In part two, I will examine Divisions 4, 5, and 6. Enjoy it everyone, SpartanNation.com is the only website (to my knowledge) that will be profiling ALL of the regional finals this weekend. And itâ€™s all FREE! Everyone send Hondo some love for all the free info he gives us!
Division four is filled with very tough teams. They aren't quite big enough to have tons and tons of students, but they do get a lot of great athletes. With the exceptions of Muskegon and New Lothrop, all the teams that won championships last season are still playing.
Coopersville vs. Kingsford (Saturday 5pm, Superior Dome)
The Coopersville Bronco football team knows all about winning. Last season they lost in the final to Zeeland West 22-0. This year, they are riding an eight game winning streak into the game with the Flivvers. The running game hasnâ€™t worked that well so theyâ€™ve relied on junior quarterback Brett Pfahler and his arm for the majority of their scores. Last week Pfahler had three touchdown passes in the first half. The only other score for the Broncos was a field goal in the third quarter. Coopersville will travel on Friday to the UP and get ready for their Saturday night match
The Flivvers (1920â€™s slang for a Ford Model T) are on a roll. Kingsford hasnâ€™t lost since Week Five against Menominee. This past week they destroyed Ogemaw Heights 51-12. It was 23-6 at the end of the first quarter. The Flivvs were led by their defense, which came up with six sacks and three interceptions. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns. This week their trip is much shorter than the five hour bus ride to West Branch. The Kingsford Flivvers are the largest school from Michiganâ€™s Upper Peninsula still in the championship hunt.
Marine City at Alma (Friday 7:30pm)
Hey Alma fans! Hondo and I have talked about the emails youâ€™ve sent and we heard the message loud and clear. I did cover you guys once already this season though (Week Two versus Bullock Creek). Plus, you beat up on my high school (I went to a TVC school) this season. Anywayâ€¦football, right?
This season is one for the record book at Alma. They are undefeated and even *if * they lose, theyâ€™ll have the best season since most of us have been alive. Their huge addition this season was Adam Follett, a D1 commit to Indiana. This past week, Follett scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to help his team beat Belding. He also threw for 143 yards. His two throws for touchdowns went to Jake Blake; one pass of 45 yards and another for 51. This team showed resilience in the way they came back after playing from behind the whole day. Leading the defense was Kyle Lark with his 17 tackles.
Coming to Mid Michigan from the Detroit area is Marine City. Theyâ€™ve had some tough games against teams like Melvindale, Lansing Sexton, and St. Clair. Quarterback for the Mariners Brendon Kay, who has committed to Cincinnati, was part of all five of his teamâ€™s touchdowns last week against Flint Powers. He threw for two and rushed for three touchdowns. An aggressive defense is imperative for Marine City if they want to contain Follett and 6â€™5â€ receiver Jake Blake. Coach Scarcelli isnâ€™t too concerned with Alma; heâ€™s much more worried about what his team will do and if theyâ€™ll follow his plan to a victory.
Comstock at Zeeland West (Friday 7pm)
The Comstock Colts had an impressive win this past week over Dowagiac, 34-12 in front of 4,000 fans. All aspects of the game were working for the Colts as quarterback Tyler Burke hit wide receiver Nate White for three touchdowns. Tailback Savon Dobbins (who wanted to be a wide receiver before the season began) had 233 yards rushing and two touchdowns. You can attribute those stats (and Dobbins does) to the offensive line for Comstock. It could be said that theyâ€™ve pounded their opponents in their playoffs run. The Colts have been holding onto the ball pretty well and not giving up a whole lot of turnovers, which kills a team, especially in the playoffs. The defense has got to come up with a bunch of turnovers if they want to beat defending champions Zeeland West.
Zeeland West was very lucky this past week. A knee was taken with five seconds left in the game on fourth down, which turned the ball over and stopped the clock. On the next play, Zeeland West quarterback Tyler Pike hit Derek Kingshott for the game winning score. The Dux have a lot of team speed. The backups have been coached very well and can come in and play at a high level, even if they are called upon to become starters. Last game they turned the ball over three times, and they need to correct that if they want to move past Comstock to play in the state semifinals.
Milan at Detroit Country Day (Saturday 1pm)
Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve heard about Jonas Gray. He was committed to Nebraska and is now going to Notre Dame. He scored the only touchdown in the game this past week with Detroit Crockett. He credits two of his teammates, Kenny Demens and Ted Brady, for opening up the hole so that he could score. Jonas has scored a lot of points this season by being able to use his speed to get to the outside. Country Day will be depending on him to have another good game to move past Milan.
