The MHSAA Football Playoffs are into their second week. In 11-man football, District Championships are on the line. 8-Man football sees its two divisions battling for regional crowns.
Caledonia v Rockford: The Fighting Scots and Rams are set for a rematch two weeks after their regular season finale. This time, Caledonia will try and flip the script and capture a district championship. Randy Gregory has the complete preview of this game.
Belding v Oakridge: The Black Knights will look for their first district championship since 2017 when they face the Eagles. Belding has been dominant in their 9-1 start, with only one victory by single digits. Oakridge is also 9-1, with a lone loss to Whitehall. In each of the last three years, the Eagles secured a district championship. This year will be their tallest test yet, as we have a battle of two powers.
South Christian v Unity Christian: The Sailors are undefeated, 10-0 for the first time since 2000. That first team of the millennium suffered a stunning loss to Coopersville in the district finals. This time, they will try to advance to the regionals as they face Unity Christian. The ‘Saders started the season 0-2, but rallied to return to the playoffs. Unity Christian has its own unfinished business, as they lost a heartbreaker in last year’s State Championship game.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central v Berrien Springs: The Cougars are on a quest for a four-peat as State Champions. After dismantling Kalamazoo United last week, the Cougars will take on Berrien Springs this week. The Shamrocks are 7-2 on the season, and defeated Hopkins 34-27 last week. The Shamrocks are looking for their first district championship since 2017, if they can pull off the upset.
West Catholic v Constantine: A “Battle of the Falcons” is taking place on Saturday, with a District Championship on the line. West Catholic is 9-1, after 42-0 shutout against Watervliet. This week, they take on their next foe from the SAC-Lakeshore, as Constantine also posted a 9-1 record. For comparison of common opponents, Constantine defeated Watervliet 60-21 in their regular season meeting.
Mona Shores v Forest Hills Central (Preview by Michael Markoch)
Mona Shores had no problems getting by Traverse City Central in round one of the playoffs, winning 48-20. Sailors’ quarterback Jonathan Pittman played possibly his best game of the season, throwing three touchdown passes as the game was over by halftime with the Sailors leading 42-0. However, the Sailors will be facing their toughest challenge yet against this Rangers team.
After a slow start, Forest Hills Central recovered nicely for a dominant 32-6 victory over Reeths-Puffer in round one. The Rangers only led 10-6 at the half, but their stout defense was once again the story of the night, holding an upstart Rockets’ offense to a single score. The Rangers will be tested by a very good Sailors offense this weekend with a district championship on the line.
Coopersville v Muskegon (Preview by Michael Markoch)
Coopersville potentially surprised some people by winning their first-round game in shutout fashion against Cedar Springs, 28-0. Some thought the Red Hawks could win that game on the road, but the Broncos showed that last year’s results have no bearing on the current campaign, and that they were thoroughly the better team. Broncos’ quarterback Colton Bosch scored four touchdowns in the win and will need a similar performance to win on the road this weekend against the Big Reds.
Muskegon took care of business against Sparta, 64-9. The Big Red defense showed out once again, keeping Sparta’s dominant passing attack at bay all night long. Muskegon is riding a wave from their victory against Mona Shores two weeks ago that clinched a share of the OK Green title. Also, the Big Reds have to be motivated after coming up short last season in the District Finals as they look to keep their championship aspirations on track.
Zeeland West v St. Joseph (Preview by Michael Markoch)
This is a matchup of two familiar foes. These teams have saw each other in the playoffs a year ago, with the Bears getting the best of the Dux, 29-26, in what was an absolute thriller. However, this year, it’s not crazy to think both teams are better than they were a year ago.
Parker Holman has been one of the best players in the entire state this year for the Dux, scoring 18 rushing touchdowns in the regular season. However, it was the other running back, Skyler Geurink, that led the way in the Dux win over Lowell in the semi-final. The senior back was sensational, rushing for 161 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
The St. Joseph Bears come into this game with a 9-1 record, with their only loss coming to Traverse City Central in week one. Last season, the Bears made it to within one game of the state championship before falling to a very good DeWitt Panthers team. The Bears have proven they can win in different ways, whether it be by shootout or by defensive struggle. Last week they scored the first 42 points of the contest to bury East Grand Rapids, but most of the season, defense has been their calling card. The Bears will need to hope their run defense is on point in this one, as the Dux are bringing the Wing-T right into their house, looking to play spoiler.
Freeland v Goodrich (Preview by Josh Longstreth)
What an opening week of the playoffs it was for the Freeland Falcons. Freeland used an absolutely dominant run to cruise past North Branch, 61-41, in last weeks playoff opener. The Falcons, who were down at the half, kept the ball on the ground all night and racked up 37 points in the 2nd half to pull away from the Broncos late. This over a North Branch team where offenses hadn’t sniffed the 61-point mark. The Falcons have now won 4 of 5, with the lone loss coming by just 7-points to a solid Cros-Lex team. Freeland will head into this week at 8-2 with a chance at securing a District Championship. It’s a team that is riding a ton of momentum at a crucial time in the year. We’ll see if their defense can get back on track this week to help the offense secure the District.
