In Play with Tom Markowski

Top games: Analysis and predictions for all 32 games

Football   | Tom Markowski

State Champs! Sports Network

 

 

Eight teams in each of the eight divisions remain in the football playoffs. The regionals are packed with highly competitive matchups from Menominee to Monroe County.

Here’s a brief look at all the games and predictions.

Division 1

Region 1

Rockford (8-3) at Grand Ledge (11-0), Fri., 7: The Comets have never been 11-0 before. Even when they won their only state title (2000) they lost a game during the regular season. Rockford leads the series 4-2. These teams last met in 2011 with Rockford winning 42-14 in a district final. Pick: Grand Ledge by 6.

Region 2

Detroit Catholic Central (9-2) at Romeo (10-1), Fri., 7: These programs have never played one another. C.C. is a young team that has shown improvement month by month and it appears the Shamrocks are peaking now, although giving up 35 points last week to Novi is not encouraging from a defensive standpoint. Romeo won its first district title last week. There’s no question that this team can play with any team. The question is can they handle the moment? Since there is no history there is no certainty. What is certain is that Romeo has experience, and the Bulldogs are playing at home. Pick: Romeo by 2.

 

Region 3

Canton (9-2) at Saline (10-0), Fri., 7: These teams played last season in this round and Saline won 42-35. It’s quite possible this game will be high-scoring as well. Canton has scored 104 points in two playoff games. Canton’s tight T-formation offense is difficult to prepare for but Saline has been there, done that. Canton will have some big plays but so will Saline. Pick: Saline by 7.

 

Region 4

Detroit Cass Tech (9-2) at Macomb Dakota (9-2), Fri., 7: First of all, Macomb County football has been highly competitive this season. Check out Romeo above. Dakota lost to Romeo (26-14) but has won five straight since. But Dakota has not played a team like Cass Tech, which is loaded with team speed. Coaches can prepare for offenses or defenses but coaches cannot replicate speed in practice. Pick: Cass Tech.

Division 2

 

Region 1

Muskegon (9-2) vs. Lowell (10-1), Fri., 7: Until last season, these teams met in the playoffs six consecutive seasons. These teams split those six. You understand what will take place here. In those six seasons, the winner of the Lowell-Muskegon game has either won a state title or lost in the final. You guessed it. This is an instant classic. Pick: Lowell.

 

Region 2

Midland Dow (10-1) at Walled Lake Western (11-0), Sat., noon: These programs have never played before. Western has pointed to this season for a few years and with a senior quarterback (Kyle Thomas) running the offense everything has moved along as planned. Dow won its first district title since 1997 last week but the Chargers also had a successful season in 2014, finishing 10-1. Dow has won 10 straight since losing to Mount Pleasant (34-20). Like the Cass Tech-Dakota game, Western’s team speed is difficult to prepare for. Pick: Western by 8.

 

Region 3

Livonia Franklin (8-3) at Berkley (9-2), Fri., 7: So no team can stop Franklin completely? Well, there isn’t a team remaining that Franklin can stop either. So what do we have? A 48-45 final? That should be close. As long as Franklin and quarterback Denzel Adams don’t turn the ball over too many times, the Patriots should advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1975. Pick: Franklin by 7.

Region 4

Detroit East English Village Prep (9-2) at Detroit King (11-0), Sat., 1: King relied on its defense in the fourth quarter the last time these teams played. Twice East English took possession near midfield in the final 12 minutes yet failed to score. King won, 20-15. That was the third week of the season. Things have changed since. King’s offense is more consistent and East English won’t be able to keep pace. Pick: King by 8.

 

Division 3

 

Region 1

East Grand Rapids (8-3) at Mount Pleasant (9-2), Sat., 1: E. Grand Rapids is 4-1 against Mt. Pleasant but the last time these teams played the Oilers won, 38-37, in a state semifinal in 2011. Expect a close game again. E. Grand Rapids has recorded two shutouts in the playoffs but Mt. Pleasant likes to play physical, much like Lowell and Muskegon, teams E. Grand Rapids lost to during the regular season. But Mt. Pleasant isn’t Lowell and it’s not Muskegon. Pick: E. Grand Rapids by 6. 

 

Region 2

District 1

Saint Johns (8-3) at Orchard Lake St Mary's (9-1), Sat., 1: Many looked forward to DeWitt facing St. Mary’s in the round. St. Johns has other plans. St. Johns is a running team. The Redwings are out of their element when they throw it. St. Mary’s can stop the run and this game likely will not be close by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. Pick: St. Mary’s by 16.

