Week Thirteen - Semifinals - Now Or Never

Publish date:

It’s almost here! We have made it to the state semifinals. With only four teams remaining in each division, the competition level is very high. Not only are all the teams good, but they’re beat up and tired. They’ve been going since August 11 and those past three months have been fun, but can really wear on the body. Does anyone besides me think it’s interesting that eight of the 32 teams left are private religious schools? I’m sure we’ve all debated about the recruiting of private schools and the trouble coaches from public schools get in if caught recruiting. If you want to discuss this topic, head over to the Phalanx and we can debate this topic.

Ok, ok, let’s get on with the show!

Division 1

Rockford vs. Livonia Stevenson (Saturday November 22, 10:30am at Spartan Stadium)

Rockford has to be the favorite to win the Division 1 crown this year. Their only loss on the season was against a very good Muskegon team for the Ottawa-Kent Red Division Championship. We all know that in order to win a championship, you need a great offensive and defensive line. Rockford’s O-line knocks people off the ball and imposes their will which leaves their running backs plenty of room to find the holes and accelerate through them. Last week they were able to shut down Hartland’s spread offense and run the ball well. Jordan Morren had 111 yards on 15 carries, including a 45 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Morren also caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Tim McGee. Special teams play for Rockford is important. They were able to get a field goal from Paul Mudgett in the middle of the second quarter. Rockford will need to clean up their turnover problem as they gave up the ball four times last week, including three fumbles. This team is the favorite and has to like their chances against all the remaining teams.

One Stevenson team (Sterling Heights Stevenson) is out and another stays in. Livonia Stevenson beat Canton 38-31 and made it to the semifinals. They can thank Austin White for helping get the win. They were trailing when he returned the kickoff 64 yards to set up quarterback Jacob Gudeman’s touchdown pass to Wade Stahl. Then White stripped the ball from Canton’s quarterback and his teammate Zeb Bacigal returned it 35 yards for the tying touchdown. Later, he caught a 37 yard pass to set up a first and goal. On the next play, he scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Spartans the lead with 1:41 left. Canton drove to the LS 1, but could not score and the Spartans won the game. While Austin White led his team to a win, they need to have a complete team effort in addition to White’s heroics if they want to beat Rockford. The defense will need to stop the potent running attack that Rockford employs and get some big plays on special teams.

Lake Orion vs. Dearborn Fordson (Saturday November 22, 1pm at Troy Athens High School)

Lake Orion knows adversity. They faced it last week. Down by one with nine seconds remaining, freshman Sean Charette passed 23 yards to Charles Fleck and the clock stopped with 2.5 seconds left. Kicker Jeff Heath nailed a 49 yard field goal (12 yards longer than his previous best) to give Lake Orion a 38-36 victory over Sterling Heights Stevenson. They were ahead of Stevenson, but allowed 29 unanswered points before they hit the field goal. Brandon Oaks scored twice, including a 33 yard scamper for the senior running back. Ben Kanda blocked a punt that Mikael Lott returned seven yards for a special teams score. The adversity they faced will help put their heads right for their upcoming game with Fordson. Now they need to play with no slowing down and not lose large leads.

Fordson played well this past week. We talked about that in Sunday’s column. For those who forgot, Hassan Amen intercepted two passes that led to scores and rushed for 89 yards on 14 carries. Ali Alaboody ran for 72 yards on 21 carries. Their defense played well in the second half. Now they will have to contend with Lake Orion. If they can get their defense to put pressure on young quarterback Sean Charette, they might be able to force mistakes and capitalize on those. Turnovers helped them beat Southeastern last week as they came up with four interceptions and a fumble in the second half alone. On top of that, they stuffed Southeastern for 3 yards until a 66 yard drive late in the first half. Now that Amen is back from injuries, he is a force on both sides of the ball. They will need him to play at the top of his ability (he’s still a bit nicked up) if they want to win.

Division 2

Davison vs. Muskegon (Saturday November 22, 1pm at Spartan Stadium)


After dispensing of a tough Midland team, Davison has an even tougher job in Muskegon. The Cardinals didn’t pass a whole lot; Jake Thompson completed four of his seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. They depended more on the running game. Thompson ran a season high 26 times for 98 yards and a score. The quarterback had more attempts than his running back, Oliver Saylor. Saylor had 135 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts. William Nicolai hit a 25 yard field goal that helped seal the game late in the fourth quarter. Thompson and Sayler will need to lead the offense to one of the best outputs of the season this week. Muskegon can shut people down and rush past them for a ton of yards. Look at what Lowell did to Davison in the second game of the season and what the Big Reds did to them this past week. Granted, it was the second game of the season, but this game will be against the best competition they have played this year.

