By Matt DeVries / @DeVries_Matt
You can almost smell Ford Field. Just two wins away. That’s the goal everyone begins the year with in early August; be playing on Thanksgiving weekend in downtown Detroit. Forget lazy days on the couch watching the Lions lose, again. More like watching film and getting ready to possibly etch your name into your school’s record books.
There are just eight teams left in each division and just 64 of the 256 that began this journey on Oct. 30. Of those, seven from the “extended” ESPN 100.9-FM listening area remain alive in their respective divisions.
DIVISION 2: Dow (10-1) @ Walled Lake Western (11-0), Saturday 11:30am, ESPN1009.com
After playing the first round of the playoffs in their home stadium against the biggest rival in the Midland Chemics, Dow took the band (literally) on the road down to Fenton where they dispatched the Tigers easily 41-14 last week to claim their first district title since 1997.
Bruce Mann was outstanding under center for the Chargers going 17-of-30 for 286 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions to go along with his 68 rushing yards. On the outside, Mike Robb continued to be a force as he caught seven passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also been able to have an impact in other areas as he blocked a punt against Fenton snagged his third interception of the playoffs from his linebacker position.
What Dow is able to do with their front seven that includes towering pass rushers and sneaky-good coverage linebackers Robb and Devontae Stine is quite impressive. It’s a wrinkle head coach Jason Watkins and inserted for their first playoff game in the pre-district against Midland. With the likes of Robb, Stine, Eric Hus and Justin Cook as outside weapons for Mann to utilize, along with Johnny Wilson getting touches at the running back position, all the potential is there for Dow to move the ball with ease.
Last week Walled Lake Western won a battle of unbeaten teams, edging past Birmingham Groves, 34-21 last week. These two programs have never crossed paths in their histories and shared no common opponents during the regular season either. Unbeaten WLW averages over 41 points per game and the KLAA North champion Warriors are hoping to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2011. – Dan Fenner, MI Prep Zone
The Warriors entered the plays ranked as the No. 2 team in Division 2. They opened the season with a matchup against the Lowell Red Arrows, a perennial contented out of the greater Grand Rapids area. WLW won that game 42-40. Lowell has not lost since then and were ranked No. 3 in Division 3 entering the playoffs. Lowell is also still alive playing against Rockford this Friday.
That would turn out to be the Warriors’ most challenging game all season. But all credit to them, they have beaten everybody they’ve played this season and have as many as seven players on their roster being recruited by college programs. This will be Dow’s stiffest test yet.
By kickoff Saturday, we will know who is waiting for the winner. Muskegon (9-2) travels to Lowell (10-1) in the other half of the bracket on Friday night with kickoff at 7 p.m.
DIVISION 3: East Grand Rapids (8-3) @ Mt. Pleasant (9-2), Saturday 1pm, Moore 91.5 FM
If you missed it, click below real quick.
— ESPN 100.9-FM (@ESPN1009) November 8, 2015
The Oilers were struggling for most of the day against the visiting Northmen. But Jason McIntyre’s group rallied for an epic 4th-quarter comeback that was capped off by a 41-yard field goal by Connor Fiolek with under a minute remaining. With Kalebb Perry and Obie Ricumstrict both healthy and CMU commit Hunter Buczkowski as a wrecking ball in the backfield, Mt. Pleasant is a poised for a trip to the semifinals as they’ve been since 2011.
There have been few programs more successful in the state of Michigan than East Grand Rapids since 2001. Ithaca gets a lot of publicity in northern Michigan for their run of four consecutive state championships sandwiched into six straight appearances in the Division 6 state title game. But don’t forget about the 11 district titles in 15 years and seven state championships during that span for EGR, including five in a row.
And don’t let the three losses fool you. Both Muskegon (56-28) and Lowell (35-13) are still alive in the MHSAA Playoffs while playing a division higher, and EGR avenged their regular-season loss to Grand Rapids Christian (39-33) in their pre-district matchup with a 27-14 victory.
Saturday will see the top half of the Division 3 bracket playing out simultaneously as the winner of St. Johns (8-3) and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (9-1) get either Mt. Pleasant or EGR.
DIVISION 4: Powers Catholic (9-2) @ Richmond (10-1), Friday 6:30pm, ESPN 100.9-FM
Getting the weekend started on Friday night, Powers Catholic is absolutely rolling and is one of the hottest teams in the state. They have won six in a row after losing to Dow 35-30 back in Week 5, during that streak they pitched four shutouts, including not allowing a single point yet in the playoffs (combined score of 82-0 in two games). According to Eric Woodyard of MLive/Flint Journal, three of the big reasons why the defense has been so good are Daurel Tolbert, Tom Beaubien, and Spencer Gomez.
Richmond is expected to experience considerable cloudiness with 32-degree weather on Friday night. In the blowing wind, this could turn into an ugly game where teams have to rely on their ground attack to survive and not turn the ball over. “I’m looking at the weather right now and thinking that certainly may not help us much,” Buckel said. “We’ve been saying for weeks that sometimes in November you go into the playoffs and the winds are blowing 20 miles per hour and its 40 degrees but the good news is the other team has to deal with the same elements. – Eric Woodyard, MLive/Flint Journal
The Chargers cruised to their second-consecutive 41-0 win last week at legendary Atwood Stadium in Flint. However, if Powers is expecting to win their first regional title since 2011, they’re going to need to take down possibly the best team they’ve seen this year.
“Richmond is a very good football team,” Powers Catholic coach Bob Buckel said. “They look like a really tough team with very few weaknesses and they’ve been known as a wrestling school for a long time so we’re expecting a tough game.” – Eric Woodyard, MLive/Flint Journal
The only blemish on Richmond’s record is a 30-29 loss to Almont back in late September. The Blue Devils have rattled off six wins in a row since then and have downed Croswell-Lexington and Notre Dame Prep in the first two games of the playoffs.
Awaiting the winner of Powers Catholic and Richmond will be the winner of Milan (9-2) vs Detroit Country Day (10-1).
OTHER AREA GAMES
DIVISION 5: Lansing Catholic (10-1) at Freeland (11-0), Friday 6:45pm, Great Lakes Sports Network
DIVISION 6: Laingsburg (8-3) at Ithaca (11-0), Friday 7pm, WQBX 104.9/1280 WFYC
DIVISION 7: Sandusky (11-0) at New Lothrop (11-0), Friday 7pm, Thumb Tailgater Sports
DIVISION 8: Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1) at Waterford Our Lady (11-0), Saturday, 12:45pm, Great Lakes Sports Network