Playoff Picks Part III: November Reign

Division 1
Rockford 9-2 @ Clarkston 11-0

Clarkston and Rockford are East-West cousins. Both are one-time rural schools located about as far North along major thoroughfares as one can get from their respective major cities, Detroit and Grand Rapids, and still be considered part of those metropolitan domains. Between their sheer size of enrollment, farm boy DNA and suburban parent zeal for country club and scholarship sports, Clarkston and Rockford are athletic powerhouses across the board. They’re the rare white, suburban football powers that are also top 10 basketball programs. There is a difference though. When all is said and done, Rockford has won state championships in football and basketball, sent players to the NFL, while Clarkston is “just good.” Westside substance beats Eastside hype every time. Winner: Rockford

Division 2
Muskegon 10-1 @ Midland 11-0

Big boy football right here. Muskegon finished the regular season as The Lake’s No. 1 Division 2 team, while undefeated Midland is the state’s No. 1 ranked D2 team “at large.” Muskegon has played a tougher schedule — Lowell x2, Rockford, Zeeland East, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s — and has more athletic depth. One concern for the Big Reds is that Midland senior Alec Johnson plays a lot like the one QB who beat them, Zeeland East’s Michael Custer. He’s efficient and hard to rattle, and puts up big numbers when he has to. Winner: Muskegon

Caledonia 8-3 @ Mattawan 8-3
So tough most of the season, Caledonia’s defense has allowed 86 points over the last three games. During the same stretch, Mattawan has scored 128. And that’s with Caledonia senior lineman (and punter) Adam Walma questionable after suffering a concussion against East Lansing. Cal’s D will certainly be tested by a Mattawan offense that features two 1,000-yard, double-digit TD runners in seniors Trevor Sweeney and Brok Lamorandier. Winner: Caledonia

Division 3
Grand Rapids Christian 10-1 @ Stevensville Lakeshore 11-0

If you like scoring, check this one out Saturday. Unbeaten Lakeshore is averaging 50 points in the playoffs, GR Christian 56.5. Their offenses are similar in that they’ll give you different looks, and beat you with different parts. It’s just that right now in senior QB Alex VanDeVussen and junior receiver Drake Harris, the Eagles have the two best offensive pieces out there. Winner: GR Christian

Division 4
Ogemaw Heights 8-3 @ Comstock Park 10-1

Ogemaw’s running game is on another level right now. They had three rushers over 100 yards last week, paced, as always, but senior running back Brandon Benac. He had 270 yards and three TDs against Chippewa Hills. Comstock Park’s postseason experience could be the difference here — Just Win Jake Brown may not have the sexiest game out there, but this will be the 10th career playoff start for the senior QB. Winner: Comstock Park

Three Rivers 8-3 @ Grand Rapids South Christian 8-3
In districts, South Christian beat the two undefeated Wolverine Conference champions — Paw Paw and Dowagiac — and did it rather easily. Three Rivers finished third in the Wolverine-South. Winner: South Christian

Division 5
Newaygo 9-2 @ Grand Rapids West Catholic 8-3

West Catholic has just been doing it against a different level of competition; Newaygo hasn’t seen a D this stingy. It’s been a great run under first-year Newaygo coach Andy Busch, but hard to imagine an upset here. Winner: West Catholic

Division 6
Shelby 9-2 @ Negaunee 10-1

Can the Purple Rain get it done in the UP snow? The serious road trip and Negaunee’s serious defense may be too much for Shelby. Winner: Negaunee

Constantine 9-2 @ Hillsdale 11-0
Hillsdale’s undefeated? Shouldn’t faze Constantine, which beat 10-0 Schoolcraft last week 40-27. Constantine’s namesake, the 4th century AD politician, was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. His army’s shields bore a cross. The Constantine football team embraces a cross of sorts too — the wing-T. Lots of folks run it, but few have the luxury doing it with a fullback the size of Payton White. Twenty times teams haven’t been able to keep the 6-2, 230 senior out of the end zone. Winner: Constantine

Division 7
Lake City 10-1 @ Ishpeming 10-1

Lake City won’t complain about a trip to the U.P. Who said the road to history is straight, narrow or short? And this is an historic season for the Trojans, coming off their first district championship. What happens when you put a quarterback with college “measurables” in small-town football? Well, for Lake City junior QB Drew Marion it means you’ve thrown for 2,136 yards and 27 TDS while running for 1,162 yards and 28 TDs. Ishpeming’s QB, Alex Briones, doesn’t have gaudy numbers like Marion, in part because he missed four games, but is a formidable dual threat himself. Winner: Ishpeming

Pewamo-Westphalia 8-3 @ Decatur 9-2
Decatur’s peaking at the right time. After losing to Lawton in the regular season, it was no problem in last week’s district final, which Decatur won 34-3. Winner: P-W

Division 8
Johannesburg-Lewiston 9-2 @ Beal City 11-0

These teams met last year in the playoffs too, with Beal City winning the 2011 postseason opener 43-20. Jo’burg has a lot of players back from that squad, but it takes more than revenge motives to stop a machine like Beal City. Winner: Beal City

Muskegon Catholic Central 8-3 @ Mendon 11-0
Mendon is carrying a 25-game winning streak, including last year’s playoff victory over Catholic Central. This could be the defacto state championship game for the second year in a row. Winner: Mendon

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