Week 10 - Pre Districts - Who's Tricking And Who's Treating?

Jeffrey Cottrell

It’s playoff time baby! Those days that the players didn’t feel like it, they went to practice anyway is paying off. Now, they have to beat teams they typically have a history with. Unfortunately, that’s how the first couple of rounds of the playoffs work. That does mean that the teams should know a bit about what they will be facing this week. Let’s get into the first round of the playoffs.

North – Division 7

Merrill at Fife Lake Forest Area (Halloween, 7pm)

Both of these teams have been very bad. Merrill was terrible until legendary Saginaw area coach Mel Skillman took over back in the late 90’s. Skillman has moved on, but his protégé, John Streeter, picked up where he left off. Led by quarterback Jason Pratt, the Vandals have utilized their spread offense to score in bunches. Pratt is 6’6” and has 1,799 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 808 rushing yards, and eight rushing touchdowns this season. Their three losses this season have come at the hands of three playoff teams (Michigan Lutheran Seminary, St. Charles, and Carrollton). Being that they ended the season 6-3, they will be playing on the road for the playoffs. If they can beat Fife Lake, they will probably end up playing Traverse City St. Francis. A win over TCSF would probably mean a trip to the UP.

Fife Lake has put together a pretty good team in the past couple of years. Once they started up their football program, they didn’t have much success. After they hired Brian Lark in the off-season, the warriors matched the success of 2007. Now they need to beat Merrill to have a better season than last. Their two losses came at the hands of Central Lake and Manistee Catholic Central. Fortunately for the Warriors, Central Lake lost to Mancelona so Fife Lake tied for the Ski Valley championship. This is excellent for a team that won a total of nine games between 2002 and 2007.

Mid Michigan – Division 5

Saginaw Swan Valley at Freeland (Halloween, 7pm)

When Swan Valley played Freeland back on October 3, it was a game decided by a touchdown. Unfortunately for Swan Valley, they had the game tied when Dan Berden injured his neck and the game stopped the game for a half hour. That took all the emotion out of it for the Vikings and they lost in overtime. His brother Marck Berden has played well though. In last week’s 42-0 win over Caro, he had 203 rushing yards on nine carries. Swan Valley has always been a running team, but that doesn’t mean that quarterback Cody Call isn’t important; he runs the offense. Coach Rich Bell has been battling Freeland ever since he came to Swan Valley and will come up with a game plan to stop them.

The Falcons have been inconsistent from year to year. Some seasons they are very tough to beat. Other years, they go down like someone in a fixed fight. This season, they are very tough. For the first time in many years, they won the Tri Valley Conference. Freeland beat a very good Ovid-Else team a few weeks ago for that distinction. They are led by running backs Justin Pennenger (sophomore) and Alix Fisher (senior), both of whom have 1,000+ yards on the season. One of the things that makes Freeland so deadly is their team speed. Quarterback Joe Ruhlman manages the game well and makes sure that his running backs get a healthy dose of the ball. The Falcon offensive line has done a great job of owning the line of scrimmage to get their backs space to pick up positive yards. Freeland beat Swan Valley in a close game less than a month ago, but they will need to play even better to get a win in the “second season.”

Detroit – Division 2

Birmingham Brother Rice at Rochester Adams (Halloween, 7pm)

This is a tough game for the pre-districts. Sometimes it happens like that. Al Fracassa’s Brother Rice squad beat the 2007 Division 3 runner up in Orchard Lake St. Mary’s last week to make the playoffs after losing to them earlier in the season. Quarterback Frankie Popp had some breaks in the game, like the pass intended for Kevonte Martin but went through his hands only to be caught by Nate Saldivar for a 40 yard touchdown. Kevonte Martin-Manley did catch a 58 yard pass for a td late in the first half. Corner Michael Brown returned an interception for a touchdown but the Eaglets scored again to close the gap. An unsuccessful onside kick try ended the season for OLSM. This playoff birth is the 10th in a row and 21st overall for Brother Rice and is also win number 380 for Coach Fracassa. They will need to play a near perfect game against Rochester Adams to make it to the second round of the playoffs.

In their match up with in town rival Rochester, Rochester Adams prevailed in a dominating fashion. They were led by senior slot back Cody Wilson who had seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. I’ve mentioned their other receiver Joe Reynolds and quarterback Andrew Waszak and what they can do. This team can dominate opposing defenses and shut down opposing offenses. Adams has been one of the top teams in the state for the past two seasons, but has no jewelry to prove that they are the best. If they can pull through their district, they might end up facing the Catholic League champions Warren DeLaSalle.

West – Division 2

Lansing Everett at Lowell (Halloween, 7:30pm)

I’m breaking one of the rules I traditionally abide by when I picked this game. Typically, I don’t profile the same team twice in a row. Then I thought about my biggest fan (MSU88Chick) and figured that she’d want more Lansing area teams profiled and threw that rule out the window for a week. First things first when it comes to Lansing Everett. Quarterback Reggie Williams is a beast. In their game against Lansing Sexton this past week, Williams ran the ball for 79 yards, but more impressively, completed six of nine passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to John Ross who finished with 145 yards on four receptions. The Vikings have lost their two games by a combined three points. They will need Williams to run like a madman and pass like an all pro to beat a tough Lowell team.

Lowell has never played against Lansing Everett. Quarterback Kyle Nichol is the younger brother of current Spartan Keith Nichol. Although he’s not the mobile quarterback that Williams is, he is still fairly mobile and can throw accurately on the run. He has some great players around him. Torsten Boss is a handful at wide receiver and can give kickoff teams a headache. He had 128 yards on four receptions and a touchdown against EGR. Like I said last week, this team makes minimal mistakes and opposing teams need near flawless games to win. No one has been able to beat them and their closest game was a 23 point victory over East Grand Rapids this past week. It will be an interesting game between two teams that have never played. Both quarterbacks are high profile but only one will be playing next week.

Capital Area – Division 1

Battle Creek Central at Grand Ledge (Halloween, 7:30pm)

Coach Doug Bess and his Bearcats snuck into the playoffs with a 5-4 record. Battle Creek had to fight hard to even get noticed in the playoff race due to the fact that they did not have a good record or much of a chance three weeks ago. Since then, they beat previously unbeaten Portage Central for a share of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference Central Division football title.  They did play a tough schedule and had losses to teams like Jackson Lumen Christi, St. Joseph, Stevensville Lakeshore, and they beat Portage Central. In their one point overtime win against Portage Central, it was MSU recruit Larry Caper who ran in a touchdown from one yard out on fourth and goal followed by an extra point by Joey Fuld that gave them the win. In that game, Caper had 33 carries for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Dak Britt knows how to manage a game when the score is close as is evident by their last two games of the season when they pulled out close victories. Larry Caper is a very down to earth guy, judging by his most recent diary in the Battle Creek Enquirer.

One of the first things people want to know about, when talking of a football team, is their quarterback. For Grand Ledge’s senior quarterback Nick Kissane, all he knows is that the Comets were not very good the past two seasons. Now he has a large (and in charge) offensive line to stand behind. Last week that line allowed Kissane to complete 10 of 17 passes for 241 yards and five touchdowns. The win gave them their first undefeated season since 1992. James Jackson will be a Buckeye, but is a danger every time he gets the ball whether catching the ball or carrying it out of the backfield. Coach Matt Bird brought this team back from the depths of the mediocrity. The winner of the game will probably take on Rockford, if Rockford beats Traverse City West.

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