« High School Live

Nick Vlietstra's High School Sports Blog District Final Preview

by Nick Vlietstra

Division 2:

Battle Creek Lakeview (10-0) @ #8 Portage Central (10-0) – Friday

The battle that we have been waiting to see all season is finally here.  The two division winners and undefeated teams in the SMAC get to clash on Friday night.  This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2006.  Portage Central comes in ranked number eight in the state.  They won their first round game over Lansing Everett 38-6 and it is their second straight season in the district final.  Last season they fell in the district final to Mattawan 42-21.  The 38 points they scored is actually an off night for their offense.  They have now been held under 40 points just three times this season and are averaging 48.5 ppg.  Their defense has been stellar as well holding opponents to just 12.3 ppg.  On top of that they have held the opposition in single digits six times this season.  They are a run heavy team and have three big threats out of the backfield.  Jerrod Davis and Jacob Allen have combined to score 37 TDs this season and both scored two TDs in the playoff opener against Everett.  They also have QB Ryan Mergner who has scored seven TDs on his own while also throwing another six.

Lakeview has been equally as dominant as Portage Central.  They won their first round game 31-7 over Portage Northern.  It was their first playoff win since 2003 when they beat Haslett 20-7 before falling in the district final to Charlotte.  They have an offense that has produced over 40 ppg this season and very much like the Mustangs have a run dominated offense.  Mike Campbell is the lead back and has rushed for close to 1,400 yards this season and a school record 23 TDs.  They also have Donnie Ernsberger who did not come to the offensive side of the ball until midway through the season, but has been a wrecking ball since then rushing for 600 yards and 10 TDs.  On top of that QB Skyler Nichols has 10 total TDs this season and like Mergner of the Mustangs is a bigger threat to run than throw.  Their defense has been the most dominate defense in the league holding opponents to 6.3 ppg, and began the season with five straight shutouts.

My Pick: Portage Central 24, Lakeview 21.  I think these two nearly mirror each other.  I think Portage Central has a slightly better offense and Lakeview has a slightly better defense.  Neither team has had a close game this season either.  I think this game gets decided in the fourth quarter.  I’ll take PC though because they have been just as dominate as Lakeview but have done it in the tougher division.

The Winner Faces: The winner of Pinckney and Farmington Hills Harrison

Division 5:

Parchment (7-3) @ #7 Olivet (9-1) - Friday

It was a great first playoff week for the KVA with all five teams getting wins.  That won’t happen again this week as one KVA team will be going home after this game.  This is a re-match of a game back in week five when Olivet won 40-20.  This game is set to be a much better match-up this time around though.  Parchment last beat Olivet in 2011 which propelled them to their first playoff appearance in nine years.  That is the only win Parchment holds over Olivet since they joined the KVA as the Eagles hold a 7-1 overall record against the Panthers.

Parchment pulled off the biggest upset in the state last week when they beat Jackson Lumen Christi 40-35.  They played a near perfect game on offense going 6-6 on fourth downs and 3-3 throwing the ball.  Clay Wilkey led the Panthers Wing-T offense with 279 yards.  Wilkey is the Panthers’ leading rusher with over 1,000 yards this season.  He ran for over 100 in the first game against Olivet.  He is helped out in the backfield by QB Clay Whitehead who also rushed for over 100 yards the first time against Olivet.  He is the one who rushed for the 19 yard TD with 36 second left to give Parchment their win over Lumen Christi.  Seth Dexter is the third threat out of their backfield and has rushed for nine TDs this season. 

Olivet is back in the playoffs for the sixth straight season which also makes it 19 out of 22 seasons.  Olivet comes in after their big 14-6 win over Hopkins and they are in a spot that they didn’t expect to be.  They perhaps though they would be in the second round but they probably didn’t expect to be playing that game at home.  Their offense is led by RB Shane Loney who has rushed for 1,230 yards this season and 19 TDs.  He is coming off a game against Hopkins when he rushed for 154 yards and a TD.  He also had a huge day the first time around against Parchment rushing for 135 yards and five TDs.  A lot of stats can be deceiving because of who the majority of the stats come against, but that’s not the case for Loney.  He is the epitome of big game performer.  In the five toughest games this season (Parchment, Pennfield, Schoolcraft, Olivet and Hopkins) Loney has gone over 130 yards in each contest and is averaging 166 yards in the big games.  QB Rob Funk has thrown for close to 900 yards and eight TDs while also rushing for over 300 and five TDs.  The Eagles also had the second best defense in the KVA this season giving up only 12.6 ppg.

My Pick: Olivet 27, Parchment 21.  Parchment is playing great football right now, but they won’t be sneaking up on anyone this time around.  Olivet is not only familiar with the Wing-T they are very good at stopping it.  Last game they held a good Hopkins team, who also runs the Wing-T, to just six points.  They also held Pennfield to 15 and Constantine to 14.  Olivet is also very seasoned in playoff games and very tough at home.

