Three point stance: GVSU versus Hillsdale preview

GVL / Emily Frye
Ryan Egan against Truman State on Saturday Oct. 15, 2016.

Emily Frye

GVL / Emily Frye Ryan Egan against Truman State on Saturday Oct. 15, 2016.

Beau Troutman

With his team at 7-0 (6-0 GLIAC), Grand Valley State coach Matt Mitchell is imploring his team—currently ranked No. 2 in the nation—to avoid the trap of complacency with only a handful of games left in the regular season.

The Lakers face off with the Hillsdale Chargers (3-3, 2-3 GLIAC) this Saturday, Oct. 22 in the first of three road games left on the schedule. The Chargers have lost two out of their last three games, and GVSU’s focus this week is playing at peak performance, no matter the caliber of opponent.

“Everything we worked on in January up until this point, a lot of little things—little details like showing up on time and staying true to those details and understanding it’s about the process,” Mitchell said. “If you believe in the process, the product will come.

“The message doesn’t really change, and hopefully we have a group who understands they have a unique window of opportunity and they have to attack it.”

One: Attacking the Chargers

The Chargers are 3-0 at home this season, and with a 2:30 p.m. kickoff, will attempt to catch the Lakers off guard in a hostile environment. This will be the last time the Lakers will face the Chargers as a conference opponent—Hillsdale is leaving the GLIAC after this season for the G-MAC.

However, the Charger defense may not be up to the task of containing a Laker offense that boasts quarterback Bart Williams (1,681 passing yards, 11 touchdowns) Martayveus Carter (910 rush yards, 11 touchdowns) and several more bona fide playmakers.

The Charger defense ranks 11th and 12th in points allowed per-game (30.3) and yards allowed per-game (409.8) among all 14 conference teams, respectively. That defense will face a Laker offense that averages 41.1 points-per-game and 498 yards per-game, both good for second most in the GLIAC. The Chargers have given up more than 40 points in their last two games.

Maybe the Chargers’ only saving grace this Saturday will be the sophomore trio leading the team on offense. Quarterback Chance Stewart—who bears resemblance to Bart Williams at a sturdy 6’5”—is having a decent year under center (1,463 yards, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions). Receiver Trey Brock will be a problem for the Lakers. He leads the GLIAC in receptions, in catches (46) and yards (772). More than that, Brock has done this in just six games—the next four leading receivers in the conference have played seven. Running back Joe Reverman (513 yards, five touchdowns) is having a solid year as well.

In the end, though, the Chargers’ woes on defense will likely lead to their downfall this Saturday. Stewart and Brock will have their moments, but GVSU will bid farewell to the Chargers in their last year in the conference with a barrage of points and another blowout win.

For this to happen, the Lakers will have to walk in to Hillsdale as if it were an Ashland or a Ferris State.

“We always say ‘six inches,’” said GVSU receiver Brandon Bean. “We’re only worried about what’s right in front of us. We’re going to attack this week of practice, and then we’re going to go down to Hillsdale and try to play our best football of the season.

“Anything past that, I can’t really say—it’s just what’s next on the list.”

Prediction: GVSU 45, Hillsdale 14.

Two: Young bucks stepping up

The Lakers have dealt with a rash of injuries to starters this season, but younger players have filled in admirably when their names have been called. Young players like nickel DaeShaun Hurley, corner Kalen Dunham, and safety Jailyn Harden have made the most of their playing opportunities.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Isaiah Nkansah symbolized the growth of the younger players this past Saturday against Truman State. Nkansah blocked a punt in the first quarter, the first of the year for the Lakers, which was returned for a six-yard touchdown by backup receiver Jalen Bryant.

The play was a fitting representation for the growth of GVSU’s second and third lines on the roster.

“Isaiah Nkansah is a guy I can point to,” Mitchell said. “His first game or two, it was ugly. I mean, it was really ugly. But he stuck with the process, kept getting better and I had enough faith in him Saturday to put him in a position to block a punt, and he made the play.”

Three: Secret weapon

GVSU kicker Joel Schipper nailed a 51-yard field goal against Truman State, and maybe the most amazing thing about it was that it had the distance to go even further.

The kick was the first field goal over 50-yards by a GVSU kicker since Doug Kochanski’s 52-yarder on Nov. 8, 1997.

The Lakers’ high octane offense has only allowed Schipper seven field goal attempts this season, but they know they have a valuable weapon on the sideline.

“I just kind of try and focus on kicking every ball the same,” Schipper said. “That 51-yarder, I want to kick that just like an extra point. Just stay focused and stay in the moment. A lot of it is visualizing in practice, visualizing those big moments in games and that really keeps me hungry and prepared.”