By Steve Gunn
There’s no shortage of rivalry games in Week 5, and several have vital importance for league championship races. LocalSportsJournal.com will be on hand with live coverage and photos of four of those games.
The biggest LSJ Spotlight Game is the Battle of White Lake, with Montague visiting Whitehall. The next-door-neighbor teams will be fighting for bragging rights, as well as first place in the tough West Michigan Conference.
LSJ will also have live coverage of Ravenna at Oakridge, Muskegon at Reeths-Puffer and Shelby at Hart.
Log on to LocalSportsJournal.com for reports from the other 12 games involving area teams, including interesting matchups like Jenison at undefeated Mona Shores, Muskegon Heights at Ludington, and Muskegon Catholic at Lake Michigan Catholic.
Montague (4-0) at Whitehall (3-1), Friday 7 p.m.
This is always a huge game, regardless of records. The Wildcats and Vikings could both be winless, and would still play their hearts out to beat their neighbors.
But Montague and Whitehall are far from winless. Both teams had big conference challenges last week, and both passed with flying colors, leaving them tied for the West Michigan Conference lead with 3-0 records.
Whitehall stunned a lot of fans with a surprisingly easy 28-14 victory over perennial power and defending conference champion Oakridge last Friday. It was the first time since 1999 that the Vikings beat the Eagles.
Running back Josh Thommen led the way for the Vikings with 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Justin Brown added 88 yards on the ground. Brown and Tylor Russell both had 21-yard touchdown runs.
The Vikings opened the season with a three-point loss to a good Kelloggsville team, then beat Mason County Central and Hart in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively.
Montague had no trouble with a very good North Muskegon team last Friday, walking away with a 48-7 victory.
Quarterback Sebastian Archer threw for 133 yards on 11-for-15 passing while also rushing for 81 yards against the Norse. Running back Bryce Stark ran for 79 yards while Kenyan Johnston had eight catches for 109 yards.
The Wildcats also have victories over Reed City, Shelby and Mason County Central, and none of those games were close.
Montague has pretty much owned Whitehall in recent years.
The Wildcats took apart the Vikings 41-20 at home last year, and have won 14 of the last 17 meetings, including nine of the last 10.
Whitehall won 40-28 in 2014. Prior to that the Vikings’ last victory over Montague was in 2006.
But as the Vikings demonstrated last week, they are not intimidated by recent history. They beat Oakridge for the first time in 18 years, and there’s no doubt they would like to reverse the trend against Montague, as well.
As Whitehall Athletic Director Greg Russell put it, “It should be a dandy!”
Ravenna (2-2) at Oakridge (3-1), Friday 7 p.m.
These two West Michigan Conference football powers have played some classic showdown games over the years, with a lot on the line.
This year’s matchup will be a little bit different, because both teams will be fighting to remain in the conference championship race.
Oakridge, 2-1 in the conference, will try to regroup after being upset at Whitehall last week. The loss was the first blemish on the Eagles’ 2017 season, which started with easy wins over Chippewa Hills (37-15), North Muskegon (42-14) and Shelby (55-6).
Alex Shoop led Oakridge against Whitehall with 69 rushing yards, including a 56-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage.
Ravenna is also 2-1 in conference play.
The Bulldogs’ season has been up-and-down on a weekly basis so far. They opened with a 41-20 loss to Kent City, beat Hart 62-0, lost to North Muskegon 28-7, then beat Shelby 48-14 last week.
Quarterback Cameron Passenier had a huge game against Shelby, rushing for 207 yards on only 12 carries. Passenier, Garry Johnson and Zach McCleary each scored twice for Ravenna.
A loss to Oakridge would pretty much knock Ravenna out of the conference race, and make it very difficult to gain the six wins necessary to make the playoffs.
Recent history gives the edge to Oakridge, which beat Ravenna 38-7 last year, and has won 15 of the last 17 meetings between the teams. Ravenna last won in 2011 by a score of 22-20.
Muskegon (4-0) at Reeths-Puffer (3-1), Friday 7 p.m.
The Big Reds continued to roll last week with a 63-16 road victory over previously unbeaten Byron Center.
Muskegon, which has piled up over 2,000 yards of total offense in four games, was paced by standout senior quarterback La’darius Jefferson, who rushed for 127 yards, passed for 97 and scored four touchdowns.
Clinton Jefferson Jr. rushed for 105 yards and found the end zone three times while Davion Mccall and Lonnie Clark Jr. also each scored a touchdown and rushed for more than 100 yards.
The Big Reds, ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 3, have also beaten Ann Arbor Pioneer (56-0), Lincolnshire Stevenson (28-7) and Fruitport (68-0).
Reeths-Puffer will have a big challenge on its hands as it tries to regain its footing following a big disappointment last week.
The Rockets started the season with three straight wins over Grand Haven, Orchard View and Grand Rapids Union, and had high hopes when they visited Mona Shores. But they came away on the short end of a 44-6 score, and now prepare to face another great opponent.
Reeths-Puffer sophomore quarterback Evan Moskwa threw for 94 yards in the loss to Mona Shores.
The Rockets will try to gain their first win over Muskegon in the 21st century. The Big Reds have won all 13 games between the two teams since 2000.
Shelby (0-4) at Hart (0-4), Friday 7 p.m.
You don’t have to have two great teams to have a great game. Last year’s showdown between these Oceana County rivals proved that.
The Pirates trailed 12-0 at halftime, then scored three touchdowns in the second half to pull within one point with 54 seconds left in the game.
Hart head coach Rick Witteveen chose to go for the two-point conversion, rather than a PAT kick to tie the game and probably force overtime.
It turned out to be the right move.
After a false start penalty, Pirates quarterback Cameron Tanner rolled to his right and hit Angel Aguilar-Salgado in the corner of the end zone, giving the Pirates their first lead of the game and a 20-19 victory.
It was Hart’s first victory over Shelby since 2004.
Shelby has been dominant in the series in recent years, winning 13 of 16 games since 2000, including 10 in a row between 2005 and 2014.
Other Week 5 games
Fremont (0-4) at Central Montcalm (1-3)
Fruitport (1-3) at Grand Rapids Union (0-4)
Grand Haven (0-4) at Rockford (2-2)
White Cloud (0-4) at Hesperia (0-4)
Holton (2-2) at Morley-Stanwood (4-0)
Muskegon Heights (2-2) at Ludington (2-2)
North Muskegon (2-2) at Mason County Central (1-3)
Jenison (3-1) at Mona Shores (4-0)
Muskegon Catholic (3-0) at Lake Michigan Catholic (3-1)
Manistee (1-3) at Orchard View (0-4)
Lakeview (2-2) at Kent City (4-0)
Grand Rapids Catholic (4-0) at Spring Lake (0-4)