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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Northern Michigan Game of the Week: With undefeated records on the line, Grayling and Boyne City play for LMC title
Grayling @ Boyne City
On Friday night, two of Northern Michigan’s best teams will put their undefeated records on the line in a winner-take-all game. The game will be a battle of two high-powered offenses as Grayling and Boyne City face off for the Lake Michigan Conference title. For Grayling, everything starts with Jake Swander, the junior quarterback who is on pace to pass for 3,000 yards this season. Swander is another college prospect hidden in the woods of Northern Michigan, but boasts a good arm and strong pocket presence. Senior running back Ty Jensen will look to keep the Boyne City defense honest as he strives for another big game on the ground. The offensive line will be anchored by junior Lucas Walesky, a 6-4, 250 mauler. On defense, watch for 6-3, 190 senior middle linebacker Wes Dean, who has been the Vikings’ top tackler.
The Boyne City attack will be led by sophomore quarterback Corey Redman, a CMU basketball commit. Redman has a strong arm, good speed, and leadership that sparks the Ramblers. In the backfield, freshman Malik Smith gives the Ramblers a potent running game. Smith is a power back who runs with a vengeance despite his age. He also has deceptive speed that has accounted for many big runs this year. The Ramblers have been able to outscore teams and will look to do the same on Friday night.
Only one team will walk away with the title and preserve their undefeated record, but we’re expecting a whale of a game. This game will be the biggest thing to hit the southern shores of Lake Charlevoix in a long time.
Traverse City St. Francis @ Maple City Glen Lake
Going for an unbeaten regular season with just two games left, 7-0 Maple City Glen Lake hasn’t played in a game like this since 2001. 4-3 Traverse City St. Francis is trying to maintain a streak of playoff appearances that dates back to the 1980s. Despite their proximity, these schools haven’t played since that 2001 season, when Glen Lake beat St. Francis in the regular season then again in the playoffs, which the Gladiators sneaked into with a 5-4 mark.
St. Francis could conceivably take the five-win rout again, but why leave it up to computers when you can take care of it between the lines? That’s what the Glads did last week, with what they hope was a season-changing 13-6 win over favored Saginaw Nouvel (whose only other L is to loaded Flint Powers). Prior to beating Nouvel, TCSF endured losses to schools they don’t usually lose to, Kingsley, Grayling and Boyne City. St. Francis’ main problem on the field is a lack of team speed. But this is still a team that will hit you hard with a strong front seven, led by junior Big Ten recruits Byron Bullough and Jake Khoury, and two other tough juniosr up front in Jake Brodeur and Eric Coggon. Their power running game is built perfectly for winning on the Leelanau Peninsula in mid October.
The Lakers clinched the Northwest Conference title last week with a 15-12 defeat of Frankfort. Prior to that, they’d blown out teams. Now in coach Jerry Angers third season, Glen Lake has been building towards this since getting a five-win bid in 2010. It’s been an even longer path for five fourth-year seniors: Curtis Bunek, Mike O’Brien, Matt Omerza, Dale Pleva and Tyler Stachnik. O’Brien, a 6-3, 210 linbebacker and tight end, and Omerza, a 6-2, 290 lineman, have the strength to bang heads with the Gladiators. Stachnik is a playmaker in the defensive backfield.
When they have the ball, like St. Francis, Glen Lake will look to run, with junior QB Carter Lee, senior Anthony Czapek and junior Trevor Apsey the primary threats. Apsey, a 5-11, 185 junior, could be the game-changer here, as he’s a special teams threat and faster than anyone St. Francis has.
Plainwell @ Paw PawBoth teams are unbeaten in the Wolverine East. This has the makings of an entertaining, physical game, with college-sized bangers, and offensive playmakers. Paw Paw’s Jack Jennings is as big and talented as any linebacker in the Lake Michigan area, and is also his team’s second leading receiver. Also looking the part for sure is Plainwell’s TE/LB Tyler White is thus far the Lake’s only Big Ten recruit for the 2013 class.
Plainwell is dangerous on the ground with numerous threats — senior QB Grant Pell, junior tailback Ryan Britton and senior fullback Anthony Davis. Britton has run for 728 yards and six TDs, Pell 617 and six. Plainwell’s defensive strength is its linebacking core, with senior Jason McCauslin the leading tackler and great size on the outside with White and Chance Terry.
