Opening Round Playoff Picks

  • Game times 7 pm Friday unless otherwise noted.
  • Winners are italicized.

Division 1
Traverse City West 5-4 at Rockford 7-2
This will be these teams’ eighth playoff meeting in the past 11 seasons. Rockford has won all of them, most recently 19-0 in 2013. The Rams are making their 20th straight postseason appearance. Check out the matchup of two top five overall 2016 prospects, TC West’s junior right tackle Jacob Cerny and Rockford’s junior left end rusher Gabe Baumann.

Hudsonville 5-4 at West Ottawa 5-4
At one time 5-1 and ranked No. 1 in Division 1 after a comeback homecoming win over East Kentwood, West Ottawa backs into the playoff field having been out-scored 134-22 in the three games since then. Included in that was a 45-0 loss to Hudsonville.

Grandville 5-4 at East Kentwood 8-1 1 pm Saturday
East Kentwood is the most complete team we’ve seen all season — big line, run or pass, fast defense. Grandville is a tough team that lost by just one to EK in week 4 then battled its way into the postseason by closing out three straight must-win scenarios. The Falcons won the first meeting thanks to a late keeper from senior QB Kyle Friberg, and it could be that close again.

Division 2
Traverse City Central 6-3 at Midland Dow 9-0
An undefeated state power playing at home, not a great draw for the Big North runners-up. No one has come close to Dow this year, but a down Saginaw Valley has something to do with that as well.

Caledonia 7-2 at Muskegon Mona Shores 8-1 7 pm Saturday
Either of these teams could go on and challenge Brother Rice in the state finals. This is the best team in Mona Shores’ history, an offensive juggernaut under senior QB Tyree Jackson that has been held under 30 points once, in the rain at Rockford the Sailors’ only loss. They closed the regular season clinching the O-K Black title with an historic 48-27 second-half blowout at Muskegon. But given how Caledonia’s been playing — all seven of their wins are against playoff teams — Mona’s most impressive victory was actually against these same Fighting Scots, 40-7 in week 4. No one knows what kind of weapons Jackson has at his disposal as well as the Scotts, who saw six different Sailors find the end zone. There will be no 30-point margins this time around. Mona Shores is a bit tougher than given credit for, Caledonia is faster than some realize, this is the best pre-district game in Michigan.

Portage Northern 6-3 “at” Portage Central 7-1
This is an intra-city rematch of the regular season game with Central won 26-10. The Mustangs will try to beat Northern for the 11th time in the past dozen games.

Division 3
Bay City John Glenn 6-3 at Petoskey 7-2
One is hesitant to have much faith in the Big North in the playoffs, but home field should serve the Northmen well.

Grand Rapids Northview 6-3 at Muskegon 8-1 1 pm Saturday
Bad luck for Northview, getting a Muskegon team knocked down to D3 after two straight appearances in the D2 state finals, and seeing red after dropping the O-K Black title game to Mona Shores. Northview has a puncher’s chance is QB Devon Houston is able to pick on weak spots in the Muskegon secondary like Mona’s Tyree Jackson did.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern 7-2 at Cedar Springs 8-1
FHN was unbeaten until running into Cedar Springs the first time, losing 14-8, and then fell the next week to Northview. The Huskies had come into that game averaging 40 points a contest. All aboard the Gus Bus!

Grand Rapids Christian 5-4 at St. Johns 8-1 7:30 pm Friday
Grand Rapids Christian was 4-1 before senior QB Patrick Hall was injured against Lowell, and 1-3 after that as the high flying Eagles of the last few years haven’t been able to throw the ball. But let’s be total homers and call the upset.

East Grand Rapids 6-3 at Lowell 8-1
EGR is back in the game after a two-year absence. EGR couldn’t run against Lowell the first first time, which has got to happen in the projected rain and snow. Lowell isn’t quite Lowell with a pedestrian senior class, but watch out for a long playoff run in 2015. As for 2014, this game should be one of the best in the Lake Area between two programs you know won’t fade under the postseason lights.