The Goodrich Martians come in as one of the hottest teams in the state of Michigan. Goodrich comes in riding a 9-game win streak after dropping their first game of the year in week 1 to a powerhouse in Frankenmuth. The Martians who are out of the Flint Metro-Lower Conference, come in at 9-1 overall and went 5-0 in conference play. They’re battle tested. Many of the teams they have beat made an appearance in the playoffs this year. Goodrich is balanced on both sides of the ball scoring nearly 30.9 ppg on the season while giving up just 10.3 on the year. Gavin Hart leads the team as the signal caller. Hart makes things happen and takes care of the ball throwing for 1,401 yards on the season to go with 18 TD’s and just 7 INT’s. Jace Simmerson leads the backfield with 927 rushing yards and 12 TD’s on the season. Caden Kolanowski and Max Macklem are handfuls on the outside combining for 13 receiving TD’s on the year. Zackary Lagat is one to watch on the defense. Lagat comes in with 35 tackles and 3 sacks on the year.
This one should be a battle throughout. Both teams have the ability to make deep runs this playoff season. Both defenses will need to be up to par facing offenses that can put up big points each week. This time of year defensive play will go a long ways and we’ll see which is up to task when Freeland makes the hike over to Roy U Stacy Complex to take on Goodrich. These two will battle in a 7:00 showdown this Friday night.
Frankenmuth vs Swan Valley (Preview by Josh Longstreth)
The Frankenmuth Eagles rolled again last week in their playoff opener, 53-6 over Birch Run. It would be the second time this season that the Eagles would knock off the Panthers. In a season where many of their scores have been lopsided showing they’ve won each in dominant fashion, they know the road won’t be easy. They’ll be faced with another familiar foe this week in a team that gave them fits early in their week 2 showdown. But it was still a game in which Frankenmuth was able to impose their will throughout. This time with more on the line in a District title, they’ll look to get up early in this one. The offense has been rolling all season in averaging 41.9 ppg but the defense might be even more impressive giving up just 5.7 per game. Frankenmuth has not allowed opposing offenses to hit the 20-point mark on the year. It’s a team that does not turn the ball over and wares you down for 4-quarters. The defense has multiple guys that can contain offenses. If they’re able to continue, the Eagles might be in store for another deep playoff run.
Enter the Swan Valley Vikings. The Vikings cruised in their playoff opener, 35-19 over Garber. In fact Swan Valley comes into this week winners of 7 of their last 8 and riding a dominant 3-game win streak. They know what they’re up against but are riding on some big momentum right now. The Vikings dropped a week 2 matchup with the Eagles. But week 2 is in the past and it’s been a different team since. The lone loss since then was a rivalry game with Freeland in which Swan Valley had a shot late. The Vikings are a balanced team that can beat you on the ground and through the air. Tyler Drain leads a rushing attack that averages over 160 yards per game. They have size on the outside in Drew Kaeckmeister and Sam Wickham. The two have combined for nearly 100 yards receiving per game to go with 11 TD’s on the year. The biggest thing in this one might be if young QB Colten Klein can take care of the football. Frankenmuth is a team that can make you pay if you turn the ball over. Swan Valley has given the Eagles some fits in the past, and they’re a team that could give them some problems that might have them grabbing a District title in the process.
Frankenmuth leads this series over the last five games but Swan Valley has kept things tight in many of those games. The Vikings have looked like a different team since early in the season and they’ll need to continue that in knocking off the Eagles. If Swan Valley can keep the Frankenmuth defense off balance and limit the Eagles offense, look out. Keep an eye on this one when The Vikings travel to Frankenmuth where the two will collide in a 7:00 showdown this Friday night.
Gladwin v Kingsford (Preview by Josh Longstreth)
What a season it has been for the Gladwin Flying G’s. Gladwin was able to keep their perfect season going last week in a tough battle over Ogemaw Heights, 35-20. The Flying G’s were tested for much of the first half but put together a dominant 2nd half to cruise in the playoff opener. The win improves Gladwin to 10-0 overall on the year. The Gladwin offense has rolled for much of the season averaging 47.9 points per game. The defense was tested last week but come in giving up just 6.8 points per game, showing how dominant they have been. They now have a chance to grab their first District title since the 2000 season. It’s a team that will have their eyes on more, however, Gladwin has made it known that they are a top contender in Division 5 coming in at #2 last week. It was a good test in the playoff opener, they’ll look to see if they can keep their momentum rolling en route to a District title this week.