The Winner Faces: The winner of Grand Rapids West Catholic and Lansing Catholic

Division 6:

Friday - Schoolcraft (9-1) @ #10 Watervliet (10-0)

These two get together for a clash between the top team in the SAC and one of the top teams in the KVA.  Schoolcraft comes in after a 28-21 road win in the first round over Niles-Brandywine.  The Eagles one loss on the season came in week three to Olivet 28-14.  They have had a good defense and a steady offense.  The offense likes to spread it around to many different players using a balanced approach.  Against Brandywine they had four different players score TDs.  Blake Zemek and Cody Mikel got the majority of the carries against the Bobcats.  QB Tom Hurst has been effective as well, throwing for close to 1,000 yards this season and 11 TDs. 

Watervliet hammered Hartford 44-0 to get to the second round.  Watervliet features an offense that can cause a lot of problems for opposing defenses. QB Luke Traver has thrown for over 1,900 yards this season.  Not only that but he has been the leading rusher for the Panthers rushing for over 700 yards.  All in all he has 40 total TDs this season, 24 through the air and 16 on the ground.  The defense has also been very good, slowing down opposing teams to the tune of 8.4 ppg. 

My Pick: Schoolcraft 23, Watervliet 20.  The KVA usually ends up winning games with SAC teams by two TDs, but I think this game could be close.  Panthers will surly throw it around a lot more than any team Schoolcraft has seen this season.  The Eagles also haven’t seen a QB quite the style of Traver.  Still, I think the Eagles have the defensive players that are big enough and fast enough to slow down Traver.

The Winner Faces: The winner of Constantine and Hillsdale

Friday - Constantine (6-4) @ Hillsdale (7-3)

Constantine and Hillsdale get together again in a game that features the two road teams from the first round.  It is an interesting district final between two teams who met in the regional last season.  In that game last season Constantine won a shootout 49-35.  The Falcons also put the Hornets out in 2010 and in 2002.  This district isn’t helping the travel budget for Constantine too much.  The Falcons got to this game win a first round 41-26 win over Michigan Center.  They were banged up and missing their leading rusher, but they still managed to find a way to win and are in a district final for the 12th straight season.  In their first round game they found new bodies to lead the way.  The entire season it has been Justin Hull and Andres Montoya, but Hull is out for the season with an injury and Montoya was held under 50 yards.  So instead it was QB Matt Hasbrouck and RB Taylor Reiff who both had over 150 yards.  Their defense still has some question marks and will be tested against a Hillsdale team who likes to throw.

Hillsdale is in the playoffs for the 13th straight season.  They beat Jonesville in the first round 29-14 to advance to the District final.  When they played Constantine last year they came in undefeated at 11-0.  They are on a run this season and have rallied off six wins in a row.  They have been playing in playoff mode since week five because they started the season just 1-3 with losses to Jackson Northwest, Hudson and Defiance Tinoria (OH).  Their offense has not been nearly as good as they were last season as they have scored close to 100 points less this season.  RB Kyle Bernard had a fantastic season in 2011 and is back but not having the same type of season.  He has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 11 TDs and he is coming off his finest game of the season in the playoff opener with 189 yards and three TDs.  QB Martin Peterson has been the bigger offensive threat this season and has thrown for 1,200 yards and 15 TDs while rushing for another 500.  On the defensive side they have been good.  They opened the season allowing 35 and 34 points, they have not allowed more than 16 in any game since then.

My Pick: Constantine 34, Hillsdale 29.  I think this could turn into another shootout, but I think again, even with the injuries, this is another favorable match-up for the Falcons.  They are playing another team who won’t be as physical as teams the played during the regular season.  The other thing to be aware of is the mental side of the game.  I’m sure Constantine is becoming the school Hillsdale does not want to see pop up in the playoffs seeing that they have put the Hornets out three times in the last 12 years.  I think Constantine, battered and bruised gets back to another regional and it could set up another game with Schoolcraft.

The Winner Faces: The winner of Schoolcraft and #10 Watervliet

Division 7:

Friday - Decatur (7-3) @ Cassopolis (7-3)

Decatur has fought the ups and downs this season and has now landed in the district final against Cassopolis.  It is the second straight member of the Lakeland conference they will face after they disposed of Bridgman 28-14 last week.  If you wanted to know, Cassopolis had their lone conference loss to Bridgman 22-21 in week six.  These two last got together in the regular season last year when the Raiders won 46-30.  They also met in the playoffs in 2008 and 2006 with Decatur winning both of those contests as well.  The last time Cassopolis beat Decatur was in 1988.  Decatur has hung their hat on defense this season.  They had the best defense in the SAC in the regular season.  Offensively they are effective with both the pass and the run and QB Matt Botti and RB Jonathan Grovensor make up the talented backfield. 