The Big Reds are ready. They lost two games earlier this season against teams that made the playoffs, but are poised to move into the state semifinals if they can get it done against Country Day. Milan was led this past week by the Ann Arbor area all-time rushing leader, Ron Spears (2,344 yards). He had four touchdowns and 184 yards on 31 carries against Tyrone Wheatleyâ€™s Dearborn Heights Robichaud this past week. The two teams playing Saturday run a similar offense, so both defenses should know whatâ€™s coming at them. It will be up to the linebacking core from both squads to punish the backs and not allow big plays from either team.
This division is full of teams with great football history. Menominee, Muskegon Oakridge, and Jackson Lumen Christi are in the playoffs virtually every season and have 11 state titles between the schools. Jackson Lumen Christi has the most titles with 7.
Standish-Sterling vs. Menominee (At Gaylord High School, Saturday 2pm)
The Panthers of Standish-Sterling have had a fantastic season. They beat their arch-rival Ogemaw Heights for the first time in 16 years. They captured a share of the league championship. The whole community has rallied around their Panther football team. Now they face their toughest test; a game with defending state champions Menominee. Somehow, they lucked out and the game will be played at Gaylord, instead of at the Superior Dome where most of the UP teams are playing this weekend. Those crazy Panther fans will follow their team on the 90 minute trip to take on the antiquated single wing offense that the Maroons run.
Head coach Ken Hoferâ€™s Maroons scored 35 in the second quarter in their game with Elk Rapids last week. By using the single wing offense, it keeps their opponents on their toes. A few teams still run it, but no one does it was well as the Menominee Maroons. Their coaching staff has been together for quite some time and that really helps to convince the young players that this offense can, and does, work very well. Tailback (but actually a quarterback) Ethan Shavers has played well this season, helping his team put up 50 or more points on three occasions. He was the UP Offensive Player of the Year and teammate Matt Eisenzoph was the UP Defensive Player of the Year. This team is looking to steamroll over everyone on their way to Ford Field and a chance at another Division 5 State Championship trophy.
Muskegon Oakridge at Grand Rapids West Catholic (Friday 7pm)
After losing the district title at home last season, the Eagles made sure it didnâ€™t happen again. They beat Reed City 42-6 and keep their undefeated season chugging along. They have seen unconventional teams as Reed City doesnâ€™t put any defensive linemen down in a stance. After running the ball well at the beginning, they forced the Reed City safeties came up and then they hit them with the deep ball. Even small guys like the 5â€™9â€ Kyle Huck get into the action and he does a little of everything.
Grand Rapids West Catholic is another team that had to get past a well known foe to make it deeper in the playoffs. The Falcons had to get past Allendale, the team that beat them up and shut them out in the second round of the playoffs last season. This year, it was GRWC that was handing out beatdowns. Their defense was lead by senior linebacker Tony Iacovoni who had nine tackles, five sacks, and a fumble recovery. The Falcons recovered six turnovers to help move past Allendale in a dominating fashion. If they keep up the pace of the last game, it will be a fantastic matchup with Oakridge.
Onsted vs. Jackson Lumen Christi (At Jackson High School, Friday 7pm)
The Onsted Wildcats have dominated everyone they have played so far in the playoffs. Unfortunately, this week they are playing one of the top programs in the state of Michigan in Jackson Lumen Christi. They were led by senior quarterback Aaron Shoemaker, who scored 25 points for his team. He had an interception for a touchdown, ran in two, kicked all the extra points, and kicked a 40 yard field goal to round out his scoring. The only blemish on his night was two interceptions.
The Titans won, even though they fumbled four times and lost three of them. Their defense gave up some big plays, but in the end, it was Jackson Lumen Christi who was on the top end of the score. Some may say that they were looking past a good Buchanan team and didnâ€™t have the defensive intensity needed to dominate the game. Even though the Titans had better statistics than the Bucks, their fumbles were costly. They did have some drives that ate up a lot of the clock and that is a necessary stat to win if you want to win the game. Sophomore quarterback Conor Sullivan led the team with 107 yards and the touchdown that put them in the lead for good.
Chesaning at Madison Heights Madison (Saturday 1pm)
Last yearâ€™s state runner up, Madison Heights Madison Eagles had their hands full in the finals with Menominee. Now, lead by running back Deandre Johnson the Eagles have cruised into the regionals. Last week, he had 228 yards and four touchdowns against Almont. In the game, he had a 10.1 yards per carry average. For his career, he has over 6,700 yards. Johnson is only the second fastest guy on the team; the fastest is quarterback DuJuan Marcellus.
