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Nick Vlietstra's High School Sports Blog District Playoff Preview

by Nick Vlietstra

Well folks we are here.  One and done.  Lose and you go home.  The last nine games all lead to the start of this.  There are plenty of area teams represented in the playoffs and they all have high dreams going into this week’s games.  Let’s get to it because the playoff games are fast approaching.

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Division 2

Lansing Everett (6-3) @ Portage Central (9-0)

We know that Portage Central is good, but now is when we find out how good they really are.  It takes a very good team to go through the SMAC West undefeated.  Not only that, but they were rolling over teams all season long.  They face a Lansing Everett team who brings a very good passing offense to challenge the Mustangs this week. 

Portage Central has reached the playoffs two years in a row and eight out of 10 years.  Last season they beat Portage Northern 21-17 in the first round and then fell to Mattawan in the second round game 42-21.  They have dominated the SMAC this season.  In fact, they have had only one game that was within 20 points this entire season.  Their efforts have earned them a #8 ranking in the final state rankings.  I will say that they have the look of a team that could go on a run.  On the season they have outscored opponents on average 49.7-13.0.  Their offense is led by the running back duo of Jerrod Davis and Jacob Allen.  They have combined for close to 2,000 yards on the season and when you focus on them too much you have Ryan Mergener who has also rushed for close to 500 yards this season as well.  They are a run heavy team who has not needed to rely on the passing game much this season.

Lansing Everett comes out of the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue Division.  That is comprised of the biggest schools in the Lansing and Jackson area.  They started the season 5-1 but then lost two of their last three.  They won in dramatic fashion on Friday night when they scored a TD late in the fourth quarter to edge Jackson.  Their losses this season have come to Holt, Grand Ledge and Lansing Sexton.  Holt (5-4) and Lansing Sexton (9-0) are both playoff teams but their 41-19 loss to a 4-5 Grand Ledge team was not a good one.  They also don’t have a win over any team with a winning record.  They are a team that on offense likes to throw the ball quite a bit.  They are led by QB Lucas Barner who has thrown for close to 1,800 yards and 21 TDs this season and that came with him missing a game and a half.  His favorite target has been Leondre Terry who has caught over 30 balls for over 750 yards and 12 TDs.  Even after that they have four other players who have caught more than 10 balls this season.  The Vikings were playoff qualifiers last season as well when they went undefeated in the regular season but were then upended in the first game of the playoffs 10-6 by East Lansing. 

My Pick: Portage Central 34, Everett 19.  Everett plays an offense that can put a lot of pressure on the Mustangs but they haven’t won a big game all season and I don’t see that changing this week.

Portage Northern (7-2) @ Battle Creek Lakeview (9-0)

This is a very intriguing first round match-up.  This is a battle of two of the top defenses in the SMAC and a battle of Lakeview getting to take on one of the higher ups in the West division.  I think we all might still remember what happened last season when Lakeview took on one of the higher ups in the West when they were dropped by Mattawan.  Still, last season they were a team on the rise, and this year they are a team that has arrived. 

Lakeview is making their second straight playoff appearance.  Last season they reached the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and it did not go well as they lost to Mattawan 66-28.  Lakeview has the top defense in the SMAC which is giving up less than seven ppg.  They started the season with five straight shutouts.  Since then they have given up a few points but have not given up more than the 21 they surrendered in week nine to Sturgis.  On offense they are scoring over 41 ppg led by a great rushing attack that has just gotten better as the season rolled along.  It starts with Mike Campbell who rushed for close to 1,300 yards this season and also broke the school record for TDs in a season with 22.  But, he was given big help about midway through the season when Donnie Ernsberger moved into the backfield with him and rushed for over 550 yards and eight TDs.  He is coming off a performance on Friday night against Sturgis when he rumbled for 256 yards and five TDs.

This makes it two straight playoff appearances for the Huskies and four out of five.  They fell in the opening game last season to Portage Central 21-17.  Portage Northern has put together another fine season led by their defense.  They have given up less than 15 ppg and are coming off a performance on Friday night when they picked off five passes against Niles.  The Huskies only two losses came to the top two teams in the West and in consecutive weeks when they lost to St. Joseph (17-10) and Portage Central (49-7).  They need their defense to be strong because their offense has not been their strong point this season.  They have averaged 28 ppg and have struggled to score against some of the better teams in the conference. 