Cassopolis got to this game after a first round 30-7 win over St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic.  They are back in the playoffs this season after missing out last year, but this now makes it seven out of eight years that the Rangers have reached the playoffs.  Cassopolis tied for the Lakeland championship with Niles-Brandywine.  While the schedule wasn’t superb this season, their best win came in week eight when they beat Brandywine 35-12.  Their offense has been very good this season scoring over 37 ppg while the defense is giving up 19 ppg.

My Pick: Decatur 27, Cassopolis 19.  The Raiders have a defense the quality of which I don’t think the Rangers have seen this season.  In recent times Decatur has been shown to have better teams than Cassopolis and I think that trend continues this week to win their second straight district title.

The Winner Faces: The winner of Lawton and #10 Homer

Friday - Lawton (9-1) @ #10 Homer (9-1)

Lawton is in a district final for the third straight year.  The last two years haven’t gone the way they would hope as they fell last year to Decatur 34-3 and in 2011 to Watervliet 24-16.  This time they get another very tough match-up with the champions of the Big Eight conference, Homer.  Lawton got to this point after a win over another Big Eight team last week beating Springport 21-6.  During the regular season Homer beat Springport 48-7.  Lawton has had a dynamic offense the entire season as they have averaged 39 ppg.  Their defense has been over all strong too surrendering 17.7 ppg.

Homer comes in to this game on their first playoff appearance since 2006 and they are looking to get back to a regional which they last reached in 2005.  They reached the district final this year by beating Reading 28-0.  Homer dominated their competition this season.  Their lone loss came in the final week of the season when they fell to a very good Grass Lake team 17-14.  Outside of that game they have won every other game by at least 28 points.  The Trojans’ offense is scoring over 40 ppg and prior to week nine, they scored at least 40 points in every game they played. They have a strong QB and RB combo between Alex White and Chaz Hopkins.  White is primarily a passing QB who has thrown for 2,000 yards this season to go along with 23 TDs.  His main two targets are Dylan Thomas and Kyle Winchell who both have over 700 receiving yards and have combined to catch 16 of White’s 23 TD passes.  They also have a very good running game to go along with the passing game.  Hopkins is the lone running threat but he is a very good running threat.  He has rushed for over 1,200 yards and 18 TDs.  No one else on the team has run for more than three TDs.  On top of all the offense they produced the defense has been terrific as well, giving up only 9.3 ppg.  Only one team has scored more than 17 points on them all season.

My Pick: Homer 31, Lawton 21.  Give the playoff experience edge to Lawton seeing that this is just the second playoff game this group of Trojans has played in.  Still, it appears that Homer is a very good team.  They have played in some big games and have played very well in those games. 

The Winner Faces: The winner of Cassopolis and Decatur

Division 8:

Saturday - Climax-Scotts (9-1) @ #2 Mendon (10-0)

We once again get a district final match-up between the Hornets and Panthers.  It is a battle between two of the top small schools in southwest Michigan.  It is also a battle that has been dominated by Mendon for a lot of years.  You would have to go back to 1977 to find the last time that Climax-Scotts beat Mendon.  Mendon has ended the Panthers’ season the last two years.  Last year it was in the district final when the Hornets won 28-6 and in 2011 it was in the Regional 35-10.  Looking back you will also find a similar story back in 2005 and 2003. 

Mendon has done what they always seem to do and that is dominate everyone they play.  On the defensive end they have allowed points in only three games this season and never more than seven which adds up to only 19 points given up the entire season.  On offense they have scored 513.  They reached this game by beating Eau Claire 67-0.  Their offense underwent a slight change because of the loss of starting QB Jordan Medich, but new QB Kaleb McCarroll did just fine in his debut throwing for 100 yards and a TD. 

Climax-Scotts reached the district final with a win over Bellvue 20-0.  This is their 11th straight season in the district final.  They have lost just one game this season and that was in week eight to Flint Powers Catholic 48-13.  Their Wing-T offense averaged over 35 ppg this season and has been held under 30 points just three times.  They are led by Samuel Eshuis and Logan Simmons who have combined for over 1,700 rushing yards and 32 TDs.  Eshuis is also their leading receiver with close to 300 yards. 

My Pick: Mendon 29, Climax Scotts 13.  I think the Panthers will have to wait another year to try and take down the Hornets.  It looks like Mendon might be cruising for another showdown with Muskegon Catholic Central in the regional.

The Winner Faces: The winner of #6 Muskegon Catholic Central and #8 Flowler 

For More High School Coverage Follow me on Twitter @VlietstraNick