The Blue Water Area will be well-represented on the road to Ford Field as four local MAC and five BWAC football teams will be competing for a chance extend their seasons in this weekend's district semifinals. Here's a preview of everything you need to know:
Region 4, District 2
🏈 St. Clair Shores Lakeview (6-3) at Port Huron Northern (8-1)
Allowing just 8.5 points per game on average, Northern’s defense has been a staple all season, and its offense can certainly hold its own. The Huskies average 28.7 points a game, leading them to a share of the MAC-Blue. They enter their district as the No. 1 seed and head coach Larry Roelens said he and his team are excited for another chance to play in front of a home crowd.
“All four of us in this bracket have the chance to win a district title, which is nice,” Roelens said. “[Home-field advantage] is huge, especially in the MAC where there’s not a lot of us who have grass anymore. To have teams that play on turf every week come play on a natural grass field, we feel like we have an advantage.
“[This season’s success] gives us a lot of confidence, but like we said last Friday night after the St. Clair game, a new season starts this week. Everyone’s 0-0 and you’ve got to win to move on, so that’s what we’re looking at, just trying to be 1-0 this week.”
🏈 Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse (5-4) at Port Huron High (7-2)
Saturday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. Buy tickets
The Big Reds enter the postseason as the No. 2 seed in their district after just a week 1 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central and Northern. They split the MAC-Blue title with the Huskies this season and will play on their home field this Saturday.
Port Huron head coach Dan Perkins said he doesn’t think playing on a Saturday will affect his team – if anything, it’s an advantage.
“Sixty degrees and sunshine sounds great to us, and it gives us an extra day to prepare, so we feel great about it for sure,” Perkins said.
The Big Reds' offense is no doubt efficient, having averaged more than 42 points per game in each of their victories, but Perkins said he thinks L’Anse Creuse’s defense has improved since the two played each other last season. Plus, Port Huron will have to focus on its own defensive efforts.
“L’Anse Creuse is formidable, no doubt about it. They’ve got a lot of skilled players who are fast and can do a lot of good things, so we’ve got our hands full with that, and they’re big up front,” Perkins said. “We feel pretty good about it, we’ve been successful against them in the past.”
Should both Port Huron and Northern win this weekend, they’ll find themselves in a rematch of last season’s district semifinal – but this year a trophy will be a stake. In their last three meetings, the Huskies have a 2-1 advantage, so the Big Reds will no doubt be ready to even the score.
Region 3, District 1
🏈 Freeland (7-2) at North Branch (8-1)
The Broncos have one of the leading offenses in the state, averaging 50 points per game, and with 17 seniors on a mission to extend their season, their experience and motivation shouldn’t be underestimated. The group won a district title back in 2020 and will look to add another to their resumes before graduating.
Freeland, however, ranks above the Broncos according to the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association, coming in at No. 6 in the final standings. North Branch wasn’t listed, despite its higher playoff score. All told, this Friday’s matchup should be a good one.
Region 3, District 2
🏈 Marysville (5-4) at Madison Heights Lamphere (7-2)
Marysville finished conference play in a three-way tie in the MAC-Silver at 3-2 along with South Lake and Lamphere, making this Friday's game a rematch with even greater implications.
In their regular season meeting, the Vikings defeated Lamphere 38-24, but that was on their home field. This time they'll face the added challenge of not only beating a good team twice, but also doing so on the road.
“Obviously every game is a new week, so the early season doesn't matter. We’re feeling pretty confident," head coach Derek Meier said. "We had a good week of practice and got some new game film on them with their last two games, so we adjusted some reads, and just like everyone else, we’re working through some personnel with injuries this time of year, but I think getting to this level is motivating enough for the kids.”
And with nearly 25 seniors on this team – several of whom were on the team as sophomores when Marysville won its last playoff game – the Vikings are even more motivated to send them off on a high note.
“It’s a testament to their work ethic,” Meier said. “If you can keep playing this time of year and get to the second season, I think it says a lot about what we have and the dedication of the kids and the program itself.”
🏈 Orchard Lake St. Mary's (3-5) at Croswell-Lexington (7-2)
Cros-Lex head coach Mike LeGrow said he feels like he finally “got his guys back,” and just in time.
