LSJ gridiron picks: Here’s to old-fashioned games played in high school stadiums

LocalSportsJournal.com

It was a great opportunity for the Muskegon Big Reds to play at majestic Michigan Stadium last Saturday.LSJ Logo incert

The Big Reds certainly showed they belonged on the big stage, stomping Ann Arbor Pioneer 51-14 in a battle of the two winningest high school programs in state history.Sport Clips 2016 football ad

But we feel like the Big Reds got ripped off, in a way, because their game was played in an eerily silent atmosphere.

Saturday’s “Battle at the Big House” featured three games. The Muskegon-Pioneer game was the last on the schedule and was slated to start at 7 p.m.

But severe storms hit Ann Arbor in the morning, forcing all the games to start late. The Muskegon game didn’t kick off until 8:30 p.m.

Before the game the PA announcer told the crowd that he was about to go silent. Due to some sort of local late-night noise ordinance, there would be no “play-by-play” announcing during the contest, like there was for the two previous games.

So there was nobody telling the crowd who carried the ball, made the catch or got the tackle after every play. There was nobody explaining what penalty was called or how many yards it would cost the guilty team.

That was tough on the fans, who deserved to know who did what on the field. That’s not always easy to tell, particularly in such a big stadium.

We felt bad for the players, most of whom were getting their only chance to play at the Big House, and didn’t get to hear their names called out after big plays.

Reporters in the press area were also handicapped, because they were situated far away from the action, and had to determine who did what by the smallish numbers on the backs of jerseys. Was that number 12 or number 2 who carried the ball? Keeping accurate stats was a nightmare.

Meanwhile, everyone who got hungry at the game, and visited a concession stand, really got ripped off. One reporter bought four hot dogs and two small pops for himself and his co-worker and paid an astonishing $45!

The University of Michigan is a public university, funded with public tax dollars. It seems like hard-working taxpayers could expect to pay a little less than $8 or $9 for a measly hot dog!

But that was last week. Most of our local teams are playing right here in the area this week, or at least at other high schools, where the concession stands don’t charge an arm and a leg. Most of the games are on Thursday, due to the holiday, but the Big Reds will host an Illinois squad and Holton will visit River Valley on Saturday.

Here are our picks for the week:

Spring Lake (0-1) at FRUITPORT (0-1) – These two rivals seem pretty evenly matched, and it should be a very competitive “Battle of the Bayou.” The edge goes to Fruitport, just because the Lakers have  a pretty small roster, meaning a lot of guys play just about every down and get worn out, particularly in the early season humidity.

Chicago Stevenson at MUSKEGON (1-0) – We watched the Big Reds dismantle a highly-ranked Ann Arbor Pioneer squad last weekend, so we already know how good they can be. We don’t know much about Stevenson, a high school located in suburban Chicago, but if Muskegon plays the way it did at the Big House, it will be a long ride home for the Illinois visitors.

REETHS-PUFFER (0-1) at Orchard View (0-1) – It’s good to see these two old Seaway Conference rivals meeting again. The Rockets suffered a very tough, last-minute loss to Grand Haven last week, but looked pretty good at times. We don’t think the Cardinals are as bad as they looked against Montague, but R-P wins this one.

Zeeland West (1-0) at MONA SHORES (1-0) – Everyone knows the Sailors are reloading with 21 new starters, but they still looked strong last week against West Ottawa. We’ll keep picking Mona Shores until we find a reason not to, even though Zeeland West is one tough team.

GR WEST CATHOLIC (1-0) at Muskegon Heights (1-0) – This has the potential to be a more interesting game than people might expect. Heights turned a lot of heads with an easy win over Baldwin in Week 1. Of course West Catholic is West Catholic, and the defending state champs have to be favored. Will the Tigers make a game of it?

North Muskegon (0-1) at WHITEHALL (1-0) – We suspect the Norse are much better than they performed last weekend against Reed City. Meanwhile, a young Whitehall team showed a lot of offensive spark in a high-scoring victory over Kelloggsville. This could be a barn-burner. We’ll go with the Vikings, just because they have home-field advantage.

MONTAGUE (1-0) at Ravenna (1-0) – The picks just keep getting tougher. Both teams came out of the gate with impressive wins last week. New Montague QB Dylan Stever made headlines with six touchdown passes, while Ravenna displayed a potent, diverse ground game against Kent City. We’ll stick with Montague, but just barely.

St. Ignace LaSalle (1-0) at MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (1-0) – The Crusaders won this matchup in the state semifinals last season with a young offensive backfield. Those running backs are now a year older and even better, which is bad news for the visitors – who appear to be pretty good, by the way, following a 44-0 win last week over Inland Lakes.

OAKRIDGE (0-1) at Hart (0-1) – The young Eagles got schooled last week in a loss to Muskegon Catholic. They will apply the lessons they learned against the young Pirates, in the first varsity football game to be played in Hart in about two years.

Fremont (0-1) at CHIPPEWA HILLS (1-0) – The Packers have not won a game in a long time. They are learning under a new head coach, and the victories will eventually start to come, but not this week.

TRAVERSE CITY WEST (1-0) at Grand Haven (1-0) – The Bucs showed a lot of character after rallying to beat Reeths-Puffer last week, but also had a bit of luck when the Rockets botched a PAT opportunity near the end of the game. Meanwhile, TC West put up 45 points against Midland. This is a challenging assignment for Grand Haven.

HESPERIA (1-0) at Wyoming Godwin Heights (1-0) – The only question for the Panthers was whether their new offensive line could block for their explosive veteran running backs. The answer is clearly “yes” following last week’s destruction of Montabella.

HOLTON (0-1) at River Valley (0-0) – Sometimes it takes a week for a team to get moving. The Red Devils are better than their opening-night performance against Lake Michigan Catholic. We will confidently pick Holton for the second week in a row – particularly since River Valley was winless last year and did not play in Week 1.

MASON COUNTY CENTRAL (1-0) at Shelby (0-1) – The Spartans have a tough little program, and appear to be good again this year following a 43-8 throttling of Benzie County Central. Shelby’s long losing streak will extend at one week longer.

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