Here we are, in the final week of the 2016 high school football regular season.
In most years several area teams head into Week 9 with five victories, meaning they have to win their final regular season games to sneak into the playoffs.
But there’s only one team in that position this year – Whitehall.
The Vikings got off to a great start, winning their first four games. Then they dropped their next four, including agonizing one-point losses to Oakridge and Ravenna.
Whitehall got an easy fifth victory last week over Shelby, and now it all comes down to its final regular season game, against Battle Creek Harper Creek. It will be a big challenge for the Vikings, because the visitors come in with a 7-1 record.
We’re sure that a big throng of Viking faithful will fill the stands on Friday give their team an emotional boost in its final push for the postseason.
Another big game will be at Hackley Stadium, where the Big Reds will try to wrap up the O-K Black Conference championship. They already have a share of the league title – their first since 2013 – but would have to share it with Jenison if they lose.
Out at Oakridge, the newly-crowned West Michigan Conference champion Eagles will host neighborhood rival Orchard View. Emotions always play a strong role in this game, regardless of records.
Undefeated Muskegon Catholic will have an interested road game at Redford Union, which is 6-2 on the season. MCC coach Steve Czerwon would probably welcome a stiff challenge, one week before the playoffs start and the Crusaders begin their quest for a fourth straight state championship.
There are a few oddities to note. Shelby, which has been plagued by constant injuries and player shortages, has forfeited to Hesperia, and that game will not be played.
Meanwhile, you are not reading your schedule wrong. Muskegon Heights will visit Benton Harbor, which is the second time this season the teams have played.
LAST WEEK’S LSJ PICKS RECORD – 10-5
Fremont (0-8) at MONTAGUE (6-2) – After a very tough, emotional loss to Oakridge last week, expect Montague to be rude hosts and not allow the Packers to find the end zone. If you want to make an evening out of this game, get there early, because the second half will go fast with a running clock.
Fruitport (3-5) at MONA SHORES (4-4) – The Sailors may experience a Muskegon hangover after falling to the Big Reds last week and likely losing all playoff hopes. This one will be closer than some people expect, but Mona Shores will win it late.
Tri County (3-5) at KENT CITY (6-2) – The Eagles are flying high after clinching a playoff berth last week. They’ll give their home fans another reason to celebrate with a thrashing of the Vikings.
Grand Rapids Union (0-7) at GRAND HAVEN (2-6) – The Bucs have struggled through a tough season. They will be rewarded for their perseverance with an easy victory to close the campaign.
White Cloud (2-6) at HART (1-7) – Hart has lost a lot of games in its first season of varsity football after taking a year off, but there is talent on this young team. The Pirates will warm up for next fall with a victory.
Holton (2-6) at NORTH MUSKEGON (4-4) – North Muskegon may have had the toughest early schedule of any area team and started 0-4. Since then they have shown the benefits of playing strong competition by winning four straight. They will end up with a winning record.
Mason County Central (3-5) at LUDINGTON (6-2) – The Orioles had been cruising through a great season before tripping up against Lakeview last week. They are wide awake now, and will soar past the Spartans in the Battle of Mason County.
Jenison (5-3) at MUSKEGON (7-1) – The Wildcats are hoping to win a share of the O-K Black title and qualify for the playoffs. Denied.
MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (8-0) at Redford Union (6-2) – The Crusaders have arguably the best backfield in all of Michigan, not to mention a great defense. Muskegon Catholic will wrap up a perfect regular season.
Muskegon Heights (2-6) at BENTON HARBOR (8-0) – Benton Harbor won this matchup in Week 3, 47-6. The sequel will be just as one-sided.
Orchard View (2-6) at OAKRDIGE (7-1) – The Eagles may be set for a letdown in this rivalry game after dramatically defeating Montague last week to win the West Michigan Conference title. The Cardinals could make a game of it, but the Eagles will extend their winning streak to eight.
Grant (6-2) at RAVENNA (6-2) – They may come into the game with identical records, but the Tigers haven’t faced nearly as many tough opponents as the Bulldogs. Ravenna gets a double-digit victory.
REETHS-PUFFER (4-4) at Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills (3-5) – The talented Rockets have had a disappointing year, but can close on a winning note. We think they will do that.
Spring Lake (1-7) at COMSTOCK PARK (2-6) – One team has two wins, the other has one. We’ll go with the numbers.
Battle Creep Harper Creek (7-1) at WHITEHALL (5-3) – If it wasn’t for two one-point losses, the Vikings would already have punched their playoff ticket. They’ll come out super-motivated, and it should carry them to a hard fought victory.