My Pick: Lakeview 28, Portage Northern 13.  PN has played in the tougher division but the Spartans have been more dominate on both sides of the ball than the Huskies have.  PN has a fine defense but I think Lakeview’s is better and they have the ability to move the ball much better. 

Division 3

Wayland (5-4) @ Plainwell (8-1)

Plainwell may not have gotten the match-up that they wanted here.  Yes the record is 5-4, but any time a team has to play a team from the Grand Rapids area to start the playoffs it isn’t a great thing.  Wayland isn’t one of the elite teams but they are on the door step and played a lot of the elite teams tough.  Plainwell comes in 8-1 and has dominated competition for much of the season.  Wayland is a team that has had a bounce back season after being down in the doldrums for a number of years. 

This is the first eight win season Plainwell has had since 1995 and it is also the first time since 1995 that they have made the playoffs at least three straight years.  They come into this match-up ranked #6 in the state.  The Trojans have won first round playoff games the last two years before they fell in the second round both years.  Last season they beat another OK Gold team, Hastings (35-16) in the first round before falling to Harper Creek (26-10).  They have dominated on defense, holding opponents to only 4.7 ppg.  They have more shutouts this season than games in which the opponents have scored.  On offense they have used their physical style to average over 31 ppg.  They have two very good running backs in Sr. Ryan Britton and Jr. Jacob Geter.  Britton has been their leading rusher the last three seasons but Geter is leading them in yardage this season.  Still, the two have combined for close to 1,800 yards.

Plainwell can relate to where Wayland is at because the Trojans were in a similar spot about four years ago.  Prior to this season Wayland won only three games over the previous four seasons and that included last season when they went winless.  While they were 5-4 this season they had some pretty impressive losses if that makes sense.  They played tight games with area powers Hopkins (19-12), Zeeland West (30-22), and Grand Rapids Catholic Central (24-15).  They are similar to Plainwell in the fact that they are going to pound the ball and have two very good running backs that they can go to.  Mike Miklusicak has led the way rushing for over 1,400 yards and 13 TDs.  He has gone over 200 yards in a game three times this season.  He is helped out by Jack Phillips who has rushed for close to 800 yards and 10 TDs.  The offense has not scored a ton of points as they average 25.3 ppg.  They also like Plainwell in the fact that they will not throw the ball much.  They have thrown just two TD passes this season.

My Pick: Plainwell 23, Wayland 17.  I think these two teams are very similar of one another.  They run the ball well and play defense well.  The biggest difference I see is that I think Plainwell is more experienced and a slight step better in both categories right now.

Sturgis (5-4) @ St. Joseph (8-1)

This is a battle of a team that has been playing good football all season and a team that came on late in the season.  St. Joseph finished second to Portage Central in the SMAC West.  Sturgis finished fourth in the SMAC East and got in based on playoff points.  Playoff points or not, this is a Sturgis team that is playing well and could be dangerous in the first round.

Sturgis is back in the playoffs after missing out last season.  In 2011 they lost to Mason 38-26 in the first round.  Prior to that, they hadn’t reached the playoffs since 2004.  The Trojans areled by future WMU Bronco Chance Stewart.  The Senior did not start the season great when they were shutout against Portage Central 55-0 on opening night and they struggled through a few other early season games, but he and his fellow Trojans turned it on about mid-season.  Stewart finished with close to 1,900 passing yards and 17 TDs with nearly half of those TDs (8) coming in the last two games of the season.  They had bigger issues on the defensive side of the ball where they gave up over 32 ppg.

