Playoff Picks: Round 1

  • Projected winners are italicized.
  • All games are 7 pm Friday unless otherwise noted.

Division 1
Traverse City West  5-4 at Rockford  8-1
Rockford is once again the class of the O-K Red. Based on losses to Comstock Park and Allendale, TC West would be battling for third-place in the O-K Blue. All the injuries may catch up to the Rams eventually, but not in this one. Totally different game being played in West than Northern Michigan.

East Kentwood 5-4 at Hudsonville 6-3
These teams met just two weeks ago, also at Hudsonville, where the home team prevailed 20-9. EK’s youth shows against a team as physical as the Eagles. And it’s not just up front, with a line led by future Midshipman Evan Akins, but even at QB, with the bruising running of junior QB Mason Opple. Make no mistake, though. With a full season and impending off-season — whether it begins Saturday or in a few weeks — under EK’s first-year head coach , the future is bright on Kalamazoo Ave.

Division 2
Muskegon Mona Shores 7-2 at Lowell 9-0
While it’s a given at Lowell under Noel Dean, this is Mona’s first-ever playoff appearance. It’s just their luck that they land in a district with two of the state’s top three D2 teams. This is no one-hit wonder in Norton Shores for coach Matt Koziak though. The Sailors start 11 sophomores or juniors.

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 7-2 at Muskegon 8-1
They could’ve just stayed at Hackley, where last Friday Muskegon grounded the Rockets 20-7 to claim their first O-K Black title. Maybe in the week between, Kyle Jewett’s staff can re-gameplan for Muskegon QB Deshaun Thrower. He ran for all three of the Big Reds’ TDs in the first meeting and has accumulated 1,200 yards on the season. Just love how this R-P team is constructed though. Second time does the job.

Lansing Everett 6-3 at Portage Central 9-0
Portage Central is the best team in the Lake Area that isn’t from the O-K rainbow.

Portage Northern 6-3 at Battle Creek Lakeview 9-0
Lakeview has come back to Earth, somewhat, after shutting out their first five opponents. This one features to of the state’s best senior linebackers, Portage Northern’s Preston Simon and Lakeview’s Donnie Ernsberger.

Division 3
Sparta 5-4 at Mt. Pleasant 8-1
The Spartans sneaked into the playoffs on a three-game skid.

Zeeland East 5-4 “at” Zeeland West 8-1
This is all too familiar. Last season, East beat West in an offensive showcase in the regular season, then was shut out in the first round of the playoffs. In 2013, West’s only loss is to East. But that was a much different Chix team than the one that hobbles into the playoffs having lost four straight.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 7-1 at Grand Rapids Christian  7-1 Noon Saturday
FHN is making its first playoff appearance in over a decade. These are two of the best defenses in the Lake Area. Only defending state champion Grand Rapids Christian can muster some offense, Drake Harris or no.

Wayland 5-4 at Plainwell 8-1
An upset special in this 131 showdown. Wayland won five more games than last year and has one of the Lake Area’s most potent running back duos in the fast guy, Mike Miklusiak, and the rugged guy, Jack Phillips. Plainwell has a good one itself in diminutive Jacob Geter. Fitting, as this is one of Plainwell’s smaller teams, physically, or recent vintage.

Byron Center 6-3 at Battle Creek Harper Creek 7-2
If Byron Center had beaten a playoff team … if the Green weren’t a weak sister of the O-K … this might be an upset pick. But they didn’t, and it is.

Sturgis 5-4  at St. Joseph 8-1
Sturgis’ only chance lies on the arm of senior QB Chance Stewart. St. Joe, whose only loss was to unbeaten Portage Central, made 16 interceptions during the regular season.

Coldwater 5-4 at Stevensville Lakeshore 6-3
Lakeshore making the playoffs is a given, they’ve now done it 16 years in a row. It’s the three losses that are a bit disconcerting.

