Week Ten - Stayin' Alive

Jeffrey Cottrell

MHSAA

And a-here-we-go! It’s playoff time! All the summer workouts and seven-on-sevens have been worth it for the teams still playing this weekend. Some may have a Happy Halloween, while others will see more tricks than treats. In either case, it’s game time because if you don’t come out ready to play, teams could be one and done. This is the time of year I love; we get many top notch football games with teams approximately the same size going against each other. If they win, they will be Stayin' Alive to play another game.

Detroit

Birmingham Brother Rice (6-3) at Farmington Hills Harrison (9-0) (Friday October 29, 7pm) (Division 2)

This is quite a game. Brother Rice started out the season with two losses (Detroit MLK and Toledo Saint John’s Jesuit). I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that they would only lose one more game. Now here they are, the Detroit Catholic League Central Division Champions and in the playoffs. Last week in the A/B Championship game at Ford Field, it took a goal line stand with six seconds left to preserve the victory. All State middle linebacker (and commit to the BEST school in the state, Central Michigan) stuffed Cortez Riley at the one yard line. Receiver Matthew Ogren caught four footballs for 82 yards and two touchdowns. One of those scores came from 50 yards out after a fumble by Orchard Lake St Mary’s ended a chance to put Brother Rice away. Quarterback Tyler Lendzion completed 13 of his 19 passes for 192 yards. Brother Rice head coach Al Fracassa is a LEGEND in the state. There is no situation that he hasn’t seen or experienced. He will have his squad ready to battle and a great game plan in place.

When you talk high school coaching legends, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention John Herrington in the same breath as Al Fracassa. Both have been at the helm of their respective schools for a very long time. Fracassa and Herrington both have multiple state championships and great winning percentages. If any game this weekend is going to be a battle of coaches as much as a battle of players, this is the game. Last week, the Hawks of Farmington Hills Harrison beat their cross town rival Farmington 21-0 to win the Oakland Activities Association White Division championship. Quarterback Tommy Vento had another great game, completing 11 of 18 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. His brother Jake caught the first touchdown late in the first quarter on an eight yard strike. He also caught the second score on a long 46 yard pass. Sophomore Garius Coleman caught an 11 yard strike in the third to round out the scoring. The Hawks are playing at a very high level right now. Unfortunately, the game I would LOVE to see at Ford Field during Thanksgiving Weekend will be played in the first round. These two storied Detroit programs have a lot to play for and it will be a war from the second that kicker puts foot to ball until the final whistle.

West Coast

Stevensville-Lakeshore (7-2) at St. Joseph (7-2) (Friday October 29, 7pm) (Division 3)

These two teams know each other quite well. This will be the 14th meeting between them since 2000. In the past four seasons, they have played each other twice. Stevensville has a pretty good team even though they lost to Portage Central last week. It didn’t help that star wingback Robert Shelby missed the game due to a sprained ankle. Quarterback Alex Padla led rushers with 76 yards on 20 carries. Reserve quarterback Johnny Nate hit Dylan Brooks for a 24 yard touchdown with 43 seconds remaining in the game. Jon Ashbrook opened the scoring for the Lancers with a four yard run in the third quarter. What really killed S-L were turnovers. They lost two fumbles and had two footballs intercepted. If Shelby can come back to play and the Lancers can get their offense rolling (and defense for that matter), they will have a good chance to beat St. Joseph.

After three seasons of at least a share of the Southwest Michigan League West Division crown, they are without a trophy this year. Part of the problem was the vulnerability to the deep pass. Portage Northern exploited that and came away with a 27-14 win over the Bears. The Bears were able to get their running game going. Eddie Montgomery rushed 26 times for 126 yards. Quarterback Jeremy Rush completed 14 of his 22 passes for 125 yards and both scores. Bobby Symonds caught seven of those for 83 yards and a touchdown. Both of these teams play tough football and have good head coaches. Since they’ve played so many times, they know the tendencies of each other and should know what to expect. It will be all about who executes their game plan.

Mid Michigan

Saginaw Swan Valley (6-3) at Freeland (7-2) (Friday October 29, 7pm) (Division 5)

The Vikings of Swan Valley did not have the game they wanted to end the regular season. With their chance at a conference title ruined the week before in front of the homecoming crowd against rival Hemlock, the Vikings came into the game a little disheartened. That was evident by their play. They got on the board first, but Bay City John Glenn rattled off 33 consecutive points to end the half. Jared Briguglio, the Vikings star running back, couldn’t get around the edge against the speedy defense of John Glenn. He finished the night with 85 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts and two receptions for 32 yards. Quarterback Cody Call completed five of his seven passes for 57 yards. Swan Valley is a running team so he hadn’t attempted that many passes in a game all season. The Vikings will need to play the way they did against Freeland the first time or they could end up getting out the wrestling mats.