Between several injuries and a pair of conference losses, the Pioneers’ season hasn’t exactly been smooth. But after a 41-34 victory over Freeland last Friday, they received a much-needed confidence boost.
“Weeks 4 through 8 had a different feeling, we were a shell of what we were. With the injuries we had, you lose confidence, but the guys are as healthy as their going to get at this point,” LeGrow said.
The Pioneers will host Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the district semifinal, and despite their 3-5 record, the Eaglets certainly won’t be coming unprepared. They’ve played state-ranked and state-championship teams such as Warren De La Salle, and even they themselves have won a state title as recently as 2016.
“I’ve heard people say they’re the dark horse that’s going to win a state championship and people tell us, ‘Sorry about your draw,’” LeGrow said. “Orchard Lake St. Mary’s is used to playing on turf fields. I did the deep research and found out they’ve played on grass two times in the last four years…I think playing on our home field will be more of an advantage than people think.”
Region 3, District 2
🏈 Flint Hamady (8-1) at Armada (7-2)
The Armada Tigers won their first league title since 2004 this year and have beat several state-ranked teams along the way. They did, however, drop a game to Flint Kearsley last week, but head coach Kyle Rowley said his players were grateful for the reality check before the postseason.
“I didn’t really have to tell them much. They’re the ones who came to me and said, ‘Coach, that’s the best thing that happened to us,’” Rowley said. “We didn’t play well against Richmond, and we played really bad against Kearsley. We didn’t play bad in all phases, we’re just not finishing.
“We definitely have to get back to playing our kind of football. If we’re technically sound, we do the right things, we come off the ball, we should be just fine. But if we let [Hamady] hang around like last week and we don’t finish the job, it’s going to be a long night for us.”
🏈 Yale (5-4) at Marine City (7-2)
This year marks Yale’s fourth playoff appearance since 2014 while Marine City returns as the state runner-up in Division 5, but the Mariners aren’t taking anything lightly. Head coach Daryn Letson said he thinks an opponent with a “chip on their shoulders” and excitement can be dangerous.
“It should be a challenge for us just in the fact that it’s a little bit new to them, so it should be very exciting for them,” Letson said. “We expect them to come in very well-prepared with lots of energy and enthusiasm.”
Bulldogs head coach Garrett Grundman said his team has gained confidence playing state-ranked opponents within the league this fall, and as Letson suspects, Yale will be ready.
“We know we’ve got a very quality opponent in front of us…We’ve got a good idea of what their strengths are and after watching film and practicing, we know we’re going to get a disciplined and very athletic football team out of Marine City,” Grundman said.
“We played three state-ranked opponents and minus the North Branch game, we did some pretty nice things against those other two opponents. That gives us some confidence that we belong in this type of situation...The playoffs are very special. It gives the kids an opportunity to exhibit themselves and their program and where they’re at, and they’re very excited.”
And just because the Mariners have had recent success doesn’t mean they’re all experienced. They have four sophomores and two freshmen playing important roles this season.
“You have to get the younger kids involved along the way. They need to know what it feels like maybe before it’s really their time and that’s what gives you the best chance for continued success,” Letson said. “Some of them were forced into a bigger role than they wanted to or they were aware of because of injuries, but we’ve battled through that and we’re excited for the journey and to see how far we can go. We definitely feel like we’re battle-tested, perhaps more so this year than in other years.”
Region 3, District 2
🏈 Ovid-Elsie (7-2) at Almont (6-3)
After upsetting Cros-Lex in week 6, the Raiders were on a three-game win streak before they ran into Goodrich, a team that now stands 8-1 on the year. Head coach James Leusby said that playing a complete game will be key this Friday after his team "came out flat" in the second half against the Martians.
"Goodrich was a very physical team, so we know that we can play with a physical team, which we're going to see this week,” head coach James Leusby said. “We just have to make sure we play a complete game and not just a first half.”
Along with competing well against a solid Goodrich team, the Raiders held North Branch to its second-lowest scoring game of the season and finished the year tied third in the BWAC among several other state-ranked teams. Almont is also the second-most recent team in the area to make it to Ford Field after finishing as the state runner-up in 2019.
“I think ending the [regular] season with a loss kind of hurts either way, so they’ve got to be motivated knowing they’ve got at least one more game,” Leusby said. “Especially for the seniors, they get to play on their home field one more time at least, so I know they're happy for that.”
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