By Jason Goorman

Two weekends, four nights of prep football.

What a great early season treat for area high school football fans.LSJ Logo incert

I’m not sure why – I thought I heard someone say it’s because Labor Day is late this year – but there will be games on Thursday and Friday night, this weekend and next.

That will give fans a rare opportunity to catch four games over the next two weeks, and start to get an idea of who’s going to be good and not-so-good this season.Sport Clips football sponsor logo BW

Two teams we know are going to be very good – Muskegon Catholic and Oakridge – will go head-to-head in the feature game of Week 1.

It’s pretty incredible that these two traditional football powers have never met on the gridiron before, and it’s hard to guess what might happen Friday night when they finally lock horns on the Oakridge turf.

Regardless of who comes out on top, both teams are headed for very big seasons.

Still, they both want to get off to a good start, and they both want the bragging rights that will come with a victory. That means it will probably be a classic game decided late in the fourth quarter. Who’s going to win? See below.

We will also be interested to see how Mona Shores does in the absence of All-State quarterback Tyree Jackson, who’s now playing at the University of Buffalo. The Sailors have a lot of great skill position players back, and should be very good again, but all eyes will be on Tyler Trovinger, Jackson’s replacement, when Shores hosts Holland West Ottawa on Thursday.

Another intriguing matchup will be in Montague, where the rapidly rising Orchard View Cardinals will face a Montague team with a great quarterback (Jacob Buchberger) and a huge determination to make it back to the playoffs.

Two teams who have barely missed the playoffs in recent years – North Muskegon and Fruitport – will have real challenges on their hands from Holton and Grand Haven, respectively.

It’s too bad we won’t be able to see new Muskegon Big Red quarterback – highly touted junior Kalil Pimpleton – do his thing against Detroit Catholic on Friday. Unfortunately that game is being played across the state, but of course Local Sports Journal will have all the details for Big Red fans who can’t make the drive.

Here are my picks for Week 1:

MUSKEGON CATHOLIC at Oakridge – MCC can set a modern day Muskegon County record of 27 straight wins with a victory. But the Crusaders graduated heavy at the skill positions, and will feature a new starting quarterback and several new running backs. Oakridge returns a bunch of  offensive standouts, including quarterback Brady Luttrull and running back Kolin Chahorski. But MCC, the two-time state champion, thrives on big games. A slight edge to the Crusaders.

MUSKEGON at Detroit Catholic – The Big Reds, like Muskegon Catholic, lost a lot of very talented skill players, but the Big Reds never rebuild, they just reload with a steady supply of talented, well-coached players every year. The word is that the new Muskegon QB is pretty darn good, despite his small size. Advantage Muskegon against a very tough opponent.

West Ottawa at MONA SHORES – The Sailors demonstrated in the state semifinals last year that they can play great without Jackson. Trovinger is a good quarterback who will be surrounded by a lot of weapons. Shores gets win No. 1.

ORCHARD VIEW at Montague – I will confidently predict that this one will be worth the price of admission. Beyond that, I say O-V by a hair, but gosh, it could go either way.

FRUITPORT at Grand Haven – Both of these teams should be pretty good this season. I’ve been impressed with Fruitport quarterback Jared Wierengo, who’s back for his senior year, and I think the Trojans will have an effective running game with Nick Kramer and Levi Six. Fruitport wins by a touchdown – I think.

REETHS-PUFFER at Holland – The Rockets won this matchup pretty easily last year, en route to an otherwise miserable season. They are probably going to be much better this year, so there’s no reason to think they will lose to the Dutch.

Spring Lake at COOPERSVILLE – I don’t know much about Coopersville, but I do know Spring Lake lost more than 20 seniors to graduation. I assume that means it will take the Lakers some time to start clicking.

HESPERIA at Montabella – Watch Hesperia running back Brandon Goins. He’s a big kid who’s going to make some noise this season. The Panthers open up with a win.

NORTH MUSKEGON at Holton – This could be an extremely good game. Both teams have any number of talented players returning. But I like the Norse with quarterback Erick Bleakley back in the lineup, after missing half of last season with an injury.

RAVENNA at Kent City – The Bulldogs scored a lot of points last year, and most of their big guns like David Thompson and Dakota Hudson are back for another season. Ravenna wins this traditional neighborhood opener in a romp.

Kelloggsville at WHITEHALL – The Vikings surprised everyone with their great season last fall. With a lot of talented returnees – including the impressive Aylor brothers – the only surprise this week will be if Kelloggsville stays in the game for four quarters.

FREMONT at Sparta – It’s hard to say how the Packers will do this season, but Sparta went winless in 2014, so I’ll stick with Fremont this week.

SHELBY at Grant – The Tigers were bitterly disappointed with a 2-7 record last year, following four straight seasons of big success. Coach Lorenzo Rodriguez has some good players back, and I think they may sneak up on a lot of people again this fall.

Muskegon Heights at NEWAYGO – The Lions graduated a lot of talent from last season’s playoff team, but they should still be good enough to handle the very young, rebuilding Tigers.

LUDINGTON at Manistee – Will the Orioles be better this year? Who knows? But they will get at least one win, courtesy of Manistee.

Benzie Central at MASON COUNTY CENTRAL – The Spartans will get a nice win on opening night before turning their attention to their always difficult West Michigan Conference schedule.