Byron Center 7-2 at Zeeland West 9-0
West has won 21 games in a row. And while D3 has more obstacles than last year, Byron Center — which was dispatched of by these same Dux 62-21 just two weeks ago — probably isn’t one of them.

Coldwater 8-1 at Stevensville Lakeshore 7-2
The post-Denny Dock era at Lakeshore has a familiar feel to it — a 17th-straight playoff appearance

Division 4
Comstock Park 5-4 at Cadillac 9-0
At first glance this would appear to be a mismatch. But Comstock Park went undefeated in the O-K Blue, a league which in recent years has been as good as the Big North despite not having any Division 1 or 2 schools. It always takes a bit for Northern Michigan teams to adjust to the pace the Grand Rapids area teams play at. We’re still going Vikings, but it will be close.

Spring Lake 6-3 at Whitehall 7-2
Not playing in an O-K league may hurt Spring Lake in the postseason, as they haven’t won a playoff game since 2001. Whitehall doesn’t, either, but for small school leagues it doesn’t get much better than their West Michigan Conference.

Allendale 5-4 at Grand Rapids South Christian 7-2 (at Byron Center)
The Sailors looked poised for a third straight trip to Ford Field.

Hudsonville Unity Christian 5-4 at Grand Rapids Catholic Central 6-3 (at GR Christian)
This is a solid, not vintage, Catholic Central squad. Meanwhile Unity Christian’s offense has exploded, averaging 56 points over their last three games, all must-wins to qualify for the playoffs.

Paw Paw 6-3 at Edwardsburg 8-1
It was a basketball game the first time these teams met, with Edwardsburg winnign 62-57 in week 4 as the teams combined for over 1,200 yards from scrimmage. First stop wins?

Three Rivers 6-3 at Vicksburg 7-2
Vicksburg has an underrated signal caller, senior QB Dalton Ketlaar who is part of Davenport’s burgeoning debut recruiting class. It would be the Vick’s first-ever playoff victory.

Battle Creek Harper Creek 5-4 at Plainwell 8-1
Harper Creek hasn’t seen a running back like Jacob Geter, yet.

Kalamazoo United 6-3 at Eaton Rapids 6-3
Northern Ireland could’ve learned something from Hackett, where the eponymous Catholic school and Kalamazoo Christian combined squads and reached the playoffs. But the problem now is, KU didn’t play a schedule equivalent to most D4 teams.

Division 5
Central Montcalm 5-4 at Freeland 8-1
Priority 1 for Central Montcalm will to be try and keep the ball out of the hands of Freeland’s Jake Jankoska, who averages 11.5 yards per carry and 39.5 yards per catch.

Berrien Springs 5-3 at Grand Rapids West Catholic 9-0
If West Catholic was able to win a state championship beginning the playoffs 5-4, how good is an undefeated version? Though they lost big-play threat Lasavian Majewski against Allendale win week 5, that just put the onus to deliver even more squarely on QB Travis Russell. Few are better equipped to do it than the third-year senior starter who has thrown for 15 touchdowns and run for 14.

Muskegon Oakridge 8-1 at Hopkins 8-1
Great opener down in Tim Kisner Country. Both teams were undefeated league champions, Oakridge in the West Michigan Conference and Hopkins in the O-K Silver. Oakridge’s only loss was to defending D5 state champion West Catholic in week 1, and soph QB Brady Lutrull has come a long way since then.

Newaygo 7-2 at Reed City 7-2
Newaygo beat the Coyotes back in Week 3, but don’t see it happening twice.

Lakeview 8-1 at Chippewa Hills 7-2
Chippewa Hills’ two losses were both to playoff teams, Central Montcalm and Reed City.

Division 6
Elk Rapids 5-4 at Boyne City 9-0
Elk Rapids took Boyne City to the brink in the regular season, but their rally ended on a controverial attempted spike of the ball gone astray. The rematch again features one of the Lake Area’s best QBs, Elks senior Adam Trautman, against a Boyne City D that has five shutouts but gave up a season-high 36 to Grayling last Friday (albeit while the Ramblers also scored a season-high 55).

