A total of 272 Michigan high school football teams will begin driving this weekend for one of nine MHSAA state championships next month. And each week through the 11-player semifinals, the MHSAA Network will produce four games to be streamed live on FoxSportsDetroit.com’s Prep Zone.
Here’s a look at this week’s Prep Zone matchups. All kick off at 7 tonight, and all games also will be archived for on-demand viewing at MHSAA.tv.
DIVISION 1: Romeo (7-2) at Troy Athens (7-2)
Both are representing a Red division – Romeo from the Macomb Area Conference and Troy from the Oakland Activities Association – and both lean on a sturdy running attack to average roughly 26 points per game. Carrying the load for Romeo are seniors Zack Williams (638 yards, five touchdowns) and Brian Roth (605, seven TDs), while Sam Haskell leads Troy Athens with 718 yards rushing and nine scores. Both teams also capitalize on opportunistic defenses that averaged more than two takeaways per game during the regular season. Romeo is much more familiar with this time of year – the Bulldogs are in the playoffs for the seventh straight season, while Troy Athens is in the postseason for the first time since 2004. But despite multiple common opponents, it’s fair to say these teams aren’t too familiar with each other – this will be their first matchup since 1976.
Click to read more from Mlive.com or MIPrepZone.
DIVISION 2: South Lyon (6-3) at Holly (7-2)
Holly can add to what is likely to be considered its best season since 1952. The Bronchos split the Flint Metro League championship, their first league title since that long-ago fall, and with one more win would have their second-most victories for one season – again, behind only a 9-0 finish 59 years ago. After starting with losses to Lapeer East and Swartz Creek, Holly has won seven straight while outscoring those opponents 27-13 on average. South Lyon finished second in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Central to Northville – the No. 7-ranked team in the final Division 1 state poll – and is back in the playoffs after a three-season hiatus. Holly junior quarterback John Williams has run for 1,123 yards and 15 touchdowns and thrown for five more scores. Offense isn’t South Lyon’s strong suit – it averages just 17 points a game – but the Lions also give up only 14 on average.
Click to read more from the South Lyon Herald or Flint Journal.
DIVISION 3: Sturgis (7-2) at Mason (8-1)
Mason was expected to be here and has won at least eight games for the fourth straight season. Sturgis, meanwhile, is one of the state’s most intriguing teams after beating usual powers Jackson Lumen Christi and Marshall on the way to earning its first playoff berth since 2004. The Bulldogs are led by a small nucleus of experienced seniors including three-year running back Saylor LaVallii, who has run for 975 yards and 22 touchdowns and will sign with Central Michigan this winter. Sturgis also has a big-time runner in junior Christopher Alexander – who has gained 1,205 yards and rushed for 13 scores – but another player turning eyes toward Sturgis is sophomore quarterback Chance Stewart. Already a two-year starter, the 6-foot-5 Stewart has thrown for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns this fall in far fewer attempts than some of his spread counterparts. He passed for 284 yards and three scores in a 35-28 loss to No. 3 Battle Creek Harper Creek, and may need to come up big tonight against the No. 7 Bulldogs.
Click to read more from the Sturgis Journal.
DIVISION 8: Saugatuck (9-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (8-1)
This might be the game of the weekend for the entire state. Saugatuck is the reigning MHSAA runner-up for this division and ranked No. 5, and Muskegon Catholic is an eight-time champion and tied for the top spot in the final regular-season poll. Coming off its winningest season, Saugatuck didn’t surprise anyone and still won all of its games by at least 28 points. The Crusaders will host, though, after beating one Class A and five Class B schools this season, losing only to Class A Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern – and by just seven points. Blink and tonight’s game could be over, as the teams have combined for just 117 passes this fall and should keep the clock moving. Muskegon Catholic has run for 2,876 yards and 37 touchdowns, led by junior Jessie Anderson’s 1,278 and 12, respectively. Saugatuck tops that with 3,858 yards and 55 rushing scores. Senior Lance Kleino has carried the bulk of the load with 1,425 yards and 17 TDs.
Click to read more from the Holland Sentinel or Muskegon Chronicle.
Almost there: Mason running back Saylor LaVallii needs 25 rushing yards to reach 1,000 yards this season (Photo courtesy of Lansing State Journal).
(Site front) Good chance: Sturgis quarterback Chance Stewart hopes to lead his team to its first playoff victory since 2004 (Photo courtesy of Sturgis Journal).