By Jason Goorman

As hard is it is to believe, it’s already October, and the annual high school football playoff picture is starting to take shape again.LSJ Logo incert

Three local undefeated teams – Mona Shores, Hesperia and Montague – could become the first to gain their magical sixth win and clinch a playoff berth this Friday.

Ironically only one of those three – Mona Shores, which made the state Sport clips 2015 football sponsor logofinals last year – qualified for the playoffs last fall.

Three other teams – Muskegon, Muskegon Catholic and Oakridge – could be a week away from securing their spots.

The most interesting news is who might not make the playoffs this year.

That list begins with Spring Lake, which has made the postseason seven straight years. At 2-3 the Lakers would probably have to win all of their games to get back in. While certainly not impossible, that would be a tall order for a young Laker squad.

Meanwhile, two very good teams from Ravenna and Whitehall could also be forced to skip the dance, mostly because they both play in the very tough West Michigan Conference.

Both made the playoffs last year, advanced beyond the first round, and seemed likely to make it again.

But Whitehall has two losses and hosts one-loss Oakridge Friday. Another defeat would put them on the edge of elimination with Ravenna, Shelby and Grant still left on the schedule.

The situation is even more desperate for Ravenna, which already has three losses and can’t afford another.

The Bulldogs may be able to avert disaster against Shelby on Friday, but avoiding that fourth “L” will be extra tough in coming weeks with Whitehall, Mason County Central and Muskegon Catholic still looming on the schedule.

Ironically both teams were hurt by the loss of Hart from their schedules this year.

Hart, a lightweight in football that almost everyone beat in recent years, suspended varsity football operations this season. That forced the other West Michigan Conference schools to find non-league opponents to fill out their schedules, and mostly they found tough ones.

Whitehall had to play a very good Traverse City Central and lost. Ravenna had to play a great Detroit Loyola and lost. If they had both played Hart, neither would likely be in the kind of danger they’re in at the moment..

But that’s just a lesson for all the kids on both teams that life isn’t always easy or fair. You have to take the challenges as they come, and sometimes they don’t work out.

On a brighter note, I set a personal best with my picks last week by going 12-1. My only error was picking North Muskegon against Mason County Central.

Reeths-Puffer (3-2) at MONA SHORES (5-0) – Cross-town rivalries are always fun. The day will come again when this game is both fun and competitive. But that won’t be the case on Friday. The Sailors will validate their ticket to the playoffs.

Zeeland East (3-2) at MUSKEGON (4-1) – Mona Shores was a very rude host to ZE last weekend, and the Big Reds aren’t going to be any more hospitable.

Fremont (0-5) at SPRING LAKE (2-3) – The Lakers will keep their slim hopes of extending their playoff streak alive for one more week.

MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (3-1) at Fruitport (3-2) – Of course we have to go with the Crusaders in all Lakes 8 games until someone beats them, but this could be a better game than people think. I’m not saying it will be. I’m saying it could be. How’s that for a cowardly prediction?

Ludington (1-4) at ORCHARD VIEW  (1-4) – The Cardinals tasted victory last week, and we’re guessing they liked the flavor. This is no mismatch because Ludington puts points on the board, but I’ll go with Orchard View.

HOLTON (2-3) at Morley Stanwood (3-2) – Holton has been good one week, not-so-good the next, all season long. This is the Red Devils’ good week, so I think they will escape with an exciting win.

White Cloud (1-4) at HESPERIA (5-0) – Welcome back to the playoffs, Hesperia Panthers. Just how good are you, anyway? I guess we’ll find out as the weeks roll by.

MONTAGUE (5-0) at North Muskegon (1-4) – The same thing I wrote about Hesperia applies here.

Shelby (0-5) at RAVENNA (2-3) – If Ravenna loses again, the playoffs are probably out of the picture. I’ve heard there’s nothing more dangerous than a desperate Bulldog.

OAKRIDGE (4-1) at Whitehall (3-2) – This may be the game of the night. Whitehall will be revved up following very close defeats to Traverse City Central and Montague. But the Eagles, the defending West Michigan Conference champions, have to be the default pick until someone in the league beats them. Could this be the week that happens? Maybe, but I’m not courageous enough to predict it.

Grand Haven (2-3) at ROCKFORD (3-2) – I think the Bucs might wake up following last week’s ugly loss to Lowell and surprise the Rams. But thinking it is not predicting it.

MANISTEE (3-2) at Mason County Central (3-2) – Good matchup. I haven’t given Manistee much respect this year and the Chips have proven me wrong a few times. I won’t make that mistake again.

BAY CITY JOHN GLENN  (3-2) at Muskegon Heights (1-3) – The Tigers are finally playing some home games, but it doesn’t seem to be helping very much. There’s no relief for the Heights on Friday.