Division 4
Remus Chippewa Hills 6-3 at Cadillac 9-0
You have to go down to Division 4 to find that having played a Big North Conference schedule is an advantage, but that SOS will certainly surface here for Cadillac.

West Branch Ogemaw Heights 6-3 at Cheboygan 7-2  1 pm Saturday
The Chiefs are 3-0 against Big North teams.

Fremont 6-3 at Comstock Park 9-0
CP is looking to make a third-straight semifinal appearance. Youth under center may catch up to the Panthers eventually, but not against the Packers. Props to Fremont, though. Last Friday they beat Montague for the first time in over 50 years.

Belding 6-3 at Spring Lake 8-1
No one gave the Lakes 8 much thought during the season, but their 27-0 win over Shelby last Friday turned some heads.

Otsego 6-3 vs. Grand Rapids South Christian 8-1 @ Byron Center
South Christian hasn’t lost a game since August, to Grand Rapids Christian. The Wolverine just doesn’t prepare teams for an opponent the caliber of the defending state champion.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central 6-3 at Allendale 7-1
This is one of the most competitive first-round matchups in the Lake Area. Won’t find two better junior receivers on the same field this weekend than CC’s Nick Marosi and Allendale’s Nate Couturier.

Dowagiac 6-3 at Edwardsburg 9-0
These teams played two weeks ago at Edwardsburg. The home team won 36-0.

Battle Creek Pennfield 8-1 at Paw Paw 8-1
Even without injured junior QB Jay Doll, Paw Paw put up 48 points last Friday. The only problem? Edwardsburg scored 52.

Division 5
Kingsford 7-2 at Grayling 7-2  1 pm Saturday
Grayling’s on the right side of the Bridge for this one.

Kingsley 6-3 at Standish-Sterling 7-1
This will be a tough task for the Stags. They don’t see this kind of size in the NWC. S-S may have as good a pair of tight ends as there is in Michigan, with 6-4, 240 CMU commitment Cole Walderzak and 6-3, 240 senior Seth Malcolm, a terrific blocker. Then there’s 6-3, 320 two-way lineman Anthony Prohaska is more athletic than you expect.

Kalkaska 6-3 at Gladwin 7-2
Gladwin graduated a great QB, Landon Grove, but the Gs are back in the playoffs led by do-it-all athlete Demetri Trice. Kalkaska brings some talent of its own in RB/LB Kaleb Hauser, and QB/DB Will Nobles.

Clare 7-2 at Reed City 9-0
An established program like Clare is no happy reward for Reed City’s undefeated regular season. 6-0, 200 senior back Jordan Gross is a load at the high school level. While not particularly big, outside of 6-3, 250 junior TJ Patterson, Reed City has gotten strong line play on both sides of the ball. The Coyotes have rolled up nearly 4,500 yards of offense.

Newaygo 8-1 at Muskegon Oakridge 8-1
This is a tough go for Oakridge without their best player, senior running back Dan Shoop, who unfortunately tore his ACL. But Austin Wright is no slouch at QB. Playoff pedigree, home field, Oakridge in a close one.

Grand Rapids West Catholic 5-4 at Portland 7-1
This is a rematch of a 2012 playoff game. Only that one was at Ford Field. West Catholic may have to pay the hard way for another slow regular season start.

Parchment 6-3 vs Jackson Lumen Christi 9-0 @ Jackson High
Known previously as a basketball player, Lumen Christi junior running back Khari Willis has been a revelation and is now a D1 recruit in both sports.

Olivet 8-1 at Hopkins 7-2
Hopkins has more losses, but some real quality Ws against the likes of Wayland, NorthPointe Christian and Belding. Their only losses were to playoff teams as well.

Division 6
Elk Rapids 6-3 at Boyne City 7-2
This is a rematch of a contest played just two weeks ago, which Boyne City won 28-12.

