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On the Mark: Don’t sleep on ‘ZZ’ in Week 5 Muskegon-area football picks

Zach Zweigle has been around some good baseball in his life. As the son of longtime Whitehall coach Warren Zweigle, who has coached several great players and some outstanding teams, “ZZ” has enjoyed a front-row seat.

Turns out, he knows a bit about high school football, too. That proved to be the case in last week’s debut of “On the Mark,” CatchMark’s prep football picks competition among the staff.

Zach Zweigle finished at the top of the heap among six regulars on the panel and one guest picker. He was 13-2, misfiring only on the Montague-Oakridge and Hesperia-Lakeview games. He edged Kara Raeth and last week’s guest picker, Tim Stoudt, by one game.

Zach Zweigle of the CatchMark SportsNet team (Cody Ottinger | CatchMark)

As for yours truly? Let’s just say a season of mediocre picks continues, carrying over from MLive. When I miss, I really miss. I went with Oakridge over Montague last week in a tight one, but the Wildcats proved a lot of people wrong with a resounding 33-7 victory.

Hoping to be better this week. Going to have to be, as my competition looks better than I may have anticipated. “ZZ” designed our picks graphic and he sets it up each week — I’m sure that gives him an unfair advantage, right?

This week’s guest picker is Jon Russell, play-by-play voice for the Greater Muskegon Sports Network. He and longtime radio partner Cal VanSingel can be heard on CatchMark’s live streams of Montague and Whitehall games. He’s also a co-host of our weekly “West Michigan 1st & Ten Show.”

Here are the CatchMark picks for Week 5 games, followed by more detailed breakdowns of some intriguing matchups across the Muskegon area:

Note: All games kick off at 7 p.m. Friday with one exception: Muskegon Catholic Central at Benton Harbor is 5 p.m. Thursday.

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

Ravenna (3-1, 1-1 West Michigan Conference) at Montague (3-1, 3-0), 7 p.m. Friday: This is the CatchMark Game of the Week. It’s also the Wildcats’ homecoming, so there will be a lot going on.

Montague leads the all-time series with Ravenna, 35-23, including wins in nine of the last 11 meetings. Two years ago, the Wildcats and Bulldogs played twice at Townsend Athletic Complex. Ravenna shut down Montague in their first matchup of the 2019 season, 17-7, before the Wildcats earned some vengeance with a 20-13 overtime victory in the district finals five weeks later.

Last season, Montague rolled to a 48-6 win at Ravenna en route to a 12-0 record and the program’s third Division 6 state title.

This season, the dynamic is different, although the Wildcats are playing well again after an opening shutout loss. Under the direction of first-year head coach Justin Dennett, they’ve bounced well emphatically and outscored their last three opponents by a combined 103-7 margin. Clearly, the biggest stunner was last week’s 33-7 home win over Oakridge, a game Montague controlled from start to finish and played with great energy and emotion.

Ravenna is making strides in coach Justin Ego’s second year at the helm. The Bulldogs had a hiccup in Week 3 with a lopsided defeat at Whitehall. Are they ready to prove they can compete with the other two of the conference’s Big 3 (also including Oakridge)? That Whitehall game got away from them just before halftime.

Will Montague be focused or will homecoming prove a distraction? Has Ravenna learned some lessons? Eager to learn the answers to those questions.

Prediction: Montague 34, Ravenna 21

Whitehall (3-1, 2-1 West Michigan Conference) at North Muskegon (2-2, 2-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Whitehall does not have the “Nordic Nightmare” (Ira Jenkins) on the field this season because of injury, but the Vikings do have the “Scandinavian Showdown” against North Muskegon to look forward to this week. It’s Vikings vs. Norsemen this Friday at Fred Jacks Memorial Field.

The Whitehall-North Muskegon series has been competitive over the years. Since 1950, the Norse hold a 28-25 edge over the Vikes.

In this particular matchup, Whitehall should have the edge and it all starts up front with Gabe Reavey & Co., on top of the bevy of talented players. North Muskegon has plenty of skill, too, and the Norsemen have risen before when few people expected them to do that. Can running back Denny Belmonte and quarterback James Young get it going and keep the Vikings on their heels? The Norse have posted two-straight shutouts against Shelby and Hart (combined 114-0 margin) and should enter this game with confidence.

Prediction: Whitehall 33, North Muskegon 20

Grand Haven (3-1, 2-0 OK Red) at Caledonia (4-0, 2-0), 7 p.m. Friday: This is Grand Haven’s best start to a season since 2014. That year, the Buccaneers finished 3-6. Don’t see that happening this season, although the second half of the Bucs’ schedule is brutal: In addition to Caledonia this week, they face Rockford, Hudsonville and Grandville, plus a very winnable game against East Kentwood thrown in there.

New Caledonia coach Derek Pennington, who had a good deal of success in his 13 years at Zeeland East, has the Fighting Scots off to a great start. He also coached with Grand Haven’s Mike Farley at one point, so there is so familiarity between the two.

Last season, Caledonia had a rough start against the OK Red grind before the Scots caught fire in the playoffs. They gave eventual state champ Mona Shores all it wanted in the district finals, although Carson VanderHoff is no longer toting the rock for the Scots. He was a beast. Still, Pennington & Co. have seized momentum this season.

Prediction: Caledonia 28, Grand Haven 14

Mason County Central head football coach Scott Briggs huddles with his team during a timeout in a 53-8 loss to Ravenna Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at Citizens Field in Ravenna, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Shelby (0-4, 0-3 West Michigan Conference) at Mason County Central (0-2 overall), 7 p.m. Friday: As a reader pointed out last week, “intriguing games” does not require the best teams to be playing in them. That’s the case this week as Shelby visits Mason County Central for the Spartans’ homecoming and their first home varsity game of the season.

Mason County Central played its first actual game of the season last week at Ravenna. The Spartans should be able to make some strides from last week to this week, although the visiting Tigers are going to view this game as a great opportunity to notch their first win since Week 8 of the 2019 season.

Prediction: Mason County Central 36, Shelby 14

Related:

See last week’s “On the Mark” predictions

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

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Sara Park

    September 25, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    I liked the content, thanks for that.

    • Scott DeCamp

      September 27, 2021 at 7:29 am

      Thanks for your support! We’ll keep producing great content.

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