Week Eight - Tough Games, Playoff Hopes, and Conference Championships

Jeffrey Cottrell

Time is running out. A sense of urgency is felt by the staffs and players of teams on the bubble. Losing this week could eliminate them from the playoffs. A few conference championships are still on the line. Speculation of which teams might be playing each other in the playoffs is rampant on internet forums. There are plenty of players who might only wear their school colors two more times and scores of young men who will never play this kind of football after next week. I would like to tell them that they should make some memories because there is nothing like sitting with the guys you battled with, years down the road, and recounting those big wins.

North

Gladstone at Kingsford (Friday October 17, 7pm)

Gladstone’s spread offense has been working well with the Jensen Brothers running it. Quarterback Kyle Jensen ran for 252 yards and five touchdowns last week against rival Escanaba. His brother Kollin, playing the halfback position, had 136 yards and a score to go along with his two interceptions. Gladstone’s offensive line has played well and because their wide receivers will block (and block well), long runs occur frequently. Even though Gladstone spreads out the defenses, they like to run the ball. 388 yards rushing to only 22 yards passing (Kyle Jensen went two of eight for 22 yards) is evident of what they like to do. The only person to score any points for the Braves last week that WASN’T named Jensen was the kicker, Lauscher. The win last week ensured that they will be in the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

For the Flivvers of Kingsford, this season has been a rollercoaster. They have wins over good teams and losses to good teams. Unfortunately, they are sitting at 4-3 right now and are in danger of missing the playoffs. It is imperative that they win this game over Gladstone and finish with another win over Escanaba (who might also need the win to make the playoffs). Last week in their 21-20 loss to undefeated Iron Mountain, Coach Chris Hofer pointed to a lack of execution as the reason for the loss.  Quarterback Chris Siegler did his best to keep them in the game by going 15 of 23 for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Sean Williams will need to run the ball effectively to open up the passing game for Siegler if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Detroit

Lake Orion at Rochester Adams (Friday October 17, 7pm)

The Dragons of Lake Orion have been on a roll since losing their first game of the season 17-7 at the hands of Rockford. Plenty of players are back from last season and combined with the experience that the new guys have gotten, this team has been humming along. Since that first loss, they have only allowed a total of 32 points and have tallied three shut-outs. A strength for the Dragons has been the play of their offensive line as of late. This has allowed running back Kym Bruce to score plenty. Quarterback Sean Charette has passed efficiently due to these two facts. It will be very important for the Dragons that the line keep the Rochester Adams defenders out of their backfield to allow Lake Orion to score. Rochester Adams typically puts a ton of points on the board so the defense for Lake Orion will need to stop that potent offense.

As for Rochester Adams, quarterback Andrew Waszak and Joe Reynolds have been putting on a show. Last week against Farmington Hills Harrison, Waszak went 13 of 25 for 269 yards and two touchdowns. One of which went to Reynolds. The other big player was Cody Wilson who had seven catches for 169 yards, caught the other touchdown, and also carried the ball six times for 64 yards. Week after week, they put a bunch of points on the board and even in the close games; they still have found a way to stay undefeated. With the team being strong and a tough non conference game this week against Lake Orion, expect Adams to come out ready to rock and roll. Coach Tony Patritto knows how valuable these games can be when preparing to enter the playoffs.

Capital Area

Holt at Grand Ledge (Friday October 17, 7pm)

Last season, Holt rolled past everyone except for Detroit Catholic Central in the third round of the MHSAA playoffs. With new head coach Al Slamer (who ironically lost to Holt in the playoffs last year while at Battle Creek Central) taking over for longtime coach Mike Smith, Holt has a chance to keep rolling. If they are able to beat Grand Ledge, the Rams will win a piece of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue Division football championship. That would give them five league titles in a row. Many of the big players for the Rams graduated last year, but they still bring back some big guys, including four linemen. In addition to having a strong offensive line, the secondary is tough. Jordan Beachnau had 197 yards rushing last week including the overtime touchdown to give them the win over Lansing Everett. Dominic Todd caught a long touchdown pass and gained a few yards running the ball as well. They need everything that Coach Slamer can get out of his team if they want to beat undefeated Grand Ledge.