Lakeview 7-2 at Maple City Glen Lake 8-1
Glen Lake had a big win last Friday at North Muskegon, proving they could win on the road against non-Northern Michigan competition. Their reward, home sweet home on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Montague 6-3 at Shelby 8-1
A rematch from the WMC season, which Shelby won 33-7. Montague is too proud a program to go out like that in the playoffs. But this once is still purple.

Grandville Calvin Christian 6-3 vs.  Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 8-1 @ Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
These O-K Silver rivals met in September, NPC winning 13-8. Whichever team wins it will be historic, as neither team has a playoff victory.

Hartford 6-3 at Watervliet 9-0
When these teams met in the regular season, both were undefeated. Watervliet won 41-17, and is still undefeated.

Schoolcraft 8-1 at Niles Brandywine 8-1
Brandywine’s 35-12 Week 7 loss to Cassopolis gives one pause.

Constantine 5-4 at Michigan Center 8-1
It’s been a trying season for last year’s state runner-up, Constantine, who is now going at it without injured junior running back Justin Hull.

Division 7
Traverse City St. Francis 5-4 at Iron River West Iron County 9-0
St. Francis is in a down cycle, backing into the playoffs coming off a 42-0 loss at Muskegon Catholic Central. Not sure that playing in a different peninsula will change anything.

Mancelona 7-2 at Ishpeming 9-0  1 pm Saturday
Ispheming is he defending Division 7 state champion.

McBain 5-4 at Lincoln Alcona 9-0
McBain will have to figure out a way to stop Nathan Fettes, Alcona’s all-time leading rusher. But that’s not all, as senior QB Cody Franklin has 4.4 speed.

Whittemore Prescott 6-3 at Lake City 8-1
One last go for one of the most dominant athletes in the Lake Area, regardless of school size, in LC QB Drew Marion.

Evart 7-2 at Carson City-Crystal 9-0
Devin Pringle apparently didn’t forget anything in his time off the sideline. In his first season back coaching, CCC is undefeated. Evart may have Drew Marion flashbacks when they see CCC QB Rhett Pringle.

Saugatuck 8-1 at Pewamo-Westphalia 8-1
Had Saugatuck slipped into Division 8, their season might have been extended well into November. Good size and athleticism in this one, with Saugatuck running back Joey Koscielski and P-W receiver Lane Simon.

St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic 6-2 at Cassopolis 6-3
Transitive property makes Cassopolis the logical choice here.

Bridgman 6-3 at Decatur 6-3
Decatur has momentum on its side, having won four straight including three shutouts. Their junior linebackers, Cole Southworth and Jason Nash, are tough.

Springport 6-3 at Lawton 8-1
Lawton had been perfect, before running into Watervliet last Friday.

Division 8
Atlanta 5-4 at Johannesburg-Lewiston 7-2
Joburg has won six straight. Defensive lineman Nathan Fox could be one of the best sophs in the North.

Mio 7-2 at Beal City 9-0
The class of the Highland Conference rolls on.

Fulton 5-4 at Muskegon Catholic Central 7-2
MCC has won seven straight, including one of the most dominant victories we’ve seen this year, beating TC St. Francis 42-0 last Friday (and the only losses were to playoff teams from much larger schools, Mona Shores and Grand Rapids Catholic Central). How dominant? The Crusaders held the Gladiators to one first down on 39 yards of offense.  It’s been quite a debut season for coach Steve Czerwon, who played for Mike Holmes. This program isn’t going anywhere, this is a young team.

Baldwin 7-2 at Fowler 7-2
The Panthers are hoping for a better showing than last year, when they were blanked by Fowler. To their advantage is Brandon Childress, one of the Lake Area’s top junior QBs.

Eau Claire 4-4 at Mendon 9-0  1 pm Saturday
Eau Claire has the fewest playoff points of any team in the field. Mendon is a small-school state power, undefeated and features one of the state’s best juniors on their line, Logan Slaughter.

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