Week 9 MHSAA Football Preview

Jeffrey Cottrell

I can hardly believe it! This is already the ninth week of the MHSAA football season! Seems like just yesterday I was talking to Hondo, telling him how I could not wait to get back to football season, and it’s already here and nearly gone. It’s been a crazy season. Some teams are exactly who we thought they were. Others, well, they were exactly who we thought they were as well, but in the “need to improve in the offseason” category. My favorite thing about high school football is the parity. One season, a team might be bad, and the next they are in the playoffs (see Ypsilanti Lincoln; went from 0-9 last year to 6-2 this year with a good chance to make it 7-2 for the first time since 1997 and have made the playoffs for the FIRST TIME EVER.) Once we get into the playoffs, the intensity gets turned up a notch and the stakes get much higher. Every football player as a little boy dreamed of making a big play with the championship on the line. Some will get a chance to fulfill that dream. How about we take a peek at this week’s slate of games? Set, HIKE!

West Coast

Grand Rapids Christian (8-0) at East Grand Rapids (6-2) (Friday October 21, 7pm)

For Grand Rapids Christian, this season has been fantastic. They are 8-0 for the first time ever. The Eagles have started seasons 4-0 a few times (1981, 2002, and 2010) but never have been more than 4-0. Last week, they dismantled Grand Rapids Creston (who, ironically, is 0-8 with the loss to GRC) 50-0. Quarterback Alex VanDevusse completed seven of his eight passes for 119 yards and two scores. Eddy Gonzalez ran the ball 19 times for 178 yards and two scores. Drake Harris, a sophomore receiver that has garnered interest from Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo as a wide receiver and shooting guard, was the leading receiver. He caught three balls for 65 yards and scored once. East Grand Rapids has been a thorn in the side of Grand Rapids Christian three of the six times they have made the playoffs. Now, the Eagles have a chance to not only beat East Grand Rapids for the first time ever, but also win the Ottawa-Kent Conference White Division in the process. GRC should end up in Division 3.

After five straight state titles and two perfect seasons in a row, the Pioneers of East Grand Rapids are showing a chink in their armor. They have losses to Holland and Lowell so far this season. Another loss would give them their worst season since 2000. That is a bit “tongue in cheek” because EGR has set the gold standard of the last decade with wins and state titles. Last week, it was a close game with Grand Rapids Northview. Running back David Drummond got his team on the board in the second quarter with a one yard jaunt. He also a second touchdown in the game with an 80 yard kickoff return score. For the game, he ran 22 times for 90 yards. Jahaan Brown also scored on a two yard plunge. That score came shortly after a mishandled punt attempt by Northview. There could be a rematch of this game in the first round of the Division 3 playoffs.

Detroit

Marysville (7-1) at St. Clair Shores South Lake (8-0) (Friday October 21, 7pm)

First and foremost, I’d like to give a shout out to Coach Jack Quinlan. He’s been a coach at Marysville for 41 years and is retiring after his JV squad plays South Lake on Thursday night. That is an amazing accomplishment. It’s close to a life goal for myself (I want to coach for 50 years. Only 44 more to go). It’s not that he doesn’t like coaching, but he wants time to travel with his wife and enjoy the fall. Now let’s talk about their varsity squad. With their 46-8 win over Clintondale, they won the Macomb Area Conference Silver Division for the first time since 2003. Quarterback Jake Mineau played very well. He returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a score. When he was at quarterback, he found Drew Johnson for touchdown passes of 18 and 16 yards. He also ran in two touchdowns from 31 and 8 yards away. In the second quarter, he was benched as the score was getting out of hand. Brandon Stevenson ran for a touchdown on a 41 yard scamper.   The Vikings will be a tough team for anyone who draws them in the Division 4 playoffs.

