By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The field of 288 a week ago became 144 teams still playing. Starting tonight, 11-player teams will compete for District titles and 8-player contenders will aim to celebrate Regional championships.
And this round presents more than a few familiar matchups from either earlier this fall or recent MHSAA Playoffs.
There again are ample opportunities to watch playoff games from the comforts of home if you do not choose to take a seat in the stands. FOX Sports Detroit’s Prep Zone matchups this week are Detroit Catholic Central at West Bloomfield in Division 1, Birmingham Brother Rice at Birmingham Groves in Division 2 and Flint Powers Catholic at Williamston in Division 4. Those all will stream free of charge on FOXSportsDetroit.com and on the FOX Sports app. At least five more games will be viewable on MHSAA.tv, either live with subscription or free after 72 hours.
Below are a few notes on games of particular intrigue in each division. Games are tonight unless noted. “Drive for Detroit” is powered by MI Student Aid.
Macomb Dakota (8-2) at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (10-0)
The Big Reds beat Dakota 24-17 in Week 5 on the way to the Macomb Area Conference Red title and their first perfect regular season since 1975. After winning another MAC Red rematch last week over Utica Eisenhower, Chippewa Valley will look to remain the only conference team still alive – but must avoid a 2016 scenario, when it beat Dakota during the regular season and lost to the Cougars in the playoffs.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Oxford (8-2) at Lapeer (10-0). SATURDAY East Kentwood (9-1) at Saline (9-1), Dearborn Fordson (9-1) at Detroit Cass Tech (10-0).
Warren DeLaSalle (8-2) at Oak Park (9-1)
Oak Park has won at least one playoff games six of the last seven seasons and seems to be inching closer to a trip to Ford Field – but for the second straight season, DeLaSalle stands in the way. The Pilots won last year’s playoff meeting, 14-7 in a Regional Final, on the way to claiming the Division 2 championship. The Knights have won four games by eight or fewer points this fall and should be prepared for another close one.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Midland Dow (6-4) at Midland (7-3), Jenison (7-3) at Muskegon Mona Shores (9-1), Birmingham Brother Rice (7-3) at Birmingham Groves (8-2).
Zeeland West (8-2) at Zeeland East (9-1)
East won the teams’ first meeting, 48-34 in Week 8, on the way to clinching the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green title. But the Chix as well have a scenario they want to avoid: In 2012, 2013 and 2017, East won the first matchup but West won the playoff rematch. The Dux’ only losses this season were to league champions – East and Grand Rapids Christian.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Cedar Springs (9-1) at Mount Pleasant (10-0), Grand Rapids Christian (8-2) at Muskegon (10-0), Detroit Martin Luther King (8-2) at Warren Woods Tower (9-1).
Farmington Hills Harrison (7-3) at Detroit Country Day (7-2)
Of course not to slight possible Regional and Semifinal opponents, but Country Day has accomplished the most of late of any team standing between Harrison and finishing its final season at Ford Field. The Yellowjackets have reached the Semifinals four times this decade and finished Division 4 runners-up in 2016 before falling below .500 last fall for the first time since 2005. Country Day opened these playoffs by downing MAC Bronze champ Center Line 42-6.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Paw Paw (8-2) at Edwardsburg (10-0). SATURDAY Escanaba (8-2) at Alma (9-1), North Branch (8-2) vs. St. Clair (8-2) at East China Stadium.
Clare (9-1) at Reed City (10-0)
The intrigue here is based in part on Clare’s win last week – 42-28 over Manistee, which like Reed City was perfect during the regular season. The Pioneers’ lone loss came Week 4 to Jack Pine Conference foe Roscommon, and the two ended up sharing the title with Beaverton – all three are still alive in the playoffs. Reed City, meanwhile, has won 42 of its last 46 games, including 34-7 over Clare in last season’s District Final.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Lansing Catholic (9-1) at Portland (10-0), Muskegon Oakridge (9-1) vs. Hudsonville Unity Christian (8-2) at Jenison, Hopkins (9-1) vs. Kalamazoo United (10-0) at Vicksburg.
Calumet (10-0) vs. Traverse City St. Francis (10-0) at Thirlby Field, Saturday
This is another playoff rematch from 2017, when St. Francis opened the postseason with a 28-6 win over the Copper Kings. That Calumet team entered 6-3, while this one makes the trip downstate coming off its first perfect regular season since 1996 and with a school-record 10 wins. The Copper Kings will need another big performance from a defense giving up only 5.3 points per game; St. Francis is scoring nearly 49 on average.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Michigan Center (9-1) at Jackson Lumen Christi (9-0), Blissfield (6-4) at Brooklyn Columbia Central (9-1). SATURDAY Ecorse (8-2) at Flint Hamady (10-0).
Saugatuck (9-1) at Pewamo-Westphalia (10-0)
This is not only a playoff rematch, but a replay of last season’s Division 7 championship game. These two actually are meeting in the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons – P-W has won all four meetings including last season’s Final 21-0, but the Indians gave the Pirates two of their toughest games of the last four seasons in falling by six in 2016 and 10 in 2015. Get the scoreboard ready: Saugatuck’s offense has blown through 500 points for the third time in four seasons, while the Pirates with 537 points already have outscored last year’s championship team.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Detroit Loyola (7-3) at Madison Heights Madison (10-0), Centreville (9-1) at Cassopolis (10-0), Cass City (8-2) at New Lothrop (9-1).
Ottawa Lake Whiteford (10-0) at Reading (10-0)
These two have thoroughly dominated their competition to this point. It’s tough predicting what’s going to give now that they’ll share the same field. Reigning Division 8 champion Whiteford has won 24 straight games and 37 of its last 38, this season outscoring opponents 54-8 on average. Reading is outscoring its opponents only 52-9 per game – although Pittsford may have given the Bobcats some ideas putting up 48 to Reading’s 65 in last week’s opener.
Others that caught my eye: FRIDAY Iron River West Iron County (8-2) at Ishpeming (10-0), Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-1) at Breckenridge (10-0), Ubly (8-2) at Harbor Beach (9-1).
8-Player Division 1
Morrice (10-0) vs. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian (10-0) at Grandville Middle School, Saturday
The Orioles blazed a trail with their first 9-0 regular season and now will play to reach their first Semifinal since 1996. Just as impressive, if not more so – Morrice hasn’t given up a point since Week 4, a stretch of outscoring their last six opponents by a combined 313-0. The Defenders are playing to reach the Semifinals for the second time in three seasons. Counting last week’s win over Webberville, they’ve beaten five playoff teams and reigning champion Central Lake this fall.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Suttons Bay (9-1) at Pickford (10-0). SATURDAY Deckerville (8-2) at AuGres-Sims (10-0), Bellevue (9-1) at Colon (9-1).
8-Player Division 2
Brethren (7-3) at Onekama (8-2)
The West Michigan D League champion Bobcats keep earning respect, adding to the league title last week’s win over intriguing contender Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, 42-26. Brethren has its most wins in a season since 1990, and now takes on another team with championship aspirations. Onekama’s two losses came by a combined seven points to Midwest Central Michigan Conference West foes still alive in 8-player Division 1. The Portagers are 17-4 since moving to 8-player last season after three straight making the 11-player playoffs.
Other Regional Finals: FRIDAY Crystal Falls Forest Park (6-4) at Rapid River (7-3), Cedarville (6-4) at Posen (8-2). SATURDAY Tekonsha (6-4) vs. Portland St. Patrick (6-4) at Portland High.
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PHOTO: Clarkston’s punter winds up to send the ball back to Lake Orion during last week’s Division 1 District win. (Photo by Terry Lyons.)