The Kingsford Flivvers are making their third playoff appearance in a row. The Flivvers come in winners of 6 of their last 7 and grabbed a monumental win over Kingsley last week, 34-30. Kingsford has put together a season that has been their best since 2015. The Flivver offense has been rolling for much of the season but especially in the last three, putting up 40.3 points per game in the process. The Flivvers offense can beat you both through the air and by way of ground. Cole Myllyla and Nic Novara had the big games last week to help Kingsford advance. The Flivvers will look to see if they can keep their season going with their tallest task looming.
At this point in the season, anything can happen. There’s no doubt Gladwin will be tough to beat in this one but Kingsford seems to be a team that likes the underdog mentality. When you find a team that believes, watch out. The Flying G’s have dominated much of this season and there’s no doubt there are many goals they still have in mind. They’ll welcome in a Kingsford team that will make the long haul to Gladwin High School with no intention of heading home empty. Gladwin will look to make sure they send them back to the UP and wrap up the District themselves. These two battle this Friday night in a 7:00 playoff tilt.
Ravenna v Ithaca (Preview by Josh Longstreth)
The Ithaca Yellowjackets are coming off a big playoff opening win over Lake City, 48-14. The Yellowjackets come into this week riding an 8-game win streak. The Ithaca offense has been rolling for much of the year averaging 41.6 points per game throughout the 2022 season. A team that you can almost lock into the playoffs every year, the Yellowjackets will have a chance to add another District title to their showcase this week. By no means is that all they’re wanting, however. Being known as a championship caliber program, Ithaca looks to make a deep run this postseason to get back to where they want to be. They’ll have a chance to grab their first 10-win season since 2017. The offense is led by signal caller Bronson Bupp. Bupp has thrown for over 150 yards per game, grabbing 14 TD’s to go with just 6 INT’s in the process. He adds over 100 yards per game on the ground adding 24 rushing TD’s. He’s helped out of the backfield by young RB Nathan Mikesell who averages nearly a 1st-down every time he touches the ball. Mikesell has pitched in with 7 rushing TD’s. Ethan Hull leads the team in receiving with over 80 yards per game and finished the regular season with 9 receiving TD’s. Mikesell helped the defense with 5.5 sacks on the year. Young pass rusher Brandon Pass led the team with 6.5. Charlie Martyn is a ball hawk on defense grabbing 5 INT’s on the season. Ithaca comes in battle tested as they’ve played sic teams that have made the playoffs this year.
The Ravenna Bulldogs are now making their 4th playoff appearance in a row. It’s a program that continues to rise. In each of those appearances, they’ve had a chance to grab a District title in each. The Bulldogs are coming off a tough win over North Muskegon last week, 10-7. They’re a team that can get it done on both sides of the ball. QB Hunter Hogan compiled nearly 2,000 yards of total offense on the season. They have weapons on the outside in Drew Mabrito and Chase Thomas. Hogan leads the defense with 8 INT’s on the year. Caleb Forsythe pitched in with 5 INT’s. They will turn you over and if they can do that in this one, the Bulldogs will be headed home dancing.
It’s never easy to head into Ithaca and get a win, the Ravenna will have to get off to a quick start in this one. Turnovers should be key between the two, whichever team is able to take care of the ball will come out on top. The Yellowjackets will welcome in the Bulldogs who make the long ride over to Ithaca High School. They’ll hope to make it back with a District title in hand when the two battle this Friday in a 7:00 showdown.
Muskegon Catholic Central v Reed City (Preview by Hudson Harkness)
Muskegon Catholic Central will travel to Reed City for the Division 6-Region 2-District 1 Championship.
The Crusaders took down Kent City in the 1st round of the playoffs, 42-14. MCC found success in the air to pick up the win, contrasting how they got a week nine win by running the ball. However, the Crusaders have had slow starts in both of those games but their offense was strong enough to power for wins and their defense was stingy all the way through. This week MCC can not afford to have a slow start because Reed City will put it on you quick and not take their foot off the gas pedal. The Coyotes took down Montague, 44-15. Reed City took care of business like they have all season and were expected to do. They kept the ball on the ground and powered it for a complete 48-minutes. Every yard that Montague got was hard fought and was not given. This week the Coyotes must have their defense hitting all levels, if they are any miscues the Crusaders will take advantage. The Reed City defense must be able to adjust to the run and pass because MCC will throw multiple different looks. MCC’s defense knows what Reed City is going to do, run the ball, however; they have to watch for the pass because the Coyotes have shown they have the ability to take the top off of defenses.
I expect for this to be a tough fought game, but I think Reed City comes out on top and grabs their 5th District Title in 8 seasons. The slow starts for MCC in recent games are what the deciding factor is. A slow start for the Crusaders this week will give the Coyotes momentum and when they start to roll, they do not look back.