Week Seven - It's Gut Check Time

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It’s been cold and rainy in Michigan…true fall weather. Many schools have had their homecoming football games already. I know my team has been the visiting team for homecoming the past two weeks, are again this week, and then have our own the following week. The fun and memories of homecoming are great and all, but I remember much more about what happened on the gridiron than what I wore or ate for homecoming. Football is such a major part of high school for so many boys. Decades after you played your last game, when teammates get together, they still talk about that big game or the big play that “so and so” made. Thanks to those who voted on the North Game in the Phalanx forum. Also, I want to send a big thumbs-up to Rohirim36 for bringing the rivalry to my attention. Let’s get into this week’s slate of games.

West

Rockford (6-0) at Muskegon (4-2) (Friday October 9, 7pm)

Two of west Michigan’s powerhouse programs will be battling it out on Friday night. Rockford, the defending state champions in Division 1 will take on the defending Division 2 state champs. Last week against West Ottawa, Rockford trailed 7-3 at the half. The three points were thanks to the foot of senior kicker Paul Mudgett and his 51 yard field goal. He also kicked a 37 yard field goal in the third quarter. Quarterback Taylor Masiewicz completed nine of his 17 passes for 108 yard and a touchdown. Running back Ryan Darby carried the ball nine times for 75 yards and a score, including a 56 yard scamper for a score in the fourth quarter. Defensively, Brett Egnatuk had eight tackles. I expect Rockford to do what they always do; play tough defense, capitalize on the other team’s mistakes, and play great special teams.

The Big Reds are one of the most decorated teams in Michigan High School Football history. They’ve been around “forever” and won many, many games. This year, they come into the Rockford game with two losses, which is a little down, but still pretty dang good. Last week, they found themselves on the losing end of the scoreboard. Gaining 260 yards of total offense, they were held to eight first downs. Quarterback Kevonta Keys completed two of his six passes for 53 yards and an interception. 46 of those yards came on a completion to Gavin Mathews. Keys also ran in a touchdown in the third quarter from five yards out. Running back Greg Wickliffe carried the ball only five times, but gained 86 yards, including an 80 yard scamper to put Muskegon on the board in the first quarter. Juwan Lewis had a 37 yard touchdown run in the first quarter. The Big Red Machine (as it’s called) had played very well in its previous two games, but wasn’t able to make the plays against East Kentwood. They will need to make those plays against a very good Rockford team this week.

Mid Michigan

Lapeer West (6-0) at Linden (6-0) (Friday October 9, 7pm)

I hadn’t given much love to the Flint schools, so I made sure to get them in here this week. Lapeer West is sitting pretty at 6-0, but four of those six were decided by four points or less. That shows that they can pull it together and win tough, close games. Last week, they lost many players to injury, but quarterback Nate Smith was able to drive his team 70 yards in the later part of the fourth quarter to pull out a 25-21 victory. He capped the drive by running the ball in from 33 yards out. On the night, he was nine of 25 for 94 yards and an interception. The seven times he carried the ball, he gained 60 yards and that game winning score. Landon Warren caught four of his footballs for 51 yards. Jake Fenslau carried 14 times for 48 yards and two scores while his backfield mate Tyler Andrews carried 11 times and gained 65 yards. All in all, they gained 245 yards on the ground. With all of the injuries sustained in last week’s game, they will have to get healthy quick or find some good replacements if they want to stay undefeated.

The Eagles of Linden are rolling this season. They have scored at least 39 points in every game and only given up 88 points total. Last week they had their way with Flint Kearsley and won 48-13. Quarterback Cody Marks completed eight of his 23 passes for 230 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception. He also ran for 95 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Alex Summers caught four balls for 104 yards and two scores. Even though Marks ran for the most yardage and had the most attempts, running backs Jake Ackerman ran seven times for 37 yards, Thad Kenny carried six times for 25 yards, and Nate Armstrong gained the most yards, 50, on four attempts. Linden is playing well, but will need to get ready for a tough, physical game against Lapeer West.

