It’s November! That means a lot of things to a lot of different people. Maybe you are a deer hunter (please send venison.) Maybe you like to host Thanksgiving. Maybe you like to pick through the stash of Halloween candy. Maybe you are like me and love the state championship football games. Whatever you like this month, it’s about to happen. Football playoffs begin tonight as well. There are lots of good games from one side of the state to the other. Let’s take a look at some of these games.
Upper Peninsula – Division 3
Ionia (7-2) at Sault Sainte Marie (6-3) (Friday November 1, 7pm)
The Bulldogs of Ionia have found a bit of resurgence. After six seasons and a combined 13 wins, they rattled off seven victories and found themselves back in the playoffs. While many schools play close games (geographically speaking), Ionia will travel 284 miles up I-75 to Michigan’s northernmost border with Canada. Last week, Ionia beat Lake Odessa Lakewood 20-13. Quarterback Austin Gregory completed three of his eight passes for 28 yards and an interception. He also rushed 19 times for 120 yards and a score. Kyle Parks rushed 30 times for 231 yards and two scores. Brian Wiles pulled in two passes for 17 yards. If Ionia loses this game, that is going to be one VERY long ride home.
For Sault Ste. Marie, the playoffs weren’t looking very good at one point this season. With a 2-3 start, they had to rattle off four wins to get in. Well, they did it and have back to back playoff appearances to show for it. Last week, they beat Newberry 41-6 and kept their Little Brown Jug; a trophy that goes to the winner of the series (and is the longest running trophy rivalry game in the U.P.) Running back Ray’nell Anderson rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. That included a 73 yard touchdown run on the Blue Devil’s first offensive play. Justin DeLisle returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Quarterback Michael James busted off a 63 yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He finished with 79 rushing yards and completed three of his six passes for 37 yards. Home field will be a huge advantage for the Blue Devils. 284 miles is a very long bus trip.
Grand Rapids Area – Division 3
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (7-2) at Grand Rapids Christian (7-2) (Saturday November 2, Noon)
Somewhere, Michigan State punter Mike Sadler is smiling. His alma mater, Forest Hills Northern, won a share of the O-K Gold for the first time since 1999. Coach Jeff Rapelje’s team hung their hat on defense. Leading 26-20 with 5:30 left to play in the game, the Huskies muffed a punt and Grand Rapids Northview recovered on the two yard line. The defense came through with a huge goal line stand. After taking a safety on the following possession, they once again forced Northview to turn over on downs. Spencer Peterson completed six of his 12 passes for 131 yards and three touchdowns while also running in a two point conversion. Wyatt Batdorff scored twice. This game should be quite interesting. FH Northern has a great defense while Grand Rapids Christian has a great offense.
Grand Rapids Christian has been doing very well this year, even though they lost Drake Harris before the season began. Last week, they won a tough game in overtime besting Caledonia 13-7. Quarterback Tyler Sigler only completed eight of his 23 passes for 97 yards and two interceptions (yes, weather was a huge factor.) He did run the ball as well, carrying 17 times for 129 yards and both of his team’s scores, which included the game winner in overtime. Malik McLaughlin grabbed two receptions for 61 yards and rushed 10 times for 22 yards. It is not known right now if Harris will play or not. He tweaked his hamstring in July. Then he did it again in the scrimmage before the season began. When they thought it was healed, he reinjured it in late September. It’s not known if he will be able to play in the playoffs or not.
Detroit – Division 1
Warren De la Salle (6-3) at Macomb Dakota (9-0) (Friday November 1, 7pm)
It came down to the final game of the season with a simple premise; win and keep playing or lose and move on to winter sports. The Pilots smashed Detroit Consortium 42-20 to make it back to the playoffs after a one year hiatus. They were led by freshman running back Allen Stritzinger who ran 27 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns while also grabbing one pass for 13 yards. Quarterback Gio Rescigno completed nine of his 13 passes for 136 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Pat Adams grabbed two receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown. Although De La Salle has three losses, two of them came in league play. The Detroit Catholic School League Central Division has been named one of the toughest leagues in America by national writers. The offense needs to come out strong because points are going to be hard to come by with the stingy Dakota defense.
I find it very interesting that these two teams have never played each other, despite being about 13 miles away. At one point, they tried to set up a home and home, but it didn’t work out. Now they have a chance to battle it out! Last week, Dakota finished their unblemished regular season with a 55-0 drubbing of Roseville. It started quick with a 91 yard kickoff return for a score by Benji Marshall. Quarterback Tyler Crowell completed five of his six passes for 63 yards and three touchdowns before taking a seat to let Brendan Roberts play. Marshall rushed seven times for 42 yards and had that touchdown return. Kiser Carlton ran six times for 45 yards and two scores. Angelo Dimaggio caught two passes for 36 yards and two touchdowns. Daniel Crawford reeled in two as well, went 25 yards, and scored once. When these two teams strap it on tonight, it’s going to be a battle. The big question is whether De La Salle’s offense can stay a step ahead of Dakota’s defense.
North – Division 8
Hillman (5-4) at St. Ignace La Salle (7-2) (Friday November 1, 7pm)
Hillman squeaked into the playoffs this year with a 5-4 record. With the exception for the season opener, the Tigers have either won big or lost big. Last week, it was a big 48-7 win versus Hale that allowed them to make the playoffs for an eighth straight time. Now you can throw the records out the window. Playoffs are a totally different animal. Their quarterback, Ty Jones, has passed for 1,426 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. His favorite receiver is Mason VanPamel, who has snatched 32 passes for 570 yards and 10 touchdowns. Travis Powers and Mike Klein round out a nice receiving corps for Hillman and can make some plays. Running back Kenny Kolcan has 84 carries for 852 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. All of these guys will need to play a good game to beat St. Ignace La Salle.
St. Ignace La Salle has been very good the past few seasons. The last two years, they have bowed out in the Division 8 semifinal game. The Saints have beaten four other playoff teams in the regular season, now they aim to play at Ford Field. Quarterback Tyler Snyder has passed for 1,089 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. Gage Kreski has been a favorite receiver with 478 yards and six touchdowns. Kyle Winkelman has six scores and 365 yards. Brandon Oja has rushed for 337 yards and five touchdowns. James Cryderman has 322 yards and two scores this season. St. Ignace likes to use their tight ends and get them the ball behind the linebackers. Tyler Snyder has a lot of experience from last season and is 19-3 as a starter.