MHSAA Football Playoffs - Regional Championship Week

Jeffrey Cottrell

Can you believe we are sitting at the doorstep of the state semifinals? Winners this week will get to play yet another week and move one step closer to their ultimate goal; a game at Ford Field for a chance to raise that Michigan shaped trophy and become local legends. These games mean so much to the schools and the communities they reside in. While some towns come to expect great things from the high school gridders, other towns are ecstatic that their teams have won a playoff game or two. All of this is gone in a blink of an eye; boys only get four years to play football at the high school level and typically only two years at the varsity level. They work extremely hard all year to get stronger, faster, and become not only better football players, but better people. Go check out a game. Sure, it’s not as fast with as big of guys as our Spartans have, but they are great games nonetheless. Now let’s take a look at selected regional championship games across the state.

Capital Area

East Lansing (9-2) at Mount Pleasant (11-0) (Saturday November 12, 1pm) (Division 3)

Although this game technically goes against my rules of how I pick the games, I didn’t want to leave it out. East Lansing plays in a good Capital Area Activities Conference, the Blue division. When they finished the season 7-2, I didn’t know what to think of them. Now, they have beaten a tough St. Johns team and a good DeWitt squad. This week, they will play Saginaw Valley League powerhouse Mount Pleasant. These teams haven’t met since late September of the 1966 season when the Trojans got smoked 34-7 by Mount Pleasant. Last week East Lansing’s beat DeWitt by the score of 23-14. It wasn’t an easy win though; DeWitt took an early 14-0 lead in the game. That was it for DeWitt though, East Lansing scored on their next five possessions which included Chris Hagan’s three field goals and two extra points. The score at the break was 14-10 in favor of DeWitt. East Lansing owned the second half and took home the win. Elijah Hamilton-Wray ran the ball 17 times for 37 yards, but scored both of his team’s touchdowns. He also caught two balls for 36 yards. Quarterback Alex Carlson completed 14 of his 21 passes for 193 yards and ran once for a one yard gain. Efe Scott-Emuakpor caught 10 of those passes for 113 yards. This should be an epic game between two great teams from the middle of the state.

Mount Pleasant did not start the game as they would have liked. The defense was not able to stop Petoskey on third downs and the offense did not score in the first quarter. They were down two touchdowns at multiple points but rallied for the win. An onside kick after the score was tied and making of key plays helped the Oilers take home the district title. Quarterback Ryan Elliott completed 13 of his 25 passes for 161 yards and a score while also scoring a one yard touchdown run. Dustin Lee caught seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Colton Odykirk caught for balls for 61 yards. The main running back leading the charge was Michael Tweh who carried 26 times for 132 yards and two scores. Dustin Lee also ran the ball, gaining 52 yards on five carries and scoring twice as well. Jordan Wilson led the defensive effort with nine tackles and an interception. Jason McIntyre has a nice football program. They have not lost a league game since August 29th, 2008. Three straight 11+ win seasons is the best stretch in their history. The Oilers have been tripped up in the playoffs by East Grand Rapids multiple times in recent years and have only made the semifinals once. The Oilers have played in a regional final four of the past five seasons. It should be a fun game to watch. The winner of this game will play the winner of the game listed below.

West Coast

East Grand Rapids (8-3) at Holland (9-2) (Saturday November 12, 1pm) (Division 3)

For those of us who follow high school football in Michigan, you have indeed heard of East Grand Rapids. They have won five straight Division 3 state titles and seven of the past nine titles. That stretch of five straight has only been done one other time, by Farmington Hills Harrison from 1997 to 2001. The Pioneers have been the team to beat over the past few seasons and few have done it. This is a bit of a down year as far as what EGR has accomplished in comparison to what they are used to. Last week, they played a very good Grand Rapids Christian team and won in a surprising fashion 45-27, avenging the 50-49 loss two weeks earlier. David Drummond was the team’s MVP in the win, running 31 times for 207 yards and two rushing touchdowns while also returning a kickoff for a score. Jahaan Brown contributed 12 rushing attempts and gained 99 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Travis Palmer completed four of his seven passes for 78 yards and TDs. DeAndre Grady only caught two passes, but they both went the distance and he finished with 41 receiving yards. This should be a great game and a chance to avenge the loss to Holland in Week Two that snapped their 33 game winning streak.

Holland is a surprise this year. After stumbling to a 3-6 record last year, they have won more games this season than the past two combined. The team has never won nine games in a season. Holland’s football squad won their first ever district championship and first playoff game this season while only making the playoffs once before. Quarterback Corey Willis was instrumental in the win over Zeeland East last week. He passed 15 times with eight completions for 124 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Not only did he pass, but he ran the ball a ton. Willis gained 206 yards and four touchdowns on 40 attempts. Nathan Rickets led the receiving corps with three receptions for 26 yards and a touchdown. Holland is a good team that has it going on right now. They have reached heights never before seen by the Dutch. Now, the question remains if they can beat East Grand Rapids a second time this season to play in the state semifinals.