Detroit

Ann Arbor Huron (3-3) at Ann Arbor Pioneer (5-1) (Friday October 9, 5pm)

The River Rats of Ann Arbor Huron played tough last week and beat Saline. Andrew Gleichert was one of the game’s top players; he interception a pass for a touchdown and also running for 120 yards and a score on six attempts. Bradford King ran 19 times, gained 116 yards, and scored twice. Quarterback John Helvie completed 11 of his 22 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. That was better than Spartan bound Saline quarterback Joe Boisture. He was 10 of 19 for 144 yards and two interceptions. Huron needs a few more wins to get into playoff contention.

One week after losing their first game of the season, the third largest school in Michigan (behind Sterling Heights Stevenson and Utica Eisenhower), came out strong and beat Monroe. Ann Arbor Pioneer quarterback Miles Sorise tossed three touchdown passes to wide receiver Ricardo Miller. Sophomore running back Drake Johnson scored twice and had over 120 rushing yards. Kicker Jeremy Ross kicked a 37 and 38 yard field goals. On defense, they held Enrique Mendez to 19 yards on seven carries. This game is one that both teams will be up for. Everyone wants to beat their rival.

Capital

Stockbridge (6-0) at Parma Jackson County Western (5-1) (Friday October 9, 7pm)

It’s been a long time since Stockbridge has won a conference title. 30 years to be exact. With their win over Brooklyn Columbia Central, they got at least a share of the crown. It wasn’t easy, but they were able to get the overtime W and secure a spot in the playoffs with their sixth win. Quarterback Jeff O’Brien scored with 34 seconds left in the game and the extra point tied it up and sent it into OT. He completed six of his 16 passes for 161 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those went to R.J. Marshall who tallied 108 yards. In addition to passing for three scores, O’Brien also ran the ball 20 times for 127 and another score. Dustin Noll won the game with a 30 yard field goal in overtime. The Panthers showed that they can battle back; they were down two touchdowns and still won the game. They will need another solid game to beat Western and win the Southern Michigan Activities Association football title outright.

Parma Western is having a great season in their own right. This is their first winning season since going 5-4 in 1990. Last week they smacked around Leslie 49-14, their first win over that school since the 1990 winning season. On the night, they racked up 436 yards of total offense. Quarterback Nate Sobania completed six of his eight passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns. Three of the receiving touchdowns went to Kurt Mick, who finished with three catches for 142 yards. Austin Maynard ran the ball 14 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns while also catching a 54 yard touchdown pass. Eight different people carried the ball in the game. The Parma Western Panthers will be battling the Stockbridge Panthers for at least a share of the crown. If they can come out and score 36 in the first quarter like they did against Leslie, they’ll have smooth sailing. Somehow, I doubt that Stockbridge is going to allow that to happen. I have a good feeling that the Panthers will win the game. Which Panthers team? I have no idea!

North

Negaunee (5-1) at Ishpeming (4-2) (Friday October 9, 7:30)

I wasn’t sure which game to profile in my northern section of Michigan. So I posed the question to my friends on The Phalanx. Even though I typically don’t profile the same team two weeks in a row, everyone wanted the Negaunee vs. Ishpeming game. Ask and you shall receive! Although I don’t know much about the rivalries in the UP, they tell me that this is one of the biggest, most intense rivalries in the UP. It’s interesting that there should be at least three Naults playing in the game.

Negaunee coach Paul Jacobson admitted that his star in the secondary last game was Nathan Alexander. He was sick all week, but made plays in the game, including the interception to seal the deal for Negaunee. Running back Cody Dagenais carried the ball 33 times for 150 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Tyler Nault also ran the ball, but he gained 115 and a touchdown on his 12 carries. The offensive line for the Miners is rather large; they have been able to open holes for Dagenais and Nault. There are only 3.7 miles that separates these two high schools. Both teams will be ready to play hard and beat their rivals for bragging rights.

For the Ishpeming Hematities, this is a very important game. They need to win two of the last three games to get into the playoffs. More important than that, they want to beat their rival and start a new winning streak against Negaunee. Last week in their 38-8 victory over Munising, it was all about fullback Brad Nault and quarterback Daniel Olson. Nault ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns while Olson, Coach Jeff Olson’s son, contributed 109 yards and two more touchdowns. Tailback Brett Nault will be another player that Negaunee will have to contend with. He has 613 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. Ishpeming likes to control the ball and capitalize on the opposing team’s mistakes. Coach Olson knows that they will have to cover the whole field and keep to their defensive assignments. If they fail to do that, Negaunee will start a winning streak of their own.