« High School Live

High School Football Regional Preview

by Nick Vlietstra

Division 2:

Farmington Hills Harrison (10-1) @ #8 Portage Central (11-0) – Saturday @ 1:00

Portage Central has earned a spot at the big boys table now and if they continue to advance they will get to face all the historically great football powers in the state of Michigan, Muskegon, Birmingham Brother Rice and this week with Farmington Hills Harrison.  The Mustangs have been dominate this season, and that hasn’t stopped in the playoffs where they have outscored their first two opponents 78-13.  For their offense, Jarrod Davis has been the star and is coming off a 187 yard performance in their last game against Lakeview.  He has been helped out by the other two monsters in the backfield, Ryan Mergener (4 TDs) and Jacob Allen (2 TDs).  The defense which has been so good all season continues to do just that, holding down two good offenses to just one TD in both games.

If you don’t know Farmington Hills Harrison you haven’t been following Michigan High School football very long.  They are one of the most storied programs in the state.  They are led by legendary coach John Herrington who has been coaching there since the school opened in 1970 and has led them to 13 state championships.  He just collected his 400th win this season.  While they are historically good, this isn’t one of their greatest teams.  They were actually expected to struggle a little this season playing in the always tough Oakland White conference, and playing a schedule that featured six other playoff qualifiers.  Still, some things went their way and they are in a spot to win another regional title.  They also have been dominate so far in the playoffs with wins over North Farmington (49-7) and Pinckney (49-21).  They have a run oriented offense led by RB Lorenzo Collins who scored two TDs in their win over Pinckney.  Jr. QB Devin Shaw is a duel threat and has really come on strong as the season has progressed.  The defense is still a big calling card for the Hawks though as they are holding down some very good offenses this season to just 15.5 ppg. 

My Pick: Portage Central 24, Farmington Hills Harrison 21.  Portage Central has been bigger, stronger and more physical than everyone they have played this season.  This week the come against a team who might be able to match that.  It will be a game won in the trenches this week and I think PC will have a look at coming away with a win.  The long bus trip over to the west side of the state certainly could play a role in this game.

The Winner Faces: The Winner of #9 Midland and #3 Muskegon

Division 6:

Schoolcraft (10-1) @ #8 Shelby (10-1) – Saturday @ 1:00

Schoolcraft has reached the regional for the first time since 2001, the same year they went on to win the state championship.  In that year they also played and beat a team from the West Michigan Conference, Montague, in their regional game.  Schoolcraft made it to this point after two tight games.  They beat Niles-Brandywine 28-21 in the first round and then survived a 28-26 game with Watervliet last week.  The stars of their playoff run so far have been their RB tandem of Blake Zemek and Cody Mikel to go along with QB Tom Hurst.  Zemek has four rushing TDs in two games while Mikel has two.  Meanwhile Hurst has thrown for two TDs.  The defense has survived two tight games and has caused four turnovers in two games.  The defense even came up with the winning score against Watervliet when Phil Pelton had a fourth quarter pick six to put the Eagles on top.

Shelby is in the regional for the second straight season.  They had to go to the UP to beat Negaunee in last year’s semi-final, so I’m sure they are happy to be playing at home this year.  In the playoffs so far they have not been overly impressive.  They were trailing at halftime of both of their games, and came back to beat Montague 35-23 and then beat Grandville Calvin Christian last week 23-10. Shelby is a team that has been building for a few years now.  They made it to the state semi-finals last season where they lost to eventual state champion Ithica 31-14.  They made it to the playoffs the two years prior to that but the last time the even made the playoffs before 2010 was 1977.  Schoolcraft will have to defend an offense they really haven’t seen this year as the Tigers run the veer.  Forest Courtright and Devin Mussell are the two main backs out of their offense, although lead back Courtright was held to just 17 yards in the district final.  While they are a running team, they aren’t afraid to throw the ball.  QB Andy Fortier has thrown for over 1,000 yards this season, but they might have some second guessing with their throwing right now after throwing four INTs in their district final game.  Their only saving grace was that their defense also came up with four INTs as well.  Speaking of that defense, it has been very good this season as opposing teams are scoring only 15.4 ppg against them.  Their defense has also caused an amazing 9 turnovers in their first two playoff games.

My Pick: Shelby 27, Schoolcraft 21.  This could be a battle in the trenches and Shelby appears to have a size advantage.  I think both teams are similar and it could be a tight game that goes either way.  While neither team’s offense has been outstanding in the playoffs so far, both defenses have been solid and have made the big plays to win games.  Also don’t discount the fact that Schoolcraft also has a long bus ride up to Shelby. 

The Winner Faces: The Winner of Constantine and #4 Clinton

Constantine (7-4) @ #4 Clinton (11-0) – Saturday @ 1:00

Constantine just keeps doing what they do and that is winning playoff games.  They went into the playoffs battered and bruised but have now racked up two fairly easy wins and find themselves in the regional for the fifth straight season.  The last four years they have advanced past the regional and gotten into at least the semi-final.  They beat Michigan Center 41-26 in the opening round and then pounded Hillsdale 56-14 last week to reach the regional this season.  The guys stepping up to lead the way are very different from who was doing it in the regular season.  Taylor Reiff has rushed for 373 yards and seven TDs in the first two games while QB Matt Hasbrouck has rushed for 286 yards and five TDs.  While the defense has not been great, they have been able to come up with four turnovers in the first two playoff games which includes three INTs last game against Hillsdale.