 

Region 3

Coldwater (11-0) at Saint Joseph (10-1), Fri., 7: St. Joseph holds a 3-2 edge in the series and defeated Coldwater 33-14 the last time these teams met (2013 opener). St. Joseph has made the playoffs 17 times. Coldwater made the playoffs for the first time two years ago then made it against last year. The Cardinals’ first playoff win came two weeks ago in the pre-district, 31-7, over Parma Jackson County Western, which was making its first playoff appearance. Pick: St. Joseph by 10.

 

Region 4

Chelsea (10-1) at Allen Park (10-1), Fri., 7: These teams played a home-and-home series a decade ago and they split. That’s it. They’ve never played before or since. Chelsea has never advanced past this round. Last season the Bulldogs lost to Detroit Country Day, 21-0, in a Division 4 region final. The Jaguars have reached a state final twice but haven’t won a regional since 2004. Allen Park has won nine straight since losing to Wyandotte Roosevelt and Chelsea’s lone loss was to Ypsilanti after the Bulldogs had recorded five straight shutouts. Look for a low-scoring game and field position playing a big part. Pick: Chelsea by 2.  

 

Division 4

 

Region 1

Remus Chippewa Hills (9-2) at Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern (10-1), Fri., 7: Eastern has had a season few could predict. The Hawks had made the playoffs five times previously in its brief (12 years) history but hadn’t won a playoff game until this season. The 21 points they scored last week was the fewest they’d scored all season. Eastern averages nearly 39 points per game. Chippewa Hills has won 10 games once in its 49-year history and the Warriors have never won a region title. Pick: Eastern by 9.

 

Region 2

Hudsonville Unity Christian (8-3) at Zeeland West (11-0), Fri., 7: The Dux are averaging 51 points and defeated Christian, 52-6, three weeks ago. Pick: West by 34.

 

Region 3

Flint Powers (9-2) at Richmond (10-1), Fri., 7: Unlike the Region 2 final, this game should be close. Powers has blown past its first two opponents by the same score, 41-0. Powers has made the playoffs 20 times; Richmond 14, all since 1998. But these teams have never played each other. Richmond has the advantage of playing at home. Powers’ superior schedule gives the Chargers the edge there. Pick: Powers by 6.

 

Region 4

Milan (9-2) at Detroit Country Day (10-1), Sat., 1: Country Day’s front line players are outstanding. Running back Larry Penson runs behind a skilled offensive line. But its depth is not good and the Yellowjackets must avoid injuries. Milan is averaging 44 points a game and this, in all likelihood, will be a high-scoring game. Pick: Country Day by 6.

 

Division 5

 

Region 1

Grand Rapids West Catholic (9-2) at Menominee (11-0), Sat., noon: This game is good enough to be a semifinal. In fact, in 2012 it was and West Catholic won, 20-17. The next season West Catholic defeated Menominee in the final, 27-14. Menominee has defeated West Catholic just once in six tries, and that was in the ’07 semifinal, 41-20. The Maroons are ‘the’ team in the Upper Peninsula. They’ve lost just one regular season game in the last four seasons. West Catholic had trouble with Reed City (21-14) last week and there’s more trouble ahead. Pick: Menominee by 4.

 

Region 2

Lansing Catholic Central (10-1) at Freeland (11-0), Fri., 7: Catholic Central got over a big hurdle last week defeating Portland, 21-14, and I don’t see a letdown. Playing on the road doesn’t seem to faze the Cougars. Pick: C.C. by 7.

 

Region 3

Buchanan (11-0) at Ida (11-0), Fri., 7: Defensively, Ida has been outstanding. The Bluestreaks gave up 40 points in their first seven games. There’s not much history here. Their two playoff wins this season doubled the programs total. Buchanan has won just one playoff game before this season. A common opponent is Hillsdale. Ida defeated Hillsdale, 20-17 in overtime. Buchanan defeated Hillsdale 34-31. Go figure. Pick: Ida by 4.

 

Region 4

Algonac (10-1) at River Rouge (10-1), Fri., 7: Algonac has five shutouts; River Rouge six. The strength of schedule favors Algonac so we’re going with the Muskrats. Pick: Algonac by 6.

 

Division 6

 

Region 1

Boyne City (10-1) at Traverse City St. Francis (11-0), Fri., 7: These teams are member of the Northern Michigan League and St. Francis defeated Boyne City 32-13. That was seven weeks ago. The results this time are similar. Pick: St. Francis by 8.

