MHSAA Football Playoffs - District Championship Round

Jeffrey Cottrell

The MHSAA football playoffs are in full swing. What was 256 teams last week is now down to 128 teams spread across eight divisions. Like I said earlier this week, teams are now playing for trophies. Winning teams will get one for a district, regional, and semifinal title as well as a state runners up trophy. Many of the games across the state will be very good and it was difficult to choose which games to profile. What I tried to do is profile games from the divisions I did not cover last week. My apologies go out to those who emailed Hondo about my article not being up. Life is getting in the way of me taking care of business. I’ll tell Hondo to dock my paycheck! The best part of the playoffs is great games from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron and Lake Superior to the southern border of our Great Lakes State. Let’s take a peek at what will be going down tonight (and tomorrow).

Detroit

Birmingham Brother Rice (6-4) at Farmington Hills Harrison (10-0) (Saturday November 5, 7pm) (Division 2)

The Warriors of Brother Rice have not had the season they are accustomed to. A three game slide from the end of September into mid-October had the Warrior faithful wondering if they would miss the playoffs for the first time since 1998. Coach Al Fracassa got his team off the slide, won his 400th game, and got a win in the pre-district round of this season’s playoffs. The test this week will be huge while also providing a chance to get some revenge against the team that knocked them out last year. In the first round last week, they beat North Farmington 34-8. It started quickly when Devin Church returned the opening kickoff 94 yards to score a touchdown. On the game, Church racked up 172 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries. Brian Walker carried the ball 20 times for 121 yards and scored as well. The running game accounted for 329 of the team’s 361 yards. BBR quarterback Lacanaira completed four of his nine passes for 22 yards. Warner was the leading receiver with one reception for 13 yards. This game has the makings of a classic chess match between two of the top high school coaches this state has ever seen.

Farmington Hills Harrison is probably the best team in the entire state, regardless of division. The Hawks are riding a 24 game winning streak. On top of that, they have tradition on their side. The teams has been in 16 state championship games and won 13 of them. Last week, they beat Birmingham Seaholm 35-0. After the kickoff, quarterback Jake Vento hit future Michigan State receiver Aaron Burbridge for a 64 yard touchdown on the first play of the game. Burbridge finished with four receptions for 116 yards. Vento injured his ankle on the second series and only held for extra points in the second half. He was six of eight for 142 yards in the game. Austin Hunter ran the ball 15 times for 127 yards. Lamarr Marshall, who replaced Vento, completed both of his passes and the second one was to Devin Funchess for a six yard touchdown. Many people are picking FHH to win another title this year. They still have a long way to go, but they are definitely moving toward that goal. A lot will depend on whether Vento can play and if cannot, if his replacement can be effective leading the offense.

Capital Area

Portland (9-1) at Lansing Catholic Central (10-0) (Friday November 4, 7pm) (Division 5)

Portland’s Red Raiders have seen these teams before. In the first game of the season, Portland beat Ovid-Elsie 19-6. Last week, they won 31-8 over Ovid-Elsie. They played very well and beat a good team for the second time in one season. The test this week will be much bigger. Portland has already played Lansing Catholic back on October 1st and lost 42-24. Last week against O-E, they limited the Marauders to 144 total yards. Portland quarterback Al Haik completed seven of his 12 passes for 136 yards and also ran 12 times for 111 yards and a score. Andrew Barr ran 11 times for 86 yards and two scores. Zach Pung also put a touchdown on the board and ran five times for 58 yards. This Portland team is tough and will be a good opponent for Lansing Catholic. The question is, can they play tough pass defense against the Cougars and limit the run?

For Lansing Catholic, what many people perceived to be game that they would just roll last year’s state runner up in Olivet turned out to be a very competitive game with a ton of scoring. In what was a surprise, Olivet came out throwing the ball all over the place with hot handed quarterback Grant Zaremba. Before the first quarter was over, Olivet held a 14-0 lead. Matt Macksood of Lansing Catholic ran in a 25 yard score before the quarter was over to get back into the game. By the end of the half, the two teams had racked up tons of yards and a score of 24-21 in favor of Olivet. When it was all said and done, Lansing Catholic had come away with a good win by playing sound defense (including Macksood, who had not played defense all year, but broke up two passes and intercepted a football). Quarterback Cooper Rush completed 16 of his 26 passes for 291 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. On his 12 rushing attempts, he gained 62 yards and scored three times. Mack Macksood ran 10 times for 151 yards and four touchdowns while catching eight footballs for 112 yards. Jack Swain was the leading receiver with five catches for 139 yards and a score. On defense, Swain made eight tackles and intercepted two footballs. Jon Tran led the team with 13 tackles and a sack.

