Playoff Picks: District Finals

  • Predicted winners are italicized.
  • All games are 7 pm Friday unless otherwise noted.
  • Rankings are from the end of the regular season, and for Lake Area teams only.
  • Last week’s record: 36-6.

Division 1

No. 4 Hudsonville 7-3 @ No. 1 Rockford 7-3: Hudsonville had to pull off an instant classic 42-38 comeback win over EK just to get here, the unofficial O-K Red championship game. One would have to expect another great one here, as two weeks ago Rockford held off the Eagles 28-27. Rockford’s Tyler Bradfield has done a commendable job filling in at QB since then, and there are worse fates than increasing the touches of one of the Lake Area’s most talented players.

Division 2

No. 3 Muskegon 8-2 @ No. 1 Mona Shores 10-0 5 pm Saturday: A rematch from a couple weeks ago when Mona Shores won 21-18 to claim the O-K Black title. While known for all their playmaking athletes, it was the grinding running of Dom Shermeta that carried the Sailors in that one.

No. 8 Byron Center 8-2 @ No. 1 Lowell 9-1: Byron Center flexed its O-K muscle in the opening round with a 34-21 win at Portage Central. MAC coaches need to know about the Bulldogs 6-4 junior receiver Brayden Smith. But this just isn’t the kind of game a Noel Dean team loses.

Division 3

No. 7 Petoskey 8-2 @ Mt. Pleasant 8-2 1 pm Saturday: Petoskey’s program has modeled consistency under coach Kerry VanOrman. The Northmen were 18-28 in his first five seaons then 61-21 with seven playoff appearances since 2008. Now they’re trying to knock out Mt. Pleasant from the district final like they did last year. Their defense, strong all year, will face their toughest test as the Oilers have two MAC commitments at the skill positions. CMU’s Hunter Buczkowski is a load running the ball and WMU’s Kalebb Perry can beat you from QB or catching the ball.

No. 5 Zeeland East 7-3 @ No. 2 East Grand Rapids 7-3: The players weren’t around, but this could be looked at as a grudge match from the 2010 playoffs when EGR pulled out a late but controversial win. The Chix have lost only to the very best — Zeeland West, Mona Shores and Muskegon — and showed talent both up front and on the ends in the Chix’ opening round win over Cedar Springs.

Edwardsburg 10-0 @ No. 1 St. Joseph 9-1: So far so good for Edwardsburg after being bumped up to Division 3, but this could be the game where it catches up to them.

Vicksburg 8-2 @ Coldwater 10-0: It’s all coming together for Coldwater, which last week won a playoff game for the first time in school history, which meant a 10-0 record for the first time in school history.

Division 4

Big Rapids 7-3 @ No. 9 Chippewa Hills 8-2: Take this prediction under advisement, we picked neither team to win last week. Big Rapids has won three straight since losing at Chippewa Hills 26-7.

No. 4 Comstock Park 8-2 @ No. 3 Forest Hills Eastern 9-1: Both teams have senior QBs who can make plays but just as importantly really know how to utilize the talent around them. FHE’s Jack Clark and Comstock Park’s Pat Naughton. Clark is a great high school QB with 37 total TDs while Naughton is the position’s best college prospect in the Lake Area. Terrific matchup, this just seems like Eastern’s year.

No. 7 Benton Harbor 6-4 @ No. 1 Zeeland West 10-0: Benton Harbor’s human interest story is nice, but won’t matter between the lines. This one will be over early.

No., 6 Hudsonville Unity Christian 7-3 vs No. 4 Grand Rapids Catholic Central 9-1 @ Grand Rapids Christian: Catholic Central has won nine straight. The defense just gets better and better, having not allowed more than a TD in the past five contests.

Division 5

No. 1 Grand Rapids West Catholic 8-2 @ No. 3 Reed City 10-0: West Catholic’s postseason pedigree more than offsets any homefield advantage or undefeated swagger for Reed City, and they have outlier talent on the line in senior Carl Myers and in junior receiver Sam Neville.

No. 5 Berrien Springs 9-1 @ No. 4 Buchanan 10-0: Berrien Springs has revenge on the mind. When they met in the regular season Buchanan ended the Shamrocks’ shot at an undefeated season by stoning a two-point attempt for a 21-19 win.

Division 6

Calumet 8-2 @ No. 6 Boyne City 9-1 1 pm Saturday: This district final features two all-state candidates at running back. Boyne City senior Malik Smith has rushed for 1,549 yards and 22 TDs while for Calumet senior Robert Erkkila comes in with 1,336 and 21 TDs.

No. 7 Mason County Central 7-3 @ No. 1 Traverse City St. Francis 10-0: Mason County Central beat Lake City last week 42-19 but could be on the short end of a similar deficit here as TCSF won’t give up big plays like Lake City did.

No. 3 Montague 10-0 vs No. 2 NorthPointe Christian 10-0 @ Comstock Park: Montague didn’t need injured senior running back Cameron Brayman and his 1,470 yards and 19 TDs in the opening round against Delton Kellogg but can’t afford that kind of cushion against NorthPointe. A dominant, athletic, senior QB can take a team all the way at this level and both teams have one, Montague’s Jacob Buchberger and NorthPointe Christian’s Spencer Peterson.

No. 8 Constantine 6-4 @ No. 5 Watervliet 9-1: Despite coming into the postseason at 5-4, Constantine showed the championship pedigree of the program taking it up a notch to avenge a regular season loss to previously undefeated Schoolcraft. they also lost big to Watervliet in the regular season, 55-34.

Division 7:

No. 4 McBain 7-3 @ Saginaw Nouvel 9-1: Nouvel has won nine straight games. McBain may not have seen an athlete quite the caliber of Nouvel’s Jason Russell, who in last week’s win over Lincoln Alcona made eight catches for 254 yards and four TDs.

No. 1 Saugatuck 10-0 @ Pewamo-Westphalia 10-0: Blake Dunn’s supporting cast is stronger than some may give credit and could be just enough for another road win against another undefeated opponent. The Indians whupped previously 9-0 Hesperia last week 42-7, but P-Dub is a different kind of undefeated.

No. 5 Cassopolis 8-2 @ No. 3 Bridgman 9-1: This is a rematch of last year’s district final, which Bridgman won 17-14. The Bees’ defense will need to be swarming against AJ Green, Cass’ senior 1,000-yard rusher. Meanwhile, Cassopolis can’t shoot him but must do something to stop the Sherriff. Bridgman senior Julian Sherriff has run for 1,547 yards and 20 TDs.

Division 8:

St. Ignace 9-1 @ No. 2 Johannesburg-Lewiston 9-1: St. Ignace senior Gage Kreski is the best athlete on the field, an advantage that is just exacerbated with that kind of talent on a Division 8 field.

No. 3 Onekama 9-1 @ No. 4 Frankfort 8-2: The traditional power playing at home holds off upstart Onekama.

No. 1 Muskegon Catholic Central 7-2 @ Beal City 9-1: Catholic Central will go for the Mt. Pleasant City Title after knocking off Sacred Heart last week 49-7.

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