Westwood’s Gilles makes 1st team All-State, Hewitt gains Honorable Mention

By PATRICK NOTHAFT

Kalamazoo Gazette

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Before the season, Kalamazoo United quarterback Eric Wenzel laid out a list of goals for his senior football campaign.

An undefeated regular season, the program’s first district title and a state championship were toward the top, but nowhere on the list was any mention of stamping his name in the state record books.

That’s just what Wenzel did in his final high school football season, however, as the 6-foot-1, 195-pound signal caller broke a Michigan single-season record with 56 touchdown tosses, to go along with 3,654 yards on 219 of 332 passing.

Those numbers helped United finish the regular season at 9-0 and claim a district championship, before falling to eventual state champ Hudsonville Unity Christian in the regional finals.

Those gaudy stats also helped Wenzel earn the 2018 Associated Press Division 5-6 Player of the Year award.

“I made goals about how I wanted to go through things this season, and the focus wasn’t on the numbers — it was team oriented,” said Wenzel, who is second in Michigan High School Athletic Association history in career touchdown passes (110) and career yards (8,654). “Doing things the right way was pretty huge for me based on how I’ve been brought up through my family and my quarterback coach Simon Cholometes. He just put a big focus on the details, especially at the QB position and the responsibility there.”

Wenzel is joined on the All-State team by United receiver Heath Baldwin, who finished his senior year with 910 yards and 18 touchdowns on 50 catches, while junior teammate Christian Bartholomew was a second team selection

Brooklyn Columbia Central senior Khol Partridge was the other first team quarterback, while Jackson Lumen Christi’s Nick Thomas, Reed City’s Phillip Jones-Price, Montague’s Bryce Stark and Detroit Denby’s T’Shawn Wilkes were the first team running backs.

Dearborn Heights Robichaud’s Cameron Underwood, Fennville’s Jace Cossey and Detroit Osborn’s Josiah Lewis rounded out the first team wideouts.

Montague’s Luke Marsh, Montrose’s Brandon Gross, Lumen Christi’s Keegan Smith, Saginaw Swan Valley’s Rorey Garner, Reed City’s Anthony Pelton, Traverse City St. Francis’ Spencer Hathaway, Ishpeming-Westwood’s Sam Gilles and Unity Christian’s Max Buikema were first team picks as linemen.

Gilles’ teammate Blake Hewitt received Honorable Mention.

The first team all-state linebackers were Columbia Central’s Carson Daniels, Freeland’s Jack Townsend, Unity Christian’s T.J. VanKoevering, Denby’s Jonathan Moreland and Lansing Catholic’s Josh Kramer.

At defensive back, Swan Valley’s Terryon Little, Montague’s Brennan Schwartz and St. Francis’ Artie Dutmers were first team all-staters.

Clare’s Brenden Sersaw earned first team all-state honors as a specialist, while Elk Rapids’ Marshall Fox was the first team kicker, and Freeland’s Jayce Bourcier was the first team punter.

Unity Christian coach Craig Tibbe was selected as the coach of the year by the voting panel of 11 sportswriters from across the state.