While Pell is a running QB, Paw Paw’s Justin McCauley is a legit dual threat. He’s thrown for 1,062 yards and nine TDs, and run for 659 and 10.
Detroit U-D Jesuit @ Traverse City Central
It’s no secret that down-state fans don’t take Big North football seriously. The two Traverse City programs particularly, when going up against similarly sized schools in the playoffs, haven’t done the post-season damage that has allowed their counterparts in West Michigan to achieve state-wide reps.
Here’s Traverse City Central. The Trojans are 5-1, and would already be in the playoffs if not for a season-opening loss to … Grand Haven, the only down-state team they’ve played. In their last 10 games against teams from the Detroit or Grand Rapids area, they’re 1-10, including last year’s 45-29 loss to Detroit U-of-D Jesuit (a team that ended up 0-4 in the Catholic League Central Division).
In Saturday’s 2 p.m. homecoming game, TC Central plays host to the Cubs in a rematch. U-D is 2-4, with three of the losses coming to the triumvirate of Catholic League Football: Birmingham Brother Rice, Novi Catholic Central and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. The Jesuits were excited going into the season. Now it looks likely that their streak of losing seasons into a second decade. The Scott Merchant era seems but a dream long past. A win puts TC Central in the playoffs, a loss would not only delay that berth, but further serve message board banter that BNC teams aren’t quite ready for prime time.
More optimistically, this is a new Traverse City Central team, one that can win against teams from Class A power leagues, and be competitive in a loaded Division 2 playoff field. Even in their loss at Grand Haven, TC Central looked like the stronger team for the majority of the game.
U-D Jesuit’s run defense has proven susceptible, which is good news for the Trojans. TJ Schepperly is one of the most dangerous running QBs in the Lake Michigan area, and is joined in the backfield by another senior TJ with speed, TJ Schwannecke. It will be interesting to see what happens if senior fullback/linebacker Nate Pupel is back from his thigh bruise. In his place on offense last week, sophomore Ethan Campbell was a revelation, scoring four TDs in the win against Traverse City West.
With less than seven miles separating them, the matchup between Traverse City West and Traverse City Central is a marquee game for both schools each year. But this year’s crosstown rivalry game looks to be epic. With both schools entering this weekend’s game with undefeated conference records (and their best starts in years), an estimated 10,000 fans are expected at Thirlby Field this Friday night.
For TC Central, success starts up front with their two big tackles, Tyler Gildersleeve and Mitch Brien. At 6-7, 280, Gildersleeve is one of the top tackles in Northern Michigan. He will be paving the way for the two TJ’s – speedster T.J. Schwannecke and dynamic dual-threat quarterback T.J. Schepperly. Schepperly is the key to Central’s offense with his ability to make great plays with his legs and through the air. His number one intangible is leadership, which has served the Trojans well.
The Trojans have a very stingy defense with a strong front seven. They feed off of the experience and leadership of tackles Jordan Lutze and David Chauvette, along with linebackers Nick Bonaccini and Nate Pupel. The sleeper of the group is junior defensive end Mitchell Wynkoop. At 6-3, 220, he’s been able to get to the quarterback all season. He doesn’t have a household name yet, but opposing quarterbacks are quite familiar with him.
The Titans will counter Central’s stout D with great speed on offense. West has a stable of good backs led by Geordan Carter and Griffin Forrester. They will also benefit from the return of freshman fullback Grant Ellison, who missed last week due to injury. But the bigger story on offense this season has been the emergence of senior quarterback Donny Cizek. Cizek is a quick and shifty quarterback who is completing nearly 70% of his passes. His top target is Tyler Johnson, a smooth-running wide receiver with good hands. Paving the way up front is junior Connor Hayes, a future Division I guard.
On Defense for the TC West Titans, everything starts with middle linebacker Derrick Diver. Diver is the catalyst with his sideline-to-sideline playmaking ability. The Titans defense, as a whole, may be a bit overshadowed by the high-powered offense, but this group is talented. Coming off a strong defensive game over Cadillac last week, keep your eyes on Storm Eagle, Matt Lowe, and Dustin Tucker to make their presence felt against the Trojans.
