BY MIKE ECKERT
TRAVERSE CITY — Several years ago when Jerry Angers and Jason Leonard left Traverse City West for their own head coaching positions, they talked about one day competing against each other for Northwest Conference title.
That day has arrived.
Leonard's Kingsley team will play against Angers and Glen Lake on Friday. The winner will earn a share of the Northwest Conference title and can clinch it outright the following week. Defending champ Benzie Central is still in the mix with only one league loss.
"We've talked about this for a few years when he went to Glen Lake and I came out here," Leonard said. "We talked about sooner or later, he was going to get his kids on track and I would too, to get back to the top of this league. We wanted to be the kings of this conference. So, it's worked out that way."
Glen Lake enters the game 5-0, while Kingsley is 4-1.
"We've been looking at this game, as well as some other ones from losses last year, and who we figured would be working towards winning the conference," Angers said. "We figured Kingsley would be up there as one of the top teams."
"We knew in the beginning of the year that we were chosen to be at the top of the conference with Glen Lake," Leonard said. "We figured it would boil down to this at some point, but we weren't able to look forward as much as we wanted to, with the schedule we had and the opponents prior to them. But here we are. And as much as we've anticipated it, it's going to be worth the ticket for us, for sure."
The Lakers are averaging 46 points a game and only giving up five, including two shutouts. Kingsley is averaging more than 33 points on offense and a shade under 10 on defense.
"I think it's a little bit of both," Angers said of whether the teams are better on offense and defense. "We're scoring with kick returns, punt returns, interceptions, as well as our offense. Kingsley is scoring a ton of points with their offense. When you've got two good offenses and decent defenses, you're going to create opportunities to get short-yard scores."
Last year, Kingsley held on for a 13-9 win over the Lakers.
"We had a couple of things happen in that game," Leonard said. "One, we lost (Tristan) Eickenroth that game due to an ankle injury. We had to change and adapt and went to old-school Kingsley football, where you line up with double tight ends in a T-formation to burn the clock and pound the ball."
"The big thing was they kept the ball out of our hands with long drives," Angers said. "They may not have scored, their first drive was 16, 17, 18 plays and they didn't a point out of it, but it still kept the ball out of our offense's hands. That was definitely the difference in the game."
Kingsley will look to do the same again this year.
"We're going to have to execute very well on offense," Leonard said. "They have a very physical and aggressive defense, so we want to manage the clock and control the game with our offense. I don't want our defense on the field all night long."
Angers said the key for his team will be to protect and control the ball, as well as score when in the red zone. To do that, Glen Lake will continue to lean on a stable of key players.
"The thing with us is we have five or six kids that are always producing numbers," Angers said. "One game, Trevor Apsey returns two punts for touchdowns. Another game, Tyler Stachnik returns an interception for a touchdown. And then Anthony Czapek runs for a couple of touchdowns last week. It's pretty divided up amongst our players."