By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
BLISSFIELD – Gavin Ganun is like a seasoned veteran.
“I’m really confident now with everything I’m doing,” said the Blissfield quarterback. “I’ve seen a lot of things happen. There’s nothing that surprises me.”
Clinton’s football team might have something to say about that tonight when it travels to Blissfield for a colossal Lenawee County Athletic Association clash.
But there’s no denying that Ganun has seen just about everything by now. He’s making his 37th career start at quarterback for Blissfield and is having a sensational season.
“To me the game feels really slow now,” Ganun said while preparing to face the 2-0 Clinton squad this week. “I have plenty of time to see everything. I can calm myself down in the pocket. Even if there is pressure, I don’t feel it like I used to. I’m not worried about getting hit. I just stand back there, make the reads and find the open receiver.”
This year Ganun has had plenty of open receivers. He has great targets in wide receivers Zack Horky (6-foot-4) and Ty Wyman (6-6) and tight end Nick Ostas (6-2).
“One of them gets open every play,” Ganun said.
Over the first two weeks of the season, Ganun threw for a combined 611 yards and 10 touchdowns – five scores to Horky and three to Wyman – as Blissfield piled up wins over Dundee and reigning LCAA champion Hillsdale.
Ganun has looked great behind a Royals offensive line that has five new starters – tackles Blaine Pifer and Scott Jackson, guards Luke Nofzinger and Ricky Eisenmann and center Henry Smith.
“It all starts with the line,” Ganun said. “They have come so far. They worked really hard to get better. Their pass blocking has been amazing.”
Ganun has been the starting Blissfield quarterback since game one of his freshman year. He has led Blissfield into the playoffs three straight seasons. For his career, he enters tonight’s game against Clinton with 4,953 passing yards and 56 passing touchdowns.
Ganun was coached his first two seasons by Ryan Love, who is now coaching at Morenci. Ron Estes returned to the Royals’ sideline last year and inherited Ganun as his QB. He couldn’t be happier with his signal-caller.
“There’s no panic in him,” Estes said. “He knows the offense inside and out. He knows what to do when things break down. He knows what to do and when to do it.”
Ganun said Estes gives him a lot of freedom to change the play at the line of scrimmage if he sees something when looking over the defense.
“When I was a freshman, we weren’t doing that,” he said. “But, now, I’m fine to do that anytime. If the defense is running what we think they will run, I don’t have to, but if they change things up, I can change things up.”
Ganun’s audibles have resulted in a couple big plays this season. Horky has caught two touchdown passes in the first quarter of both games.
“We have a good connection,” he said. “We’ve played together so long that we know what each other is going to do before we do it. We’ll just look at each other or say something really quick when we leave the huddle.”
Clinton, which returned to the LCAA this season after just over a decade as a member of the Tri-County Conference, will be a stiff test for Blissfield. Clinton has been rolling during the first two weeks of the season, piling up more than 900 yards of offense – all on the ground.
Clinton coach Jeremy Fielder has watched a lot of film of Ganun lately and is impressed.
“He’s always been pretty good,” Fielder said. “You see it all with him. He’s an outstanding quarterback.”
Ganun plays three sports for the Royals and has been on varsity for all his entire career. He committed to play college baseball at Bowling Green State University, which announced in the spring that it was dropping baseball before re-examining that decision a month or so later. He’s happy he gets to play for the Falcons.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “I love that place. Everything about it is amazing.”
The Royals are trying to win their first LCAA championship since 2007, the same year Estes guided them to the Division 6 championship game before he stepped away – then returned – as head coach. Ganun knows Clinton stands in the way of that goal.
“It’s going to be very tough,” he said. “They are very physical. Both teams know what the other team wants to do.”
He also knows the Royals are playing at a high level right now.
