Playoff Picks: Running the table like Clark Gable

Division 1
Traverse City West @ Rockford

This would’ve been potentially interesting early in the season, when Rockford wasn’t healthy and TC West was still bright eyed. But while West has faded, Rockford looks like a legit state title contender. Winner: Rockford

Grand Ledge @ West Ottawa
These two met in Week 2, in what is a real outlier and dark spot on WO’s otherwise stout resume — a 31-10 loss at Grand Ledge. Maybe that happens twice. But the West Ottawa team we saw against Rockford is just too talented for that. Grand Ledge’s Joe Reverman is the best back the Panthers have seen all year, now they get a double dose of the junior who has run for 1,450 yards and 22 TDs. Grand Ledge’s quarterback, Jalen Brady, is being recruited by MSU. But as readers of the Lake know he’s not even the best junior QB named Jalen in Michigan. Winner: West Ottawa

Division 2
Portage Central @ Portage Northern

P-Northern beat P-Central in Week 8, 42-18, as Huskies QB Jon Pincus ran wild. Northern will be even better next year defensively, as linebackers Preston Simon and Tyler Cummings are juniors, as are highly recruited two-way lineman Austin Labus and defensive back Riley Bell with his six interceptions. Winner: Portage Northern

Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills @ Muskegon

Muskegon beat Kenowa Hills 45-7 in Week 8. Those kind of point spreads aren’t accidental. Winner: Muskegon

Grand Rapids Northview @ Lowell
Northview escaped the O-K White for the friendlier confines of the Bronze, but can’t hide much longer. Lowell’s still in the White, the Lake Michigan area’s toughest league, and emerged hobbled but still alive. The Red Arrows are in the playoffs for the 16th straight season. Winner: Lowell

Caledonia @ Swartz Creek

A month ago, Caledonia would have been the easy pick. But now they’re coming off two straight losses, and have to make the long road trip. Their defense is good enough to get through this round, at least. Winner: Caledonia

Bay City Western @ Traverse City Central
TC Central is the best team in Northern Michigan. How does that translate against a Saginaw Valley team? Both have two dynamic runners, TJ Schepperly and TJ Schwanneke for TC Central, Mason Myers and Charles Proctor for BC Western. QB Joe Ivan didn’t play in the Warriors’ final game, so that warrants watching. Winner: Traverse City Central

Battle Creek Lakeview @ Mattawan
Lakeview will have a hard time slowing down a potent Mattawan offense, led by The Barber. No, not Mike Peplowski, but the Lake’s No. 1 senior running back Trevor Sweeney. Sweeney Todd, cuttin’ ’em up. Winner: Mattawan

Division 3
Zeeland West “@” Zeeland East

The last time these teams met, it was as wild a game as we’ve seen. East prevailed in 60-52 2OT then came through the regular season clean, including the one-point finale over Muskegon. Looking back, the Chix would probably trade that W for a healthy Josh Blawkamp. He broke his leg against the Big Reds, and is only their best defensive back, a 1,000-yard rusher and senior leader. For West, two-way standout Braden Werley has proven a capable fill-in QB. This looks like another classic, with game-breaking, college talent for both teams on both sides of the ball. This is as “recruitable” a first-round game as there is in Michigan, nor will it be surpassed in entertainment value. Gonna be a whole lotta 50+ yard touchdowns for that $5. Winner: Zeeland West

Plainwell @ Hastings
When did Farmington Hills Harrison join the “Twin Cities”? Plainwell’s in unprecedented territory, for two straight seasons making the playoffs while sending a player to the Big Ten. One might have more confidence in Hastings if their most impressive results weren’t losses, to GR Catholic Central, Hopkins and South Christian. God bless them for being historically accurate, but this doesn’t bode well for Hastings. Their full-T offense is as close a football equivalent as one gets to the Fyrd system of battle favored by the Saxons. The Saxons lost the Battle of Hastings, of course, forever altering the course of Western history. Winner: Hastings

Holland Christian @ Stevensville-Lakeshore
Holland Christian is back on the right track under Jim Caserta. But a team that struggles to tackle could be in for a long night against undefeated Lakeshore. Winner: Lakeshore

Fruitport @ Grand Rapids Christian

Christian’s young defense showed flashes of greatness through the fall, but didn’t really put it all together until the finale, when they had five sacks and three picks in a win over Lowell. Having junior Dwayne Barfield fully healthy in the defensive backfield certainly helps. Fruitport just hasn’t seen anything like this in the Lakes 8. Winner: Grand Rapids Christian