The Cavaliers of St. Clare Shores South Lake dominated their game last week against New Haven by a score of 46-0. They have now won the Macomb Area Conference Bronze Division in back to back seasons. Their defense is a monster. So far this year, they have outscored opponents 227 to 6. Those six points were given up to Mount Clemens a few weeks ago. Otherwise, all the games have been shut-outs. In last week’s game, Casual Williams rushed eight times for 118 yards and two scores. Quarterback Travon Desaussure had 128 passing yards and two touchdowns. Marcus Anderson and Ghay’len Hammons caught those two touchdown passes in the first quarter. St. Clare Shores South Lake has to be a favorite in Division 4. They have played extremely well on defense and scored points on offense. It will be tough for any opponent to deal with.

Capital Area

Leslie (7-1) at Grass Lake (8-0) (Friday October 21, 7pm)

Leslie is having a good season. They have one loss so far and that was to Hillsdale a few weeks ago. Last week against Jackson Northwest, they were losing by the score of 7-6 in the first quarter. That’s when it all started working for them. Chanler Carmer returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. Then, they scored another four times before the break. Quarterback Brendon Smith completed nine of his 15 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns. All three of the scores were caught by Kyle Bryson who finished with five receptions for 104 yards. John Baughan and Joey Kobus each ran six times for 15 and 23 yards, respectively. Carmer also scored on a 27 yard run. The Blackhawks look to be a Division 6 team once the playoffs start.

Grass Lake put a definitive stamp on the Cascades Conference title this past week. They beat Hanover-Horton by the score of 51-0. Within the first four minutes of the game, Grass Lake had scored a safety and two touchdowns. Zach Walker and Joe Niehaus tackled Hanover Horton quarterback Clark Vinton in the end zone on the third play of the game. By the end of the first quarter, the lead was 23-0. Quarterback Logan Konopka completed two of his six passes for 35 yards. Running back Frank Vuocolo ran the ball nine times for 135 yards and three touchdowns. Kevin Fisher ran seven times for 82 yards and two scores. Caleb Sabo scored on a nine yard run and Steven Tyler punched one in from the five. Billy Dakin caught one ball for 22 yards. After bowing out of the playoffs last year to Monroe St. Mary Catholic in the regional final, they hope to make it further this season. Grass Lake should play in Division 6.

North

Grayling (8-0) at Traverse City St. Francis (7-1) (Friday October 21, 7pm)

The Vikings of Grayling are playing better this year than they have in quite some time. A win this week would give them their first conference title since 1992 when they played in the Great Northern Lower Peninsula Conference Lake Huron Division. In last week’s 30-14 win over Kalkaska, it was a sloppy game in sloppy conditions and featured 30 penalties. With the rain and wind, Grayling’s passing game was not at its top form, but the Vikings did rush for 340 yards. Quarterback Zane Tobin passed for 101 yards. Riley Zigila did a bit of everything on the night. He returned kickoffs, passed for 41 yards, caught four footballs for 41 yards, and ran for 24 yards. Joey Schwartz had a fantastic game. He ran for 148 yards and scored two touchdowns. Ty Jensen also ran the ball just as well as Schwartz. He finished with 145 yards and three touchdowns. This game will be a huge one for the Vikings. With Traverse City St. Francis being forced out of the Lake Michigan Conference after this season, it might be the last shot for Grayling to beat them and win the conference all in one game. Grayling looks to be a Division 5 team once the playoffs begin.

The Gladiators of Traverse City St. Francis are in a familiar situation. With seven wins under their belt, they have already qualified for the playoffs. The only blemish on their record was an early season loss to Saginaw Nouvel. Last week, they blasted Harbor Springs 56-0 who so far this season is winless. Byron Bullough led the team with 101 yards on 11 carries while scoring three times. Austin Currie, the Gladiator quarterback, completed 10 of his 12 passes for 140 yards and two scores. Devin Sheehy-Guiseppi and Kevin Banducci caught those scores. Seth Kellicut returned an interception 69 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter. This game is huge for St. Francis. They will host Grayling at Thirlby Field for a final chance at the Lake Michigan Conference championship. Last season they lost to Elk Rapids and did not win the conference for the first time since 2001. The Gladiators should end up in Division 7.

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