By Jim Moyes
Local Sports Journal

It is hard to fathom that the playoffs are underway this weekend in the Wolverine State while I will be sweltering in the 80-plus degree heat here in the Sunshine State Friday night broadcasting the high school game between Ponte Vedra and Palatka.

Palatka is where a couple of my favorite old time Muskegon baseball players, Jerry Eaton and Howie Meloche, made their minor debuts some sixty years ago.  They would be interested to know that Palatka high school still plays their home high school baseball games on the very same field that those old time fireballing right-handers performed back in the good old days.

Mona Shores and their talented passing combo of Tyree Jackson and Asantay Brown would love to see some of this Florida warm weather, as well a fast track, when they invade Lowell Friday night for the first playoff game in Sailor history.

I have a sneaky suspicion that there are some upsets lurking out there when playoff action kicks off Friday night. Here are the ‘ole’ announcer’s less-than-confident picks for the opening round:

Division 2

w Mona Shores at Lowell:  The Sailors will be decided underdogs on the road to perennial power Lowell. In the Sailors’ Tyree Jackson and the Red Arrows’ Kyler Shurlow, this game features two of the best quarterbacks in the state. The home field advantage, coupled with their poise, tradition and Lowell’s trademark defense, favors the hosts, but the Sailors can play with a nothing-to-lose, all-out attitude. The Sailors’ Asantay Brown, a future WMU Bronco with Greg Jennings like potential, will test the Lowell secondary.

w Reeths Puffer at Muskegon: I love the balanced attack with the current Rocket club, reminiscent of the 1992 State champion backfield foursome of Zietlow, Bates, Hill and Starr. However, I’m not sure RP has an answer for Muskegon’s Deshaun Thrower, nor should one forget that great Muskegon tradition.

Division 4

w Fremont at Comstock Park:  The last time I saw Comstock Park in football was back in 1983, when they were coached by a very young John Shillito, beginning what has truly been a legendary career.  The undefeated Panthers would be mistaken if they take this much-improved Packer team lightly.

l Belding at Spring Lake:  The Lakers gave everybody an eye-awakening moment with their convincing win over previously undefeated Shelby last week. Meanwhile, Belding barely escaped last Friday from being upset by a winless Wyoming team, a team Muskegon Catholic thumped earlier in the season 45-0.

Division 5 

w Newaygo at Oakridge:  These teams have met only twice in the playoffs over the last 16 years (2005 & 1997). Perhaps the Lions are a good luck charm, as the Eagles would advance to win a state title following each of those wins. In what should be a shootout at Jack Shugars Field, the first team to score 50 will win.

Division 6 

w Montague at Shelby:  Neither squad can be happy with the way their regular season ended with disappointing loses last Friday. Although the Tigers put a real hurt on the Wildcats during the regular season, look for Montague to make it much closer tomorrow night. The good news for the winner of this game are some favorable match ups on the way to Ford Field, with three time reigning champion Ithaca in the Northern bracket along with Negaunee.

Division 8

w Middleton-Fulton at Muskegon Catholic:  I was shocked earlier this week when my good friend Mick McCabe of the Detroit Free Press never mentioned Muskegon Catholic as a dark horse, or even a sleeper in Division 8!  McCabe will enjoy watching MCC breeze to yet another state championship from his seat on Press Row at Ford Field on November 29th. In this era of offensive fireworks, the Crusaders’ defense has not permitted more than one TD per game.

w Baldwin at Fowler:  Baldwin may have the best player on the field in Brandon Childress but it will take more than one player to defeat Fowler. My earliest memories of Fowler go back to 1952 when many thought this little Mid-Michigan community may have had the best high school basketball team in any class. One of the star players on Fowler’s ‘52’ team was George Fox, who 25 years later would be the high school coach for one of the game’s all-time legends, Lansing Everett’s Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson.