5 Things To Know About Lansing-Area High School Football Playoffs
The MHSAA football playoffs are here, and the name of the game is simply to survive and advance.
Nineteen Lansing-area high school football teams made the postseason this year, and they've given us several interesting storylines as we transition to elimination play.
Here are five stories we see brewing as the playoffs start.
Grand Ledge's lopsided Week 9 loss to arch-rival Holt was inexplicable, but the good news is it probably didn't hurt their playoff positioning: It looks as though the Comets (7-2) would have been on the road to open the postseason even if they had closed out the regular season victoriously.
Now for the bad news: Grand Ledge has to play at Grandville, the 8-1 co-champions of the Ottawa-Kent Red Division. Yes, that Ottawa-Kent Red Division, the same league that is responsible for ending the Comets' season in eight of the last nine years.
Granted, Grand Ledge got the proverbial monkey off its back last season when it beat Rockford in the regional round. But that game took place in Grand Ledge--this one is in West Michigan.
And if you believe the transitive property applies to football, it's worth pointing out that Grandville pummeled Hudsonville 36-6 this season. Why is that relevant? Because Hudsonville beat Grand Ledge 21-14 in Week 1.
In Division 3, DeWitt hosts East Lansing and Mason hosts Fowlerville in an all-Capital Area Activities Conference district.
The Panthers (8-1) have been dominant, as usual, suffering their only loss in narrow fashion at Grand Ledge in Week 2. EL (6-3) will have its work cut out for it.
Mason may be the quietest 8-1 team in recent memory. The Bulldogs lost a lot of big-time players after last season, but head coach Jerry VanHavel has put on a veritable coaching clinic guiding his team to a sparkling record with only one loss (to perennial CAAC Red champion DeWitt).
But Fowlerville (7-2) has had a resurgent season itself. The Gladiators qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2010 and lost only to CAAC White outright champion Portland and runner-up Lansing Catholic.
Perhaps no other Lansing-area playoff qualifier received a more favorable draw than Sexton. The Big Reds automatically qualified at 6-3 but they host at least one game, in the pre-district round vs. Williamston (5-4).
And they could host a district title game if Battle Creek Pennfield (5-4) upsets Lake Odessa Lakewood (8-1). If not, Sexton would travel to Lakewood for the district title game (assuming the Big Reds get by the Hornets). And if that's the case, that will still be a very winnable matchup for Sexton given the conditioning they've endured in the CAAC Blue, which ostensibly is a stronger league than the GLAC.
Lansing Catholic's last three seasons have ended at the hands of the three-time defending state champion Grand Rapids West Catholic Falcons. So what's the Cougars' reward for a near-perfect season, blemished only by a 1-point loss to undefeated Portland?
That's right--an opening-round clash with Grand Rapids West Catholic!
The Falcons (7-2) are co-champions of the Ottawa-Kent Blue Division and looking for their fourth consecutive state title. This program has at least appeared in the state championship game in five of the last six seasons. They haven't lost an opening-round playoff game since 2005.
But while it's definitely a tough matchup, it could also be viewed as an opportunity for Lansing Catholic to exorcize some demons (bad pun intended).
On the other side of this Division 5 district, Portland hosts Grand Rapids Calvin Christian (6-3). If the Raiders stay undefeated, they'll host the winner of the two Catholic schools, which will be an awesome game either way: If it's Lansing Catholic, the Cougars will be looking to avenge their 36-35 loss to Portland that came via gutsy 2-point conversion near the end of their Week 4 contest; if it's Grand Rapids West Catholic, it's a rematch of the 2012 state championship game that Portland won.
Pewamo-Westphalia was the most dominant team in the Lansing area this season, hands down. The Pirates tore through the regular season undefeated by an average score of 54.8 to 4.4.
If you think that's lopsided, get a load of this: In CMAC play, the Pirates outscored opponents 419-7! Only one league opponent scored on P-W (Laingsburg in its Week 6 40-7 loss to the Pirates). That's an average CMAC score of 59.9 to 1!
And yet, P-W may not even make it back to Ford Field to avenge its state championship game loss from a year ago.
A district final round matchup with tough-running Saugatuck appears likely, and if the Pirates get by there they'll probably have to travel north to undefeated Traverse City St. Francis for a regional championship game.
And beyond that, Detroit Loyola is still out there for P-W to contend with.
If you're looking for a silver lining, this may be it: Ishpeming failed to qualify for the postseason this year. That's got to be welcome news for P-W, especially after the Pirates blew a 16-0 halftime lead to the Hematites in last season's Division 7 state title game.