Dave McWatters

Four-senior play wins state championship

November 25, 2009 // 0 Comments

SENIORS END HIGH SCHOOL WATER POLO CAREER WITH WINNING PLAY—Senior captains Derik Bothma, Connor Thelen, Kyle Peterson and Tyler Manikowski lift the state championship trophy. Photo by GORDON PETERSON Let’s start at the end. State championship game—end of third period—and Rockford water polo senior captain Tyler Manikowski has been struggling. At the side of the pool during the quarter break, he climbed out and said to Coach Dave McWatters, “Coach, put Eric in. He’s playing better than me”—Eric Chisholm the sophomore, Manikowski the senior. The senior captain gave way to a kid two years younger, a kid truly playing great water polo, saying, “Go, Eric. Go play. Go win this game.” With their tremendous shooters, Kentwood soon pulled ahead by two, but Rockford fought back with junior Jeff Schmitt’s three great goals, and then Kentwood scored a penalty shot to tie. Now under a minute, McWatters called time. Back at the side of the pool, he’s decided on the lineup to finish regulation time—six starters plus either Chisholm or Manikowski. The coach turned to Manikowski, who had been on the bench now for most of the fourth quarter, and said “Tyler, you’re the senior. It’s your call. Can you do it?” “Put me in, coach,” Manikowski replied. Peterson, to Bothma, to Thelen to Manikowksi is how the passing went. Manikowski had the greatest step-out to the ball he’s ever had, turned, saw the back of the net, and blew the ball past Kentwood’s great goalie, who had just moved to counter Bothma’s—and then Thelen’s—fakes. Manikowski’s two-meter defender hardly reacted. The defender was too tired. He had played every single second of the game. Coach McWatters commented, “Tyler’s unselfishness is a powerful example of what won us a state championship. Tyler calling himself out, making way for the young kid who was playing the best polo of his life, rested Tyler enough for that last minute, so he had the energy to make the greatest play of his life. Tyler’s unselfishness helped win us a state championship.” Many things go into winning a state championship. Peterson, to Bothma, to Thelen to Manikowski—that was the last play. Peterson, as he always does, set up his teammates for success. Bothma—the great shooter now because he’s also become a great passer—rose up […]

Rockford’s Swim/Dive Team Wins OK Red Conference Title

March 5, 2009 // 0 Comments

by DENISE WEBB How sweet it is to taste victory as the underdog! As West Michigan media favored Grandville as the next winner of the OK Red swimming and diving conference title, Rockford had much to prove as it entered the waters of the Jenison Aquatic Center during preliminaries on Friday, Feb. 27, followed by the final heats on Saturday, Feb. 28. After a two-day battle filled with nonstop excitement against some of West Michigan’s top swimmers and divers from East Kentwood, Grand Haven, Grandville, Hudsonville, Jenison and West Ottawa, the Rams won by 56.5 points. Even though the Rams eventually won by a respectable margin, the score of the 12-event meet was always fluctuating, keeping Rams fans on the edge of their seats. A prime example was when Rockford was down 11 points after the eighth event, and then fought back only to tie Grandville after the ninth and tenth events. The moment of the meet that “sealed the deal” came when junior Brian Ginebaugh, freshman Bryan Wasberg and seniors Andrew Sakala and Guy Gordon placed 1-2-3-7, respectively, in the 100-yard breaststroke, the 11th event, earning the Rams enough points to enter the 12th, and final, event with an untouchable lead. As Gordon touched the wall and quickly looked at the scoreboard, he said he was “ecstatic” to learn that his teammates placed 1-2-3, and his time qualified him to compete at the state level in two weeks. “All the hard work paid off!” he expressed. The competition overall was extremely fierce at the conference meet. Several swimmers from all seven schools secured state qualifying times. Throughout the two-day meet, approximately 80 percent of Rockford’s extraordinary team swam or dove personal bests, resulting in 27 individual conference medals. The Rockford medal holders are: seniors Tyler Augustine (four medals), Gordon (one), diver Quinton Rodriguez (one) and Sakala (four); juniors Derik Bothma (four), Alex Devries (three), Ginebaugh (four), diver Tyler Johnson (one) and Connor Thelen (one); and freshmen Josh Travis (two) and Wasberg (four). “This team’s seniors have come a long way since their freshman year,” said Assistant Coach Don Seifert. “Their progress has been exceptional, and their win has been an incredible achievement.” “This year’s team is one of the most aggressive I have ever […]

RHS men’s water polo wins Zeeland Invitational

October 2, 2008 // 0 Comments

Coming into this season, many water polo teams were hoping this was their year to “beat Rockford.” Well, Rockford men’s water polo has put those teams on notice that it will not be easy. The Rams water polo teams opened their conference season this past Monday by beating Zeeland 14-5. “Zeeland is a bigger, faster team,” said Rockford varsity coach Dave McWatters, “so we knew we had to play smart and tough.” Rockford showed great team balance in their scoring, with seniors Tyler Augustine and Andrew Sakala each scoring three, along with juniors Tyler Manikowski and Connor Thelen. Junior Derik Bothma led the defensive effort with six steals. Rockford returned to Zeeland Friday and Saturday for the “Birdhouse Bash” Invitational, competing against most of the top west regional teams. Opening with an easy win over Zeeland “B” 12-4, Rockford then dominated Hudsonville (10-2) and West Ottawa (9-0) with tremendous team defense. “Everyone has their role to play defensively; everyone is responsible for helping their team,” explained McWatters. Those wins propelled the Rams into the championship finals against Grandville—certainly the tallest, and perhaps fastest, team in the state. Rockford opened with a 4-0 lead, with Augustine, Manikowski, Sakala and Jordan Sikkema scoring. But Grandville roared back and Rockford led only 5-3 at the half. “We became predictable,” said McWatters. “At halftime we talked about how we had to show different looks and challenge Grandville’s defense in different ways.” The adjustment certainly worked, as the Rams outscored the Bulldogs 7-1 in the second half for a 12-3 final. Senior goalie and captain Nate McLean was key, with great positioning and anticipation, making crucial saves to fend off Grandville’s attempted comeback. Senior captain Andy Huizen contributed three important assists during Rockford’s scoring spree. Rockford water polo is now 14-0, off to a fantastic start. McWatters commented, “We have many tough games ahead and we know everyone plays their best against us. We are certainly thankful to be 14-0, but we will not become complacent. We will work harder and smarter than ever.” Rockford faces Grandville and West Ottawa for home conference meets this week, and then travels to East Kentwood for a very challenging weekend tournament against a number of other top teams in the state. Next Monday, […]