The Bears come into this game ranked #7 in the state.  They missed the playoffs last season but made the playoffs the previous five seasons before that.  In their last appearance in 2011 they were dropped by Zeeland East 39-7 in the first round.  St. Joseph is a team that will not shock you with stats but have been a team who has just gotten the job done all season.  They have been a better running team than throwing.  Jack Turak is the offensive star out of his RB position and has rushed for over 900 yards this season and A.J. Montoya has been a good duel threat out of his QB spot.  They started their season with four straight wins over playoff teams Coldwater (33-14), Harper Creek (14-9), Stevensville-Lakeshore (32-20) and Portage Northern (17-10), but were not challenged too much after that outside of the Portage Central game in week eight.

My Pick: St. Joe 33, Sturgis 21.  I think Stewart gives Sturgis a fighting chance but the Bears are just a better team this year.

Pennfield (8-1) @ Paw Paw (8-1)

This is an interesting battle between the KVA and the Wolverine and a battle of two state ranked teams.  Paw Paw comes in ranked #7 and Pennfield is ranked #9.  It is also a clash of differing styles which the other team does not see very much.  Paw Paw implores a spread offense and like to throw the ball around the field more than any team that Pennfield has seen this season.  Pennfield runs the Wing-T power run offense which Paw Paw rarely sees and which has given the Redskins big struggles in recent years.  They are former KVA foes before Paw Paw left after 2005.  Paw Paw won their last meeting in 2005 but that ended a 10 game winning streak Pennfield held going back to 1995.  In their time together in the KVA Pennfield held a 10-2 record against the Redskins.

Pennfield is back in a familiar place as this is their 16th straight season in the playoffs.  They fell to another Wolverine team in the first round last season when they lost to Three Rivers 20-14. This is Pennfield’s last season in the KVA and they stole part of the league championship in their final season.  They had another steady season which was highlighted by wins over Olivet (15-14) and Constantine (28-3).  Their one loss came in week six against Schoolcraft (28-22).  You know what you are going to get with the Panthers.  They will be disciplined and run their Wing-T offense very well.  They averaged close to 39 ppg this season and had the top defense in the KVA giving up less than 9 ppg.  They didn’t have any particular stars on offense this season but it was a collective effort out of the backfield.  Nick Burnett was the leading rusher but J.J. Clements, Brandon Rugg and DaWan Smith all took turns leading the rushing attack this season.

This is the fourth straight playoff appearance for Paw Paw and five out of six.  Last season they were dropped in the first round by eventual state champion Grand Rapids South Christian 48-0.  Paw Paw just had their 17 game regular season winning streak ended by Edwardsburg in the last game of the season.  They went through an interesting transition late in the season.  They were running primarily a spread offense led by star QB Jay Doll who was one of the best passers in the state before he broke his collarbone against Plainwell in week seven.  In week eight they switched to their wishbone offense and it worked well in a 37-14 win against Otsego.  Still, that did not last long because in week nine they found a new QB, Kyle Williams, who stepped in to run the spread again.  They were a prolific scoring offense which averaged 45.8 ppg while their stout defense gave up just 13.8 ppg.  Their one big issue has been stopping the Wing-T offense which was seen once again in the game against Edwardsburg.  They gave up 56 points against Edwardsburg but hadn’t given up anything more than 14 against any other team this season.

My Pick: Paw Paw 33, Pennfield 24.  I think both teams will be able to move the ball against each other but I doubt it turns into another shootout like Paw Paw enjoyed last week.  In the end I think Paw Paw has enough to survive, move on and more than likely play Edwardsburg again.

Otsego (6-3) @ Grand Rapids South Christian (8-1)

Congrats on making the playoffs Otsego.  For your efforts you get to play one of the best teams in the state.  Otsego pulled off a big win in week nine over Dowagiac to sneak into the playoffs.  South Christian dominated the OK Gold this season and is currently ranked #1 in division four.

South Christian went on a tear in the playoffs last season against the Wolverine.  They beat Paw Paw (48-0) in the opening round, Dowagiac (42-23) in the second round before beating Three Rivers (38-14) in the regional on their way to claiming the Division Four State Championship.  That all came as a little bit of a surprise as they went 6-3 in the regular season and it was their first trip back to the playoffs after missing the playoffs the previous three seasons.  This year they just built off that success and hold wins over three other playoff teams, Grand Rapids West Catholic (34-17), Wayland (23-8) and Grand Rapids Catholic Central (35-29 OT).  After dropping the first game of the season to Grand Rapids Christian (41-13) the rallied off eight straight wins and have now won 15 out of their last 16 overall.  They are led by one of the top QBs in the state in junior Jon Wassink who is getting D1 looks from both MAC and Big Ten schools.  He is a duel threat who threw for close to 1,500 yards and 11 TDs while rushing for close to 550 yards and 12 TDs.  His main receiving target has been Eric VanVoorst who has over 500 yards receiving while Geff Plasman is another big threat out of the backfield with over 600 yards rushing. 

