Week Eleven - District Finals - Stand Up Or Shut Up

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Can you believe that we’re already in the second round of the playoffs? It seems like just yesterday I was shaving to start my football beard. Now it’s pretty big; just ask Hondo. While some high schoolers are buying basketball shoes and pulling out the wrestling singlets, others are still strapping on the helmet with childhood dreams running through their mind. Some of these young men and their coaches will reach out and grab their dream. Others will reach out and grab nothing but air. If you haven’t been to a game this year, make it out to one! If you have, go to another! Now, let’s get into the games for the district finals.

Detroit – Division 1

Sterling Heights Stevenson at Macomb Dakota (Friday November 7, 7pm)

Stevenson played well this past week. They beat Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 41-3. Stellar play from junior quarterback Jason Fracassa led to the lopsided victory. He completed 19 of 28 for 371 and six touchdowns. Receiver DJ Mershman had a great game. He caught six balls for 161 yards and three touchdowns. One thing that could hurt the Titans is their penalties. Last week, they had nine penalties for 75 yards. They can’t do that against a good team like Macomb Dakota. Obviously, Stevenson is a throwing team and the last time they played Dakota (Dakota won 10-0), the Cougars played with five defensive backs. It will be important for the Titans to run the ball efficiently to pull that defensive back out. Coach Rick Bye will need to have his Titans pumped and ready to go on Friday.

Macomb Dakota has been a team to reckon with for the past few years. They made the state semifinals in 2004 and 2005 then won it all in 2006 and 2007. Last week, they were paced by running back Keefe Corley. He had 11 carries for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His shortest touchdown run was 64 yards. Quarterback Mike Romanchik needs to manage this game with authority and keep everyone’s emotions in check. He didn’t throw too many passes last week, but did complete four of his five passes. The leading receiver for Dakota is Fitim Bozdaraj. Mark Morris has also played some quarterback and might see some game action as well. This is the two time defending state champions in Division 1. They know how to win games and deal with the pressure. The road to a third title will be tough, but it is definitely possible. The winner will face either Romeo or Lake Orion in the regional final.

Capital Area – Division 6

Laingsburg at Leslie (Friday November 7, 7pm)

The Wolfpack of Laingsburg won their first playoff football game ever this past week. Quarterback Klinton Koonter completed nine of 11 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown. Laingsburg was very efficient running the ball as well. On their 27 attempts, they gained 216 yards. Leading rusher was Josh Kranich who gained 85 yards on four carries. It was a close game, though. Olivet scored to make the score 20-21 with 55 seconds remaining. They elected to go for the two point conversion and the win, but were stuffed on the goal line. A close win can do wonders for a team as far as giving them confidence to make the plays needed in order to win close games.

The Blackhawks ran wild over their competition last week. Three of their running backs went over the 100 yard rushing mark. Travis Crowe had 129 on 14 carries. Trent Page ran for 115 on eight touches. Also, Devyn Twombley got to the 109 yard mark on 12 runs. Crowe is also the quarterback and he tossed the ball for 129 yards, completing six of his 14 passes. He accounted for five touchdowns; running three and throwing two. Trent Page also caught four passes for 108 yards and caught both of Crowe’s touchdown passes. This team can beat you many ways; they can run at you with multiple backs, pass well, and just keep you guessing as to what they will do. If they can get their trio going again, it will be a tough game for Laingsburg.

West – Division 3

Stevensville Lakeshore at St. Joseph (Friday November 7, 7:30pm)

Last week, Stevensville dismantled Charlotte. They scored three times in the first quarter to take a commanding lead. Coco Johnson led the Lancer rushing attack with 111 yards on ten carries to go along with a touchdown. Quarterback Zak Wasserman completed eight of his 11 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball three times for 15 yards and two touchdowns. Lakeshore has been a good football team for the past decade. This isn’t the first time Stevensville Lakeshore and St. Joseph have met in the playoffs. Heck, they met a month ago in the regular season because they are both part of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West Division. If the Lancers want to push past the Bears and take on the winner of the DeWitt vs. East Lansing game, they need to play to perfection.

