By Steve Gunn

It feels so good to be making high school football picks again!

Just a few short weeks ago, we had accepted the fact that prep football wasn’t going to happen this fall, and maybe not at all in the 2020-21 school year.

Then the state reversed itself, allowing the kids to play, and suddenly September feels normal again!

Drew Collins will be the QB for the Montague Wildcats, who all 7 LSJ writers pick to beat Mason County Central on Friday. Photo/Leo Valdez

Of course there have been some casualties. The most obvious loss was the first three weeks of the season. Teams will now only get to play a six-game regular season, which has resulted in the cancellation of a lot of very interesting non-conference matchups.

It’s also hard to picture games with just a handful of fans in the bleachers, and no marching bands creating a festive atmosphere.

A real tragedy occurred at Muskegon Heights, where the school board recently voted to postpone the football season until spring. We feel incredibly bad for those kids, particularly since they are the only team in the area that won’t be allowed to play this fall.  We also feel bad for their scheduled opponents, particularly in the Lakes 8 Conference, who will now have an unwanted week off during the season.

But all-in-all, this is much better than trying to survive a fall with no Friday night lights at all. High school kids only get to play football for a few years of their lives. The vast majority do not get the opportunity to play at the college level. This is their window to have fun and shine, and we are incredibly grateful that most will be taking the field.

Now on to our Week 1 LSJ picks. All seven of our writers agree on many of the games, based largely on how various teams performed last season. But things can change a lot in the offseason – some teams lose tons of talent to graduation, and others rise from the ashes as their returning players gain experience and improve.

There is some disagreement in our picks this week. There is a 4-3 split on the Hamilton-Fruitport matchup in the O-K Green conference. Five of seven writers think Whitehall will beat Ravenna, while two of us think the Bulldogs will prevail, despite heavy graduation losses.

There are also differing opinions about Orchard View-Hopkins, Kent City-Morley Stanwood and Grand Haven-Grandville. Check out the grid below, see what teams we are all picking, then log on to Friday night and Saturday morning to see how right or wrong we were!