Owosso @ Cadillac
Both teams are 6-3, with all six combined losses to playoff teams. Cadillac was hoping to make the Division 4 cut, but like Zeeland West were swept up with larger schools. Assuming Jalen Brooks gets more than four second-half carries, Caddy in a close one. Winner: Cadillac

Hamilton @ Edwardsburg
If this were the NCAA 64, Hamilton would’ve never made it, staggering in at 5-4 with losses in three of their last four. But when they decide to play, this is a big, physical team (just not Bill Vanderbilt big, physical) that can knock heads with Edwardsburg’s dangerous ground trio of Michael Kempton, Caleb Neff and Jack Bywaters. Winner: Hamilton

Division 4
Grand Rapids South Christian @ Paw Paw

South Christian is a deceptive three-loss team, as they all came to playoff qualifiers. They also have the top college prospect QB in the Lake Michigan area Jon Wassink, just a sophomore. Winner: South Christian

Otsego @ Dowagiac
They’ll meet for the second straight week. Dowagiac won  last Friday 43-0. Should it be closer this time around, Dowagiac has its special weapon in the Lake Michigan area’s top kicker, senior Brett Scanlon. He’s not one of those moonlighting soccer types either. Scanlon is also a damn good QB. Winner: Dowagiac

Cheboygan @ Ogemaw Heights
Gotta go with the team that wanted to join the Big North, over the one that quit it. Winner: Ogemaw Heights

Comstock Park @ Allendale
CP gave soph-strong Allendale its only loss of of the season, 13-8 back in September. Senior QB Jake Brown had to orchestrate the game-winning drive for Comstock Park. Few are more suited to the task. The 6-0, 200 senior has run for 780 yards and 20 TDs and thrown for 1,132 yards and seven TDs. Winner: Comstock Park

Three Rivers @ Battle Creek Pennfield

Pennfield is a tough, hit-you-in-the-mouth team built for postseason football. Their only loss is to undefeated Schoolcraft. Three Rivers will look to put up points on the arm of senior QB Sam Shutes, who has completed 116-of-197 throws for 1,876 yards and 15 TDs, while rushing for 502 yards and 9 TDs. Winner: Pennfield

Hudsonville Unity Christian @ Grand Rapids Catholic Central

The real question isn’t so much which team will win, but if Unity will score a point? Winner: GR Catholic Central

Chippewa Hills @ Big Rapids
Big Rapids has won eight straight games, including these teams’ first meeting 29-27. Two scholarship seniors in this one — Chippewa Hills’ wideout Trent Karcher and Big Rapids’ lineman Jake Daugherty. Winner: Big Rapids

Division 5
Kingsley @ Menominee
Oh. Should demand a check for mileage and hazard pay on this one. Winner: Menominee

Grayling @ Kingsford
Ye ol’ algorithm gave no love to the Lake Michigan Conference. It’s hard to imagine a tougher draw for a 9-0, league championship team than Grayling’s Saturday trip into Wisconsin’s conjoined twin. This is not OK, Computer. Winner: Grayling

Buchanan @ Muskegon Oakridge
Undefeated Oakridge has tossed three shutouts. Winner: Oakridge

Grant @ Newaygo
These neighbors couldn’t hook up in the regular season, so it’s only fitting. Winner: Newaygo

Grand Rapids West Catholic @ Hopkins
This is one of the best opening round games. On one side you have West Catholic, which showed that championship pedigree by reeling off five straight wins to qualify. Undefeated Hopkins has its best team in years. But unlike most of the teams on Hopkins’ schedule, West Catholic has the personnel to stone that grind-it-out running game. Then what? Winner: West Catholic

Manistee @ Reed City

Reed City is a “quiet” 9-0. But 9-0 nonetheless, and if Manistee listens they can hear those Coyotes in the woods. Winner: Reed City

Division 6
Constantine @ Watervliet

The Week 9 loss to Pennfield was the only time Constantine didn’t surpass at least 30 points. They scored more than 40 in all of their seven wins. You have to love Constantine’s speed/power combo out of the wing-T with seniors Ben Mallo and Payton White. At 8-1 Watervliet actually has a better record than the defending state finalist. QB Jake Cowsert has had an amazing season, throwing for 1,753 yards and 23 TDs while rushing for 678 and six TDs. Winner: Constantine