With so much talent on each sideline, it’s sure to be a great game. Beyond the game, however, is a deeper significance that seeks to unite a community rather than divide. This game marks the first-annual T.C. Patriot Game, which will honor military heroes from Northern Michigan who have lost their lives while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. With all of the emotion, honor, and pride, Friday’s rivalry game is sure to be one for the ages.
Mona Shores @ MuskegonThese are two of the top three teams in the O-K Black, along with Zeeland East. For the host school, a 5-0 mark and No. 1 state ranking is a return to historical form of the 21st century’s first decade. For Mona Shores a brave new world, the Sailors’ 4-1 start their best since their O-K Red days in 1989. Hackley Stadiuim, however, is not unknown territory to Mona Shores coach Matt Koziak. He was the head man on the Big Reds’ sideline in 2009, when they went 7-4, and was an assistant on state championship teams in 2006 and 2008.
At the skill positions it’s a wash. If GR South Christian’s Jon Wassink isn’t the Lake Michigan area’s top 2015 quarterback prospect, then it’s 6-1, 170 soph Tyree Jackson. As good as he has been as Jackson’s favorite target, 6-1, 175 junior Asantay Brown has been incredible on defense with two three-interception games, against Grand Haven and Grand Rapids Union. An intriguing possible matchup could come with Brown at receiver against Muskegon junior DB 5-11, 175 DaSean Thrower. They were teammates last season at Muskegon Heights. Jackson has another talented junior receiver to work with, 6-1, 160 Marquon Sargent. Mona Shores will have no choice but to pass. Led up front by 6-4, 255 senior Ronald Jenkins and 6-4, 265 junior Kenneth Finley, and 5-11, 215 junior linebacker Will Hunt, Muskegon has wiped out the typically potent running games of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, Rockford and Lowell. It will be the toughest test yet for Mona’s battle-tested senior line of tackles 6-2, 265 Brandon Gue and 6-1, 230 Jake Bordeaux, guards 6-0, 230 Alek Jend and 5-9, 225 Brandon Stafford, and center 5-9, 225 Collin Sullivan.
For its part, Muskegon’s offensive line may be the state’s strongest, and make the Big Reds’ ground game so formidable. 6-3, 275 senior tackle Antwan Billings and 6-3, 280 senior Quincy Crosby lead a unit that includes 6-4, 275 senior Chandar Ricks, 6-4, 265 junior Malik King and 5-10, 252 senior guard Noah Tozer. Behind them, senior Jalen Smith does the ball-handling at quarterback in Muskegon’s veer triple option, and senior backs Marcus Smith and John Hall are both capable of big games on the ground.
Muskegon is just too big, strong and talented where it matters most, and will win the game on the line, barring some miracle play-making by Jackson.
Caledonia @ Grand Rapids Christian
This is the kickoff week for intra-league play in the O-K White, which looks like the strongest conference in the Lake Michigan area. Caledonia, 4-0, is the only unbeaten team in the mix. How long will that last? Against winning teams, Caledonia slipped past resurgent Mona Shores 22-19 (or just “surgent”, as Mona’s rarely been very good) then beat “undefeated” Grandville last week 14-7. So, while the Scots’ defense is allowing under 10 points a game, those stats are built with wins over helpless Holland and Middleville.
Conversely, there’s been on fat on GR Christian’s table. After the Eagles’ 42-34 loss at nationally-ranked Cincinnati Moeller, they’ve gone on a rampage, destroying Kenowa Hills 43-0 and Hudsonville 59-13.
Senior QB Alex VanDeVusse oversees Grand Rapids Christian’s potent offense. He has completed 61-of-94 passes for 11 TDS to four different players while running for 245 yards and three TDs. He has a couple of outstanding lineman in front of him, 6-1, 270 senior Alex Korhorn at guard, 6-5, 240 junior Tommy Doles at tackle, and at tight end Zach Crouch, a CMU recruit. VanDeVusse’s favorite target, not surprisingly, is junior All-American receiver Drake Harris. The Michigan State commitment has made 22 catches for 453 yards and 5 TDs. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have some young play-makers, but it all starts with senior linebacker Matthew Hall who leads the team with 30 tackles and is one of three GR Christian defenders who have already scored a TD.
