LSJ Gridiron Picks: Norse showed any team can still beat any team on any given week

LocalSportsJournal.com

Was last Friday fun, or what?

In the midst of yet another season full of blowouts in area high school football, we were pleasantly surprised by all the close, exciting games that were played last week in very wet conditions.lsj-fb-logo

Of course the headliner was North Muskegon’s stunning 14-6 victory over previously unbeaten Montague. The Norse, who started the season 0-4, fearlessly traveled to the Wildcats’ stadium and got the job done.Sport Clips 2016 football ad

With all due respect to Montague – Coach Pat Collins runs a fantastic program – the outcome helped restore our faith in the old adage that “any team can beat any team on any given week.”

Upsets are still possible in a local sport where a handful of dominant programs seem to be strong every year, and the majority of their opponents struggle to put up a fight.

Another thriller was at Oakridge, where the young Eagles stayed on course for a West Michigan Conference showdown with Montague by beating a very good Whitehall team by a point.

Our hearts went out to Reeths-Puffer, which was denied at the goal line as time ran out and lost by three to Jenison. But at least fans saw an exciting game.

It was the second time this season that the Rockets lost a close one at the end. The first was in Week 1 against Grand Haven, when a controversial penalty cost R-P a two-point conversion and resulted in a one-point loss.

We were thrilled for the dedicated Spring Lake Lakers, who managed to get their first victory of the season, 20-0 over Coopersville. The Lakers are operating with very few players this year, yet they haven’t quit, and were rewarded for their perseverance.

Now we have three weeks left on the schedule, with a number of big games on the horizon as teams fight for conference titles and claw to get into the playoffs.

One big game will be in Hesperia on Friday, when the suddenly very hot Panthers will host Kent City, with at least a share of the CSAA Silver Division title on the line. Whitehall at Ravenna will be another good one, with two good teams trying to nail down playoff berths while fighting through brutal conference schedules.

On the other end of the scale, we suspect there might be a thriller at Orchard View, where the winless Cardinals will host one-win Muskegon Heights. Both teams have some talent and a lot of pent-up frustration. A good matchup is a good matchup, even if neither team is headed for the postseason.

The season certainly has flown by, hasn’t it? It’s hard to believe we’re already in Week 7. But there are still a lot of questions to be answered and drama to play out before we head to the playoffs, so stay tuned.

This week LocalSportsJournal.com will be covering Kent City at Hesperia, Whitejhall at Ravenna, Musjkegon at Kenowa Hills and Muskegon Heights at Orchard View – with reports from all the other games, as well.

LAST WEEK’S LSJ PICKS RECORD – 10-6

Fremont (0-6) at GRANT (4-2) – The Packers have scored points in their last two contests, which is a moral victory for a team that went the first four weeks without any. But Fremont will have to wait for its first win. Grant needs to win two more games to become playoff eligible, and with the Ravenna Bulldogs looming at the end of the schedule, the Tigers will be motivated to win.

Fruitport (2-4) at JENISON (4-2) – The Trojans have struggled in their first season in the tough O-K Black Conference, losing two of their first three league games. The Wildcats, who finish the regular season against Muskegon, need to win their next two games, or beat the Big Reds to get in the playoffs. Plan A will probably work out a lot better.

EAST KENTWOOD (3-3) at Grand Haven (2-4) – The Buccaneers’ season has been a bit disappointing since their first-week win over Reeths-Puffer. Grand Haven will struggle against a Falcon team this is in must-win mode heading down the stretch.

MONTAGUE (5-1) at Hart (1-5) – The Wildcats are going to be fired up after their upset loss to North Muskegon last week. Hart, which is coming off a shutout loss to Mason County Central, will be the poor victim of Montague’s wrath.

Kent City (4-2) at HESPERIA (4-2) – Panthers coach Doug Bolles has his team playing well lately, winning its last three games. Hesperia will wrap up least a share of the CSAA Silver title before next week’s battle with state champion Muskegon Catholic.

Lakeview (3-3) at HOLTON (2-4) – The Red Devils are currently riddled with injuries, but will overcome that challenge and pick up a close win against the Wildcats.

Baldwin (1-5) at LUDINGTON (5-1) – The Orioles are flying high this season, and will clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2011 and the second since the 2000 season.

Mason County Central (3-3) at OAKRIDGE (5-1) – The Eagles have only missed the playoff once (2004) since the 1994 season. They will keep that impressive run going with a close win over Mason County Central, setting up a showdown next week with Montague for the West Michigan Conference title.

Grand Rapids Union (0-6) at MONA SHORES (3-3) – The young Sailors are holding their own, winning each of their last two games by more than 25 points. They will continue their recent dominance, keep the Red Hawks winless, and stay in the hunt for the playoffs.

MUSKEGON (5-1) at Kenowa Hills (2-4) – The Big Reds scored 69 points last week against Grand Rapids Union, and their offense only snapped the ball 15 times in the game. Kenowa Hills is better than Union, but not enough to make a difference in this game.

MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (6-0) at Manistee (4-2) – The Crusaders’ final challenger of the season in the Lakes 8 Conference won’t provide much of a challenge, and MCC will clinch another league title. Muskegon Catholic has scored 253 points this year and will increase that total substantially.

Muskegon Heights (1-5) at ORCHARD VIEW (0-6) – Cardinal Nation will finally be able to celebrate on a football Friday. OV will win a close contest in its final home game of the season.

Shelby (0-6) at NORTH MUSKEGON (2-4) – After pulling off the upset of the season against Montague, the Norse will remain sky high and win their third in a row.

WHITEHALL (4-2) at Ravenna (4-2) – The Vikings have struggled after a great start, losing their last two games. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are always good, but have struggled to come up with victories in big games. The loser of this one will have to win its last two to make the playoffs.

REETHS-PUFFER (3-3) at Thornapple Kellogg (0-6) – The Rockets must win their last three to reach the postseason, and they’re determined to do it. R-P will have no problem stopping a winless Trojan team, before turning its attention to Fruitport.

SPRING LAKE (1-5) at Holland Christian (1-5) – The Lakers are coming off their first win of the season against Coopersville in shutout fashion. Spring Lake will win the battle of the one-win teams on the road against the struggling Maroons, who have lost four in a row.

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