Prep football playoff showdowns

·12 min read

Oct. 28—DIVISION 1

TC West at Grandville

RECORDS: TC West (6-3); Grandville (6-3)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Bulldog Stadium

SERIES: Grandville leads 8-0

LAST MEETING: Grandville won 42-14 in 2010

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Grandville won 35-9 in 2003 opener


BACKGROUND: TC West seeks its first victory over the Bulldogs and will have to do it on the road. Following a 6-1 start, the Titans lost their final two games of the season, at Marquette 28-17 and home against Detroit Catholic Central 28-2. West's struggles in the playoffs are well-documented, with three postseason wins to 16 losses since the school opened in 1997. Grandville started the season 1-3 before reeling off five straight wins to end the season, but the Bulldogs still haven't beaten an above-.500 team this season.

BRACKET BITS: No. 1-ranked Rockford (9-0) hosts Grand Ledge (6-3) in the other district semifinal at the recently-renamed Carlson-Munger Stadium. The venue just this year added the name of longtime head coach Ralph Munger, now retired and an assistant at Mancelona. West would host in the second round if the Titans and Grand Ledge both won.


Fruitport at Cadillac

RECORDS: Fruitport (4-5); Cadillac (7-2)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Veterans Memorial Stadium

SERIES: Cadillac leads 3-2

LAST MEETING: Cadillac won 28-12 in Week Two

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Fruitport won 35-7 in 2001 district final


BACKGROUND: These teams were scheduled to start a series last year, but that game was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now they'll meet a second time in 2021 after the No. 7-ranked Vikings beat the Trojans 28-12 on the road eight weeks ago. They're already scheduled to play again next season. Cadillac closed out the season with three straight wins, allowing only one score in that span. That streak includes 35-0 shutouts of both Petoskey and Fremont and a 10-7 win over Portland, ranked No. 4 in Division 5 at the time.

BRACKET BITS: The district's other half features No. 9-ranked Whitehall (7-2) visiting Sparta (7-2). Cadillac has the top seed and would host the district championship if the Vikings beat Fruitport a second time.


Kingsford at Kingsley

RECORDS: Kingsford (6-3); Kingsley (8-1)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Rodes Field

SERIES: First meeting

RADIO/ONLINE: FM-104.5 WZTC (Kingsley); WZNL-FM FM-94.3 WZNL (Kingsford); (Kingsford);

BACKGROUND: We're dubbing this one the "Battle of the Kings." The Stags and Flivvers share the first five letters of their towns, yet have never played each other before. Kingsford, located just outside of Iron Mountain in the western part of the Upper Peninsula on the Wisconsin border, faces a 5.5-hour drive to Rodes Field. The Flivvers, whose mascot derives from a model of Ford car produced there in the 1920s, played four of nine games against Wisconsin teams. They also beat Petoskey 35-21 at home. Kingsford has some good size in linemen Matthew Wilson (6-4, 274), Lucas Tappy (6-1, 288) and Marcus Doucette (6-0, 240). The Flivvers finished in a three-way tie for the Great Northern Conference title with Marquette and Menominee.

BRACKET BITS: Kingsley would host Clare (6-3) if the Pioneers beat No. 8 Gladwin (9-0). That game is broadcast on FM-103.1. No. 2-ranked Frankenmuth (9-0) could await in regionals.


Glen Lake at Standish-Sterling

RECORDS: Glen Lake (4-5); Standish-Sterling (7-2)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Standish-Sterling HS

SERIES: Standish leads 2-0

LAST MEETING: Standish won 35-20 in 2005

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Never met in playoffs


BACKGROUND: The Lakers won their last three games to rebounds from a 1-5 start and a five-game losing streak to sneak into the playoff field. Now, Glen Lake draws a Standish-Sterling team that hasn't played its way into the playoffs since 2013 (a year the Panthers beat Kingsley on their way to regionals). A 31-7 loss to Division 5 No. 8 Gladwin is the only blemish on Sterling's record in the last five weeks. Three of four wins in that span came against teams with winning records (all 5-4) and a forfeit.

