**ARTICLE BY NICK TUORI AND JOSH LONGSTRETH**
The Regional Finals are here. Just eight teams remain in each of the eight 11-man football divisions. These sixty-four teams are just two wins away from a trip to Ford Field, and three wins away from immortality. We preview some of the area’s best games below:
Rockford v Davison
Rockford and Davison square off in battle of unbeatens
The first “game of the year” is set for Saturday, November 11 at Carlson-Munger Stadium in Rockford at 6:00 P.M. Rockford and Davison are both 11-0 on the season and have very similar statistics thus far as they prepare to clash in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 Regionals. Rockford has played eight contests against teams that made the playoffs, so has Davison. The Rams are the champions of the OK Red while Davison claimed the Saginaw Valley League. Rockford scores 43 points per game while allowing only 10. Davison puts up 47 points per game while allowing 20. The Davison numbers are skewed in both directions after playing Lapeer in consecutive weeks to end the regular season and in the first round of the playoffs. Davison won round one 56-55 and made a bit of a statement the second time in claiming a 76-35 victory. They have one common opponent in Grandville. The Cardinals hosted Grandville in week two and claimed a 52-21 triumph. But that was somewhat misleading as it was a 28-21 game well into the third quarter. Rockford topped Grandville in a monsoon on the road in week eight 34-13 and followed that up with a 49-28 win in the district final last week.
The teams have met only five times over the years. Rockford holds a 4-1 edge though Davison won the most recent game 27-3 in the Division 1 semifinals in 2020. The Cardinals were fresh off of their first state championship in 2019 and dominated that contest from start to finish. The Ram wins came in four consecutive seasons form 2007-10. The last Rockford win was by the score of 27-10.
The Cardinals are coached by Jake Weingartz, who is in his sixth season at the helm. He has gone an impressive 55-12 in that time span with the one state title and a runner-up finish the following year. Weingartz coached for six seasons as the head man at Lapeer before taking the Davison job and has an overall mark of 87-37 in his 12 seasons. Rockford counters with fourth-year head coach Brent Cummings. Cummings has racked up an astonishing record of 40-3 thus far and is looking to take the Rams to the semifinals for the second time.
Davison features a three-headed monster at the linebacker position. Carter Harriman (Miami of Ohio commit) is the ringleader and he is joined by a pair of tough, speedy peers in in Jalen Edwards and Chuck Armstead. Jackson Clark is another leader on the defensive line spot for the Cardinals. Offensively the Cards are led by first-year starter Sawyer Glennie at quarterback. His big weapons are running back AJ Hill and wide receiver Braylon Naves. The Cardinals feature a diverse attack that is equally adept at both passing and running. They are also never shy about tossing in a trick play at any time so the Ram defense will have to be disciplined at all times.
Rockford features their own outstanding quartet at linebacker led by Ferris State commit Ryan Ahern. He was joined on the all-conference team by fellow linebackers Kade Friesen and Sam Cummings. Andrew Hambleton is the final piece of that puzzle for the Ram defense. Rockford also placed all three of their defensive linemen on the honors squad in first-teamers Gabe Stouffer and Christian Herrema and honorable mention member Hudson Hensley. The secondary also features a pair of All-conference members in safety Isaac Poot and cornerback Louis Bosscher. The other DBs are also solid in Luke Ahern, Jack Lockwood and Jonah Carlson.
The Ram offense features quarterback Drake Irwin along with two-way running backs Ryan Ahern and Poot. The deep and talented receiving corps features Cam Kruisenga, Mikey DeKuiper, Seth Anderson, Ben Cummings and Lucas Pitsch. The offensive line is anchored by 295-pound senior Alex McPhee at tackle and fellow senior Mason Kirn at guard. The other spots are somewhat fluid as the Rams have had to deal with a few injuries that has allowed them to develop outstanding depth at a key position group. Nolan Miller, Dawson LapLante, Isaac Post, Brandt Pawloski and Parker Young have all played a lot of football on the line for Rockford.
The weather forecast is promising at this early juncture and a large crowd is anticipated. Get there early and don your orange and black as they look to move forward to the next hurdle on their way to a memorable playoff run. The winner of the game will secure a spot in the semifinals as a neutral site against the winner of the game between Belleville and Northville on Saturday, November 18.
South Christian vs Big Rapids
The Sailors are one step closer to defending their Division 4 State Championship, as last week they bested Forest Hills Eastern 22-14. This week, they look to secure a regional crown in a game against upstart Big Rapids. The Cardinals, 10-1 on the season, have been on our radar all fall. Led by quarterback Riley Vennix, the Cards have won ten straight games since a season opening defeat against Paw Paw. In the postseason, they have put together a pair of thrilling wins against Spring Lake and Whitehall, the latter coming in the closing seconds against of the state’s highest ranked teams. Big Rapids’ district title is their first since 2003, a year in which they advanced to the semifinals. This week, Big Rapids will need to continue to elevate their game to get past the Sailors. Carson Vis has been one of the state’s most reliable signal-callers this fall, and with a plethora of targets to support him, this Sailors team looks stout.