The Big Reds are a tough, tough team. Elan Banks can run their veer option offense to perfection and Jason Hannett knows what to do when he gets the pitch. The veer is nearly impossible to defend when it’s run to perfection. Even when the defense puts two defenders out to stop it, typically the defensive end and an outside linebacker or corner, a play action fake can catch a defense that is being aggressive. Coach Tony Annese must be glad he stayed this year with his team performing at a very high level. He knows how to coach a game and will use his play calling with the run to set up the pass. Even in the games this season when he did depend more on the pass, Banks played at a very high level and was able to pass with great efficiency…for the most part. If the Muskegon Big Reds can stick to their game plan and force Davison to alter theirs, the Big Red Machine will be playing for that Michigan shaped trophy.

Warren DeLaSalle vs. Southfield (Saturday November 22, 1pm at Berkley High School)

The Pilots of DeLaSalle are on a roll. They haven’t lost a game this season. In their win over White Lake Lakeland, the defense came up big, shutting down their quarterback and holding them to just over 200 yards. They also intercepted him three times, one of which was returned for a touchdown. De’Angelo Parris had 111 yards on 12 carries and scored twice. Their other running back, Chet Privet had 75 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns of his own. Coach Paul Verska figured that he could break some big plays against WLL’s aggressive defense. Verska will need to put together another good game plan if they are going to win.

For the Blue Jays, sophomore running back Daevon Robinson played well and scored all the touchdowns. His overall rushing stats were pretty nice, 112 yards on 12 carries for a 9.3 average. The win gave Southfield their first regional championship and puts them into the semifinal against DeLaSalle. It wasn’t all sunshine and cookies for Southfield; they had a few turnovers which gave Wyandotte a chance to win the game. The defense came through in the end and forced a four and out, giving the ball back to the offense who ran out the clock. Tim Keith played alright and helped set up a touchdown after a 25 yard pass from Eddie Beal. They all need to play tough and catch a few breaks if they want to shoot down the Pilots.

Division 3

East Grand Rapids vs. Stevensville Lakeshore (Saturday November 22, 1pm at Otsego High School)

This is going to be a battle. East Grand Rapids has run past everyone in the playoffs. Their closest game was a 15 point win over Grand Rapids Christian in the pre-district round. They dismantled the Oilers by 42 points the following week. Most of their rushing attack comes from Joe Glendening. This week he ran 15 times for 164 yards and three touchdowns. The defense played great, intercepting two passes and returning them for touchdowns. First was a Josh Drummond’s 39 yard return and then an 80 yard pick-six by AJ McEwen. By putting a lot of guys in the box, EGR was able to take away John Glenn’s running game between the tackles. When the Pioneer offense gets going, they put up a lot of points. They have had running clocks in many second halves. It’s no wonder that Peter Stuursma’s team has won two consecutive Division 3 Championships and are poised to take home another.

Stevensville Lakeshore is no slouch. They have to be good to get past St. Joseph and make it into the state semifinals. This is partly due to their front lines. Both can play tough and get things going. The offensive line opens holes and holds off rushers for Zak Wasserman. He completed 11 of his 24 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. The second TD pass came with about 4:30 left in the game. Aaron Sanders caught that pass for his first catch in high school. Coco Johnson didn’t have the huge game he’s had in the past, but he did his part; catching a touchdown pass and running for 59 yards on 16 carries. Kai Peng hit a 24 yard field goal in a strong wind to contribute to the Lancer victory. The defense played a decent game and middle linebacker Trace Schewe tallied 16 tackles. It will be imperative for the Lancers to stop Joe Glendening. If they allow him to get going, then they can throw out their dreams of playing at Ford Field. The lines need to allow Coco Johnson to run the ball and not put as much pressure on Wasserman to make plays with his arm.

Inkster vs. Bloomfield Hills Lahser (Saturday November 22, 1pm at Birmingham Seaholm High School)

After a wonderful season turned into a nightmare last season, Inkster has fought back. They lost to Saginaw Nouvel in the Division 6 championship in 2006, had an even better team last year that didn’t make the playoffs, and now are back to where they believe they should be. Last week they were able to control the clock when they didn’t score and keep the Chelsea offense off the field. Their defense let Chelsea get in scoring position to win the game late in the fourth quarter, but Donovan Lindsay hit the receiver hard and knocked the ball out for an incomplete pass. Before this game, they had outscored the opponents 102-0. They have many weapons that can make plays; senior running back Alan Freeman, quarterback Devin Gardner, and receiver Cameron Gordon can all do it. If these guys can make some plays, they will be in a great position to win. Inkster needs to stick to a standard game plan; run the ball and pass when they want to. If they can run the ball without having Bloomfield Hills Lahser dictate what they do offensively, they can put up a ton of points. The defense needs to stop the Knights and not allow guys like Tevin Gibson run wild over their defense.