BRACKET BITS: No. 6 Boyne City (8-1) and No. 10 Grayling (7-2) play in the district's other half. The other half of the regional is all Upper Peninsula teams, with No. 10-ranked Negaunee (7-2) the top seed there.


Manistee at Reed City

RECORDS: Manistee (5-4); Reed City (8-1)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Alumni Field

SERIES: Tied 20-20

LAST MEETING: Reed City won 50-27 in 2015

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Reed City won 50-27 in 2015 opener


BACKGROUND: This one breaks the tie. Even though they aren't in the same league, the Coyotes are Manistee's fourth-most common opponent, facing only Ludington, Cadillac and Big Rapids more. Each team has won 20 of 40 meetings in the series, although they haven't faced off in six years.

BRACKET BITS: Central Montcalm (5-4) takes on Montague (6-3) in the other half of the district bracket. The district winner likely faces either No. 2 Lansing Catholic (8-1) or No. 3 Millington (9-0) in regionals.


Harrison at TC St. Francis

RECORDS: Harrison (6-3); TC St. Francis (9-0)

WHEN: Saturday, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Thirlby Field

SERIES: TCSF leads 1-0

LAST MEETING: St. Francis won 25-13 in 1951

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Never met in playoffs


BACKGROUND: Seventy years passed since the last (and only) time these two teams faced off on the football field. That meeting was St. Francis' second victory in program history (the first was 39-0 vs. Northport), capping off a 2-3-1 inaugural 1951 season. The No. 1-ranked Gladiators come off a huge 38-30 win over Kingsley that guaranteed them home-field advantage through regionals, as long as they keep winning. Harrison is coming off a surprising 44-13 Week Nine win over 7-2 Evart. All of the Hornets' other wins came against teams with two or fewer wins. TCSF is dealing with the loss of star Joey Donahue, the team's leading tackler by a long shot. Garrett Hathaway stepped in at fullback for Donahue and Josh Groves moved to middle linebacker against Kingsley.

BRACKET BITS: McBain (6-3) and Evart (7-2) clash in the district's other half. The rest of the regional includes East Jordan (7-2), Ishpeming Westwood (8-1), Mancelona (5-3) and Charlevoix (7-1). Westwood's 43.569 playoff points is the closest to TCSF's 56.111.


McBain at Evart

RECORDS: McBain (6-3); Evart (7-2)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Tom Smith Memorial Stadium

SERIES: McBain leads 30-10

LAST MEETING: Evart won 40-12 in Week Six

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Evart won 34-31 in 2020 second round


BACKGROUND: Evart knocked the Ramblers out of the 2020 playoffs in the second round after a 7-0 McBain start to the season. However, the Wildcats are coming off a surprising 44-13 loss to Harrison (6-3), the first-round foe of TC St. Francis' that previously hadn't beaten a team with more than two wins this season.

BRACKET BITS: The winner of this game almost certainly has to travel to No. 1-ranked TC St. Francis (9-0) for the district title game.


East Jordan at Ishpeming Westwood

RECORDS: East Jordan (7-2); Ishpeming Westwood (8-1)

WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m. EST

WHERE: James Barry Stadium

SERIES: First meeting

RADIO/ONLINE: FM-99.5 WNGE (Negaunee);

BACKGROUND: The Red Devils already made some history this year, winning the program's first conference title since 1986 and producing the most wins since 1999. Now the Devils look to win a playoff game for the first time since that 1999 squad beat Rudyard and Stephenson, and to do that they'll have to go through another Upper Peninsula foe to do it. The more than four-hour drive past Marquette is a big enough opponent, but the Patriots also bring an 8-1 record into the game. Westwood hasn't lost since a 28-14 setback against Calumet in Week Three. Since that loss, the Patriots allowed only 34 points in six games, including games against playoff teams Bark River-Harris and Negaunee the last two weeks.

BRACKET BITS: Mancelona (5-3) and Charlevoix (7-1) occupy the other half of the district. East Jordan would hit the road again against either foe.