For Saint Joseph, it was a close game against Wayland Union last week. The game went into overtime and Coach Elliot Uzelac was able to get a two point conversion for the win. First, they needed to get into the overtime period. After Wayland scored with 2:17 left in the game, St. Joe needed to move from their own 20 into field goal range. With 12 seconds left, kicker Jay Nimtz came in and kicked a 36 yard field goal for the tie. In the game, he caught seven passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Sean Guinane completed 14 of his 20 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Guinane was the player who ran in the two point conversion for the win. Running back Jamaal Jackson took care of the ground game with 105 yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts. The Bears had a fantastic season last year, and hope to go even further this year. Before they can worry about Ford Field, they need to take care of business against Lakeshore.

Mid Michigan - Division 2

Midland at Bay City Western (Friday November 7, 7pm)

Midland is a good team. They are led by future Spartan quarterback Andrew Maxwell and future Northwestern Wildcat receiver Drew Moulton. Couple that with another good receiver in Michael Albrecht and a tough running back in Charlie Leffingwell and you have a good team. They went to the state finals last year (with a little help from Lowell’s Kyle Nichol) and are just as good this season. Maxwell, Leffingwell, and Moulton, offensive lineman Wes LaCourt, kicker Connor Gagnon, defensive lineman Evean Kriz, and Michael Albrecht were named to the All Saginaw Valley First Team. Albrecht was named the MVP. Obviously, this team has had a great season…but they lost one game. That game was to Bay City Western and it cost them the Saginaw Valley League football title. Now they are looking for revenge and to make it one step closer to the state finals. If Midland wins, they will play in the regional finals. If the Chemics can win that game as well, they will probably end up playing either Hudsonville or Muskegon in the semifinals.

The Warriors of Bay City Western have found themselves in a situation not seen since 2005. Back then, they made it to the state semifinals under their great coach, Jim Eurick. Westerns starting quarterback Matt Grew broke his wrist a few weeks ago and probably won’t be playing his QB position, but likely will play on defense. Scott Osentoski started in his spot last week and likely will again versus the Chemics. Running back Justin Gwizdala had busted up some good runs and caught some nifty passes in the Warriors spread offense. On the defensive side, lineman Lucas Kozuch, linebacker Justyn Witzgall, and defensive back Corey Arnold can put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. In the first game, they kept Maxwell running around and didn’t allow him to sit in the pocket, picking them apart with the passing game. I have no idea who will win this game. It’s at “The Cornfield” so BCW will have the home-field advantage. This is the game I’ll be going to so I’ll give a first hand report on Tuesday.

North – Division 8

Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes at Crystal Falls Forest Park (Saturday November 8, 1:30pm)

I’ve previewed this game before. Just two weeks ago, these two teams played and Crystal Falls won 16-6. Lake Linden has a tough defense. Only one team has scored more than two touchdowns against them…and they aren’t even from Michigan! On offense, they tend to run the ball tough with Brandon Sundblad. He had 22 carries for 149 yards and two touchdowns in their win over Iron Mountain Felch North Dickinson. Quarterback Logan Chadde ran in an 18 yard touchdown and also was three of three for 45 yards and a touchdown. Lake Linden likes to run the ball, especially between the tackles. They will go outside if a team allows them and they have a stable of backs itching to get the ball. Chadde thinks that they match up well physically, but need to be mentally prepared to take on the Trojans.

The Trojans of Crystal Falls Forest Park know how to win games. They have played in the five of the past eight state championship games (winning one, last year’s 22-14 win over Fulton-Middleton). Coached by Bill Santilli, these Trojans are rolling again this season. Last week against Baraga, it was a butt kicking. CFFP was up 44-6 at the half and because of the running clock rule; the second half went very quickly. Bob Reid, Trojan quarterback, completed five of his 10 passes for 75 yards and two scores. Josh Siler is typically the workhorse for CFFP, but since Baraga keyed on him, they were able to get more production out of Jim Wheeler. He had 12 carries for 203 yards and four touchdowns. Siler finished with 71 yards on 15 carries and one touchdown. Luckily, Muskegon Catholic Central and Mendon are on the bottom side of the region so they won’t face either until the championship, granted that they make it. Chances are that the winner of this game will face Cedarville next week.