Breslin Bound: Boys District Preview

March 9, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The reigning Class D champion is playing in Class C this season. Last year’s Class A and B champions have only three losses between them. And there are four undefeated teams in Class D – with next week’s Regional the earliest two can meet up.

We’ve got a chance to see some familiar faces for the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals in three weeks, and likely a higher probability of seeing a few teams that have yet to lose this winter. But to determine who makes the trip, a ton of basketball must yet be played – beginning tonight.

To kick off Districts, this week's Breslin Bound report looks at five teams in each class that have made some of the biggest waves throughout this winter. Click to “track the tournament,” with results as we receive them and interactive brackets.

Class A

Clarkston (20-0) – The Wolves equaled last season’s win total by going undefeated during the regular season and now will be charged with surpassing last year’s Regional Final appearance. Clarkston won all but three games by double figures, including over Macomb Dakota (18-2) and Auburn Hills Avondale (17-3) during December and twice over North Farmington and Mr. Basketball candidate Jeron Rogers.

Detroit Western International (19-0)  The Cowboys posted big wins early, including 69-57 over Saginaw Arthur Hill (17-3), then rolled through the Detroit Public School League to win that championship for the first time since 1922. A 58-49 win over Detroit U-D Jesuit (17-3) in last week’s Operation Friendship game further cemented Western as a likely favorite.

East Kentwood (20-0) – The Falcons handed reigning Class A champion Muskegon its only loss, 58-57 on Dec. 30, and also beat a solid Birmingham Brother Rice team in December before storming through the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red to win that league title by three games. East Kentwood had finished second in the league and 13-8 overall a year ago.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (20-0) – The Rangers repeated as champions in the O-K White, this season by four games, and own a 59-55 win over O-K Bronze champion Grand Rapids Northview (17-3), which ended Forest Hill Central’s 2013-14 season in the District Final. The Rangers twice beat Grand Rapids Christian, led by Mr. Basketball candidate DeLeon Brown.

Muskegon (19-1) – The Big Reds have more than made up for their first loss (see East Kentwood above) since 2012-13. Muskegon edged Saginaw Arthur Hill by two in mid-December, then beat Romulus (14-5) by 10 in mid-January and River Rouge (15-5) in the regular-season finale – in addition to winning the O-K Black by three games. Center Deyonta Davis is a favorite, perhaps the favorite, for the Mr. Basketball Award.

Class B

Flint Northwestern (15-3) – The Wildcats had a few stumbles through the middle and end of February, but still won the Saginaw Valley Association South by three games, losing only to third-place Flint Powers Catholic, Class A power Arthur Hill and Class C contender Flint Beecher. Northwestern opened this winter with a 10-game winning streak after finishing 6-13 only a season ago.

Milan (18-2) – The reigning Class B champion is revved for another run with 11 straight wins and another Huron League title that included a pair of victories over second-place Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (17-3). Milan's losses were to Class A contenders Romulus and Detroit U-D Jesuit, and all 18 wins came by double-digit points.

New Haven (20-0) – The Rockets launched from 12-9 a year ago to return to a form more similar to their 19-4 team of 2012-13. They won the Macomb Area Conference Gold championship by three games, but the tournament will be an interesting test – New Haven moved up this school year from Class C. A 51-43 win over MAC Blue champion Mount Clemens on Feb. 27, however, is a good sign.

Wayland (17-3) – Although the Wildcats finished behind Class A Ottawa Hills in the O-K Gold standings, they lost only to Class A teams this season – twice to Ottawa Hills and once to Middleville Thornapple Kellogg – and posted a 17-point win on Otsego (17-3). Lacey James is a Mr. Basketball candidate and could carry Wayland far if it can get past Godwin Heights this week.

Wyoming Godwin Heights (19-1) – The Wolverines came back from a January loss to Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian to avenge two weeks later and finish as champion again in the O-K Silver. Godwin Heights is 44-2 over the last two seasons, having fallen in the 2014 Quarterfinals, and looks lined up for another run with February wins against North Farmington (17-3), Otsego and then Grand Rapids Christian on Tuesday.

Class C

Beaverton (20-0) – The Beavers have won at least 20 games three straight seasons and earned the Jack Pine Conference title. They won by fewer than double digits only three times – including twice over league-runner-up Clare (15-5). Beaverton also won a pair over Class D Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (14-5) and by 16 over Vestaburg (17-2).

Flint Beecher (18-1) – The Buccaneers should be back in championship contention after falling by a point in last year’s Quarterfinals. They again won the Genesee Area Conference Red, this time by two games over Class B Goodrich (18-2), and also posted impressive victories over Saginaw (14-6), Flint Northwestern, River Rouge and reigning Class C champion Detroit Consortium (12-5).

