Ten area teams qualify for state football playoffs, including three 5-win squads

LocalSportsJournal.com

All season long, high school football coaches keep stressing the importance of getting six wins during the regular season, to guarantee a state playoff berth.

But sometimes five wins is good enough.

Three area teams proved that on Sunday night, when they found out they made the playoffs, despite coming a win short of the six-victory standard and spending the last few nervous days wondering if they could sneak in.

Holton, Spring Lake and North Muskegon all get to extend their seasons by at least one game after posting 5-4 records.

They are just three of the 10 area teams who learned their first-round playoff assignments on Sunday night, when the Michigan High School Athletic Association announced the brackets in Divisions 1-8.

North Muskegon’s Chandler Edwards is congratulated by John Hayhurst after scoring earlier this season. Photo/Leo Valdez

All of the first-round games will be played next weekend. The dates and times will be announced by the schools within the next few days.

Holton, the area’s only Division 8 playoff team, learned that it will visit Martin (6-3) in the first round.

Getting into the postseason is particularly sweet for Holton Coach Jack Nummerdor, who has never taken the Red Devils to the playoffs in his four prior seasons, and is leaving the program when the current season ends, whenever that may be.

Nummerdor recently became the new assistant principal and athletic director at Mona Shores Middle School.

Starting out at 3-0 and going 5-1 through Week 6, the Red Devils felt confident a sixth win would arrive in the final three weeks of the regular season. But after falling to Kent City, LeRoy Pine River and then Howard City Tri-County in Week 9, the team’s spirit had taken a big hit.

“It’s been an emotional roller-coaster weekend,” Nummerdor said.  “Going from losing (on Friday to Tri-
County), to not thinking you’re in, and figuring out late last night that we might be in – then bam, there we were.”

Caleb Montgomery breaks off a big run for Spring Lake in the Lakers Week 9 game against Holland Christian. Photo/Jason Goorman

The playoff berth will be the fifth for Holton, and its first since 2007. It will be Nummerdor’s first playoff appearance as a head coach.

“It feels great, it’s what we worked for, it’s what we wanted for the kids,” the coach said. “Always, we had kids who deserved it. But for this group, it finally worked out.

North Muskegon needed to get its fifth win last Friday against a challenging Orchard View squad, and prevailed 47-22.

Now the Norse will have a very tough challenge next weekend, when they visit 9-0 Lake City in a first-round Division 7 playoff game.

While that may be a tough assignment, North Muskegon is used to it. The Norse come from a very small school that competes in the very tough West Michigan Conference, and all four of their losses were to strong league opponents – Oakridge Montague, Whitehall and Ravenna.

North Muskegon Coach Larry Witham thinks playing the tough teams from the bigger schools could pay off in the playoffs.

“When you have a school enrollment of 327 students in a larger conference, you’re up against it,” said Witham, whose team made the playoffs last season with six wins, but lost in the first round to conference rival Oakridge.

“We have skilled kids, but we just aren’t as large of a team as our opponents. But that makes us battle-tested, and the West Michigan Conference helps us to prepare.

“We are very excited to get in – we knew we had a shot after the OV win. The team got together at the school to watch the selection show, which was fun.”

Spring Lake also got in, despite having a roller-coaster of a season. The Lakers started off with five straight victories, then lost four in a row.

While they are clearly happy to be a playoff team, the Lakers will have their hands full in a rematch with O-K Blue Conference rival Grand Rapids Catholic, which finished the regular season 8-1 and beat the Lakers 35-12 in Week 7.

In other matchups, the defending Division 3 state champion Muskegon Big Reds (9-0) will open at home against East Grand Rapids (6-3), a team they beat 49-21 in September.

In Division 2, Mona Shores (8-1) will host Forest Hills Central (5-4).

In Division 4, Ludington (7-2) will make the long trek to the Upper Peninsula to play Escanaba (7-2) in the playoff opener, while Whitehall (7-2) will host Allendale (5-4).

Oakridge (8-1) will host Belding (7-2) in the first round of a Division 5 game, while Montague (7-2) will host Fennville (7-2) in Division 6.

Kent City (8-1) will host Saugatuck (8-1) in a Division 7 game.

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