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On the Mark: District finals picks for traveling Whitehall and Montague, plus others in Muskegon area

Vikings and Wildcats headed ‘up north’ for second round of football playoffs.

Michigan natives have differing definitions of “up north.”

Is Cadillac considered “up north?” What about Reed City?

Regardless of how they’re defined, Cadillac and Reed City will be seeing a heavy influx of visitors from the White Lake area – guess you’d say they’re from “down south.”

On Friday, Whitehall’s football team plays at Cadillac in a Division 4 district final while Montague visits Reed City with a Division 6 district championship on the line.

CatchMark SportsNet’s Zach Zweigle and I will be bundling up Friday and heading north to Cadillac and Reed City, respectively.

Wish us luck in our travels to “up north.”

Graphic by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark


Montague (7-3) at Reed City (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday: This is the CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week.

Whitehall beat Montague, 34-14, in the “Battle for the Bell.” The next week, Reed City beat Whitehall, 38-28. So, Reed City beats Montague, right?

Not so fast.

Field conditions could weigh heavily into the outcome of this Division 6 district final. If it’s a mucky mess, then that seems to favor the host Coyotes. If footing is fairly solid, then the Wildcats may be able to get to the perimeter and cause Reed City some problems the way they made life miserable for Oakridge.

A couple coaches this week have told me that Reed City reminds them of Oakridge. Montague ran past Oakridge this season, 33-7. So, that means Montague will run past Reed City?

Again, not so fast. I don’t see a blowout by any means, but I do like Montague to win a close one. It’s all about matchups.

Prediction: Montague 22, Reed City 20

Whitehall (8-2) at Cadillac (8-2), 7 p.m. Friday: Who saw Whitehall’s 40-20 thrashing of Sparta coming last week? Sure, I thought the Vikings had a great chance to win, but never saw that type of domination coming.

The game at Sparta was played on AstroTurf, which seems very conducive to Whitehall’s playmakers. This week, Whitehall is back to playing on natural grass. How will those field conditions be up in Cadillac?

In this Division 4 district finals battle between teams whose nicknames are both Vikings, whose version will be better?

We’ll go with Whitehall, which is going for its first district title since 2014.

Prediction: Whitehall 26, Cadillac 22

Mona Shores (8-2) vs. Caledonia (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Grandville: Mona Shores surprised a lot of people last week – not because the Sailors beat Forest Hills Central on the road, but the manner in which they did it. They manhandled the Rangers, and they did it while being shorthanded.

Not sure if Mona Shores will be full-strength this week, but if the Sailors can come close to duplicating the type of effort put forth against FHC, then you have to like their chances.

As I said on last week’s CatchMark SportsNet podcast as well as on the West Michigan 1st & Ten show, Mona Shores could make a nice run if the defense tightens. That happened last week in a major way. It will need to happen again this Friday in this Division 2 district finals matchup of the OK Green runner-up vs. the OK Red runner-up.

Prediction: Mona Shores 27, Caledonia 21

Cedar Springs (8-2) at Muskegon (9-1), 1 p.m. Saturday: This is the fourth straight season that Muskegon and Cedar Springs are meeting in the Division 3 playoffs. The Big Reds have won the previous three meetings – they’re 4-0 all-time against the Red Hawks.

Muskegon has been a team on a mission since the 49-14 loss to Detroit Cass Tech in Week 2. The Big Reds rolled to their eighth-straight victory in a 35-7 first-round playoff win over Lowell despite being shorthanded.

Cedar Springs has been very solid as per usual. The Red Hawks’ lone losses have come against Division 1 unbeaten Rockford (35-6 in Week 2) and powerhouse Grand Rapids Catholic Central in a thriller (41-40 in Week 8).

Is it the Red Hawks’ time to solve the Big Red riddle? If Muskegon still is not full strength, then it’s possible. Have to stick with Muskegon here, however.

Prediction: Muskegon 31, Cedar Springs 20

Muskegon football coach Shane Fairfield, left, and senior Myles Walton (8) lead the Big Reds onto the field prior to their 49-28 victory at Mona Shores on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (CatchMark)

Oakridge (8-2) at Howard City Tri County (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday: In a bit of a rarity, Oakridge hits the road for a second-round playoff game rather than staying home to play at the friendly confines of Russell A. Erickson Stadium.

This has definitely been a theme in this week’s picks, but it especially applies here: What’s the condition of Tri County’s field? Rumor has it that the Vikings’ grass playing surface is torn up.

If so, which team does that favor in this Division 5 district final? Oakridge is very big at the point of attack. However, if the field is nothing but muck, that’s the great equalizer – it’s anybody’s game under those circumstances.

I still like Oakridge because of the Eagles’ strength of schedule. But, sooner rather than later, Tri County is going to win a really big game. Coach Phil Butler has the Vikings program on the rise.

Prediction: Oakridge 28, Tri County 14

Oakridge quarterback Matt Danicek (3) goes under center during a game against Muskegon Catholic Central Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, at Oakridge’s Russell A. Erickson Stadium in Muskegon, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Ravenna (7-3) at Muskegon Catholic Central (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Is it appropriate to call MCC a team of destiny, the way the Crusaders pulled out last-second victories in the final two weeks of the regular season against quality Centreville and Oakridge opponents?

More than that, MCC is a very focused and experienced team. The Crusaders look to have a little too much for Ravenna, although you have to admire the fight that the ’Dogs have shown throughout the season (Week 2 loss to Whitehall notwithstanding).

The storyline of this Division 7 district final pitting old rivals centers on the head coaches on both sidelines. MCC’s Steve Czerwon and Ravenna’s Justin Ego were teammates on Crusaders teams in the early- to mid-1990s, and they’re still good friends. This game might feel a little bit different for them from that perspective.

Prediction: Muskegon Catholic Central 28, Ravenna 14

Ravenna prepares to take the field for a Division 7 first-round playoff game against North Muskegon Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, in Ravenna, Mich. (Photo by Bethany McCullough)

Muskegon Heights Academy (6-4) at Carson City-Crystal (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Hopefully Muskegon Heights has gotten some rest this week. The Tigers found themselves in a track meet with Holton in a first-round matchup, holding off the Red Devils in a wild 66-42 victory at Phillips Field.

Heights hits the road for Carson City-Crystal for the second time in four weeks. The Oct. 15 game at Carson City did not go well for Heights, as the Tigers lost 41-14.

How much has Muskegon Heights grown since that game? And if the Tigers are able to grab some early confidence, could they ride that momentum and make it a game this time?

Prediction: Carson City-Crystal 40, Muskegon Heights Academy 22

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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