We’re into Week 4 of the Michigan high school football season, but for me this marks the kickoff of a new and exciting journey. This is my first week as a member of the team at CatchMark Technologies and CatchMark SportsNet in Whitehall.
On Monday, we launched a new website, catchmarksports.com. (You should bookmark it.) Since the site’s launch, we’ve hit the ground running with all kinds of content and have no plans of slowing down.
Our CatchMark team is full of versatile folks with talents aplenty – people who work hard, but also know how to have fun and enjoy sports. We’ve blended those talents and we’re introducing a new fixture for the site: “On the Mark,” our weekly high school football picks for the Muskegon area.
That label suggests our picks will be right on the money. Hopefully that will be the case. More so, it’s a play on the CatchMark name.
Let’s meet the regulars repping the CatchMark crew in our weekly football picks:
Scott DeCamp: Lead writer and media/marketing specialist
Conner Raeth: Intern
Jeff Burel: Managing partner
Kara Raeth: Office manager
Billy Mann: Media specialist
Zach Zweigle: Assistant media specialist
This week’s guest picker is Tim Stoudt, who is leader of the Connectivity Services department of CatchMark. (He has an affinity for both Montague and Whitehall, if you can believe that!)
An added benefit in launching a new prep football picks column for CatchMark is that it allows me to hit the reset button after a less-than-impressive showing (37-13 record, 74 percent) for MLive in the first three weeks of this season. (In defending my honor, I was pretty darn good last season: 124-15 for 89.2 percent.)
Without further ado, here are the CatchMark crew’s Week 4 Muskegon-area football picks, followed by my analysis and score predictions for select games.
(Note: All games kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with the exception of the Mason County Central at Ravenna matchup, which is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday.)
(Note: Special thanks to Zach Zweigle for his creation of the graphic, along with an assist from CatchMark web specialist Cody Ottinger.)
Oakridge (3-0, 2-0 West Michigan Conference) at Montague (2-1, 2-0): This is the game of the week in the Muskegon area. It will be live-streamed by CatchMark for the NFHS Network with audio by Jon Russell and Cal VanSingel of the Greater Muskegon Sports Network.
Oakridge and Montague have split the past 10 meetings. The Wildcats got the Eagles good last year in Wolf Lake, 42-6, en route to cruising to an unbeaten season and Division 6 state title.
The two meetings before that were absolute thrillers. In 2018, Montague mounted an unlikely, late rally and scored on the final play to stun Oakridge, 25-24. In 2019, the Eagles returned the favor by handing the Wildcats a 15-13 overtime loss.
This Friday, look for a big-time battle at the line of scrimmage. Oakridge is enormous on the offensive line and led up front on both sides of the ball by long and athletic Ethan Jozsa. Meanwhile, Montague is anchored in the trenches by returning all-stater Hayden “Haybale” McDonald.
Both teams feature multiple playmakers in the offensive backfield, but as is the case in most football games, the point of attack is what matters the most.
As for my prediction, all I can say is, “Take heart, Montague.” You know how bad my picks have been this season. Look no further than Week 2, when I had you losing to North Muskegon, 27-24, and you rolled to a 35-0 win. (That same week, I had Whitehall beating Oakridge, 27-21, but the Eagles left with a 32-19 victory.)
Oakridge: Be afraid that I picked you this week. Be very afraid.
Prediction: Oakridge 28, Montague 24
Zeeland West (1-1, 0-1 OK Green) at Mona Shores (2-1, 1-0): After a one-year hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the “Sailor Salute” returns to Sailor Stadium. What a spectacle it is, as active-duty military, veterans and first responders are saluted. They’re so very deserving of the recognition.
As for the actual game, this has the makings of a dandy. Zeeland West is coming off a 28-20 home loss to Muskegon, and the Dux need to knock off defending OK Green Conference champion Mona Shores to keep their league-title hopes alive.
This is a great coaching matchup, too. Nobody coaches the wing-T better than Zeeland West’s John Shillito, the former Orchard View sideline boss. And perhaps nobody in these parts has guided a program turnaround better than Mona Shores’ Matt Koziak at his alma mater, which 10 years ago would not have dreamed of winning back-to-back state titles.
The key to this one is which team’s defense does a better job limiting the opponent’s offense, as both the Dux and Sailors are capable of putting up a lot of points.
Prediction: Mona Shores 32, Zeeland West 26
Spring Lake (3-0, 1-0 OK Blue) at Fruitport (1-2, 0-1): Neighboring rivals square off yet again in the “Bayou Battle.” Spring Lake has retained the paddle, a traveling trophy of sorts, for three straight years.
Can the Lakers make it four years in a row? In a rivalry such as this, strange things tend to happen, so you never know.
Spring Lake looks to have a pretty special group this season, as illustrated by the Lakers the last two weeks in blowout victories over Zeeland East and Holland Christian. Fruitport has a ton of pride, however, and you’d better believe the Trojans are tired of seeing the Lakers celebrating with the paddle at the end of the game.
Fruitport’s strength of schedule is quite solid. The Trojans’ two losses have come vs. Cadillac, last year’s Division 4 state runner-up, and against a Coopersville team that’s 3-0 for the first time since 2003. The Trojans are competing.
Prediction: Spring Lake 33, Fruitport 22
North Muskegon (1-2, 1-1) at Hart (2-1, 0-1): Traditionalists may raise an eyebrow when they see this game listed in the “intriguing matchups” category. However, do not dismiss this one: North Muskegon is young in spots but maturing each week, while Hart is playing harder than it has in quite some time.
Not that this is flattering comparison, but North Muskegon and Hart both lost to Montague 35-0 in consecutive weeks. I really know how to sell a game, right?
On paper, the Norsemen appear to have the edge in the skill positions, while the Pirates should be stronger at the line of scrimmage.
Which area will win out in the end?
Prediction: North Muskegon 30, Hart 26
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