Negaunee 5-4 at Charlevoix 6-3
While it’s a down year for the Miners, and a long trip, don’t underestimate Yooper toughness as real football weather creeps in.

Pine River 6-3 at Tawas 7-2
Pine River has never won a playoff game, and has a long trip to the East side. but as with Grand Rapids Christian the underdog at St. Johns they get our homer vote.

Fennville 6-3 at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian 8-1
Fennville can be dangerous, they only team to beat Gobles in the Southwestern-North, but haven’t played a schedule like NorthPointe Christian’s. If he weren’t going to Findlay for basketball, Fennville tight end Aaron Overhiser might still be in the GLIAC for football. NorthPointe’s Kenny Willekes will be in the GLIAC — for football, he’s one of the top five senior linebackers in the Lake Area.

Carson City-Crystal 7-2 at Ravenna 7-2 1 pm Saturday
This pick assuming Ravenna isn’t still shell-shocked by their regular season ending shutout loss to Muskegon Catholic.

Schoolcraft 6-3 at Constantine 8-1 1 pm Saturday
Schoolcraft is one of only two in-state teams to top two TDs against Constantine, losing 31-17 way back in week 2. As talented as senior Justin Hull is, Constantine has three guys who can beat you on the ground with Hull, Taylor Reiff and QB Matt Hasbrouck.

Niles Brandywine 8-1 at Watervliet 8-1 7 pm Friday
Great matchup and what should be a toss-up. There aren’t a lot of small schools that have as talented skill guys as Brandywine seniors Andrew Duckett at QB and the school’s all-time rusher Marty Ward.

Division 7
Mancelona 6-3 at Suttons Bay 8-1
Suttons Bay hasn’t lost since week 2. They have a couple intriguing prospects in the junior class, 6-4 230 two-way linemen Zach Smith and 6-2, 240 linebacker Dave Brown.

Onekama 6-3 at Traverse City St. Francis 7-2
Despite no Bulloughs for the first time in nearly a decade, here come the Glads. And they’ve done it without top prospect Matt Seybert, who has missed the season with a broken foot.

Manton 7-2 at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary 8-1
Tom Markowski named Michigan Lutheran Seminary one of his favorites to win it all in D7.

Cassopolis 6-3 at Decatur 8-1
Decatur’s only loss was to Watervliet, which was able to slow down running back Johnathan Grosvenor. That’s easier said than done.

Bridgman 6-2 at Gobles 7-2
Bridgman’s best bet may be if ugly Halloween weather impedes Goble’s potent Tyler Hunt to Jacob Tiller passing combination.

Division 8
Brethren 5-4 at Baldwin 8-1
This game just became interesting after Baldwin’s star quarterback, senior Brandon Childress, was suspended for a game by the MHSAA for reportedly leaving the sideline to break up a fight in the regular season finale against Hart. The Panthers may still have a change though, as no 11-man team in the field has fewer playoff points than Brethren. And there will still be a B. Childress at QB … freshman Braeden Childress.

Central Lake 5-4 at Frankfort 5-3
If the purple team is thinking ahead to basketball season, they could be in trouble.

Coleman 7-2 at Beal City 7-2
With no challenge in the Highland Conference, Beal City took a couple quality losses to D7 powerhouse Ishpeming and by a point last week to undefeated Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker.

Hillman 8-1 at Johannesburg-Lewiston 8-1
Jo’berg defensive back Logan Huff was the Ski Valley defensive MVP, and he’s only a junior.

Fulton 6-3 at Muskegon Catholic Central 9-0
Well, this is an easy one. Muskegon Catholic would be the favorite in Division 4-8. They’ve won 21 straight games and didn’t miss a beat when Christian Martinez stepped in for injured QB Nick Holt the last two games.

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