Clinton comes into the regional after wins over Whitmore Lake (46-6) and Grass Lake (39-14).  They have been an up and down program over the years, although they have been very up lately.  They won their second straight Tri-County championship this season and have lost just one game in the last two years.  That one loss was to Manchester in last year’s first round.  Clinton also runs a run oriented offense.  Constantine will have their hands full trying to corral Redskins’ RB Collin Poore.  He is coming off one of his finest games of the season when he rushed for 221 yards and two TDs in the district final.  They played some tough games early in the season but the conference schedule did not offer much of a challenge.  They did open the season with a nice win over Manchester whom they beat by 12 and that has been their closest game of the season.  They have beaten every other team by at least 25 points.  They beat Ottawa Lake-Whiteford (33-8) who also will be competing in a regional this weekend in division eight and also beat Britton-Deerfield (41-6) who was beaten in the district final last weekend.  The Redskins offense has been very good, scoring over 45 ppg while their defense has also been stout, holding opponents to just 12.5 ppg.

My Pick: Constantine 26, Clinton 21.  I think the Redskins will give Constantine a better game mostly because they will be physical with the Falcons.  I still can’t pick against Constantine though, and I think they get to their fifth straight semi-final.

The Winner Faces: The winner of Schoolcraft and #8 Shelby

Division 7:

Decatur (8-3) @ #10 Homer – Saturday @ 1:00

Decatur survived and advanced in their last game against Cassopolis winning 7-0 when they scored with just :34 seconds left in the game.  The game was a classic example of what Decatur has been this season.  An offense that struggles to move the ball and a very dominate defense.  Their game with Cassopolis was one that was really won in the trenches as Decatur completed just 4 of 10 passes and Cassopolis completed just two of three passes.  On top of that, neither team had a back rush for more than 50 yards.  Decatur will have to show an ability to move the ball this week if they are going to have a chance against a very powerful Homer team.

Homer comes in after taking down another SAC team in Lawton last week 43-25.  QB Alex White threw for 260 yards and five TDs in that game and has now thrown for over 2,200 yards this season with 28 TDs.  Six of those TD passes have come in the playoffs.  On top of the great offense, the defense has been very good also.  They shutout Reading in the first game, and while they did surrender 25 to Lawton, most of that came in the second half when the game was pretty much over considering it was 34-6 at the half. 

My Pick: Homer 24, Decatur 14.  If Decatur can’t move the ball they are in trouble.  As good as their defense is, Homer’s offense is going to score.  If the Raiders’ offense can hold down the Trojan offense and effectively move the ball and control the clock they will have a chance.  The problem also lies in the fact that the Homer defense might be good enough to prevent that from happening.

The Winner Faces: The winner of Southfield Christian and #2 Detroit Loyola

Division 8:

#6 Muskegon Catholic Central @ #2 Mendon – Saturday @ 1:00

These two have been going at this thing for a few years now.  They have met in the playoffs five times since 2000 with MCC winning three of those games.  They have also met the last two years with the two teams splitting those games.  In four out of the five meetings the winner of that game went on to win the state championship.  If it is anything like the other match-ups this one should be good and tight.  Mendon beat Eau Claire 67-0 in the opening round and then beat Climax-Scotts 13-0 last week.  MCC beat Fulton Middleton 42-14 in the opening round and #8 Fowler in the district final 42-0. 

Both teams are similar in that they have run oriented offenses and very good defenses.  Neither team relies on the pass all that much.  That is a good thing right now for Mendon who is playing without their QB from the regular season, Jordan Medich, who was hurt in the final game.  They have used two different QBs in the playoffs so far.  Mendon dominated on defense last week holding Climax Scotts to less than 100 yards of offense.  They have allowed only 19 points this entire season.  Their offensive backfield is led by Eli Klepper and Kaleb McCarroll.  McCarroll played QB against Eau Clair but moved back to RB last week and rushed for 143 yards and a TD.

MCC has a three headed monster out of the backfield in QB Nick Holt, and RBs Alex Lewandoski and Tommy Scott.  None of them have over 1,000 yards this season, but the three have combined for over 2,400 yards and 43 TDs.  Any one of them could lead their team in rushing in any given game.  While they haven’t thrown the ball a lot this season, they have been effective in the playoffs with it.  Holt has only completed 6 of 8 passes in the playoffs but four of those completions have been TDs. 

My Pick: Mendon 21, MCC 16.  I think this will be a defensive battle that really could go either way.  When these two get together it usually ends up being tight, and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be this year.  I like Mendon’s defense a lot right now though.  They might have trouble moving the ball against MCC, but I don’t think the Crusaders will move it very well either.