West Coast

Muskegon Catholic Central (9-1) at Mendon (10-0) (Saturday November 5, 1pm) (Division 8)

This game, at least from many fans prospective, is the D8 state championship game. In an unfortunate circumstance, the two teams are meeting very early in the playoffs. These teams have very strong traditions and seven state championships between them since 2000. Last week, MCC dispatched last year’s Division 8 state runner up in Saugatuck 28-0. Things were not going well from the very beginning. Saugatuck was without their starting quarterback. By the time half of the first quarter ticked away, MCC was up 14-0. For the game, 233 of the Crusaders 240 yards were accumulate on the ground. A fumble on the opening kickoff was recovered on the nine yard line by Alex Allore. Two plays later, MCC was in the end zone on a Jessie Anderson five yard run. He finished the game with 129 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Quarterback Zach Campbell completed only one of his five pass attempts for seven yards. He also ran the ball seven times for 30 yards and a score. Jacob Budde ran eight times for 27 yards and a score. Kevin Wickstrom led the MCC defense with 10 tackles. Budde added eight stops. This is what the playoffs are all about; two tough teams with great tradition battling for a chance to play another week. The winner of this game should have a great shot to play at Ford Field on Thanksgiving weekend.

The Hornets of Mendon are no slouches. Mendon has won 10 plus games in each of their past four seasons and six of their past seven. The team is led by junior halfback Tyler Harris who has 24 touchdowns and 1,092 yards so far this season. Quarterback Chance Nightingale is a dual threat quarterback who can beat you either way. Last week, Nightingale completed three of his seven pass attempts for 79 yards. He also ran seven times for 77 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns. Harris ran 11 times for 125 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught one pass for nine yards. Cody Bingaman was the leading receiver with one reception for 40 yards. Rodney Arnott made 11 tackles for the defense. Coach John Schwartz has his team playing very good football. Even though they are a Division 8 team, the Hornets scheduled some tough games. This season they played defending Division 8 champion Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart and Whittemore-Prescott as well as other tough games. These two teams will be ready to battle. I have no idea who will come out on top, but it should be a great game for the fans.

Mid-Michigan

Ithaca (10-0) at Montrose (10-0) (Friday November 4, 7pm) (Division 6)

These are two of the more exciting teams around the state in Division 6. Ithaca is the defending state champion. Many people felt they would fall off a bit when quarterback Alex Niznak moved on to Central Michigan University. Not so much! They have beaten up on most teams they’ve played this season, with the closest game being a 27-6 win over St. Charles in week two. Three games have been shutouts and five more squads have been held to 10 points or less. Both sides of the ball have been humming along, trying to prove that Ithaca is a program and not a one year wonder. They ride a 24 game winning streak into the game. Last week, they beat Byron 56-6. It didn’t take long; Ithaca scored within the first four minutes and by the end of the first quarter, they led 21-0. At halftime, it was 42-6. Quarterback Travis Smith completed 16 of his 21 passes for 145 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Running back Garrett Miniard ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. David Brown caught five passes for 51 yards and a score. Charles Schnetzler caught a four yard touchdown pass. This team is very tough. As the scores indicate, they get on the board early and often. Montrose will need their defense to step up and stop Ithaca’s spread offense.

Montrose is another very tough team. Their defense has shut out six opponents, including the last two. They have only allowed 69 points so far this season. What makes it all so more impressive is that six games were against playoff teams. In the opening round of the playoffs last week, the Rams beat up St. Charles 39-0. Quarterback Nick Huckabay completed three of his seven passes for 57 yards and a touchdown. Austin Prevo caught that one touchdown, his only reception in the game, from 28 yards out. He also ran eight times for 30 yards. Huckabay ran nine times for 78 yards. The workhorse was Caleb Reinhart. He had a career game; running 24 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns. Dakota Persails also added a touchdown while only carrying the ball three times but gaining 55 yards. Reinhard made nine tackles in the game, Huckabay added a team high 11, and Tyler Doyle chipped in nine as well. It was Ithaca that knocked out Montrose last season in the same round of the playoffs. The team that wins this game should have a good chance to play at Ford Field, but they will have to contend with the winner of Montague and Muskegon Oakridge next week.

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