“We have a great team bond,” he said. “We have been clicking on all cylinders.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Blissfield quarterback Gavin Ganun prepares to take on an Ottawa Lake Whiteford defender during the 2019 season. (Middle) Ganun winds up to pass, also last season. (Below) Ron Estes returned as Blissfield coach in 2019. (Photos by Mike Dickie.)
Five showdowns of undefeated teams highlight this week's Michigan high school statewide schedule as we begin our second-half buildup toward the end of the regular season.
If you're not watching in person, check out most of the matchups highlighted below, and several others, on MHSAA.tv. Check in as well with the MHSAA Scores page for all of them as they come in. (Games below are Friday unless noted.)
Bay & Thumb
Croswell-Lexington (5-0) at Almont (5-0) - Watch
Just past halfway through the Blue Water Area Conference schedule, half the teams are 3-1 or 4-0 in league play – with these the co-leaders. Croswell-Lexington hasn’t played a game closer than 19 points this fall, but did lose last year’s meeting with Almont 37-26. The Raiders, meanwhile, have won the last two weeks by seven and one point, respectively – but opened the season with three straight shutouts as the stifling defense they’ve become known for has given up only 34 points total.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lapeer (4-1) at Grand Blanc (3-2) - Watch, Linden (4-1) at Fenton (4-1) - Watch, Birch Run (4-1) at Freeland (5-0) - Watch, Madison Heights Lamphere (4-1) at Marine City (4-1).
Westland John Glenn (5-0) at Belleville (5-0) - Watch
Belleville’s 42-3 victory over Livonia Franklin last week was the team’s 30th straight, and the Tigers now own the state’s longest active winning streak with Powers North Central’s coming to an end at 41 on the same night. Belleville’s next challenger is John Glenn, which under second-year coach Jason Mensing has as many victories this fall as the last two combined and has nearly guaranteed its first winning season since 2014. Mensing guided his former team Ottawa Lake Whiteford through several memorable moments, and this will be the Rockets’ biggest so far under his leadership.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Gibraltar Carlson (4-1) at Trenton (4-1) - Watch, Romeo (3-2) at Macomb Dakota (4-1) - Watch, Lake Orion (5-0) at Rochester Adams (3-2) - Watch, Marine City Cardinal Mooney (3-2) at Clarkston Everest Collegiate (3-2) - Watch.
Goodrich (5-0) at Corunna (5-0) - Watch
The winner of this matchup clinches a share of the Flint Metro League Stars championship, similar to last season when Goodrich won the league and Corunna was second thanks to the Martians’ 42-7 win in their Week 5 matchup. Both arguably have been even better this fall. Goodrich has handed the only losses this season to Frankenmuth and Linden, and Corunna has given up only 31 points this season and no more than 17 in a game while scoring at least 38 every time out.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Evart (4-1) at Beal City (5-0) - Watch, Grand Ledge (5-0) at DeWitt (2-2) - Watch, Fowler (5-0) at Pewamo-Westphalia (4-1) - Watch, Montrose (4-1) at New Lothrop (4-1) - Watch.
Northern Lower Peninsula
Charlevoix (4-1) at Elk Rapids (2-3)
There’s more riding here than the initial glance my indicate. Charlevoix, with a win, would clinch a share of the Northern Michigan Football Conference Leaders title – its first since 2020 and after finishing second to Boyne City both of the past two seasons. The Rayders haven’t had a game closer than 13 points since falling to Traverse City St. Francis by one in their season opener. Elk Rapids got off to a tough start but has won two straight – both in shutouts – and is looking for its first win over Charlevoix since 2018.
Southeast & Border
Jackson (4-1) at Adrian (4-1) - Watch
Jackson has a chance to set up a Week 7 winner-take-all matchup with Chelsea for the Southeastern Conference White championship – a nice jump after finishing third last season. The Vikings haven’t defeated Chelsea since 2018 but lost by a respectable 17-0 last fall. But they can’t overlook Adrian, still enjoying its best season since 2016 despite falling to Chelsea 28-18 last week. The Maples would love to hand Jackson a loss tonight and cheer for the Vikings next week with a title share possible.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Michigan Center (4-1) at Grass Lake (4-1) - Watch, Flat Rock (4-1) at Milan (3-2) - Watch, Ann Arbor Huron (3-2) at Saline (5-0) - Watch, Hudson (5-0) at Blissfield (3-2) - Watch.
