Breslin Bound: Boys Report Post-Break

January 7, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With the new calendar year underway, boys basketball season is revved to begin three uninterrupted months capping with an annual trip to Breslin Center – and with a much-anticipated change to the tournament sure to draw some added attention on the way there.

Remembering that this season will see the top two teams in each District seeded for the first time, we’d like to take this week to introduce the Michigan Power Ratings (MPR) on Teams are searchable and comparable both by division and District number, and every Monday during the regular season we’ll also pull a top 20 in each division and post them on our Second Half rankings page.

There’s a full explanation of how MPR is calculated, and for the rankings teams were considered this week that had played at least four games against opponents that also are eligible for the MHSAA Tournament, since MPR includes only those opponents in its calculation.

Below is a look at some of what you may have missed in holiday hoops during the break. “Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at Send corrections or missing scores to [email protected].

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results: 

1. Flint Beecher 76, Benton Harbor 62 – The Division 3 Bucs have won four straight since falling in their season opener, and followed up a win over Division 1 Flint Carman-Ainsworth by dealing the Division 2-contending Tigers their only loss.

2. Clarkston 65, Flint Carman-Ainsworth 56 – The Wolves also earned a noteworthy win over Carman-Ainsworth that should affect Division 1 state rankings.

3. Orchard Lake St. Mary's 69, Grand Blanc 66 – The Eaglets moved to 5-0 with their only close win so far, handing Grand Blanc its first loss in another matchup of Division 1 powers.

4. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 54, Detroit Cass Tech 53 – The Cavaliers are mentioned a lot in this short list, but they also arguably played the toughest holiday schedule of any team in any division.

5. Detroit Cass Tech 72, Saginaw 62 – Although the Technicians went on to take their first loss three days later (see above), a 10-point win over Saginaw always is noteworthy.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:


Holland West Ottawa (5-0) The Panthers went from Division 1 runners-up in 2017-18 to 10-11 last season, but the bounce-back is on with this perfect start. West Ottawa won a pair of showcase games during the last days of December, over Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills and then Muskegon Mona Shores. The Panthers will carry that fast start into an Ottawa-Kent Conference Red that also has Grand Haven and Hudsonville at 5-0.

North Farmington (6-0) An eight-point win over rival Farmington on Friday extended a perfect start that most impressively included a 47-46 win over Detroit Communication Media Arts on Dec. 21 – still CMA’s only defeat. North Farmington tied for second in the Oakland Activities Association Red last season behind champion Clarkston, and looks to be in the mix again.


Macomb Lutheran North (5-0) The Mustangs are on a roll coming off two straight sub-.500 seasons. They opened with three wins over Blue Water Area Conference opponents and followed with Metro Conference Holiday Reunion Tournament victories over Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood. They’ve won twice by six points or fewer – experience which may come in handy in a Detroit Catholic League AA that features also-unbeaten Detroit Loyola and one-loss Dearborn Divine Child.

Sparta (5-0) The Spartans are coming off six straight sub.-500 seasons, but they’re already more than halfway to equaling last winter’s nine wins. They’ve held on in some close matchups, including a 67-66 victory over Gibraltar Carlson on Dec. 26. Sparta’s O-K Blue produced four teams (of seven total) with winning records last winter, and the Spartans begin league play Friday with hopes of joining that group this time.  


Grand Rapids Covenant Christian (5-1) A 40-39 overtime win Friday over Grandville Calvin Christian avenged last year’s two-point loss to the Squires and ran Covenant’s winning streak to five. After starting 2-6 a season ago and finishing 8-14, the Chargers also have avenged losses to Wyoming Godwin Heights and Zeeland West.

Negaunee (5-0) The Miners finished a solid 15-8 a season ago but with two losses to Division 1 Marquette and a third to Escanaba. Those two teams are the only two Negaunee hasn’t beaten by double digits so far this winter; the Miners opened with a 52-43 avenging against the Eskymos and handed Marquette its lone loss Friday, 79-73 in overtime.


Dollar Bay (5-0) A Division 4 semifinalist the last two seasons, Dollar Bay actually is off to a better start this winter thanks to a 69-45 win over past early-season nemesis Bessemer. The Blue Bolts have won four games by at least 24 points and the fifth by nine, and their 81 points against Chassell on Dec. 27 would’ve been their third most last season.

Fulton (5-0) The Pirates have finished a game or two over .500 the last three seasons after their most recent trip to the MHSAA Semifinals in 2016. But this 5-0 start is the team’s best since 2011-12, the difference in large part being holiday break wins over Division 3 Ithaca and Carson City-Crystal. Fulton also owns a pair of early league victories over Saranac and rival Fowler.  

Can't-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Tuesday – Detroit U-D Jesuit (2-2) at Grand Blanc (4-1) – Last season’s Division 1 runner-up Cubs have a pair of losses to tough Division 3 opponents and can make a strong statement to open 2020 by downing another Division 1 contender in the Bobcats.

Tuesday – Holland West Ottawa (5-0) at Hudsonville Unity Christian (3-1) – This is a great nonleague test for both, as West Ottawa (mentioned above) goes into a competitive O-K Red and reigning Division 2 champion Unity begins play Friday in the O-K Green.

Tuesday – Adrian Lenawee Christian (4-0) at Southfield Christian (2-2) – These are regulars among the state’s small-school elite, and this winter they have aspirations in Divisions 3 and 4, respectively. 

Thursday – Dollar Bay (5-0) at Lake Linden-Hubbell (4-0) – These two are early co-leaders in the Copper Mountain Conference Copper Country division after they finished second and fourth, respectively, last season.

Friday – Freeland (4-1) at Bridgeport (5-0) – Champions (Freeland sharing) in separate divisions of the Tri-Valley Conference last season, they’re early contenders in the new-look TVC East this winter.   

Second Half’s weekly “Breslin Bound” reports are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTO: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s edged Grand Blanc 69-66 in one of last weekend’s most intriguing games. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)

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.)