By Jason Goorman
Local Sports Journal

Here’s my biggest prediction of the week – we’re finally going to get a handful of close, exciting high school football games this Friday!

Of course it all starts with Oakridge vs. Whitehall, the battle for first place in the West Michigan Conference with only one week to go in league action.JG gridiron picks logo

Oakridge has been amazing forever, but perhaps never moreso than this season. The Eagles have a sophomore quarterback and mostly juniors in all the skill positions, yet they’ve been throttling opponents since a Week 1 defeat.

Whitehall is equally amazing. Who would have guessed that a team that finished with one win last year would be competing for the conference title this late in the season?

Who’s going to win this one? You’ll have to check below.

I happen to think that Mona Shores at Reeths-Puffer could turn out to be a very good game. Of course, the Sailors are cruising along at 5-1 while the Rockets are treading water at 3-3. But Reeths-Puffer has talent, and will be playing its heart out to avoid playoff elimination. Well worth the price of a ticket.

Another very good game will be played at Fruitport, where the Trojans and Spring Lake will fight it out for second place in the Lakes 8 Conference, then hope against hope that O-V can upset Muskegon Catholic, giving the winner a share of the league title. This is an evenly matched game between two neighboring schools that love to beat each other.

Just for the fun of it, I will even go out on a limb and suggest that Muskegon Catholic and Orchard View could be interesting. Of course logic says otherwise, because MCC has been making mincemeat of all challengers in its first year in the Lakes 8.Shoreline football instory art

But Orchard View is pretty good, and the Crusaders have to have a sluggish performance one of these weeks – don’t they?

The schedule is enticing next week, too, with Muskegon meeting Reeths-Puffer, Whitehall locking horns with Ravenna and Muskegon Catholic hosting legendary power Detroit Country Day.

No doubt about it, the next two Fridays will be a welcome relief from the plethora of blowouts we’ve been stuck with all season.

Just look at some of last week’s scores  – Whitehall over Hart 72-0, Mona Shores over Zeeland East 61-20, Reeths-Puffer over Grand Rapids Union 42-6, Ravenna over North Muskegon 49-6 and Bay City John Glenn over Muskegon Heights 49-20.

It’s time for some old fashioned gridiron drama, with close scores and desperate players fighting for league titles and playoff berths. I can hardly wait for Friday.

Meanwhile, I should mention that I posted another great record last Friday, going 11-3 with my picks. Never mind that a lot of the blowouts were pretty darned easy picks!

Whitehall (6-0) at OAKRIDGE (5-1) – Tough to pick against anyone in this classic matchup. I have to give the edge to Oakridge, just because the Eagles are home and are more accustomed to the pressure of big games.

ROCKFORD (5-1) at Grand Haven (3-3)– The Bucs need to win their last three games to maintain a realistic hope for a playoff berth. I’m just not convinced they can do it against five-win Rockford.

MONA SHORES (5-1) at Reeths-Puffer (3-3) – The host Rockets have some potent weapons, but they are also young and inconsistent. They will have to play a nearly flawless game to keep up with the Sailors. I will make two predictions – Reeths-Puffer will play great and keep it exciting, but Mona Shores pulls it out in the end.

MUSKEGON (6-0) at Zeeland East – The Big Red’s schedule could become challenging in the next two weeks, when they play Reeths-Puffer and Mona Shores. No challenge this week, however.

FREMONT (1-5) at Ludington (1-5) – The Packers have had an unexpectedly painful season, but my gut tells me they’re going to rise up and notch their only Lakes 8 victory of the season.

Spring Lake (4-2) at FRUITPORT (3-3) –This has the makings of a real barnburner, and it’s a neighborhood rivalry, to boot. I like the Trojans, who looked great last week against Orchard View.

MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (6-0) at Orchard View (4-2) – Okay, here’s my wildest call of the week. The Cardinals, who have played very well at times this year, will catch the Crusaders napping a bit and keep this one interesting for about three quarters. But I can’t get too crazy here – MCC wakes up in time to wrap up its first Lakes 8 title.

MASON COUNTY CENTRAL  (3-3) at Hart (1-5) – You really have to respect those Hart kids, who get smashed week after week but still show up to fight for their school. Unfortunately they will get smashed again on Friday.

North Muskegon (3-3) at MONTAGUE (0-6)– This is the week the improving Wildcats finally get their first victory. It should be a very close, entertaining contest, too, for anyone who happens to go.

RAVENNA (5-1) at Shelby (2-4)– Ravenna still has a shot at a share of the West Michigan Conference title, and the Bulldogs won’t let Shelby ruin that this week.

Lakeview (5-1) at HESPERIA (1-5) – This is a bit of a stretch – okay a really big stretch – but the Panthers achieved victory for the first time last week, and will find a way to experience that great feeling again.

White Cloud (1-6) at HOLTON (2-4) – White Cloud is the team that Hesperia beat to get its first win. If Hesperia can do it, Holton can do it.

Manistee (4-2) at MUSKEGON HEIGHTS (2-4) – The Tigers were pounded by Bay City John Glenn last week, but Manistee has never impressed me in football, despite its four wins. Muskegon Heights gets win number three.