Hudsonville looks to build off 2019 run to state regional final

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A cold and rain-filled night in Brighton late last November is still a vivid memory to the Hudsonville High School football team.

It was the state regional final. Down 21-0, the Eagles scored 14 unanswered points to crawl back into the game in the third quarter. Eventually their effort fell short, dropping the game 35-14 to the Brighton Bulldogs.

Nevertheless, Hudsonville made noise in the playoffs with back-to-back victories before being knocked out. In 2020, even with the pandemic making life difficult, coach Brent Sandee is hopeful his team can run deeper.

“Hudsonville has great tradition here, so we expect this year in and year out,” Sandee said. “Were hoping to take that next step and play on Thanksgiving this year and play for a state title.”

Sandee at practice on Sept. 8, 2020. (Andrew McDonald/WOOD TV8)

The Eagles will look to come back with plenty of experience, returning nine starters from its defense a year ago as well as other key players. Among those top returners on defense are senior linebacker Trevor McEachern, who is also the projected starting running back; Michael Momber, a senior on the defensive line; and senior defensive back Nate St. John. On the offensive line, Ryan Kavaluski returns as a senior leader.

Another of the key returning players is senior quarterback Brennan Hayes. When former starting quarterback Ike Irish went down in the game against Brighton, Hayes stepped in to march his team down the field for those 14 unanswered points. 

Hayes at practice on Sept. 8, 2020. (Andrew McDonald/WOOD TV8)

With just over a week to prepare for games after the governor and the Michigan High School Athletic Association said the football season could resume, Sandee doesn’t take having experience for granted.

“This is a great senior class that has worked really hard for it,” Sandee said. “It definitely helps a lot when you’re put in a situation like this one.”

Tuesday was the Eagles’ first day in shoulder pads. They only wore shorts underneath but did strap up the helmets.

Since the season will resume on Week 4 of the original schedule, the Eagles will kick off Sept. 18 at East Kentwood. It follows with Grand Haven, Grandville, at Caledonia and West Ottawa and then back home at Jenison to round out the regular season. Because of the unusual circumstances, every team qualifies for the state playoffs this season.

The Eagles couldn’t be more ready to play.

“Last year East Kentwood beat us at our place so we want to give them a good game,” Sandee said. “These kids are stoked right now as is the staff and community.”