Jackson Lumen Christi (18-2) – The Titans should be scary in Class C after making the Regional Finals in Class B last season and then finishing atop an Interstate 8 Athletic Conference filled with larger schools. Lumen Christi won the league title by a game over Class B Battle Creek Harper Creek (18-2) and also owns impressive wins over Hanover-Horton (19-1) and Flint Powers Catholic (14-6).

Hillsdale (20-0) – The Hornets have won at least 20 games four straight seasons and are looking to improve on last year’s Quarterfinal run. Hillsdale capped the regular season with a 53-50 win last week over Vandercook Lake (15-5), opened with a win over Adrian Madison (15-5) and also twice beat Onsted (16-4) to win the Lenawee County Athletic Association championship.

Southfield Christian (17-3) – The back-to-back-to-back Class D champion is up a class and continued to play a number of larger opponents, losing to North Farmington and Detroit Pershing during the season’s first two weeks. The Eagles came back to win the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue with a pair of victories over rival Allen Park Inter-City Baptist (16-4).

Class D

Cedarville (20-0) – The Trojans haven’t slowed a bit since reaching last season’s Semifinals, cruising to another Eastern U.P. Athletic Conference championship while reaching 20 wins for the third straight season. Cedarville fit in a couple of downstate opponents in early January and beat Boyne City (15-5) last week, to go with domination of its local opponents including a 100-86 win in mid-February over Rudyard (15-5).

Hillman (19-1) – The Tigers just edged Lawrence as the only non-undefeated team on this list after winning the North Star League Big Dipper with a pair of wins over Mio (17-2). Hillman also put up a 10-point nonleague win early over Rudyard (15-5) and hasn’t lost since falling to Cedarville on opening night – after also losing to Cedarville in last season’s Regional Final.

Lake Linden-Hubbell (20-0) – The Lakes have climbed from three to 16 to 19 to 20 wins over the last four seasons. They won the Copper Country Conference title by two games over runner-up Republic-Michigamme (16-4). Lake Linden-Hubbell won all but one of its games by double digits.

Powers North Central (20-0) – The high-scoring Jets have shined again, putting up more than 90 points twice and more than 80 five more times. They dominated the Skyline Central Conference West with a pair of wins over Crystal Falls Forest Park (16-4) and earned another over SCC East champ Munising (18-1). North Central is 45-1 over the last two seasons, with the only loss to Cedarville in last year’s Quarterfinal.

Waterford Our Lady (20-0) – The Lakers also have made great strides, from 11 to 12 to 17 to 20 wins over the last four seasons. They won the Detroit Catholic League Intersectional #1 title by four games and added to an impressive run with wins over Southfield Bradford (14-6), Harbor Beach (15-4) and Burton St. Thomas More Academy (15-2). 

PHOTO: Muskegon's Deyonta Davis (21) goes for a blocked shot during a January game against Saginaw Arthur Hill. (Click to see more at

E-TC's Witt Bulldozing Path from Small Town to Football's Biggest Stage

By Jason Juno
Special for

June 28, 2024

Ewen-Trout Creek graduate Jake Witt is playing for a spot on the Indianapolis Colts’ 53-man roster. The memories of high school sports, and the impact they’ve had on his journey to the NFL, have stuck with him through his college days and even now as a professional.

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosThe 300-plus receiving yards he went for in a game against the eventual 8-player state champion back in 2017. 

The regular-season basketball game where 3,276 fans turned out to watch his Panthers play just a few months later.

The teamwork prep sports taught him. The family atmosphere he got to be a part of on the high school football team.

“Football was definitely the sport I felt the most family-type feeling with it,” Witt said earlier this week after fishing on Erickson Lake while back in the Upper Peninsula before training camp begins next month. “That’s what drew me back to wanting to play football in college, was my opportunity in high school to play and getting that feeling with the guys and that family-oriented feel.”

Witt played two years of high school football. He lined up exclusively at wide receiver for Ewen-Trout Creek as a junior and then was more of a blocking tight end when E-TC and Ontonagon joined forces as a co-op program when he was a senior.

He ultimately decided to play basketball first in college, at Michigan Tech. But two of his three finalists were football opportunities.

“Obviously playing basketball from second grade on, people would probably assume that I would want to play basketball in college,” Witt said. “I think that just goes to show that football in those two years had a big impact and obviously it led me to where I am when I played at Northern and where I am today.”

