Hopkins junior Matt Reynolds (right) sizing up Kalamazoo United’s Christian Bartholomew in preparation for a tackle attempt. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

Familiar foe ends Hopkins’ season again

By: 
Jason Wesseldyk

The matchup was the one Hopkins football coach Cody Francis and his players wanted.
The outcome wasn’t.
For the second straight season, the Vikings squared off with Kalamazoo United—a combined Kalamazoo Christian and Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Central squad—in a Division 5 district final. And for the second straight season, Hopkins found itself on the wrong end of the final score, falling 36-20.
“I heard that Hopkins really wanted to play us after we knocked them out of the playoffs last year,” United coach David Arrasmith said. “They’re a very good team, but our kids prepared well for this game and came out ready to play.”
Hopkins entered the game at 9-1, including an opening-round playoff win over Dowagiac. United, meanwhile, came in at 6-4.
That record, though, was a bit deceiving, as Francis was well aware.
“Yes, they were 5-4 in the regular season, but they started 0-3 with losses to some very good teams like Jackson Lumen Christi and Comstock Park,” Francis said. “They’d only lost once since then, including a big win (in the first round of the playoffs).”
That opening-round playoff win came against previously unbeaten Berrien Springs, who were the top seed in the district.  
“But we are a completely different team than the one that started the season 0-3,” Arrasmith said. “I honestly thought we were one of the best 5-4 teams to make it (into the playoffs) and I believed we could make some noise if we got in because of the tough schedule we played.”
It was Hopkins that made some noise, getting a great return from Casey Stevens on the game’s opening kickoff to give the Vikings great field position at the United 18-yard line. Seven plays later, Matt Reynolds found his way into the end zone on a 1-yard plunge to give the Vikings some early momentum.
The successful conversion run by Hunter Bradford upped Hopkins’ lead to 8-0.
But United wasn’t down for long, scoring on its next two possessions—both on runs by Garrett Warner—to go up 15-8.
A lost fumble by Hopkins set up the second Warner TD. That was one of three turnovers for Hopkins, each of which led to a United touchdown.
“Turnovers and field position were the story of the game,” Francis said. “We didn’t take care of the ball like we needed to and United took advantage of it.”
The Vikings narrowed the gap to 15-14 on a 4-yard run by Trevor Smith late in the second quarter. Then, after United scored to go up 22-14, Hopkins pulled to within 22-20 on a 25-yard pass from Trey Collins to Colin Weber on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
But Hopkins would get no closer, as United scored the final 14 points to pull away.
“This is a tough way to end the season, but I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Francis said. “You look at where we were a couple of years ago to where we are now and realize how hard these kids have worked and how much they’ve meant to this program. It’s just a great group that means a lot to me.”
 

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