Traditional rivalry games are a lot of fun.

They’re even better when there’s something more than bragging rights on the line.LSJ Logo incert

That’s certainly the case with three big traditional showdowns this weekend – Whitehall at Montague, Oakridge at Ravenna and Reeths-Puffer at Muskegon.

All three contests will have important conference implications.Sport Clips 2016 football ad

Montague, Whitehall and Oakridge sit atop of the tough West Michigan Conference with 3-0 league records. Ravenna is a game out at 2-1, so the standings will start to sort themselves out a bit after this week.

Wins by Montague and Oakridge would leave those two teams tied at the top and perhaps heading for another showdown for the league title in Week 8. That game was a double-overtime thriller last year, with Montague winning and claiming the conference championship.

But both teams would have tough obstacles in the way before they could play for the title again. Montague plays North Muskegon next week, which will be no sure victory, and Oakridge has to play Whitehall the same night.

If Whitehall beats Montague and Oakridge beats Ravenna, the Vikings and Eagles will share the driver’s seat, heading toward a showdown next week.

If Whitehall and Ravenna win, the Vikings would be alone on top of the standings and in control of their own destiny – but with Oakridge and Ravenna waiting in the wings in the next two weeks.

If Montague and Ravenna win on Friday, the Wildcats would be in first place alone with three games to go, and the toughest remaining opponent being Oakridge.

In the O-K Black, Muskegon, Reeths-Puffer and Jenison are perched on top of the standings with no losses. Reeths-Puffer and Jenison are 2-0 in the conference, Muskegon is 1-0 and Mona Shores is 0-1.

The Big Reds are itching to reclaim the league crown after losing it to Mona Shores each of the past two seasons. The Rockets are suddenly having title dreams of their own, after edging out Mona Shores with a last-second touchdown in an incredible game last week.

It’s cool to have a Muskegon-Reeths-Puffer game be so meaningful for the first time in several years. This rivalry has been pretty one-sided in favor of the Big Reds, but the Rockets are hungry to show that they can play with the big boys.

Meanwhile, Mona Shores will visit Jenison on Friday, hoping to stay in the conference mix.

Regardless of who emerges victorious on Friday, the league race will be far from over.

Muskegon plays Mona Shores on Oct. 14 and Jenison on Oct. 21, with presumably easier games against Grand Rapids Union and Kenowa Hills in the two weeks before that. Reeths-Puffer might have a slightly easier path, playing Jenison next week, followed by Fruitport and Kenowa Hills to end the season.

If Mona Shores beats Jenison, it would still have to deal with Muskegon in Week 8. The Sailors also have to play Kenowa Hills, Grand Rapids Union and Fruitport.

We’re not quite sure what to make of Kenowa Hills yet. The Knights lost badly to Jenison, but handled Fruitport with relative ease. They could be a challenge for anyone on any given week.

Did you catch all of that? Probably not. That’s OK. The point is that exciting conference races will start to sort themselves out Friday night with some very interesting matchups, so keep an eye on LocalSportsJournal.com. It will all start to make sense soon enough.

LAST WEEK’S LSJ PICKS – 8 correct, 5 wrong.

Reeths-Puffer (3-1) at MUSKEGON (3-1) – Reeths-Puffer is on a high after last week’s mega win over Mona Shores. That means the Rockets can count themselves among the better teams in the area this year. But the Big Reds are among the better teams in Michigan. Someone out there might bet against Muskegon, but not us.

Whitehall (4-0) at MONTAGUE (4-0) – If Blockbuster Video got back into business, it could make a fortune by picking up the DVD of this game for fans to watch over and over. We’ve had some great games in the area already this year, and this one should rank right up there. But Montague is the defending king of the hill in the West Michigan Conference, so the Wildcats get the nod until someone knocks them off.

Mona Shores (1-3) at JENISON (3-1) – Jenison has been a scoring machine in the last three weeks. But Mona Shores will be pretty grumpy after losing late to Reeths-Puffer last Friday. This one will be a dandy for anyone who makes the drive to Jenison. Home field gives Jenison the slight edge.

OAKRIDGE (3-1) at Ravenna (3-1) – The Eagles are hungry to hit the field after getting a forfeit victory last week. They’re also angry because they didn’t get to earn the victory the old-fashioned way. That makes them “hangry.” Ravenna is good, and will be pumped up for this traditional showdown, but a “hangry” Oakridge is a dangerous Oakridge.

Stanton Central Montcalm (0-4) at FREMONT (0-4) – Opportunity is knocking at the Packers’ door. They haven’t broken into the win column or the end zone yet this season, but face a winless Central Montcalm team that got beat handily by Newaygo last week. The Pack wins!

Grand Rapids Union (0-4) at FRUITPORT (1-3) – The Trojans haven’t gotten a break since Week 2 in their 14-13 win over rival Spring Lake. The Red Hawks have given up 50 points a game on average this season, so Fruitport fans can expect to witness a good ole thrashing at home, courtesy of their Trojans.

Rockford (2-2) at GRAND HAVEN (2-2) – First year Grand Haven Coach Jason Tester has one thing on his mind and that is getting the Bucs back into the playoffs. Something tells us they will take a step in that direction on Friday.

HART (0-4) at Shelby (0-4) – This is a fascinating matchup for several reasons. For one thing, it’s a traditional rivalry between neighbors who haven’t played for two years, because Hart didn’t have a team last season. Meanwhile, Shelby is on the ropes after having to stop its game at Montague at halftime due to injuries, and forfeiting to Oakridge last week for the same reason. The two teams are probably pretty evenly matched, but Shelby will have the extra challenge of shaking off the rust.

HESPERIA (2-2) at White Cloud (1-3) – The Panthers showed last week in their 54-6 destruction of rival Holton that they aren’t just an average 2-2 team. White Cloud has a dark cloud heading its way, and the rain will come in the form of Hesperia touchdowns.

Morley Stanwood (3-1) at HOLTON (1-3) – Look, the Red Devils are way better than what their record shows. Coach Jack Nummerdor knows it, Holton fans know it, and their team will show it with a tight win over Morley. One score will make the difference in this one.

KENT CITY (3-1) at Lakeview (2-2) – The Eagles have been on fire the last three weeks, averaging 44 points a game. Lakeview, meet the wind beneath the Eagles’ wings and prepare for a loss.

LUDINGTON (3-1) at Muskegon Heights (1-3) – Ludington was on a three-game win streak before Muskegon Catholic broke its bubble last week. So don’t expect the Orioles to show up happy. There is a glimmer of hope for Muskegon Heights, though. It played Manistee tight in Week 4, which is a sign that the Tigers could still cause some problems for someone.

Mason County Central (2-2) at NORTH MUSKEGON (0-4) – Last week the Norse showed they are a team that can put up a fight, despite their 28-20 loss to Ravenna. MCC, on the other hand, has taken two straight hooks to the chin from Whitehall (43-7) and Montague (34-0). North Muskegon gets a win in what could be a pretty good game.

MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (4-0) at Baldwin (0-4) – If anyone looks at the final score, we recommend only using one eye, because it will be ugly.

ORCHARD VIEW (0-4) at Manistee (2-2) – If ever a team was ready for a win, it’s Orchard View, which has some good players but miserable luck so far this season. But this one will be tough, because Manistee is no slouch and is pushing hard for the playoffs.

Spring Lake (0-4) at GRAND RAPIDS CATHOLIC CENTRAL (4-0) – The Lakers have experienced a rude welcome to the O-K Blue Conference this season, with losses to West Catholic and Sparta so far. GRCC will be equally inhospitable.