 

Region 2

Laingsburg (8-3) at Ithaca (11-0), Fri., 7: The playoffs gods have been kind to Ithaca coach Terry Hessbrook. Not that he and his team needs it. Ithaca has five shutouts and now plays a team that had the lowest playoff percentage of the eight teams in this region. Pick: Ithaca by 27.

 

Region 3

Constantine (7-4) at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (11-0), Sat., 1: Christian put together a 95-yard drive to score the winning touchdown past week in the final minute. Constantine is the only four-loss team still playing so the Cardinals should come in loose. The pressure is all on Christian. Pick: Christian by 4. 

 

Region 4

Jackson Lumen Christi (8-3) at Clinton (11-0), Fri., 7: Likely few picked either one of these teams to reach the semifinals but don’t look past these teams. It wouldn’t be that much of a surprise to find either one at Ford Field. Lumen Christi’s three losses were to playoff teams and the Titans beat West Catholic, a Division 5 region finalist. Since 2011 Clinton has lost three games. Still, its schedule doesn’t match that of Lumen Christi. Pick: Lumen Christi by 7. 

 

Division 7

 

Region 1

McBain (8-3) at Ishpeming (10-0), Sat., 1: The Hematites. One cannot talk about recent state finals without mentioning the Hematites. Ishpeming won the state title in 2012 and’13, and lost in the final last season. McBain won its first district title since 2010 and this is its third regional final appearance since ’03. Its conference (Highland) is one of the most underrated small-school conferences with members such as Beal City (Division 8 finalist in 2012, ’13), Lake City (Division 7 regional finalist in 2012, ’13) and Leroy Pine River (Division 6 regional finalist last season). Still, it’s Ishpeming. Pick: Ishpeming by 4.

 

Region 2

Sandusky (11-0) at New Lothrop (11-0), Fri., 7: Sandusky has four shutouts, two in the playoffs. Before this season it won just one playoff game. Go figure. Its closest game came last week against Cass City (7-0). New Lothrop is a program that’s been around the block. It’s won at least 10 games each of the last five seasons. It won the Division 8 title in 2006. Pick: New Lothrop by 12.

 

Region 3

District 1

Cassopolis (9-2) at Pewamo-Westphalia (11-0), Fri., 7:30: Pewamo-Westphalia has scored fewer than 27 points once this season. It’s given up seven points or less eight times. It defeated Dansville, a Division 8 region finalist, 64-7. It whipped Laingsburg, a Division 6 regional finalist, 50-7. Cassopolis is playing in its first region final. Pick: Pewamo-Westphalia by 13.

 

Region 4

Dansville (10-1) at Detroit Loyola (9-2), Fri., 7: Simply, this is a mismatch. Loyola’s semifinal against Pewamo-Westphalia will be more competitive. Pick: Loyola by 37.

 

Division 8

 

Region 1

Crystal Falls Forest Park (7-3) at St. Ignace LaSalle (10-1), Fri., 7: St. Ignace’s only loss was to Ishpeming. No disgrace there. Forest Park averaged two of its losses by defeating those teams in the playoffs. There’s something about Forest Park, and about teams that get better as the season progresses, that’s appealing here. Pick: Forest Park by 2.

 

Region 2

Muskegon Catholic Central (8-2) at Frankfort (9-2), Sat., 1: C.C. has won the last two state titles but there’s something about this game that tells me it’s not a slam dunk for the Crusaders. Perhaps just a layup. Pick: C.C. by 17.

 

Region 3

Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary (10-1) at Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (11-0), Sat., 1: This could be the best game in this division this weekend. Seminary’s only loss was to Ithaca. Lakes Has five shutouts and its offense could be the best in this division. Seminary lost in the semifinals last season, and that was in Division 7 to Ishpeming (22-18). Pick: Lakes by 6.

 

Region 4

Ottawa Lake Whiteford (9-2) at Climax-Scotts (11-0), Sat., 1: Climax-Scotts won the title in 2004 and hasn’t been back to the finals since. The Panthers have recorded six shutouts and held four other opponents to seven points or less. What has hurt the Panthers in the past is their weak schedule. One game stands out to me with regards to Whiteford. It lost to Clinton 36-18. It was a competitive game against a team that could reach the Division 6 semifinals. Pick: Whiteford by 3. 

 

Last week’s record: 4-6.

Season record: 73-37.