Grand Rapids Catholic Central v West Catholic
The Cougars and Falcons have met 52 times on the gridiron since West Catholic started playing in 1963. GRCC has dominated the series, to the tune of a 31-19-2 advantage, many of those lopsided victories in the City League era. Now, these two giants will square off in the postseason for the third time ever. In 2009, West was able to grab a 25-6 victory. In 2021, GRCC evened the count with a 44-6 rout on their way to their fifth state championship in six seasons. This time, its the Falcons who enter as defending State Champions, as they have won 18 straight contests dating back to their Division 6 title run a year ago. GRCC is hungry to get back to Ford Field after a stunning absence last fall. This has all of the makings of one of the state’s best games on Friday. Expect a packed house on the City’s northwest side, as these two Goliaths battle it out.
Zeeland West @ Parma Western
The Zeeland West Dux have found their mojo again. After struggling down the stretch of the regular season, West has had familiar and new faces step up throughout two games of the playoffs. In round one the Dux faced a tough battle in a second meeting against Zeeland East. Facing a tough offense the question heading into that one was could West get their own offense going again. That they did, to the tune of putting 52 points on the board against the Chix. In round two, West faced a defense that could hold opposing offenses in check. All they did in that one? Racked 46 points in a two score win. The Dux are again peaking at the right time.
West relied on Trenten Bolhouse, Rolando Robelin, Trey Sloothaak, and Keaton Hendricks last week offensively. They will need them and more this week as they take on a Parma Western team that has only let opposing offenses eclipse the twenty-point mark twice on the season. They have limited offenses to just 8.8 points per game all year.
One thing that hasn’t deterred the Dux even through their modest three game losing streak, is the fact that the defense has been able to keep them in every game this season. The West defense has given up just 14 points per game on the year.
Parma Western is in the midst of another big season for their football program. Their best season since 2018, the Panthers don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Parma Western was able to roll past a solid Stevensville Lakeshore time last week to secure their own district title. The Panthers come in at 10-1 with the lone loss coming by just one point to another playoff team in Hastings.
Their offense can pile up points in a hurry. Through eleven games this season, the Panthers have been held in check offensively just once. In just two playoff games, the Western offense has averaged 34 points per game. They can get it done both through the air and on the ground.
The Western defense has been outstanding all season. Of the five playoff teams they have played this year, the Panthers defense has allowed just 10.6 points per game in those matchups.
This one lines up to be what should be a great matchup. If Zeeland West can keep finding answers on offense they should be able to challenge the Parma Western defense for much of the night. These two collide this Saturday afternoon with a 1:00 start time.
Bullock Creek @ Reed City
The Bullock Creek Lancers conquered another team last week. This time, it was Bullock Creek who jumped up early and never looked back. With much back and fourth in the first half with a stingy Chesaning team, the Lancers took complete control in the second half leading to a 49-22 win over the Indians.
Bo Schwartz had another big night for Bullock Creek finishing with 268 yards rushing, 3 rushing touchdowns, and 1 passing touchdown. He added an interception on the defensive side. Brother Zane Schwartz put together an impressive performance with 2 receiving touchdowns and 1 rushing touchdowns. He led the Lancers with 15 tackles on the night. Lawrence Harding pitched in with 81 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown (the first score of the game). Caden Tate and Treyvion Toliver picked up 1 interception apiece for the Bullock Creek defense.
A team that started 1-3 on the season, the Reed City Coyotes have now become one of the hottest teams in the playoffs in winning their last seven games. During that span Reed City has beaten four playoff teams and outscored opponents, 289-85.
The Reed City offense is led by Max Hammond, John Ondrus, and Zach Erickson. The trio each went over 100 yards rushing in their 50-18 win over Hart last week. Running the ball has been much of the Coyotes offense and they don’t shy away from it often. Not many teams have been able to stop that attack for much of the year.
On the defensive side, Reed City hasn’t allowed much over the latter part of a month and a half. They have not allowed a team to hit 20 points on them since September 29th. This week, they’ll face an offense that will challenge the physicality of their defense.
Both teams come into this game as hot as can be. Bullock Creek has shown that they can limit teams offensively, and their own offense has been able to be more physical than opposing defenses. If that continues, the Lancers could be cruising into the Semifinals next week. The Reed City ground game has been tough to stop for much of the year, if that continues they’ll test a Lancers defense that has been dominant for much of the season and especially in big moments. They’ll welcome in Bullock Creek for a 7:00 showdown this Friday night.