Freeland is having a nice season. They lost to Clare by one point to open the season and to Swan Valley on October 8th, but otherwise have been quite good. Against a perfect Bridgeport team (perfectly defeated in every game), they just poured it on early and often. With a 41-0 lead after the first quarter, they didn’t need to worry much about it being a close game. The three starting running backs for the Falcons only carried a total of nine times, but David Ruhlman ran three times for 95 yards and two scores, Justin Pettenger ran four times for 89 yards and returned two punts for touchdowns, and Michael Graebner ran two times for 48 yards and two more scores. Freeland has momentum going into the playoffs. If they can harness that and keep mistakes at a minimum, they have a very good chance at getting to the second round.

North

Traverse City St. Francis (7-2) at Whittemore-Prescott (8-1) (Friday October 29, 7pm)

(Division 7)

When I heard that the Gladiators had lost their star running back before the season even began, I didn’t think they would even make the playoffs. I can admit that I was totally wrong. Although their streak of wins in the Lake Michigan Conference came to an end early in the season against Elk Rapids, they still were able to put together a playoff run. Coach Greg Vaughn has his team doing what they do every year; win games and get into the playoffs. The star of the huge 38-35 win over a very good Grayling team was running back John Zakrzewski. He ran for 256 yards on 23 carries and scored three times…including a 95 yard sprint in the first quarter. He also caught three balls for 56 yards. The quarterback with a very familiar surname, Riley Bullough played well at quarterback. He completed eight of his 14 passes for 169 yards and made nine tackles on defense. Justin Olm caught two for 59 yards and Ryan McDonnell nabbed two passes for 52 yards. One of McDonnell’s catches was for a touchdown when Bullough found him open in the end zone with only 20 seconds left in the game. That score pushed them ahead and gave them the win.

Whittemore-Prescott beat up on Tawas Area to finish the regular season with an 8-1 record and win the first ever Huron Shores Conference title. It didn’t take long for the Cardinals to get it going, scoring 28 points in the first quarter, 20 in the second and coasting to the win. Justin Irvine ran the ball 11 times for 138 yards and a touchdown. Cody Foreman ran seven times for 78 yards and a score. Adam Rumbold caught one football for 16 yards and a score. Dakota Harrington also caught a touchdown pass from nine yards out. This game will be a very interesting match up. St. Francis has all the tradition in the world. W-P has won a state title in the past ten years (2000). The Cardinals have been humming along this season and TCSF has stumbled a few times. It’s anyone’s game and we’ll see what happens when the dust settles.

Capital Area

Williamston (8-1) at Lansing Catholic (9-0) (Friday October 29, 7pm) (Division 4)

The Hornets of Williamston have a great season going. The only loss so far was to Lansing Catholic in overtime late in September. Now, they get a chance at revenge. Quarterback Kory McKay tossed 16 passes, completed seven of them, gained 186 yards and scored twice through the air in the 56-29 victory over Chesaning. He also gained 58 yards and scored once when he ran the ball. Corbin Austin ran the ball six times and gained 125 yards and scored three times. Dylan Monette caught three footballs for 52 yards. You know the players and coaches have been thinking about loss to Lansing Catholic. Williamston is a good football team and will need to play nearly flawless if they want to win. The defense needs to slow down Cooper Rush and Matt Macksood.

Lansing Catholic is on a roll this season. Quarterback Cooper Rush is standing like a man among boys most games. A couple of weeks ago against Ionia, Rush and Macksood had a record setting game. Macksood caught 11 footballs for 372 yards and four touchdowns, which is a state record. Rush completed 15 of 18 passes for 449 yards as well (12th all time). Last week it wasn’t a record setting performance, but still a good win over perfectly defeated Albion. Rush completed five of his six passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Macksood caught two touchdown passes enrooted to a four catch 98 yard night. Running back Cedric Lee ran seven times for 103 yards. Jack Swain toted the rock five times but gained 110 yards and scored twice…the final score coming on a 99 yard run. This team has a good shot at getting to the regional finals at the least and could end up at Ford Field if things go their way.

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