A postseason preview
By Ken De Laat
Wow what a year, huh?
First it looked like no football this fall and plans were made to schedule in the spring which would have been interesting since weather wise if there is anything more fickle than fall in Michigan it’s spring right?
But then, once allowed, the powers that be in the MHSAA decided to shift back to a fall season, albeit a shortened one, and added in a way to extend the season by opening up the postseason to all comers.
Like basketball, softball, etc.
So there will be more mismatched games than usual one would imagine and perhaps a few more upsets.
Fremont the lone area team in D4 is in a district with mostly teams from the OK Blue and will face the top seed.
Our local D5 teams are in region 2 District 1. The likely favorites in terms of seedings would be perennial contender Oakridge who open against Chip Hills and Central Montcalm who host Tri County, but this district looks pretty wide open.
The other district in the region is perhaps the toughest in D5 being loaded with marquee teams like the two GR Catholic squads, Portland, Belding and Hopkins.
Our D7 team, Hesperia, somehow drew the toughest assignment in their district facing the defending state champs but the district also includes undefeated Ithaca a program that hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2008
Holton and White Cloud will face each other in a district where Fowler is the top seed (as well as the alma mater of my lovely and patient spouse) and Carson City Crystal looms large as well.
Yes, it has indeed been a year. A season of changes, adjustments, tough decisions, masked players and a slew of COVID caused forfeits.
But now it’s playoff time, the infamous one and done, single elimination, win or go home time of year.
So let the games begin
Newaygo (2-4) at Big Rapids (3-3) Saturday 1pm
The Lions can put points on the board but lately not enough to keep up with the numbers yielded by the defense. All season it’s been big plays that have plagued the Lion D.
Chances are the ball will be in the air a lot Saturday afternoon.
Three weeks ago the Cards inserted strong armed sophomore Wil Strickler at QB and won twice before the forfeit as he and his favored receiver Jamal Strickland have stymied opposing secondaries. They possess the talent to make those big plays that have been the bane of the Lions.
But when it comes to big plays no one has been better of late than the Brechting to Wells connection and the QB has other targets in Harkness, Hammond, Wismar and Joseph should the Cards decide to blanket Wells.
Grant (2-3) at Orchard View (2-4) Friday 7pm
But for playing a game less this could have been a home game for the Tigers.
Instead they will travel to Orchard View to take on the Cardinals of the Lakes 8 (but now it's only 4 teams) Conference.
Obviously late bloomers, OV began the season with three losses, a forfeit win and another loss before besting Kent City last week. Granted the Lakes 4… I mean Lakes 8... is a tough conference with teams posting a 10-2 noncon mark and the win over the Eagles is impressive but they didn’t fare well against the other good teams they faced and Grant is a good team.
Fremont (2-4) at Spring Lake (4-2) Friday 7pm
Two long time rivals from their days in the Lakes 8.and before that in the old Seaway Conference. Historically speaking the Packers have won just 7 times in their 31 meetings.
The Lakers placed third in a rugged OK Blue conference that includes West Catholic and Unity Christian a pair of GR area powerhouses and the only teams to beat SL.
The Packers have made a lot of progress under coach Carpenter and given a full season they will improve even more.
But this could be a tough hill to climb and barring a string of turnovers forced by the defense Fremont will likely have to score a bunch here to have a shot.
Hesperia (4-2) at Pewamo Westphalia (5-1) Friday 7pm
In their regular season finale the Pirate program suffered its fourth loss.
4th loss in their last 77 games, that is, a run that has included four trips to the finals and three state titles..
There are programs and then there are dynasties. PW’s program falls into the latter group.
Doug Bolles has gotten a lot out of his team this season with Majersky, Baird, and others providing ample heroics.
But facing the Pirates they’ll likely need to get a few breaks, some big plays, a smattering of turnovers and play their best game of the season.
And then hope it's enough because it’s a long bus ride back from Westphalia.
White Cloud (2-4) at Holton (2-4) Friday 7pm
The Devils have improved as the season has progressed and are a better team than the one who edged the Cloud 15-7 earlier this season.
WC scored twice for the first time last week and missed two games when their opponents forfeited. Holton doesn’t score a lot either but they have home field and a better defense than their visitors despite the 60 points MCC hung on them last week. If they can shake off the shell shock from that drubbing they should be able to move on in the postseason but it would be a mistake to take their visitors lightly
Tri County (2-4) at Central Montcalm (4-2) Friday 7pm
The Viking defense slipped a bit the past couple of games but despite four losses they were within a score of winning each of them. During the last matchup with the Hornets they had some red zone issues and were shut out.That isn’t likely to happen again.
But I wouldn’t count on holding the Bees to the single touchdown they tallied three weeks ago either.
Like their previous meeting this one is in Stanton a tough place to play when the stands are full.
Or even 25% full.