The 2nd Season is upon us! Last night the brackets were released and now it’s time to break down the week ahead and look at the match-ups in the first round of the 2016 MHSAA Football Playoffs.
R1/D1 – (9-0) Davison hosts former Big 9 foe, (5-4) Grand Blanc. The Cardinals are looking to improve upon a historic season with higher aspirations of what could be in the post-season. Grand Blanc started off the season 4-0, lost 4 in a row but then came through with a big Week 9 victory to qualify for the post-season and ultimately earned an at-large ticket to the playoffs. The 2 haven’t met since Week 9 of the 2011 Regular Season, with Grand Blanc coming out on top, 47-31. Davison hasn’t defeated the Bobcats since 2008 and trail them in the all-time series, 33-23. This year however, Grand Blanc will be coming into the game as pretty big underdogs but shouldn’t be discounted.
Part of the reason Davison finished 9-0 and comes into the post-season with such momentum is their one-two punch in the backfield of QB Brenden McRill and 1800+ Yard Rusher Tariq Reid. While Reid has been one of if not the most dangerous offensive weapon in the Valley this year, McRill hasn’t put up sky-high numbers but has been almost mistake-free and absolutely clutch when they needed him most, whether through the air or on the ground. Davison’s overall depth and opportunistic defense have also played a big part in their undefeated season.
Grand Blanc will be entering the post-season with a bit of extra incentive. This summer, long-time Grand Blanc Head Coach, Joe Delaney, the winningest in program history, announced that this season would be his last. Look for the Bobcats to give it all they have and then some knowing that each game could be the terrific coach’s last.
R1/D1 – (7-2) Lapeer travels to (7-2) Clarkston on the other side of the District. The last time these two teams met in the post-season, they played in the 2014 District Finals, with Clarkston ultimately coming out with a thrilling 23-20 win, before going on to win the D1 State Championship. The last time these two teams met in the regular season was just 9 weeks ago in the season opener at the Big House. Lapeer hung tough through the first half, going into the lockers down 14-7 but couldn’t muster any offense in the 2nd half and the defense spent almost the entire 2nd half on the field, as the Wolves ran the ball methodically, racking up 2 more scores and running out the clock in the process. Both teams enter Round 2 of their 2016 match-ups playing the best football of both their seasons. Lapeer was able to down SVL Blue Champion, Carman-Ainsworth to get Win #7 and a lot of momentum heading into the post-season.
Lapeer will lean on workhorse Running Back Jalen Kirkland and Dual-Threat QB Drew Rubick. Clarkston will be led by their own Dual Threat QB, J.T. King and dynamic Running Back Michael Fluegal. Essentially, both teams will try to run the ball and own the line of scrimmage mixed in with the pass.
R2/D1 – (6-3) Bay City Central will go on the road to SVL Blue foe, (8-1) Midland Dow. Dow won the first go around 34-14 back in Week 2. Dow will no longer have the ‘big’ advantage of experience against a youthful Bay City Central club. The young Wolves have grown up over the past 9 weeks and enter the re-match a different team but make no mistake, Dow will still be the favorite with Bruce Mann III at the helm for the Chargers, the leading passer in the Valley, along with with being up near the top in rushing. Mann will also have a bevy of weapons at his disposal in both the ground and the air, led by Moise Guerrier next to him and his wideout arsenal led by the SVL’s top receiver Brendon Kuch. Central will have the Blue’s leading rusher in Dequez Weathers with over 1,200 yards. Their passing game isn’t too shabby either with the dynamic combo of Brian Elder to Tanner Koth, who are only surpassed in total yardage by Mann and Kuch.
Dow has won 5 straight against BCC and 7 of the last 8. Dow’s win last week was not only important in terms of seeding and beating their arch-rival Midland High but it was maybe even more important that they got a win under their belt after going down to the wire against Carman-Ainsworth a week earlier. They can now use the emotion of how they felt after that game and harness it with going into the 2nd season with a big win. The Wolves on the other hand, also defeated their arch-rival, Bay City Western, which in turn, got them their 6th win to clinch a playoff ticket. BCC won their last 3 games to become playoff bound. The Wolves will need to have their best defensive game of the entire season if they plan on upsetting the favored Chargers.
R2/D1 – (6-3) Carman-Ainsworth heads to (7-2) Fenton on the other side of the District. C-A split the last two weeks of the season in the momentum category, winning the SVL Blue in one of the games of the year 2 weeks ago but then falling to Lapeer last week in what has become a growing rivalry. This week the Cavs take on a Fenton team wrapping up their 3rd FML outright title in a row and 9th straight playoff appearance. Fenton dropped the first two games of the season but then went on a 7 game winning streak to finish out the season.
The Cavs are one of those teams that can score on anyone in one series then on another look completely different. They have a rising star in young QB Dustin Fletcher, who has a cannon arm but also is downright scary on the option. WR Troy Brown is one of the top receivers in the Valley and a D1 recruit. Fenton is led by sensational QB Josh Czarnota, who accounted for over 2,700 yards of total offense and features a receiving corps that saw 4 different receivers go for 295 yards or more, led by Jr. Chanse Setzke’s nearly 600 yards and 5 scores. Dylan Crankshaw led the ground attack this season with nearly 1k rushing yards and 15 TDs. In order for Carman-Ainsworth to reach a potential re-match with Dow or Bay City Central, the Cavs will need to have one of their best defensive performances of the entire season, similar to the game they played against Dow 2 weeks ago. As a side-note, Dow has the highest PPA in the District, so if they win, Fenton or C-A would have to head to Midland.
R3/D1 – (5-4) Powers Catholic will travel to (8-1) Lake Fenton. Powers ended the season with a loss to this year’s SVL juggernaught, Davison but had a body of work that showed this team improved over the course of the season. They now take on a Lake Fenton team that will be hungry for revenge. In their only other meeting in program history, Powers knocked out Lake Fenton in the District Finals last year, 41-0, en-route to their trip to Ford Field. Lake Fenton is coming off a heart-breaking loss to Williamston last week but the game was only their first loss of the season, a season in which the Blue Devils had their best regular season record since 2007 and claimed the outright GAC Red Championship.
As many have learned in the past, a 5-4 Powers team is quite a bit different than most 5-4 teams we see in the post-season. This Chargers’ team isn’t quite the same as the 5-4 club from 2011 that stormed the post-season and dominated the State title game but they have talent in a lot of the right places, led by QB Zack Talovich, who passed for over 1,000 yards and his main target, Matt Wiskur. The Blue Devils are led in the backfield by Trent Hillger who also roams in the Linebacking corps on defense and QB Jackson Nevadomski. This has the makings of a really good game, as Powers won’t be sneaking up on anyone anymore with their 5-4 records and with redemption for last year on the minds of Lake Fenton.