Chesaning Coach Jim Szappan is worried about those two players, Johnson and Marcellus, getting into the open field. If the Indians donâ€™t tackle well, they will be watching the opponents score go up and up. They will lean on quarterback Joe Bitterman, who had 135 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air, 69 yards and a touchdown on the ground, an 85 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, kicked three extra points, ran in a two point conversion, and intercepted a pass. That was all of Chesaningâ€™s points last week against Millington.
This division seems to be dominated by teams from the southern part of the state. A couple of teams in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area, Lansing area, Muskegon area, and a team from the UP are still competing. Donâ€™t forget the defending champions Saginaw Nouvel because theyâ€™re still playing also.
Montague vs. Iron Mountain (Saturday 2pm at the Superior Dome)
One week after knocking off a tough Suttons Bay team, Montague has to get on the bus again and travel to Marquette to play in that hostile environment we call The Superior Dome. Montague beat the Norsemen last week by kicking their first field goal of the season as time was winding down. That score broke the 20-20 tie and lifted the team to victory with only 20 seconds remaining in the game. It was a night for big plays, as the Wildcats had plays of 28 and 66 yards. Neither team dominated the other and it showed by the close score at the end of the game.
The Mountaineers of Iron Mountain came into their game with Calumet ready to rock and roll. The Mountaineers took the early lead and never looked back. They were lead by Dan Derwinski, who scored all five of the touchdowns. He had four on the ground and a 29 yard reception for a touchdown as well. Derwinski scored three times in the first half to push the score up 21-7 going into the break. Quarterback Ryan Pepin had 131 yards through the air and 32 on the ground for Iron Mountain.
Sanford Meridian at Saginaw Nouvel (Friday 7pm)
It was a close call for Nouvel last week. They were losing to St. Charles for most of the game, but came up big in the second half. The resiliency that Nouvel showed was a huge factor in the win. Their defense came up very big in overtime and stuffed St. Chuck. For a team that wasnâ€™t supposed to do anything because they lost so many to graduation, they sure are looking good! The Panthers pulled many JV players up to varsity for the experience, whether it is in practice or in the game. Last year, the players had almost half of an extra season by going all five games to the championship. That experience, coupled with the excellent coaching staff makes Nouvel a contender ever year. There is a reason they have the fifth best winning percentage in the state.
Sanford had brought up JV kids as well. Their JV team was undefeated and they are getting valuable playing time. Their quarterback, Jason Hockemeyer moved to tailback and tallied 113 yards. The new quarterback, Alan VanNortwick did a decent job starting. Hey, they won the game and revenged the 14-13 loss to Clare by beating them 28-21. Coach Reid said he and his team are having fun and heâ€™ll keep to his routine, win or lose.
Leslie at Kalamazoo Christian (Saturday 1pm)
They had a transformer blow Friday night and they couldnâ€™t finish the game, so they came back Saturday and finished it up. The opposing coach, Mark Beougher from Addison, said that they didnâ€™t make turnovers or penalties. That really contributes to the win. Itâ€™s stupid things like that which end up making a team lose. Charlie Snow, the quarterback, had 212 yards and a touchdown. He also had two touchdowns running the ball. Now, they get to play another week and take on K-Christian.
The Comets have really turned their program around. I remember my college roommate Max ripping on them (heâ€™s Delton Kellogg alum) because they hadnâ€™t done much in quite some time. That was then, this is now. This season, they have posted seven shutouts and havenâ€™t given up 50 points on the season yet. In their lowest scoring game, they still put up 35 points. They have nearly 500 points so far this season. The win this week was on the ground, as Corey Scheffers only hit two of his nine passes. K-Christian is going to be a tough team to stop with their wide open offense.
Harper Woods at Blissfield (Friday 7pm)
It seems like every school that is still playing has a fantastic running back. For Harper Woods, itâ€™s senior Vincent Bright. He rushed for 214 and four touchdowns last week against Flint Beecher. Sophomore running back Terrence Hartfield had another 116 yards and a score. When you have a 1-2 punch like that, itâ€™s hard to relax when the starter comes out of the game.
I knew there had to be one. Blissfield felt the bliss when their Hail Mary pass at the end of the game was completed. John Estes hit Aaron Hudson with a 37 yard pass as time expired to pull out the win. Not bad for Estes, who only threw a total of five passes in the game. They only had 22 seconds to make a few plays and get the touchdown. This game showed that the Blissfield Royals are a legit 11-0 team. Johnâ€™s father Ron Estes, the head football coach, got a lucky break. Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central still claims that the touchdown pass was intercepted and the ref wasnâ€™t in a position to make the call. He could be right, but it doesnâ€™t matter anymore. Blissfield will play Harper Woods.