Will our local football powers once again sweep their opponents and move one step closer to a trip to Ford Field? I think our loyal readers will not be surprised in the least with my picks for this week’s regional championship games, three of which will be played right here at home.
Midland at Muskegon: The Big Reds must refocus their goals following last Friday’s emotional win over Lowell. Muskegon has dominated the past four meetings with the lads from the Chemical City, since the first game played in the Tony Annese era back in 2000. The Chemics took advantage of a gazillion Big Red fumbles to upset Muskegon 13-7 in front of a shocked crowd at historic Hackley Stadium.
Since that debacle, Muskegon has outscored Midland 172-79, including last year’s regional championship game won by our local gridders 49-21. Once the most dominating football conference in the state, the Saginaw Valley no longer strikes fear in their foes as it once did back in the 1950s and 60s.
The Big Reds defense will shut down Midland’s 2000-yard rusher Will Williams in much the same fashion as MSU’s defense did against the Wolverines. The Big Reds might bolt out of the gate slowly on what should be a perfect football afternoon Saturday, but playing in front of the home folks will help as Muskegon moves on to the semifinals.
Millington at Oakridge: Oakridge’s opponent, Millington, is no stranger to the playoffs, having qualified in 15 out of the last 16 years. The Eagles, likewise, are no slouches when it comes to playoffs football, having participated in 18 of the past 19 years.
Oakridge suffered a huge blow when their leading rusher, Dan Shoop, was lost for the season, but other Eagle standouts have taken up the slack. There are a lot of unknowns for this matchup with no common opponents to aid in one picking a winner.
However, I like the Oakridge tradition for winning playoff football games and I do not like the visiting Cardinals long drive across the state Saturday morning. The winner of this regional title game will most likely get a chance to visit my longtime broadcasting partner Gene Young’s favorite town – Marquette – in the Superior Dome to face Menominee.
Schoolcraft at Shelby: Shelby will be hosting a team with a past history loaded with numerous athletic achievements over the years, including winning a state Class C basketball title in 2011.
Included among Schoolcraft victims this season was Parchment, a team that stunned MHSAA football followers with one of the greatest upsets in state history by defeating top-ranked Jackson Lumen Christi in the opening round of this year’s playoffs.
This will be the third meeting since 1994 between Schoolcraft and a team from the West Michigan Conference.
The Eagles edged Montague 42-36 en route to winning a state championship in 2001. In 1994, Schoolcraft ran into a buzzsaw and was throttled 47-3 by the powerful Ravenna Bulldogs, this ‘ole’ announcer picks as the best WMC team of all time.
This game could go right down to the wire, but I like former NFL great Dave Whitsell’s almamater to make their second straight trip to the semifinals.
Muskegon Catholic at Mendon: The Crusaders are the only local team that will have to board a bus to play their game Saturday afternoon. However, MCC could play this game on the moon and I don’t think the final outcome would change.
Since dropping their first two games of the season to Mona Shores and GR Catholic, the Crusaders have mashed their next nine opponents by a combined score of 438-49.
Crusader two-way standout Alex Lewandowski is following in the footsteps of his father, Frank, Lewandowski, a member of my all-time Muskegon-area football team.
The defensive MVP of the Mid-American conference as a middle linebacker at Northern Illinois, father Frank now has the best of both worlds, watching his beloved undefeated Huskies bid for another BCS Bowl appearance, while his former high school team is headed for a trip to Ford Field.
Saturday’s game should be played at Ford Field as these two powers have combined to win an unheard of 19 state titles. Make that 20 this year with first-year coach Steve Czerwon winning his 10th gams as a head coach, denying Mendon’s legendary head coach John Schwartz, percentage wise the top all time coach in MHSAA history, from his 260th victory.