Football

McCabe: Eric Stiegel works magic yet again, this time at Grandville

Grandville

Grandville

Eric Stiegel is the fixer.

In 2010, he took over a 1-8 Taylor Truman program that had only two winning seasons in the previous 17 years and in his third and fourth seasons went 9-2 and 8-3 with playoff appearances.

In 2014, Stiegel inherited a Grandville program that had suffered through seven consecutive losing seasons and immediately went 5-5 and made the playoffs.

Last season, the Bulldogs were 6-4 and in the playoffs again, and now they want more.

Grandville is 4-0 for the first time since 2001 after thumping previously unbeaten and No. 3 in Division 1 Hudsonville, 36-6, in an OK Red game.

Stiegel has no magic potion for turning around programs. He does have the full-house, tight-T formation offense, just like the one employed at powerhouses Zeeland West and Canton.

“The biggest thing is, it’s a speed offense,” Stiegel said. “And when you get out there on defense against us, it comes at you so fast, it’s tough to react.”

It is a speed offense partly because of the way the running backs are aligned. Instead of being 7 or 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage, the Grandville backs are only 41/2 yards back.

“So, everything hits quick whether it’s a trap, whether it’s a sweep, whether it’s an off-tackle play,” Stiegel said. “We just try to be very fast and, obviously, very physical. The faking part of it comes in because when you can wear some people down a little bit, the fakes really start to happen — they start chasing.”

The alignment gives defenders less time to figure out who has the ball and, in football, getting a step on the defense can be the difference between a big gain and a short gain.

“From the time the ball is snapped to the time the defense knows where it’s at, before the linebacker can react, I think there’s an advantage,” Stiegel said. “Linebackers can’t play up that close on us. We can get to the hole faster and get our guards there and get our blocking backs there probably faster than most offenses can.”

In the victory against Hudsonville, Josh Atwell gained 118 yards on 14 carries and had help from Shane Baker (93 yards, 19 carries) and Jake Tipton (78 yards, eight carries).

“Josh was a kid last year that did not play a lot; he had a few big runs,” Stiegel said. “He kind of waited for his opportunity and he’s really seized it. We’re not a team where you can point and say you’ve got to stop Atwell or you’ve got to stop our quarterback. We have guys that step up when it’s their turn to step up.”

Last season, the Bulldogs shared the OK Red title with Rockford, and before they start celebrating too much, the Bulldogs will be tested this week by East Kentwood and Rockford the following week.

But, so far so good for a team that isn’t surprised to be unbeaten. Grandville’s defense, led by two-way lineman Ian Hall, has allowed only 28 points.

“I said coming into this season I thought this was a really, really good team,” Stiegel said. “One of the things is we don’t have anybody on our team with a scholarship offer yet, so it’s a true team thing. We have a lot of guys that are very selfless and buy into the role, whether you’re a blocking tight end or a defensive lineman that’s going to take on blocks.”

Notebook: Stockbridge senior quarterback Mason Gee-Montgomery set the state record with his 105th career passing touchdown in a 70-32 victory over Leslie. He broke the record of former Ithaca all-stater Travis Smith. Against Leslie, Gee-Montgomery passed for 280 yards and eight touchdowns. …

Negaunee turned a 14-13 fourth-quarter lead into a 35-13 victory over Iron Mountain in the biggest game in the Upper Peninsula. Neal Violetta (116, 17 carries) had touchdown runs of 13 and 41 yards to lead the fourth-quarter charge. Negaunee (4-0) was aided by five turnovers. …

Johnny Tracy made his much-anticipated debut at quarterback in Walled Lake Western’s 43-8 victory over Walled Lake Central, and he didn’t disappoint. After missing three games with an injury, Tracy scorched Central for 299 yards, completing 18 of 28 passes.

When Tracy was out, Cody White was forced to play quarterback and performed admirably, leading Western to three straight wins. With Tracy back, White, who committed to Michigan State, returned to his receiver spot, catching seven passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or mmccabe@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.

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