Goorman’s Gridiron Picks: Local showdowns still matter, even in the playoff era, and we have two great matchups this week

By Jason Goorman
LocalSportsJournal.com

I love local high school football showdowns between great teams, with conference trophies and bragging rights on the line.LSJ Logo incert

And in that respect, it doesn’t get any better than this Friday, when area fans will be treated to a pair of classic matchups.Sport clips 2015 football sponsor logo

The Muskegon Big Reds and Mona Shores Sailors will hook up in the main event at Mona Shores, with an O-K Black league championship likely for the winner.

Meanwhile, Oakridge will travel to Montague for a game that will determine the champion of the West Michigan Conference.

Of course league titles have a little less luster than they did in the past.

Before the playoff era, winning the league was all there was. There were mythical state champions, determined by the polls, but unless you were voted No. 1, the entire process was meaningless.

These days, of course, everything is geared toward the playoffs. Losing a local showdown to another high-caliber rival is not the kiss of death.

For instance, Mona Shores beat Muskegon last fall to win the O-K Black, but both teams went to the playoffs in different divisions and made the state finals.

Then there was 2008, when Oakridge beat Montague for the West Michigan Conference title, but both ended up winning state championships.

But the local games still matter. Neighborhood bragging rights are important. The ability to tease your relatives at the family reunion, because your team beat theirs, will always be cherished.

Anyone who thinks these games are not important should try to find a seat at Mona Shores or Montague on Friday. Best of luck.

Last week I posted a very good 12-2 record, but it’s going to be a little trickier this week, mostly due to the two big games.

Muskegon (6-1) at MONA SHORES (7-0) – The Big Reds have been improving every week since an opening-game loss, while the Sailors have been crushing opponents all year. Muskegon is going to be hungry for revenge for last season, but Shores probably has a few more offensive weapons and a slightly better defense. This could be one for the history books, but when the dust clears, the Sailors will remain unbeaten.

OAKRIDGE (6-1) at Montague (7-0) – Here’s another one that’s almost impossible to pick. I don’t think Oakridge can shut down Montague’s powerful running game, and I don’t think the Wildcats can defend the Oakridge aerial attack. The team that scores last will win, and I think it will be the Eagles.

Grand Haven (2-5) at EAST KENTWOOD (5-2) – It hasn’t been a good season for the Bucs, and I’ll be happy if they can secure another win or two. But I’m not going to gamble with my own record by picking them.

Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (4-3) at REETHS-PUFFER (3-4) – The Rockets gave Mona Shores and Muskegon something to think about the last two Fridays, at least for a half. I think those confidence-building experiences will help them gain an impressive win over the Knights.

Fremont (0-7) at HESPERIA (7-0) – They should have a running clock in this one from the opening kickoff. No disrespect to the Packers, but this is Hesperia’s year.

FRUITPORT (4-3) at St. John’s (5-2) – Fruitport was in this same spot last year, needing to beat good teams from St. Johns and DeWitt to make the playoffs. They didn’t get it done, but this Trojan team is better and hungrier. I feel good about this pick.

CLIMAX-SCOTTS (7-0) at Spring Lake (2-5)  – Last year the Lakers upset an undefeated Climax-Scotts. But most of those Lakers have graduated and the current crop is still finding its legs. No rerun this year.

ORCHARD VIEW (2-5) at Muskegon Heights (2-5) – If the Cardinals play like they can, they should win. But the Tigers can sneak up on people. This could be a good game, but I’ll take O-V.

Muskegon Catholic (5-1) at DETROIT COUNTRY DAY (6-1) – This is one of those games, against a traditional power, that gets the Crusaders ready for their storied playoff runs. Unfortunately I think the lesson learned will be a painful one for MCC. My gut says Country Day by a point or two, and down the road the Crusaders will say it was an important character builder.

WHITEHALL (4-3) at Shelby (0-7) – The Vikings can’t lose again if they want to make the playoffs, so they won’t.

ONEKAMA (6-1) at Holton (3-4) – Like Grand Haven, the Red Devils have my full support. But my head can’t be convinced to follow my heart.

NORTH MUSKEGON (2-5) at Manton (3-4) – As I’ve been saying all season, the Norse are a good team that plays an impossibly difficult schedule. They will have a happy ride home on Friday night.

Mason County Central (4-3) at RAVENNA (3-4) – The Bulldogs are going to be grumpy, now that their playoff dreams are gone, and they will take it out on the Spartans.

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