Nolan Smith releases a pass for Hopkins. (Photo by Steve Mele)

Hopkins drops district final to unbeaten Kalamazoo United

By: 
Leo Martonosi

Nolan Smith collected a single-season passing touchdown record for Hopkins with 24. But he would have gladly traded that mark for a playoff win over Kalamazoo United on Friday, Nov. 2.
“Nolan had a great career and we’re going to miss him and all of the seniors,” said Viking coach Cody Francis after the undefeated Titans (11-0) outlasted Hopkins (9-2) by a 46-35 score en route to a district title.
Francis thought his team had an excellent chance of beating Kalamazoo United, a co-op team for the past five years made up of players from Kalamazoo Hackett and Kalamazoo Christian.
“That’s a good team with a very good quarterback and some very good receivers,” Francis said.
United’s signal caller, Eric Wenzel, threw for six touchdowns as part of a 24-of-30 passing effort. That raised his season total to 54 TD tosses, shattering the previous state record for all classes by three TDs with a least one game to play.
Andrew Widger was on the receiving end of eight of Wenzel’s aerials, with four going for TDs. He finished with 190 receiving yards.
The visitors from Hopkins stunned Kalamazoo United by grabbing a 7-0 first-period lead when the speedy Hunter Lewellyn ran 42 yards to the house. Josh Glascott kicked the extra point.
But back-to-back plays put Hopkins behind the eight ball.
The first came when the Hopkins punter put his knee down at the 10-yard line to scoop up a low snap. The second on the ensuing kickoff when the Vikings fumbled.
Both led to United touchdowns.
“Those were two huge plays,” Francis said. “It’s tough to play catch up against a team like that.”
The large Hopkins following was hoping for a minor miracle with time winding down, but that didn’t happen as Kalamazoo United intercepted a pass in its own end zone.
“We were hoping to not only score a touchdown, but also to recover an outside kick,” Francis said.
Nolan Smith completed 13 of 22 passes for 205 yards. Colin Weber, who matched Lewellyn on the ground with a team high 50 rushing yards, caught two TD passes.
Bryce Smith hauled in a 24-yard scoring strike from Nolan Smith.
Lewellyn (53 yards) and Colin Weber (50 yards) each snagged four pass receptions.
Bryce Smith led the defensive charge with 13 tackles. Ethan Gilder followed with nine. Drew Weber sacked Wenzel once, while Noah Young and Ben Roberts shared a sack.
The Vikings actually ran eight more plays than Kalamazoo United, 71-63, and finished with a 157-81 edge on the ground.
Hopkins, which was making its first playoff appearance in four years, reached two of its goals during the 2018 campaign.
“The first was to win the OK Silver, which we did, and second was to qualify for the state playoffs,” said Ryan Haveman, a senior running back and defensive lineman for Hopkins.

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