Otsego is 6-3 and got a big win over Dowagiac in the final week of the season to get into the playoffs.  Prior to that they were a team that beat everyone they were supposed to beat but struggled against the top teams in the Wolverine.  Their losses have come to Edwardsburg (34-7), Plainwell (44-17) and Paw Paw (37-14).  The common thing in all of those games is that their offense struggled to move the ball.  In the end they averaged 29.3 ppg.  Their biggest offensive threat has been QB Alex Jirgens who is a threat to run or pass.  He combined to have over 1,000 yards of total offense this season.  While the defense was good in their wins (7.8 ppg) it struggled in the three losses (38.3 ppg).

My Pick: South Christian 41, Otsego 13.  Otsego is fighting a big uphill battle here.  The Sailors are very good and a lot will have to go right for the Bulldogs to have a chance here.

Division 5

Parchment (6-3) @ Jackson Lumen Christi (9-0)

The draw did not go well for Parchment.  In the days and weeks leading up to Sunday it was looking like Parchment would possibly play defending champion Portland but instead they get eight time state champion Jackson Lumen Christi.  Lumen Christi is ranked #2 in the state in division six.  They won the CAAC Gold which is made up of class A and B schools in the Jackson/Lansing area and they dominated everyone.  They played their last game of the season against Howell who competes in division one and won by seven but other than that they didn’t play a game closer than 27.

Lumen Christi is in the playoffs for the 16th straight year and 18th out of 20 years.  In their most recent appearance last season they were one and done, getting upended by Lake Fenton in the first round 41-20.  When you look over the schedule for the Titans, they play in a conference where everyone is at least twice the size of them.  Yes, there are a some pretty bad teams such as Jackson, Jackson Northwest, Jackson Parma Western, and Lansing Waverly.  Still, they do have very impressive wins over Mason (35-0), Charlotte (35-0), Howell (42-35) and first time playoff team Eaton Rapids (49-16).  Their offense has scored at least 35 points in every game this season and have been held under 40 points just twice.  They have a scary backfield combination of Khari Willis and Devon Barrett.  Willis is the main back who has rushed for over 1,300 yards and 22 TDs.  He has gone over 200 yards in a game three times and is coming off his finest game of the season when he carried the ball an astounding 41 times for 289 yards and three TDs.  He isn’t by himself back there either, as Devon Barrett has been a great compliment and has rushed for close to 900 yards and 10 TDs.  If over 2,200 yards of rushing isn’t enough, QB Coley Crowley has thrown for close to 1,000 yards and 15 TDs.  You could probably label them a run first team but they are extremely effective with the passing game as well.

Parchment is making it two out of three years in the playoffs.  In 2011 they made the playoffs with a 6-3 record and lost to Dowagiac in the first round.  Prior to 2011, they hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2002.  Their biggest win this season came in week four when they beat Constantine 44-26.  That was their only win over a playoff team and their only win over a team with a winning record.  The Panthers are also coming into this game well rested after Galesburg-Augusta forfeited their week nine game giving the Panthers a sixth win without even setting foot on the field.  One thing in the Panther’s favor is that they run the full house T backfield, something that Lumen Christi has not faced this season.  Parchment has a strong stable of running backs that have all taken their turn running the ball and leading the offense.  Clay Wilkey is the team leader on offense with over 800 yards rushing and seven TDs.  Their other options on offense include Seth Dexter who has rushed for over 450 yards and nine TDs, and QB Clay Whitehead, who took over mid-season at QB, has rushed for over 550 and nine TDs.  As a team they have rushed for over 2,400 yards this season.  Their offense ended up fifth in the conference in scoring at over 32 ppg.  Meanwhile, their defense was very good and gave up only 16.4 ppg and held opponents in the single digits five times this season.  The aforementioned Clay Wilkey is the leading tackler while Josh Colwell has also stood strong right next to him in his LB spot.

