers like Caleb Parish and Zach Parshall were helping the Wildcats be competitive.

8. Pine River track

The boys 4x400 relay winner in May’s Highland Conference meet was Pine River and as a result, the Bucks grabbed the league trophy. Combined with the regular-season duals and the victory at the league meet, the Bucks won the overall title. Pine River edged Lake City 141-137 for first place after nipping the Trojans in the 1,600 relay, the last event of the season. The foursome of Derek Hartline, Colten Rawson, Nick Truax and Ben Rigling won the 1,600 relay for Pine River which was tied with Lake City after 16 events.

9. Pine River boys basketball

The Bucks fell short in their bid for a district title, but still had a memorable season under coach Brian Goodenow with a 17-4 record. Standout players included forward Lucas Harris, who had 13.2 points per game and shot 52 percent from the floor. Mitchell McDonald ended a fabulous four-year career with team MVP honors and averaged 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game.

10. Evart track

Evart’s boys track team came away from the Division 4 regional at Breckenridge with a second-place finish. Evart’s girls team was third with 68 ½ points.  For Evart, Danny Griffin was second (52.53) in the 400. Santana Scott was second in the 3,200 meters (10:15.51) and the 4x800 relay of Griffin, Wood, Scott and Randall was second (8:39.26). For the Evart girls, Mara VanOrder won the 200 meters (27.58) and the 400 meters (1:01.10). Tabby Turley won the 100-meter hurdles (16.50).