Local Sports Journal
The Big Reds learned of their new assignment Sunday night, when the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced first-round pairings for the playoffs, which begin next weekend.
Seven area teams qualified for the postseason – Muskegon, Mona Shores, Muskegon Catholic, Oakridge, Ravenna, Whitehall and Spring Lake.
The exact dates and times of first round games will be announced Monday.
Muskegon, 8-1 on the season, will host Grand Rapids Northview (6-3) next weekend. The winner will play the winner of the Forest Hills Northern/Cedar Springs game in the district final.
“We’re excited for a chance to keep playing,” said Muskegon Coach Shane Fairfield. “Our guys know that just because we’re in Division 3 does not mean it will be an easy road. We can’t take anyone for granted.
“We didn’t know there was a possibility of moving down to Division 3 until a couple of weeks ago. But we scrimmaged Northview in the preseason, and we know they are big and physical.”
Muskegon’s shift to Division 3 leaves Mona Shores as the area’s only Division 2 representative in the playoffs.
The Sailors (8-1), who beat Muskegon Friday to win the O-K Black Conference title, will have a first-round rematch against Caledonia (7-2).
The winner will face the survivor of the Traverse City Central/Midland Dow game.
Mona Shores defeated Caledonia 40-7 earlier in the season, but Caledonia has not lost a game since then. A commentator on the MHSAA pairings television show said this game would make a good state semifinal, rather than a first round matchup.
“They’re probably the best 7-2 team in the state,” said Mona Shores Coach Matt Koziak.
Koziak said he reminded his team during a film session this weekend that when he was coaching at Muskegon in 2007, the Big Reds beat Hudsonville 52-0 in the regular season, then lost to the same team 47-7 in the playoffs.
“Teams improve over the course of the season,” Koziak said. “It would be nice to have that matchup in a semifinal or regional final. Having it right away is tough. But we would probably have to play them eventually, anyway. We might as well get it over with.”
Muskegon Catholic (9-0) will begin its defense of its Division 8 state championship with a home game against Fulton-Middleton (6-3), the same opponent the Crusaders opened with in last year’s playoffs. The winner will play the survivor of the Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart/Fowler district matchup.
“The goal we started with was to be playing in Week 10,” said MCC Coach Steve Czerwon. “We accomplished some great things this season, but none of that matters going forward unless we win some games in the coming weeks.”
Oakridge, which won the West Michigan Conference title this year, has a difficult road to navigate throughout districts.
The Eagles (8-1) will open on the road against one-loss Hopkins (8-1). If they survive that game, they could very well face defending state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic, which downed Oakridge 31-0 in Week 1. West Catholic opens the playoffs against Berrien Springs.
“It came down to playoff points, but we’re just glad to start the second season,” said Oakridge Coach Cary Harger, regarding his team’s tough draw. “We are just breaking down film (on Hopkins) tonight. It’s going to be a late night.”
When asked about a possible rematch with West Catholic, Harger said “You’ll have to call me next week about that one.”
Spring Lake (6-3) and Whitehall (7-2) , two local Division 4 teams, will meet at Whitehall in the opening round. The winner will play either Comstock Park or Cadillac in the second round.
In Division 6, Ravenna (7-2), the West Michigan Conference runner-up, will host Carson City Crystal (7-2) in the first round. The winner will play the survivor of the Fennville/Grand Rapids Northpointe Christian game.
FIRST ROUND FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PAIRINGS
Caledonia (7-2) at Mona Shores (8-1)
Grand Rapids Northview (6-3) at Muskegon (8-1)
Spring Lake (6-3) at Whitehall (7-2)
Oakridge (8-1) at Hopkins (8-1)
Carson City Crystal (7-2) at Ravenna (7-2)
Fulton (6-3) at Muskegon Catholic (9-0)