My Pick: Lumen Christi 35, Parchment 14.  It has been a fine season for the Panthers but they are running into a juggernaut here.  The Titans are experienced in the playoffs and a very balanced team.

Division 6

Schoolcraft (8-1) @ Niles Brandywine (8-1)

This is a rematch of a game last season in which Schoolcraft dominated Brandywine 41-8.  Schoolcraft took home a share of the KVA championship for the second straight season and Brandywine tied for the Lakeland championship. 

Schoolcraft was strong on both sides of the ball again this year.  Their one loss this season came on the road to Olivet (28-14).  They do hold wins over playoff qualifiers Parchment (41-14), Constantine (37-28), and Pennfield (28-22).  They ran a very balanced offense this season.  They did not have one true go to running back this year and they spread it around.  Blake Zemek ended the season as their leading rusher but Cody Mikel, Nick Cakmakci, and Charlie Shultz all got plenty of carries this season.  QB Tom Hurst threw for over 800 yards and nine TDs with his main target being Trevor Stoddard who caught five TD passes.

Brandywine tied for the four team Lakeland Championship with Cassopolis who also gave them their only loss this season.  They are in the playoffs for the second straight season after finishing last year 7-2.  Prior to last year the Bobcats had not qualified for the playoffs since 1995.  Because of the small conference they had to play six non-conference games which included two teams from Indiana (Hobart River Forest and LaPorte La Lumiere).  The schedule was not a good one but it did include wins over Bridgman and St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic who are also playoff qualified.  Their offense averaged over 33 ppg while the defense gave up just a touch over 10 ppg.

My Pick: Schoolcraft 34, Brandywine 13.  Brandywine is at home where they played six games this season, but I don’t think that helps.  This is a big step up for Brandywine and it looks like their season will finish the same way last years did.

Constantine (5-4) @ Michigan Center (8-1)

The season did not go well for Constantine but the Falcons managed to sneak their way into the playoffs, a place where they have done a tone of damage.  They face a Michigan Center team who had a great season and tied for the championship in the Cascades conference.  I can’t believe they are all that excited about the fact that they just went 8-1 and then get to play perennial power Constantine.

This marks the second straight year Michigan Center has made the playoffs and four out of five.  In 2009 they reached the playoffs and it was the first time since 1990 that they had qualified.  Since 2009 they have gone just 1-3 in playoff games.  They come in ranked just outside the top ten in division six, ranked #11.  They also went 8-1 last season but then were dropped in the first round by conference foe Grass Lake.  This season the schedule has not been strong because the Cascades conference has not been very strong.  There were three good teams at the top and then everyone else.  Michigan Center, Grass Lake and Manchester are all playoff teams, but the rest of the conference was very weak.  The Cardinals do hold wins over fellow playoff teams Manchester (41-20) and Jonesville (28-0) which came in back to back weeks to end the season.  As for their offense there aren’t many individuals that really stick out because the Cardinals do a very good job of spreading the ball around to a lot of different players.  Take their game against East Jackson for example.  They rushed for 240 yards as a team but it was split between eight different players, none of which rushed for more than 92 yards.  QB Dylan Zamorowski has been a pretty good duel threat this season.  He has thrown for over 1,000 yards and 20 TDs (only four of which came against the three top teams), and has rushed for close to 600 yards.  The defense has been pretty strong this season holding opposing teams under 10 ppg. 

Constantine comes in after a disappointing season but based on playoff points, found their way back into the playoffs which is a streak that reaches back to 1998.  The always dangerous Falcons have been to the state finals the last two seasons, and went to the state semi-finals the two seasons before that.  Their rough season was a product of losing a lot to graduation, getting beat up in the trenches and injuries.  How healthy they are will play a big part in this game.  They had the top offense in the KVA which averaged more than 40 ppg.  Justin Hull and Andres Montoya did the heavy work load combining for over 2,200 yards for a team that rushed for close to 3,500.  The issue there is that Justin Hull is out for the season with injury.  They will need to find someone else to try and fill his shoes.  The defense has been their issue in the past few seasons and it was again this year as they gave up over 26 ppg. 