Witt played only one year of basketball at Tech. He transferred to Northern Michigan University to attend as a student only before being talked into playing football. 

He was initially a tight end there before moving to tackle because of injuries during a game against Ferris State. He dominated, not allowing a sack or even a quarterback pressure against what was considered the best Division II defensive line in the country. 

He stayed at tackle for what was left of that season and then all of his final year at Northern. Despite his limited time at the position, he had the attention of NFL scouts and entered the draft. The attention reached a fever pitch during his pro day at Central Michigan when he wowed with his athleticism. His 9.92 Relative Athletic Score, a way to measure players’ athletic testing while accounting for their size, was one of the best for an offensive tackle prospect since it began being used in 1987.

Witt, right, umpires a baseball game last summer.He was drafted with the 236th pick, in the seventh round, by the Colts in 2023. 

His first training camp was cut short due to a hip injury, and he was then placed on season-ending injured reserve. But he’s back healthy and ready to go. He practiced at second-string left tackle during the offseason camp this spring and now hopes to earn a spot on the 53-man roster with training camp set to begin in a month.

“I want to go into training camp, play well and then play well enough to where they can’t release me off the 53,” Witt said. “The next goal is to play in a game. And I think that will start with special teams, that will start with field goal. And then from there, obviously, everybody is one week of great practice away from playing with the offense, one injury away from playing in a game with the offense.”

Those who watched him during his high school days in the U.P. likely wouldn’t be at all surprised to see that happen.

Witt is still the only receiver to go for 300 or more receiving yards in 8-player football in state history, according to the MHSAA record book. And he did it twice, a 325-yard game against Eben Junction Superior Central as a junior and the 305-yard performance against Crystal Falls Forest Park as a senior.

The Ontonagon co-op team had mostly stuck to running the ball that season, but looked for Witt through the air against the eventual state champion Trojans.

“I think it was 345 (yards), I think they sent in the wrong number,” Witt said. “That was one game where we switched things up with our offensive attack and threw the ball a lot more, and it ended up paying off for us very well. We were down big at halftime, and we pushed back and we were in a battle with them in the second half. It was a great game. We didn’t end up winning, but it was a lot of fun.”

He enjoyed both years of high school football – even while mostly blocking on the line as a senior despite having shown previously to be a more-than-capable receiver.

Witt warms up during the Indianapolis Colts’ rookie camp in May 2023.“A lot of the offense wasn’t focused on me anymore, which was great,” Witt said. “It made me a much more well-rounded football player. It made me a much better athlete, it gave me a better perception on things as a football player versus just being a receiver. I think both years were great for different reasons.”

Witt said every sport he played in high school was beneficial to him going forward. Basketball, for example, taught him teamwork and coordination. 

“And just relationship building is huge; for me, it helped me move on to the professional football level,” he said.

No high school game was quite as memorable for him as that regular-season basketball game at Michigan Tech on a chilly Wednesday night in Houghton.

Ewen-Trout Creek and Dollar Bay were tied atop the U.P. small-school poll. With that type of matchup, and the chance for fans in the Copper Country to see the 6-7 Witt and his above-the-rim play that’s pretty unique in the U.P., the game was moved from Dollar Bay’s tiny gym to Michigan Tech. (He wasn’t quite 300 pounds like he is now, but he was close – and he came into that game averaging 27 points and 16 rebounds per game with no one able to match his size and strength.)

They expected a crowd; they got 3,276. The latest arriving fans had to sit on the floor on the baseline.

“You don’t see that very much in Division 4 basketball even in the playoffs,” Witt said. “Just having that atmosphere, and especially having it between two of the best U.P. teams at the time, and having the storyline that was behind the game was great – and one of the most memorable events to this day still for me.”

Witt is looking forward to the challenge of training camp and achieving his goals in Indianapolis. But he’s not rushing away a U.P. summer. 

He helped out at last week’s U.P. Football All-Star game. He was happy to provide insight for any players headed off to play college ball, and they helped the Marquette County Habitat for Humanity with the finishing touches on one of their houses.

Over the next month, he’ll still be training, going over the playbook and doing position skill work. As happy as he was to help out last week, he’s happy to be on the lake again, too, fishing like a normal Yooper.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do, that and train,” Witt said. “Just trying to destress before I get back into it.”

PHOTOS (Top) At left, Jake Witt played for Ewen-Trout Creek during a 2018 basketball game at Michigan Tech, and at right Witt takes a photo with area youth baseball players last summer. (Middle) Witt, right, umpires a baseball game last summer. (Below) Witt warms up during the Indianapolis Colts’ rookie camp in May 2023. (Photos by Jason Juno.)