By Greg Gielczyk

LUDINGTON — When you reach the playoffs, there are no easy games. But the task facing Ludington’s football team in Friday night’s 7 p.m. MHSAA Division 4 district contest against Fruitport is particularly challenging.

Host Fruitport, which won a share of the OK Blue title and finished 6-1 in the league and is 7-2 overall, is probably playing as good a football as anyone in West Michigan right now.

Ludington finished 4-2 for third place in its first season competing in the new West Michigan Conference Lakes Division, behind league champion Whitehall (6-0) and runner-up Oakridge (5-1).

“Going through some of their tapes, and watching what they do, they just have athletes all over and play at a really high level,” Ludington coach Charlie Gunsell said of the Trojans. “So, this is as a great test for us.”

Gunsell saw plenty of good things on film this past week.

“They’re as impressive as anybody we’ve seen on film this year,” he said. “On offense, they run a lot of different variations of mid-line veer, or outside veer. They’re really heavy in the option game. But, they can also just line up and come at you. They kind of can do a bit of everything. They’re not super proficient throwing the ball, but they haven’t had to be because their running game can be dominant at times.”

Gunsell went on to say that defensively the Orioles are going to have to rally to the ball carriers and get multiple hats to the football.

Fruitport’s offense is keyed by twin brothers, Colin and Paschal Jolman. Colin runs the show at quarterback, while brother Pascal is a swift and elusive tailback. Pascal Jolman has rushed for 1,800 yards and scored more than 20 touchdowns.

“These are going to be some of the more talented ball carriers we’ve seen all year,” Gunsell added. “We can’t put our guys in one-on-one matchups. We have to put multiple hats on the football.”

Defensively, the Trojans will shift from an odd to an even front says Gunsell, locking up everybody man-to-man and trying to bring as much pressure as they possibly can.

This is the Trojans’ third consecutive appearance in the playoffs, counting the COVID-ravaged 2020 season when everyone got in. Fruitport is looking for a deeper run after being eliminated in the first round the last 2 years.

Fruitport coach Nate Smith respects the talent Ludington and expects the Trojans to be severely tested on defense.

“They do a lot of different things ,” Smith said. “They have a lot of good playmakers. So, it’s up to us to play assignment-based defense, and not make mistakes, and try to keep ourselves in situations where we don’t get in a bad mismatch.”

Ludington’s playmakers include senior running back Trey Forfinski, who has accumulated 686 yards on 91 carries and scored 11 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Chase Hackert is a real dual threat, passing for 1,124 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding 520 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on the ground.

Hackert’s primary target has been senior tight end Levi Laman, who has 21 receptions for 285 yards and five touchdowns.

“We’ve got to make sure we can cover their good receivers and put ourselves in the right zone coverages,” said Smith. “They’re a good football team. They’re not 7-2 by accident.”

The winner advances to the district final on either Friday, Nov 4 or Saturday, Nov. 5 against the winner of the Whitehall-Big Rapids pre-district.