CHARLEVOIX — The famous “Dun! Dun!” from the hit TV show "Law and Order" rang over the public address speaker at Kipke Field in Charlevoix Friday night.
The jumbotron plays the sound after penalties during Rayder football games, and it seemed that Charlevoix was the judge, jury and executioner while dismantling Kalkaska 40-0 on homecoming Friday.
The Rayders (4-0, 3-0 NMFL-Leaders) have a new air of confidence surrounding the football program after winning their first playoff game in program history last season and starting the 2020 season 4-0 — which includes a big win over rival Boyne City last week.
The Rayders are 11-4 in their last 15 games dating back to 2019 — the best 15-game run for Charlevoix since 1991-92 when they posted 7-2 and 7-3 records, respectively. The return of head coach Don Jess prior to last season sparked a new order in the Rayder football program and junior quarterback Caleb Stuck thinks this is just the beginning.
“I think it is going to skyrocket,” Stuck said. “We almost doubled our numbers from last year, we have a great coaching staff and everyone in Charlevoix loves the game. I think we are going to keep going up and up.”
Friday was just another step up the ladder for the Rayders.
Charlevoix dominated in all three phases Friday. The dominance started on the first possession with a punt block that was scooped for a score by Luke Snyder, then the offense was off to the races.
Following a quick stop on the Blazers’ second possession thanks to a crew of Rayders setting up camp in the backfield, Ethan Putman found the end zone on Charlevoix’s third play from scrimmage to go up 16-0 before the end of the first.
“As a coach you wonder if they are going to be ready on homecoming,” Jess said. “The kids came out fired up and made plays early on that helped us.”
Stuck found Patrick Sterrett on a 13-yard slant midway through the second quarter and Phillip Sterrett closed out the first half with a 2-yard score to give the Rayders a comfortable 32-0 halftime lead. Stuck would finish the scoring in the third on a short quarterback keeper before starters exited the game in the fourth.
“We’ve got great leadership on this team from the players and that is huge in games like this,” Jess said. “We wanted to be aggressive. I think it was a total team effort, a lot of kids played tonight and a lot of kids played well.”
The Rayders defense didn’t allow the Blazers past midfield until Kalkaska successfully recovered an onside kick at the 50 coming out of the halftime break. Charlevoix’s defensive line spent much of the evening sending the Blazers’ backs backwards and blocked two punts.
Kalkaska was unable to field a team due to low numbers last week against Glen Lake, but returned Friday.
“I hate to use the excuse that we are young but the year they canceled JV football, those kids are now my juniors and seniors, so they are behind a year,” Kalkaska head coach Jeremy Wilkinson said. “It is tough trying to put things together.”
Wilkinson returned after a two-year hiatus from the program.
The Blazers have lost 21 games in a row dating back to 2018.
“It feels good to be on the football field but it doesn’t feel good being on the losing end week in and week out,” Wilkinson said.
Stuck ran the ball nine times for 41 yards and a score while completing 6-of-8 passes for 52 yards and a score. Ethan Putman led the Rayders with 95 rushing yards and a score followed by Phillip Sterret with 61 yards and a TD. Patrick Sterrett caught five of Stuck’s passes for 49 yards and a score.
Kalkaska found little success on offense outside of their final possession that ended the game at the seven yard line. Travis Blasko was a bright spot on defense for Kalkaska when he single-handedly stripped the ball and returned it 15 yards to take away a Rayders scoring chance. Charlevoix’s Jake Claflin snagged an interception at the line of scrimmage after a batted pass, shuttering one of Kalkaska’s best drives early.
Charlevoix will take on winless Elk Rapids next week before a big Week Six tilt with Glen Lake that will decide the Northern Michigan Football League’s Leaders Division title. However, the prospect of a conference title has yet to cross the minds of the 4-0 Rayders.
“Honestly, we haven’t talked about it at all,” Stuck said. “Nobody has said anything about the conference because we take it one game at a time. We’ve been focused one game at a time and it has worked.”