My Pick: Constantine 27, Michigan Center 21.  It will depend on the health of the Falcons but I really can’t pick against Constantine in the playoffs.  Even with their health concerns I think this is a good match-up with them. 

Hartford (6-3) @ Watervliet (9-0)

Two SAC South teams face off in a rematch of their week five game when Watervliet dropped Hartford 41-17.  It will be a contrast of styles and Hartford will get one more shot against their former comrade turned foe Luke Traver.  Watervliet comes in ranked #9 in the state and champions of the SAC South.   Hartford went 6-3 and finished in third place in the SAC South behind the Panthers and Lawton.

This is the third straight year in the playoffs and four out of five years for Watervliet.  Last season they were taken down in the first round by Constantine 48-33.  They finished the regular season with the second best offense and defense in the SAC.  They claimed key wins this season over fellow playoff teams Hartford (41-17), Decatur (17-14) and Lawton (54-20).  There was only one close game the whole season and that was their three point win over Decatur.  They beat everyone else on their schedule by at least 24.  They had the top offensive player in the SAC Luke Traver who threw for over 1,700 yards and 20 TDs and rushed for close to 700 yards and 16 TDs. 

Hartford is back in the playoffs for their fourth straight year and eight out of nine seasons.  The Indians fell in the first round last season to Decatur 27-14 and you have to go back to 2006 to find their last playoff win.  They started the season on a three game winning streak which was followed by a three game losing streak.  In need of a big win, they beat Decatur 17-14 in week seven which propelled them onto the playoffs.  Their power rush offense is led by two key backs, Casper Aviles and Miguel Melgoza.   Melgoza has rushed for close to 1,100 yards and Aviles is approaching 900 on the season.  Their defense was strong this season and finished fourth in the SAC in points allowed.  They also had five games where they held opponents to 14 points or less.

My Pick: Watervliet 33, Harford 20.  The Panthers raced by Hartford in the first match-up and I think something similar happens this time as well. 

Division 7:

Bridgman (6-3) @ Decatur (6-3)

Decatur is back in the playoffs which makes it three straight seasons and eight out of ten.  Last year they advanced to the regional round of the playoff.  They beat Hartford (27-14) and Lawton (34-3) before falling to Pewamo-Westphalia (26-21).  This may not have been the season they were hoping for though.  They finished with a 6-3 record their three losses were by a combined 10 points.  They started the season 4-0 before winning just two out of their last three (one of which was a forfeit victory over Covert).  They do hold a nice victory over one playoff team, Saugatuck (27-20), back in week three.  The defense was what led their team this season.  They had the top defense in the SAC and held opponents under nine points per game.  They ended the season with five shutouts and had only two games where teams scored over 20 on them.  The offense was not great, but it did get the job done on most nights.  Johnathan Grosvenor led the rushing attack while Matt Botti was a duel threat QB throwing for 11 TDs and running in six.

Bridgman is in the playoffs for the second straight year.  Last year marked the first time they had qualified for the playoffs since 1977.  Their first trip back did not last long as they fell in the opening game to Lawton 17-10 and they are still looking for their school’s first playoff win.  They started this season 2-2 and then rallied off four wins in their last five games to get into the playoffs.  They hold wins over playoff qualifiers Eau Claire (49-8) and Cassopolis (22-21).  They also have one bad loss to a 3-6 Buchanan team 34-0.  The offense averaged 30.2 ppg and the defense gave up only 15 ppg.  While there were four playoff teams on their schedule one of them was Eau Claire who got into the playoffs with a 4-5 record, and they only beat one team with a winning record.

My Pick: Decatur 23, Bridgman 12.  I didn’t think the Bees would stand a chance last season against Lawton, but they played very well in that game.  I think they show up and play well, but I also think Decatur is a better team and their defense will be very tough for the Bees to handle. 

