Week Four - Top Religious Teams vs. Tough Competition

Jeffrey Cottrell

Welcome to another week of prep football games! Teams should have straightened out their problems and will continue to play to their strengths. This week has another slate of fantastic games from one side of the state to the other. The games that I’m profiling this week all have one thing in common; all involve at least one religious private school. Most of the teams are ranking in the 9-16 AP Prep football poll or at least received votes (Carrollton). The exceptions to the AP poll are Onekama and Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary.  Do you have thoughts on any of these games? Head over to the Phalanx Forum and post!

West Coast

Grand Rapids South Christian at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (Friday September 19, 7pm)

GRCC has improved much from last season. They have already equaled their win total from last year and are starting to learn the intricacies of their new offense. The Cougars are led by junior quarterback Nick Ens. Last week against Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern, he went 14 of 18 for 145 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 78 yards on the ground with another two touchdowns. Two running backs have contributed to their three wins. Daniel Vicari and Dan Quinn have carried the load and taken some of the pressure off of Nick Ens.

Grand Rapids South Christian has been led by their defense. They have only given up 100+ yards rushing once (last week Wayland Union had 154). When teams decide to through the ball, they aren’t much better off. The Sailors have given up, on average, less than 100 yards through the air. With defense that can shut a team down, it gives the offense some room to make a mistake or two. Quarterbacked by Brent Geers, they went on an 80 yard drive to open the second half and never looked back in last week’s 14-7 win over Wayland Union. They have beaten their rivals to open the season, won in the rain, and got a win in a close game. Next they need a win to stay high in the Division Four football rankings.

Mid Michigan

Carrollton at Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (Friday September 19, 7pm)

Around the Mid Michigan area, when you talk about football and Carrollton, it’s typically about to whom they lost and how badly. That’s not the case this season. The Cavaliers are off to their best start since 1992 (3-0). They haven’t won more than three games since they went 5-4 back in 1993. Being that they were a small Class C school in with the big Class B boys (Saginaw Swan Valley, Midland Bullock Creek, Hemlock, etc) wins were hard to come by. Now that new coach Greg Wasmer has taken over the program, things have turned around quickly. The Cavs are led by Robert Essex, who has nine touchdowns on the season including a five touchdown opening game. They hope to get their first victory over MLS since their last winning season in 1993.

For 2-1 Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, a double threat is something that every team has to honor. With a quarterback who can run and pass the ball like Lucas Proeber, their veer option offense can be tough to defend. Proeber’s accuracy was on display last week when he went five for five, gained 122 yards, and scored twice through the air. Their tight end Mark Voss has been a favorite target for the passing game. Running back Aaron Lindloff has made clutch plays running the ball and some key tackles from his linebacker spot. MLS will need to play better than they have so far this season if they want to beat a hot Carrollton team.

Detroit

Birmingham Brother Rice vs. Detroit Catholic Central (at Southfield Lathrup Saturday September 20, 7pm)

When you talk about high school coaches in Michigan, one name always comes up early on in the conversation. That name is Al Fracassa, the head coach at Birmingham Brother Rice who is in his 40th season as the top dog. His Warriors have a team full of seniors…38 to be exact. At quarterback, a junior named Frankie Popp has two seasoned receivers to throw the ball to (Kevante Martin and Kenny Watkins). If they can run the ball, these two receivers will have a good chance to make plays in the receiving game. The defense has played at an acceptable level, but needs to improve. The defense did get roughed up by Muskegon, but that’s a very good team who’s ranked in Rivals Top 100 teams. Now they move into league play and battle a tough Detroit Catholic Central team. Next week they will play Orchard Lake and then take on Warren De La Salle the following week. It won’t get easier from here on out.

The Shamrocks of Detroit Catholic Central are typically good year in, year out. At one point, they won three state championships in a row. They were down a little bit for a few seasons but made it to the state semifinals before falling to eventual champion Macomb Dakota last November. This year, they have a different problem. The team is filled with juniors and the only starter back on defense is DB Steve Harding. Can this team win with an inexperienced team? They may be inexperienced now, but with all those juniors coming back next season, they will definitely be battle ready for next fall.  Unfortunately, that’s next season and not this Friday. This game will be their first test against a good squad.

Northern Michigan

Manistee Catholic Central at Onekama (Friday September 19, 7pm)

After beating up on two lesser teams, the Portagers of Onekama (O-neck-ah-ma, not one-ka-ma) has seen the quality of their opponents increase dramatically. They try to keep the offense balanced between running the ball and passing it. On the defensive side of the ball, the Portagers have been opportunistic. They got some big plays from Adrain Norman and will need to play well in order to beat Manistee CC. Onekama has beaten MCC twice in a row, after falling to them the previous five seasons.

What a turnaround for Manistee Catholic Central! After posting three consecutive losing seasons, they are on a winning roll. The last time they started out 3-0 was in 2004 when the posted an 8-3 record. This is amazing for a school that enrolls 56 students and doesn’t play as a co-op team. Every boy in the school must play football! The Sabers have allowed only six points total this season and that was in last week’s 71-6 win over the team who is in their second season of play, Big Rapids Crossroads Academy. Manistee CC has a quality win over a good team in Vestaburg. Now they need to win to stay atop the North Division of the Mid State Conference.

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