Northern Michigan Game of the Week: Trojans put league rep on the line

Detroit U-D Jesuit @ Traverse City Central
It’s no secret that down-state fans don’t take Big North football seriously. The two Traverse City programs particularly, when going up against similarly sized schools in the playoffs, haven’t done the post-season damage that has allowed their counterparts in West Michigan to achieve state-wide reps.

Here’s Traverse City Central. The Trojans are 5-1, and would already be in the playoffs if not for a season-opening loss to … Grand Haven, the only down-state team they’ve played. In their last 10 games against teams from the Detroit or Grand Rapids area, they’re 1-10, including last year’s 45-29 loss to Detroit U-of-D Jesuit (a team that ended up 0-4 in the Catholic League Central Division).

In Saturday’s 2 p.m. homecoming game, TC Central plays host to the Cubs in a rematch. U-D is 2-4, with three of the losses coming to the triumvirate of Catholic League Football: Birmingham Brother Rice, Novi Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. The Jesuits were excited going into the season. Now it looks likely that their streak of losing seasons into a second decade. The Scott Merchant era seems but a dream long past. A win puts TC Central in the playoffs, a loss would not only delay that berth, but further serve message board banter that BNC teams aren’t quite ready for prime time.

More optimistically, this is a new Traverse City Central team, one that can win against teams from Class A power leagues, and be competitive in a loaded Division 2 playoff field. Even in their loss at Grand Haven, TC Central looked like the stronger team for the majority of the game.

U-D Jesuit’s run defense has proven susceptible, which is good news for the Trojans. TJ Schepperly is one of the most dangerous running QBs in the Lake Michigan area, and is joined in the backfield by another senior TJ with speed, TJ Schwannecke. It will be interesting to see what happens if senior fullback/linebacker Nate Pupel is back from his thigh bruise. In his place on offense last week, sophomore Ethan Campbell was a revelation, scoring four TDs in the win against Traverse City West.

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