Detroit

Ann Arbor Pioneer (9-2) at Detroit Catholic Central (10-1) (Saturday November 12, 1pm) (Division 1)

The Pioneers of Ann Arbor are not a passing team. Sure, they will pass the ball, but look to run it first. It didn’t look good early in the year, starting with losses to Catholic League teams Warren DeLaSalle and Birmingham Brother Rice (both of whom are still playing). The 35-10 win last week over Temperance Bedford gave Ann Arbor their first district title since 2002. Ann Arbor’s main threat is running back Drake Johnson. He made his only completion on his only attempt which went for 42 yards on a halfback pass. It was a perfect time to call the play; with it being on third and 15 deep in their own territory. Quarterback Aedan York had his only pass fall incomplete and ran once for three yards. Johnson on the other hand, ran 36 times for an eye popping 348 yards and four touchdowns. Marquis Thomas ran eight times for 39 yards and the teams other score. Anthony Radu caught that lone pass completion after missing it a few times during the season. They will have a big challenge this week in perennial powerhouse Detroit Catholic Central.

Detroit Catholic Central Shamrocks is yet another team in our great lakes state with a legendary coach. Tom Mach is sixth on the all-time career victories list with 312 wins since he took over in 1976. It’s a program that has been to many state championship games (13 to be exact and won 10 of them) and produced many college players. Last week, the Shamrocks took on Canton and won the game that was more like a throwback to the earlier years of football. DCC won by the score of 21-14. The teams combined to throw nine total passes. Shamrock quarterback Kyle Cooper completed two of his five passes for 82 yards and a score while also running for 40 yards. Running back David Houle ran 16 times for 71 yards and two scores. Anthony Darkangelo ran 17 times for 83 yards. Jon Malone caught one pass for 62 yards and a touchdown during a critical part of the fourth quarter. It was a great win for the Shamrocks who have become accustomed to winning playoff games.

Mid-Michigan

Flint Powers (7-4) at Hemlock (9-2) (Friday November 11, 7pm) (Division 5)

After squeaking into the playoffs as a 5-4 team, Flint Powers is on a roll. At one point, they were 2-4. Since then, they have rattled off five straight wins and done well shutting down opposing offenses. Powers is a smaller school with only 537 students but plays in the now defunct Big Nine Conference (they join the Saginaw Valley League next season with the remnants of the Big Nine). Most of the teams they played were all larger Class A schools. Now that they are playing schools more similar in size (and not named Saginaw Nouvel or Lansing Catholic who accounted for two of their losses) they are doing very well. For the district championship game, Powers traveled to Millington to take on the undefeated Cardinals. Flint Powers handed them their first loss of the season 28-7. Quarterback Garrett Pougnet completed six of his 11 passes for 130 yards and a score. That touchdown reception was made by Danny Meissner from 28 yards out. Nick Sullivan scored on a seven yard touchdown run. Idris Hobdy scored a touchdown run of eight yards. Javier Guerra nailed a 33 yard field goal. It was a good win over a good team. The game this week against Hemlock should be very entertaining.

The Huskies of Hemlock are on a roll. After missing out on what would have been their first conference title since 1977, the school brought home their first ever district championship trophy (first football trophy since that 1977 season). Coach Bruce Bendix has revived a “mediocre at best” football team and has them believing they can play with anyone. Last week was a rematch of two Tri-Valley Conference Central Division foes that had Hemlock traveling to Freeland. The Huskies won the first meeting back in week two 35-21. This time, Freeland was at full strength with David Ruhlman back in uniform and Hemlock was the underdog, missing star receiver and defensive back T.J. Vondette. Quarterback Chase Weichmann completed five of his nine passes for 169 yards and two scores while also running 12 times for 52 additional yards and another score. Michael Devereaux toted the rock 10 times for 49 yards and a score. Dexter Hulik caught three passes for 77 yards and a score. Although Garrett Culver only caught one pass, he made the most of it going 79 yards for a touchdown. This game is in unfamiliar territory for Hemlock. It was only a few weeks ago they won their first playoff game. They will need to keep their emotions in check and play sound football if they want to beat a good Flint Powers team.

North

Engadine (7-4) at Rapid River (10-1) (Saturday November 12, 1pm) (8 Man Football/Division 9)

Frankly, I was surprised that Engadine won this game. I expected to see the semifinal game between Cedarville and Rapid River. It was Engadine’s day and it goes to show you; even a guy like me who follows all football across the state can be totally wrong on his assessments. It had been 13 years since Engadine last beat Cedarville, and they did it AT Cedarville to top it off. Jeffrey Dishaw led the Eagles with 155 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Dylan Formolo scored twice and finished with 104 yards. Victor Collins scored once and finished with 87 rushing yards. The winner of this game will play in the inaugural 8 man football championship at the Yooper Dome on the campus of Northern Michigan.

Rapid River, one of the teams that has been dominate all season long playing 8 man football, blasted Eben Junction Superior Central by the score of 64-26. Their lone loss of the season came by the hands of Cedarville 20-14. Interestingly enough, that was the only time Rapid River scored less than 40 points. On the season, they have put up 574 point so far and have averaged 52 point per game. In the regional final last week, quarterback Jake Pearson had a fantastic game. He ran 21 times for 172 yards and five scores while also completing five of his 11 passes for an additional 110 yards and two more touchdowns. The winner will play either Marine City Cardinal Mooney or Carsonville-Port Sanilac for the right to call themselves state champions.

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