Caledonia’s defense has proven adept at turning over their opponents, and that might be their best chance to keep it close against GR Christian. Five players had picks thus far, including two by senior Justin Krueger, who is also Caledonia’s top receiver. 6-3, 180 senior QB Ryan Zoet has been a tough run/pass dual threat.
Cadillac @ Traverse City West
With Petoskey’s fall from grace, the Big North Conference looks like it’s down to a three-team race amongst Cadillac, TC Central and TC West. Two of those meet Friday when Cadillac, 4-0, 2-0, heads to Traverse City West, 3-1, 2-0. Neither team has been challenged in the Big North, with Cadillac rolling over Petoskey and Gaylord, and West beating up on Gaylord and Alpena. West has also proven itself against solid West Michigan competition, losing a close one at Kenowa Hills, then winning a close one over Grand Haven.
The Vikings and Titans are similar in that they play defense and take care of the ball. West, in particular, has benefited from its takeaway margin. The strength of Cadillac’s defense is up front, led by behemoth seniors Riley Norman and Jack Ford, with junior linebacker Trevor Oliver cleaning up behind them. They’ll get to bang against another D1 lineman, West junior guard Connor Hayes. Gaylord was limited to under 100 yards total offense last week. West’s D is led by Derek Diver, a senior born to play middle linebacker at 6-3, 218, while junior Jordan Stevenson is solid at OLB and 6-4, 218 defensive end James Peck can be a playmaker when he gets into the backfield. Alpena was held to 110 yards total offense last week.
This game will also feature the Big North’s top QBs.West senior Donny Cizek was injured last season but is making up for lost time. He’s 37-53 throwing for 522 yards and seven TDs, and has run for two more scores. He has a number of weapons at his disposal, most prominently junior Grant Balino, a run/catch threat out of the backfield. While Cizek is a solid quarterback who can control a game, his Cadillac counterpart, junior Jalen Brooks, is a dynamic talent who can take over a game, the perfect complement to the Vikings’ big senior line. He wasn’t the only running threat against Gaylord, as Tanner Derror rushed for 114 yards.
Lowell @ Muskegon
Hard to beat a rivalry game between two state powers. Muskegon is Lake Michigan’s No. 1 team in Division 2, Lowell No. 2. Lowell’s had the upper hand recently, winning the last three meetings and doing it when it matters most — the postseason — including last year 36-7. The Big Reds wouldn’t let Rockford get anything going on the ground last week. Lowell’s defensive front has been just as good, and will be tested by a Muskegon offense averaging 400 yards on the ground. Unlike Rockford, Lowell has a healthy quarterback. Who has had a better run of QB’s than the Red Arrows? Mark Catlin begets Keith Nichol, then Gabe Dean, and now Titan Anderson assumes the mantle. The senior hasn’t disappointed. He’s run for 420 yards and 5 TDs and thrown for 160 and two more scores.
Forest Hills Central @ Zeeland East
Take the “over” in this matchup of undefeated teams. Zeeland East, No. 1 in Division 3, is scoring 41 points per game; Forest Hills Central, No. 3 in Division 2, 52. East spreads it out and lets senior QB Michael Custer work his options, but the heart of it is still the running game provided by speedy senior Josh Blauwkamp and big junior Spencer Viening. The Rangers have a couple playmakers to match them on defense in senior linebackers Nic Lamica and Collin Schlosser. Tim Rogers, Kalamazoo College’s former coach, has really opened things up in his first season as Central’s head coach. Justin Chopp is loving it. The left-handed senior QB has completed 44-of-63 attempts for 832 yards and 11 TDs.
Portage Central @ Stevensville-Lakeshore
Lakeshore is looking to complete the Portage Sweep — they beat Northern last week 21-14, but it took two overtimes. Both teams are 3-0, with Portage Central No. 5 in Division 2 and the Lancers No. 3 in Division 3. If Central is going to slow down Lakeshore, they have to do something about the senior QB-WR combo of Johnny Nate and Harold Wiggins. Conversely, if Lakeshore is able to keep Central’s tiny but mighty senior running back DeJuan James out of the end zone, it would be a first. He’s found the end zone ever game this season, including four scores last week against Kalamazoo Central.