Maple City Glen Lake @ Boyne City
Boyne City is ahead of schedule. Like the Lucinda Williams song, Glen Lake is right on time. Winner: Glen Lake

Grandville Calvin Christian @ Ithaca

Ithaca is in the midst of forging a small-school dynasty, undefeated and favored for their third-straight state title. Ithaca’s Travis Smith may be the top QB in the state’s junior class. Winner: Ithaca

Niles Brandywine @ Schoolcraft
This is Scraft’s third-straight postseason appearance, but the first time they’ve come in unbeaten in over a decade. And that’s not just a paper 9-0, the KVA was rough. Winner: Schoolcraft

Montague @ Hemlock
A tough deal for Montague. If they win on the road the reward will be Ithaca. Montague’s been successful keeping games low-scoring, and having senior QB Brandon Moore make plays when he has to. Winner: Montague

Kalkaska @ Shelby
Don’t underestimate Kalaska’s talent defensively, or running with Zach Hill. But his is their first playoff appearance in over a decade, and it would take a major road upset. Winner: Shelby

Division 7
Springport @ Gobles

“Win or go home” is nothing new for Springport, which had to run off five straight Ws to get here. It ends here, as Gobles has a big-time playmaker on both sides of the ball, in senior running back Adam Vosberg and senior lineman Jeff Gilbert. If Springport’s star QB Daniel Bryan is unable to go due to a concussion, it could get ugly. Winner: Gobles

Decatur @ Hartford
Decatur’s defense has three shutouts this season, including 28-0 over Hartford. Nate Gerhold has been vital to Decatur as a D-lineman/running back. No other team came close to slowing down Hartford and the duo of Gareth McMillan and David Mirales, who have run for nearly 2,000 yards and 25 TDs combined. Winner: Hartford

Bridgman @ Lawton
Brandon St. Clair is the man for Lawton. He’s run for 1,292 and 15 TDs. Winner: Lawton

Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian @ Lake City
Lake City’s lone loss was to Beal City. But in the Highland Conference they don’t see the kind of athletes NorthPointe will roll out there in Nick Swore, Preston Huckaby and Michael Lewis. Winner: NorthPointe Christian

Whittemore-Prescott @ Mancelona
Mancelona’s 9-0 and features not just one of the top runners in Division 7, senior Wyatt Derrer with over 1,200 yards on the ground, but an impact two-way player in o-lineman/linebacker 6-2, 255 Dalton Sulz. They’ve helped Mancelona to three straight Ski Valley crowns. Winner: Mancelona

Carson City Crystal @ Evart
Evart took advantage of a down year for McBain. They have a real defensive playmaker in John Danley. Winner: Evart

Division 8
Vestaburg @ Muskegon Catholic Central

Gotta be impressed by what MCC did against the other papal powers, hanging tough 14-0 against GR Catholic Central, then winning last Saturday at TC St. Francis 21-13. Winner: Muskegon Catholic Central

Onaway @ Central Lake
Onaway sneaked in at 5-4, losing three straight including 45-14 to this same Central Lake team in Week 8. The Trojans overcame a 1-3 start to make the playoffs. Winner: Central Lake

Hillman @ Johannesburg-Lewiston
If Mitch Hardy is still hurt, Hillman may want to suit up Combustible Huxtable for this one. While no stranger to the playoffs — this is their seventh-straight trip — they got in at 5-4, with one of those wins via forfeit. J-L linebacker Dylan Helms is playing lights out. Winner: Joburg

Mio @ Beal City
The home team is undefeated and has more than twice as many playoff points as Mio, making this a simple pick. Winner: Beal City

Baldwin @ Fowler
Baldwin has one of the most dominating players in the division in senior Andon Ware. What they don’t have is size. Defending state runner-up Fowler is tough defensively, and the CMAC champ. Winner: Fowler

Lake Michigan Catholic @ Climax-Scotts
Climax-Scotts has been here 10 years running. How can a Michigander not root for a running back named Kirk Gibson? 6-6, 230 senior Malachi Saterlee is one of the state’s sleeper defensive line prospects. Winner: Climax-Scotts


One response

  1. Good job, one comment about Hartford, Mireles had 1300 and some change and Macmillian had 750 yards, they were closer to 2100 yrds. But glad you gave them some props

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