By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
First-round games, and with them often familiar opponents, are out of the way as we move into District Finals for 11-player and Regional Finals for 8-player teams still alive in the MHSAA Football Playoffs.
This weekend, in most cases, we’ll get a stronger indication how those that have done well near home match up among contenders on a statewide scale.
Below is again a look at a game in each division that particularly jumps off the page, in many cases because it provides one or both teams an opportunity to show they are built for bigger games and less familiar opponents ahead as we roar toward the end of November.
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Belleville (10-0) at Brownstown Woodhaven (10-0)
The Warriors have made the second round of the playoffs three times over the years, and a big performance tonight will not only send them to the third round for the first time but make another statement for a Downriver League that has had plenty of success over the last two decades. Belleville is playing in its third-straight District Final and for its second straight title at this level. Merely coincidentally, both of these teams have won all of their games by double figures except one – both had one-point wins against the second-place finishers in their respective leagues.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Plymouth (9-1) at West Bloomfield (9-1), Davison (8-2) at Lapeer (9-1), Detroit Cass Tech (6-4) at Dearborn Fordson (9-1).
Midland Dow (7-3) at Muskegon Mona Shores (8-2)
The Sailors got past Midland by seven a week ago and now must also eliminate the other co-champion from the Saginaw Valley League North in neighboring Dow. The Chargers opened last week edging Big North Conference champion Traverse City Central by three. This could shake out as another close but low-scoring District Final, with both teams averaging just over 30 points per game but far fewer against playoff teams this season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (8-2) at Portage Northern (9-1), Fenton (9-1) at Walled Lake Western (9-1), Birmingham Seaholm (7-3) at Brimingham Groves (8-2).
Edwardsburg (10-0) at Zeeland West (9-1)
Moving back into Division 3 for these playoffs means a different set of challengers for the reigning Division 4 champion Eddies. Zeeland West is seeking its first District title since 2015 after losing in this round the last two years, and can be considered as close to undefeated without being so as its only loss was by a point to still-unbeaten Byron Center. Running has long been the name of the game for both of these programs, and this could be another low-scoring matchup with West giving up 17 points per game and Edwardsburg just 7.4.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Coldwater (9-1) at Chelsea (10-0). SATURDAY Cedar Springs (9-1) at Muskegon (10-0), Flint Kearsley (8-2) at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (9-1).
Sparta (9-1) at Grand Rapids Catholic Central (9-1)
Sparta surely was considered capable of winning last week’s opener against Muskegon Orchard View. But after the Spartans shut out the previously-undefeated Cardinals 35-0, it no doubt opened up a few more eyes as the team also reached nine wins for the first time since 1953 (per Michigan-football.com). Catholic Central annually is a formidable challenge, having made the Semifinals the last three seasons. GRCC’s only loss this fall was to a playoff team from Illinois.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Ortonville Brandon (8-2) at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (9-1), Marshall (6-4) at Paw Paw (9-1), Romulus Summit Academy North (8-2) at Milan (10-0).
Muskegon Oakridge (10-0) at Kingsley (10-0), Saturday
Oakridge is playing in its eighth District Final this decade and has won three of the first seven, with two of the four losses to teams that ended up reaching the MHSAA Finals – including by just three points to last season’s Division 5 champion Hudsonville Unity Christian. Kingsley won its first District title last year since 2005, traveling a different road playing in Division 6. Whichever team emerges from these paths crossing could be a serious contender to keep on rolling all the way to Detroit.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Almont (10-0) at Marine City (10-0), Lansing Catholic (9-1) at Portland (8-2), Clawson (7-3) at Detroit Denby (8-2).
Ravenna (8-2) at Montague (8-2)
Three West Michigan Conference teams are still alive – these two joining Oakridge noted above – and Ravenna won the first meeting 17-7 in Week 6. How much has changed in just over a month? The Wildcats since then can boast an 18-14 win over Portland, last season’s Division 5 runner-up. Ravenna, meanwhile, hasn’t given up a point since falling to Oakridge by seven in Week 8.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Constantine (8-2) at Hillsdale (10-0), Warren Michigan Collegiate (9-1) at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (8-1). SATURDAY Menominee (7-3) at Calumet (9-1).
Beaverton (10-0) at New Lothrop (10-0)
New Lothrop has become one of the scariest contenders in arguably the most competitive division, and not just because it’s the reigning champion. That unexpected underdog role could play well for the Beavers, who have reached 10 wins for the first time and last week gave up their first points – but only six – since Week 5. Beaverton’s 5.8-points-per-game defensive showing overall this season has come against a schedule featuring six playoff opponents, including three playing for District titles this weekend.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Lawton (10-0) at Schoolcraft (9-1), Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker (7-3) at Cass City (9-1). SATURDAY McBain (6-4) at Traverse City St. Francis (7-3).
Cassopolis (10-0) at Reading (9-1)
This matchup has two years of recent history providing some additional build-up. These teams met in a Division 7 District Final in 2017, won by Cassopolis 31-16. Reading marched to the Division 8 title unbeaten last season – but Cassopolis was still in Division 7 and missed making that Final with a three-point Semifinal loss to Madison Heights Madison. Now these two meet again, both in Division 8, both scoring more than 40 points per game and both with incredible defensive numbers – Reading giving up 5.2 points per game and Cassopolis having given up 17 points this entire season.
Keep an eye on these FRIDAY Beal City (9-1) at Johannesburg-Lewiston (10-0). SATURDAY Ubly (8-2) at Harbor Beach (10-0), Flint Beecher (6-3) at Fowler (9-1).
Martin (10-0) at Colon (10-0), Saturday
This will be the greatest challenge this fall so far for both teams. It’s tough to say Colon has been challenged yet – the Magi have scored 40 points in all but one game and average 52.2 per game, and have given up 38 total with six shutouts. Martin stacks up impressively scoring 38.6 points per game and giving up 10.8, but with a pair of single-digit wins over Bellevue and Climax-Scotts. Those could be interesting indicators for Colon, which beat both by at least 35.
Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Gaylord St. Mary (5-5) at Suttons Bay (10-0), Kingston (8-2) at Mio (9-1), Morrice (9-1) at Deckerville (10-0).
Pickford (9-1) at Powers North Central (10-0)
This rematch has been highly-anticipated since Week 3, when Powers North Central handed Pickford its only loss, 20-14, in what also turned out to be the Jets’ only close game this season. Pickford, last season’s Division 1 runner-up, did end up in Division 2 this time and brings back a team loaded with playoff experience. We’ll see how much difference that might make, although the Jets did gain a valuable boost as well in last week’s win over Crystal Falls Forest Park, its first over the Trojans in the first round in three seasons.
Other Regional Finals FRIDAY Cedarville (6-4) at Hillman (9-1), Onekama (7-3) at Climax-Scotts (8-2). SATURDAY Kinde North Huron (7-3) at Portland St. Patrick (10-0).
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PHOTO: Muskegon Oakridge edged Montague 15-13 in Week 5; both are playing this weekend for District championships. (Photo by Tim Reilly.)