Springport (6-3) @ Lawton (8-1)

Lawton is coming off another very fine season where they went undefeated until their final game of the season, a 54-20 loss to Watervliet.  This will be the fifth straight year the Blue Devils find themselves in the playoffs.  The season ended in a rather disappointing way last season.  After going undefeated in the regular season, they struggled in their first playoff game against Bridgman (a 17-10 win) before falling to Decatur (34-3), a team they had beaten 38-7 in the regular season.  This year they are back again and with another great resume.  They hold wins over other playoff qualifiers Hartford (33-22) and Decatur (25-21).  They had a great offense which scored 41 ppg.  Brandon Turner and John Coleman where the main two running backs while QB George Gilley threw for close to 1,000 yards and 17 TDs.  The defense did have some issues at times which showed in their 54-20 loss to Watervliet. 

Springport is out of the Big Eight Conference in the Jackson area.  They finished 6-3 and in third place behind Jonesville and Homer.  This is now four straight trips to the playoffs for the Spartans and seven out of eight.  Out of their last six trips they have not won a playoff game.  Last season they were put out in the first round by another SAC team, Gobles 42-13.  They started the season with a great offensive tandem of duel threat QB Daniel Bryan and RB Logan Browning, but Bryan was hurt mid-season leaving Browning all by himself.  After Bryan went down the offense also began to struggle.  Their biggest win of the season came in week four when they beat Reading 18-13.  Their three losses are all to playoff teams Jonesville (46-44 3OT), Homer (48-7) and Manchester (35-0).

My Pick: Lawon 36, Springport 13.  Lawton is just the better team here and should advance without much issue.  The Spartans have had a fine season but have not performed well against the better competition.

Division 8:

Eau Claire (4-5) @ Mendon (9-0)

This is a mismatch of all get out.  Mendon is back where they always are, in the playoffs where they have been the last 27 out of 29 years.  Reaching the playoffs is just routine now. The mark of success is how they do in the playoffs.  They have advanced to at least the regional in their last 13 trips to the playoffs.  They just completed their third straight undefeated regular season.  They have not even been challenged this year.  They have won every game by at least 33 points and only three out of the nine teams they have played have scored on them.  Their biggest issue will be one key injury as they will be without QB Jordan Medich.  Still, that won’t slow them down for what looks like a couple rounds.

Because of a lack of playoff teams, Eau Claire is in the playoffs with a losing record of 4-5.  They qualified for the playoffs back in 2009 when they lost in the first round to Pittsford (36-0).  Of the four wins they have, three of them are against teams with only one win on the season, and their other win is against Howe School out of Indiana who did not win a game this season.  They have been outscored on the season 300-194. 

My Pick: Mendon 49, Eau Claire 6.  This is essentially a bye for the Hornets.  They will cruise into next week and face another game with Climax Scotts.

Bellvue (6-3) @ Climax-Scotts (8-1)

A match-up of two SCAA teams.  These two met back in week seven when Climax-Scotts won 35-14.  Bellvue is back in the playoffs after missing it last season but they have now made it three out of four years.  In 2011 they also made it but lost in the first round to Climax 30-16.  The Broncos finished this season in third place in the SCAA behind CS and Adrian Lenawee Christian.  They beat only one team with a winning record and that was a 36-34 win over Pittsford in week eight.

Climax-Scotts is back in the playoffs for their tenth straight season and in all ten seasons they have won at least one playoff game.  They also dominated the SACC again this year as they went undefeated in conference and have now won 32 straight conference games going back to 2008.  They did lose a game this year, their first regular season loss since 2011, when they lost to Flint Powers Catholic 48-13 in week eight.  They dominated competition this season and won seven games by at least 21.  Their full house T backfield has been led by two primary backs, Samuel Eshuis and Logan Simmons.  Eshuis has rushed for over 900 yards and 18 TDs and Simmons has rushed for over 700 and 11 TDs.  In the regular season meeting against Bellvue both went over 100 yards and combined for 228 yards and three TDs.

My Pick: Climax Scotts 33, Bellvue 13.  The Panthers are just a better team and they should cruise into the second round for another match-up with Mendon.