The calendar has flipped to October, and teams have begun their push for the postseason. Last week, seven teams within our coverage area made the postseason. This week, up to six teams (Godwin and Belding face off) can qualify with their sixth win, and the entire playoff hunt and remaining schedules can be found on our Playoff Central page. The MSR broadcast crews are going to be LIVE at eight games this week, with playoff implications in many of them. A preview of each can be found below:
#7 ROCKFORD (4-2, 3-0 OK Red) @ #8 WEST OTTAWA (5-1, 4-0 OK Red)
At the beginning of the season, how many people would you have found that would tell you that this Week 7 battle would be for the OK Red lead? A battle of ranked teams in our Remax-United Power Poll, as well as the OK Red’s last two unbeaten teams, will kickoff from Holland on Friday night. The Panthers have won all four of their league matchups in convincing fashion, outscoring their foes 130-27. Their most impressive may have been last week on the road at Kentwood, where they walked out 34-7 winners. This week, they will face a Rockford team that is also playing strong as of late, riding a three-game winning streak. They have also been relatively unchallenged in league play, defeating the three OK Red foes they have faced by a combined 117-23. The Panthers only have one league game left after this one, so they could claim a share of the Red with a victory, while also qualifying for the postseason. For Rockford, extending their winning streak to four games would reassure many people that they are the threat that many saw them to be in the preseason. Rockford has had very little trouble in this series as of late, winning thirteen straight contests. They have not lost to the Panthers since 2002.
HUDSONVILLE (2-4, 0-3 OK Red) @ CALEDONIA (3-3, 1-2 OK Red)
The second OK Red battle broadcast LIVE on Michigan Sports Radio will feature the Eagles of Hudsonville and the Fighting Scots of Caledonia. Both teams have a glimmer of hope left for the postseason, making this game extremely pivotal. Hudsonville needs to win out and get some help with playoff points since they cannot reach the automatic qualifying six-win plateau, but Caledonia’s margin for error is not much larger. The Eagles finally got off a three-game skid last week as they scored their highest point total of the year in a 28-13 win over Northview. The Scots are also entering the game on a hot streak, as they have won back-to-back contests to bring their record to .500. The Eagles won this matchup last year 35-12, their second straight win in the series. Caledonia has not defeated Hudsonville since both teams played in the OK Gold back in 1992.
LOWELL (4-2, 2-1 OK White) @ #6 FOREST HILLS CENTRAL (6-0, 4-0 OK White)
The two preseason favorites in the OK White face off at Forest Hills Central on Friday night as the #6 Rangers host Lowell. Many assumed that this would be a battle of undefeated teams in league play, but Lowell was stunned a week ago against Cedar Springs 28-14. These two teams met twice a season ago, and the Red Arrows squeaked out a pair of wins. In the regular season, Lowell won 41-37, and they then won 22-19 in the playoff rematch. This has been a one-sided matchup lately, as the Red Arrows have won fifteen consecutive matchups dating back to the 1999 season.
FREELAND (4-2, 3-2 TVC-Central) @ STANDISH-STERLING CENTRAL (2-4, 1-4 TVC-Central)
The Falcons of Freeland suffered another setback last Friday night, as they were defeated by Alma 21-7. This is the first time they have lost two out of three since a three game slide back in the 2013 season. This week, they will look to bounce back against the Panthers of Standish-Sterling Central, who will enter on a three-game losing streak. Defensively, the Panthers have struggled giving up 34.2 points per contest, something a Freeland team (28.3 PPG) will look to capitalize on. This is just the third time these two teams have met, a 20-7 Falcon win a season ago, as well as their encounter in the 2011 playoffs, a 21-12 Freeland victory.
COOPERSVILLE (4-2, 2-2 OK Blue) @ ALLENDALE (1-5, 0-3 OK Blue)
The Broncos got back in the win column last week, a 41-0 shutout over Spring Lake, and they now face the two biggest games of their season if they wish to make the playoffs. Before facing Holland next week, Coopersville must first defeat Allendale, a team that has struggled thus far in the season to a 1-5 start. The Falcons have been able to score the ball, averaging just over 31 points per game, but their defense has been a sieve, giving up 38 points per game, including three games of 49+ points. Allendale has had the upper edge in this series, winning the last five contests. The last victory for Coopersville over Allendale came all the way back in 1971, a 42-8 victory.
TRI-COUNTY (0-6, 0-5 CSAA Gold) @ NEWAYGO (4-2, 3-2 CSAA Gold)
The Vikings of Tri-County fell last week to Grant, and they are looking to get back in the win column for the first time since Week 8 of 2016. Standing in the way of snapping a seven-game losing streak are the Lions of Newaygo. Newaygo enters this one 4-2, looking to use this game to springboard to a strong back-third of the schedule to reach the playoffs, and they are riding a three-game winning streak. The Lions have won all three meetings since these two schools started playing in the CSAA-Gold, and Tri-County has not won in this series since they came out on top 39-26 in 2010 as members of the Lakes-8 Conference.
#9 WEST CATHOLIC (5-1, 3-0 OK Blue) @ SPARTA (4-2, 2-2 OK Blue)
The Falcons are hot, winners of five in a row after a season-opening defeat against Lumen Christi. Last week was the first time since the opener that their defense gave up more than six points, a 42-20 victory over Comstock Park. This week, they will look to clinch their spot in the playoffs with a win against Sparta, a team that finds itself two wins away from postseason qualification. The Spartans have matched their win total from a year ago, and their offense, led by Grant Kelley, has already scored more total points than every team dating back to the 2011 season. This week, the 35.5 PPG machine will take on the Falcons’ elite defense, and something will have to give. West Catholic has won all seven of the all-time matchups between these two programs.
PORTAGE CENTRAL (5-1, 1-1 SMAC-West) vs PORTAGE NORTHERN (2-4, 1-2 SMAC-West)
The Kalamazoo Area Game of the Week sends Jordan Slocum to the city of Portage as the Mustangs take on the Huskies. The Mustangs are a strong team this season, their only loss comes to undefeated Stevensville Lakeshore, and they have defeated a handful of traditionally strong programs. This week, they take on the Huskies of Portage Northern who enter the contest coming off of a close loss to Stevensville Lakeshore, which snapped a two-game winning streak. Though the records appear far apart, it is an inner-city rivalry, so I would expect the contest to be very close the entire way, much like the 21-14 Central victory in last year’s playoffs.