Parma Western (5-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek (4-1)
We’re halfway through the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference schedule, and this has emerged as an important matchup with Parma Western tied with Hastings for first and Harper Creek only a game back after falling to the Saxons 34-6 last week. The Beavers struggled to 3-6 a year ago but already have avenged 2022 losses to Battle Creek Lakeview, Battle Creek Central and Marshall – and Western defeated them 34-0 last season before Harper Creek went 2-1 to finish the fall. Western’s defense is a notable strength again, giving up only 37 points total this season despite taking on Dearborn Divine Child and Detroit Country Day over the first two weeks.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Paw Paw (5-0) at Edwardsburg (3-2) - Watch, Constantine (4-1) at Allegan (4-1) - Watch, St. Joseph (3-2) at Portage Northern (5-0) - Watch, Muskegon Catholic Central (3-2) at Schoolcraft (4-1) - Watch.
Gladstone (4-1) at Menominee (5-0)
This is the first of three games that will tell a lot about Menominee’s season as the Maroons enter this stretch alone atop the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper at 4-0 but with Gladstone, Week 7 opponent Negaunee and Week 8 opponent Kingsford all 3-1 in league play. While this is a new conference for the Maroons this season, they have plenty of history with Gladstone as both came from the Great Northern Conference – and Menominee had won three straight in the series before Gladstone’s 28-6 victory last fall. Gladstone’s lone defeat this year came Week 3 to Kingsford, 35-12.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Maple City Glen Lake (3-2) at Sault Ste. Marie (3-2) - Watch, Manistique (3-2) at Iron Mountain (5-0) - Watch, Marquette (2-2) at Escanaba (1-4) - Watch, Houghton (2-3) at Calumet (1-4) - Watch.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (4-1) at East Grand Rapids (5-0)
We’ve been watching East Grand Rapids’ rejuvenation this fall with this among games circled for special attention, and Forest Hills Central’s 15-14 loss to Byron Center last week hardly lessens the intrigue. The Rangers are still among favorites statewide in Division 3, ranked No. 2, and East Grand Rapids is right behind them this week at No. 3 (while Byron Center is No. 2 in Division 2). The Ottawa-Kent Conference White title won’t be decided with this matchup, but it surely will be impacted – and the Rangers have defeated EGR all three times they’ve met since the Pioneers rejoined the division in 2020.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Allendale (5-0) at Spring Lake (4-1), Lowell (4-1) at Byron Center (5-0), Caledonia (4-1) at Hudsonville (4-1) - Watch, Zeeland East (4-1) at Muskegon (3-2).
Mendon (5-0) at Adrian Lenawee Christian (5-0) - Watch
Movement on the overall 8-player enrollment list have made this a matchup we’ll see just this once this fall, as Mendon – last year’s Division 2 runner-up – has moved to Division 1 and is ranked No. 2, while Lenawee Christian is top-ranked in Division 2 after winning Division 1 titles in 2020 and 2021 and reaching a Regional Final last year. Still, many 8-player eyes will be watching. The Cougars have given up just 32 points this season and no more than 12 in a game, and that defense should be part of the key matchup within the matchup because Mendon is scoring 52 per contest and coming off an 80-point performance.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Carson City-Crystal (5-0) at Coleman (4-1) - Watch, Brown City (5-0) at Mayville (5-0) - Watch, St. Ignace (5-0) at Newberry (4-1), Norway (4-1) at Ontonagon (4-1) - Watch.
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PHOTO Muskegon Catholic Central and Orchard View players reach to get a hand on the ball during their meeting this season. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)