By Jason Goorman
Traditional rivalries are great in all sports, but they are the most special in football.
In football you get one shot – at least in the regular season – then you have to shut up until next fall.
There’s also the fact that local rivalries are becoming an endangered species in high school football. Teams are joining conferences from distant counties and traveling farther and farther for games, and the grudge matches between neighboring schools have sometimes been sacrificed.
More than a few fans of yesteryear would roll over in their graves if they knew that Muskegon and Muskegon Catholic no longer play each other (or MCC and Mona Shores, or Muskegon and Muskegon Heights, or Reeths-Puffer and Orchard View, etc).
So it’s good to savor these intense rivalry games when they still come along. And there are three big ones this week.
The biggest game, of course, is Whitehall-Montague. This is always a heated showdown, no matter what, because of the historic rivalry between the two White Lake schools.
But when was the last time both teams were so darned good? This game is more than just the “Battle for the Red, White and Blue Bell.” It will have an impact on the West Michigan Conference title race, and possibly the playoff picture.
I feel sorry for the slob who has to pick a winner in this one. Oh wait. That’s me.
Two other traditional rivalries will also be renewed this week, with a lot on the line.
Ravenna will travel to Oakridge, and offensive fireworks are in the forecast.
Oakridge is undefeated in the West Michigan Conference, and is currently on track to repeat as champions. Ravenna has a league loss to Montague, and desperately needs a win to remain in the conference and playoff chase.
There won’t be a lot of fans sitting on their hands at this game because both teams cam light up the scoreboard. Add in the rivalry factor and you have one heck of a game.
To the northeast, Hesperia has been wildly impressive this year with its potent Wing-T offensive attack. But the Panthers will visit their M-120 rival Holton, which has a decent team and the added incentive of knocking off Hesperia. This could be an unexpectedly good game.
And I desperately need an unexpectedly good week of picks. After doing quite well in Week 3, I reverted to my previous pattern and struggled with a 9-6 mark last week.
So I took Grand Haven over Hudsonville and Muskegon Heights over Saginaw Nouvel. I guess I’m a bit of a cheerleader for our local schools when they play outside teams. Sue me.
MONTAGUE (4-0) at Whitehall (3-1) – Do I really have to pick a winner in this one? Can’t we just say that two great teams from the same neck of the woods are going to meet, and both will still be great teams, regardless of the outcome? No? Okay – I’ll take Montague by the thinnest of hairs, just because its ground game has been so darned impressive. But everyone knows this one could go either way.
Ravenna (2-2) at OAKRIDGE (3-1) – Ravenna scores a lot of points, but it gives up a lot of points, too. That will create perfect conditions for Eagle quarterback Brady Luttrull and his incredible receivers, who combined for 339 yards through the air last week, including five touchdowns. This will be an entertaining game with lots of big plays, but Oakridge wins by two touchdowns.
HESPERIA (4-0) at Holton (2-2) – This could be an entertaining battle, due to the fierce rivalry between the schools and the fact that Holton has some talent. But Hesperia is killing opponents with its running game and goes five deep in the backfield, so there’s always a fresh ball carrier capable of doing great damage. Hesperia stays unbeaten and moves to within one win of clinching a playoff spot.
Spring Lake (1-3) at MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (2-1) – The Crusaders seem to be rolling following an opening week loss and a second week cancellation. MCC may not be as good as last year, but there is still nobody in the Lakes 8 who has seriously challenged Coach Czerwon’s crew.
Kenowa Hills (2-2) at MUSKEGON (3-1) – Did you see what the Big Reds did to East Grand Rapids last week? It’s going to be twice that ugly against an overmatched Kenowa Hills squad.
Zeeland East (3-1) at MONA SHORES (4-0) – I assume Sailor standout quarterback Tyler Trovinger will be back in the lineup after going down with a twisted ankle last week. But even when he’s out, Mona Shores continues to roll. Just ask Caledonia, which couldn’t shut the Sailors down with their third- or fourth-string QBs in. The only question in this game is whether the Sailor defense will finally give up a touchdown.
Ludington (1-3) at FRUITPORT (2-2) – This may actually be one of the better games of the night. But the Trojans have been improving every week since losing to Grand Haven and Mona Shores in the first two weeks of the season. I say Fruitport sticks its nose above .500 while preparing for Muskegon Catholic next week.
GR Union (1-3) vs, REETHS-PUFFER (2-2) – The Rockets looked rough in a 56-0 loss to Lowell last week, but Union has given up 42, 57 and 44 points in its last three games. Reeths-Puffer gets a much-needed win.
LOWELL (3-1) at Grand Haven (2-2) – Lowell has a lot of firepower, demonstrated by its 56-0 thrashing of Reeths-Puffer last week. Grand Haven only beat R-P with a last second field goal. Do the math.
Fremont (0-4) at ORCHARD VIEW (0-4) – This is an interesting matchup. Nobody expected Fremont to do much, but a lot of people had high hopes for O-V, yet both teams are searching for their first victory. The Cardinals get the “W” and the score could get ugly.
NORTH MUSKEGON (1-3) at Mason County Central (2-2) – This may be the second toughest pick of the week (after Montague-Whitehall), so here I will put my “homer” cap on again and go with the Norse. They let me down against Ravenna. I say they make up for that this week.
ANN ARBOR GABRIEL RICHARD (3-1) at Muskegon Heights (1-2) – I’ve picked the Heights two weeks in a row and they’ve lost two weeks in a row. Faith can only carry you so far. The Tigers have to show me another win – and that will be tough against a Gabriel Richard team that’s blown out three of four opponents.
Shelby (0-4) at MANISTEE (4-0) – One of these weeks Shelby will get a win, but not this week. Manistee seems to be really good this year.