The Comets of Grand Ledge are ranked pretty high. As of now, they are the third ranked team in Division 1. Coach Matt Bird has his team humming along after losing seasons in his first two years as the head man. Quarterback Nick Kissane is a senior and knows that this is his first and last opportunity of winning a conference title. James Jackson will be playing for the Buckeyes next season, but right now he’s catching passes from Kissane. Last week against Lansing Eastern, Kissane went 17 of 28 for 197 and three touchdowns. Just like Holt, Grand Ledge has a bunch of linemen back and they are all pretty darn huge. Both the offensive side of the line as well as the defensive side has players back. Winning the line of scrimmage is of the utmost importance if you want to win a game, especially a huge game like this.

Mid Michigan

Carrollton at St. Charles (Friday October 17, 7pm)

This is another game for all the marbles. 7-0 Carrollton has not won a conference championship in nearly 30 years (1980, despite the Saginaw News saying they won in 1992, they lost to Swan Valley who didn’t lose until the playoffs that season). Their first year coach Greg Wasmer has been able to get his kids to buy into the program. The Cavaliers have won 11 games combined in their previous eight seasons. Now they have tied their win record for the best season in school history and still have two games left to play. The I Formation that they run has worked well. Robert Essex has scored a lot of touchdowns and their fullback, Jay-Jay Perry, has cleared the way (and scored a few of his own).  With so much already accomplished, the Carrollton Cavaliers can be proud of their season so far, but must be prepared to keep moving forward because even if they win the TVC-West, they’ll probably end up in a district with St. Charles, Nouvel, and Reese.

Across Saginaw County, St. Charles has a new head man as well. Brady Lake has taken over for longtime Bulldog coach Bob Welzein. When Lake took over the program, he changed their offense to the Single Wing.  It’s been working very well for the 7-0 Bulldogs so far. Marshall Davenport is leading their team in rushing yards and Travis Crane is paving the way for him. Last week, Crane blocked a punt which rallied his team and changed the momentum of the game with less than five minutes to play. St Charles runs the ball far more than they pass it. The Bulldogs won the Tri Valley Conference West Division last season in the first year it existed. If they can use the deception that is paramount to Single Wing offense, then they have a great chance of confusing the Cavaliers. If a defense is confused or goes the wrong way, it’s easier to make a big play. Can they trick Carrollton into their first loss or will the Cavaliers make school history? We’ll find out on Friday night.

West

Muskegon at Rockford (Friday October 17, 7pm)

This is another game for the conference title. In my opinion, the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red Division is the toughest in the state. With teams like the Muskegon, Rockford, and Hudsonville, it’s tough to win let alone win the conference. Muskegon had what could be considered a trap game last week against East Kentwood. It was in between the two biggest games of the season so far; the Hudsonville and Rockford games. Fortunately for the Big Reds, they came out and did exactly what they have done all season, dominate. This victory gave head coach Tony Annese his 85th win in 100 games. The powerful offensive line for the Big Reds imposed their will on East Kentwood which meant that they scored plenty. Muskegon scored on their first five possessions to take a 28-0 halftime lead. Quarterback Elan Banks has played well this season in his first year as the starting quarterback. In the Hudsonville game, he proved that he can win with his arm.  Everyone knows that he can run the ball in their veer option offense so this added another dimension to his game. Their defense will have to turn it up a notch and make sure tackles to stop a team just as tough as they are.

After a tough game last week against Holland West Ottawa, the Rams are finishing preparation for the big Muskegon game. Quarterback Tim McGee has completed over 55% of his passes this season and is nearing 1,000 yards passing on the season. It seems that Rockford like to platoon their running backs but senior Ryan Cochran gets the majority of the carries. Head coach Ralph Munger knows how to get his team prepared to win games as he has won two state championships in the past five years. With all the hype surrounding the game, it’s unfortunate that these teams will play in different divisions when the playoffs arrive. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive back Brogan Bibler leads the team in tackles with 61 tackles. It will all come down to execution and which team can execute better. Can Rockford impose their will on Muskegon or will the Big Red Machine roll over the Rams?

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