The Lahser Knights are on a roll. After losing to Farmington Hills Harrison in the season opener, they have won 11 straight. In their game against Warren Fitzgerald this past week, they turned the ball over way too much. Three straight possessions in the first half ended with turnovers. That led to Warren’s 17-7 lead at halftime. Bloomfield Hills Lahser coach Dan Loria knew that they needed to come out in the second half swinging. They were able to score on the second play of the second half when Tevin Gibson ran for a 62 yard touchdown. Gibson had 151 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns for the game. Quarterback Drew Jackson had a big play also, passing to Zach Dauch for an 82 yard touchdown to take the lead in the third quarter. The defense needed to come up big in the fourth quarter when BHL fumbled and Warren recovered at the Lahser 40. Tiaan de Nysschen sacked Larry Masters to move them out of scoring position. The Knights had to defend one more time, this time it was a desperate team. Dauch came up with another big play, intercepting the pass with less than two minutes remaining. The defense will need to play tough again this week against an Inkster team that can put points on the board. If they fumbled like last week, they will have no chance.

Division 4

Grand Rapids Catholic Central vs. Holland Christian (Saturday November 22, 1pm at East Kentwood High School)

When talking about Grand Rapids Catholic Central, you must begin the conversation with quarterback Nick Ens. Last week, he set the single season touchdown record with his five touchdown performance, putting him at 39 for the season. He went 15 of 27 for 372 yards in the game. On the season, he is 184 of 301 for 2,850 yards. That performance was needed, though. Kingston took them to two overtime periods before the Cougars were able to put them away, thanks to a Dan Vicari interception. Michael Penny caught seven passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. On defense, they were able to take the ball away five times; three fumbles and two interceptions, one of which ended the game. The Cougars were able to capitalize on the mistakes of Kingsford and win the game. They will need to follow up with a performance equal to or better than last week if they are to beat Holland Christian.

The Maroons of Holland Christian are perfect this season. They have won all 12 of their games and put up a ton of points. At the beginning of October, they put up 84 points on Wyoming Rogers. That is pretty impressive for a football program only six years old. Holland Christian won the O-K Green and after a pre-district scare from Hudsonville Unity Christian, they have beaten up everyone that crossed their path. Quarterback AJ Westerdorp is a stud…or so says the opposing South Haven coach last week. The 6’2” 210 pound QB completed 16 of his 19 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns through the air. In addition, he ran the ball 17 times for 124 yards and four more touchdowns. He maneuvers their no huddle spread offense to perfection and is very strong. If they can put up points like they are capable of, they will have a great chance to be playing at Ford Field. That, and shut down the tough combination of Nick Ens passing to Michael Penny.

Detroit Country Day vs. Croswell-Lexington (Saturday November 22, 1pm at Macomb Dakota High School)

Country Day is one game away from being in state title contention for the second year in a row. With their 21-0 win over Marshall, they have earned the right to play Croswell-Lexington. In the last game, O’Neil Swanson ran for 132 yards on 37 carries while scoring all the touchdowns. Their defense was able to shut down Marshall with a little help from the soggy and cold conditions. MSU commit Bennie Fowler bruised his tailbone on his first carry and did not return. If the Yellow Jackets can replicate their great defensive day, it will go a long way towards winning the game. Offensively, they will need Fowler to return in addition to Swanson to give them a one-two punch from the running back spot.

Croswell-Lexington had to rely on their defense to get the win. Quarterback Cameron Barrett ran the ball 27 times for 115 yards and two scores. When he passed, Barrett completed 16 of his 31 passes for 160 yards. He was also the kicker. Towards the end of the game, his missed a 25 yard field goal. Two possessions later, he was called upon again to kick a 31 yarder, which was good and gave them a one point lead. It was set up by a fumble recovery that George Ludington pulled in. Up by one point with 36 second to go, Clintondale drove 66 yards to Croswell’s 25 by using the sidelines and good clock management. Andrew Bringard was able to intercept the ball in the end zone on the final play of the game to preserve the victory. They will need to play better defense and hope that some breaks come their way. If they can keep Barrett clean, he will make plans with his legs and arms. Country Day will be looking for blood as they hope to return to the state championship game.