Mancelona at Charlevoix

RECORDS: Mancelona (5-3); Charlevoix (7-1)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Kipke Field

SERIES: Charlevoix leads 22-6

LAST MEETING: Charlevoix won 28-20 in Week Eight

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Charlevoix won 52-0 in the 2020 second round


BACKGROUND: The Rayders have won five of six meetings since 2016, the lone Ironmen victory coming in 2018 (20-15). Mancelona started off the season 5-0 before losing three straight to close out the regular season. Injuries played a part of that, and so did playing three of the larger schools on the slate all in a row. Charlevoix has won six a row, with its only loss coming at the hands of Division 6 No. 6-ranked Boyne City (8-1).

BRACKET BITS: The winner of East Jordan (7-2) and Ishpeming Westwood (8-1) awaits in the district championship game. The Mancy-Charlevoix winner would hit the road if Westwood wins, or host if East Jordan comes back from the U.P. with a victory.


Frankfort at Iron Mountain

RECORDS: Frankfort (6-3); Iron Mountain (6-3)

WHEN: Saturday, noon (CST)

WHERE: Mountaineer Stadium

SERIES: First meeting


BACKGROUND: Frankfort has a big hill to climb with the Mountaineers. The drive of more than six hours is the first opponent. Iron Mountain is the second. Maybe third, after the time change. And don't forget the tolls. Frankfort slides into the postseason on a two-game losing skid, but don't count out the Panthers, who have a quick-strike offense that can bust off big plays at any time with players like Nick Stevenson and Adam Mills. Iron Mountain's only three losses all came against bigger schools with winning records.

BRACKET BITS: Two Lower Peninsula vs. Upper Peninsula matchups make up the district, with Bark River-Harris (6-3) traveling to Beal City (8-1) for the other semifinal. Beal City is the top seed and would host the final if the Aggies win.

8-player DIVISION 1

Mesick at Suttons Bay

RECORDS: Mesick (5-4); Suttons Bay (9-0)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Suttons Bay HS

SERIES: Suttons Bay leads 34-16

LAST MEETING: Suttons Bay won 48-18 last week

LAST PLAYOFF MEETING: Never met in playoffs


BACKGROUND: For the second straight season, Suttons Bay hosts the same team to open the playoffs that it faced in Week Nine. This time, it's Mesick, after Manistee Catholic Central did the same last season. Suttons Bay, which hasn't lost a regular-season game since September of 2018 against Wyoming Tri-unity, comes into the game ranked No. 4 in all of eight-player football, behind only Powers North Central, Adrian Lenawee and Portland St. Patrick. Mesick continues to be a factor in eight-player football, making the playoffs in four of five seasons since making the switch. The Bulldogs certainly didn't shy away from competition, scheduling Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart, Kingston, Lincoln-Alcona and Suttons Bay for non-conference games, all of which ended up above .500.

BRACKET BITS: Rogers City (8-1) and Inland Lakes (9-0) play in a great matchup in the district's other half. Suttons Bay would host regardless of who wins, and a Mesick upset of the Norse would still put the Bulldogs on the road.

8-player DIVISION 2

Gaylord St. Mary at Marion

RECORDS: Gaylord St. Mary (5-4); Marion (8-1)

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Marion HS

SERIES: First meeting


BACKGROUND: How have the two never played a football game? The two are only 85 miles apart (not all that much in northern Michigan terms), but haven't ever squared off on the football field before Friday's tilt. Marion hasn't been under .500 since the jump to eight-player football in 2015, and neither has St. Mary since its 2019 switch. St. Mary comes into the game having lost three of its last four, but a brutal late-season schedule saw the Snowbirds play Pellston, Cedarville, Rudyard and Inland Lakes in that span. Pellston, Rudyard and I-Lakes won 23 combined games. GSM's only losses came to playoff teams with seven or more wins in the reunited Ski Valley Conference's first full season since 2015.

BRACKET BITS: Mio (6-3) or Hillman (6-3) awaits in the next round. If the Snowbirds top Marion, they'd travel regardless of which wins.

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