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On the Mark: In Week 9 of 2023 season, West Michigan Conference has two No. 1 teams

It’s Week 9 of the 2023 high school football season. The road has been long, but for several teams, the fun is just beginning. That’s because the playoffs are right around the corner.

Specifically, these are special times for football teams from Whitehall and North Muskegon.

A couple weeks ago, Whitehall moved into the No. 1 spot in The Associated Press’ Michigan Division 4 state rankings. The Vikings that position on lockdown. Earlier this week, North Muskegon elevated to the No. 1 ranking in the AP’s Michigan Division 7 poll.

How cool is that?

West Michigan Conference programs such as Montague, Oakridge, and Ravenna have had their moments at or near the top of the statewide polls, but this is new territory for Whitehall and it’s been a long time for North Muskegon.

How cool would it be for Whitehall and North Muskegon to square off?

That obviously will not be happening, so all we can do is hope that the Vikings, Norsemen, and others from the WMC make deep runs in the postseason.

The Selection Sunday Show is this weekend, scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday on Bally Sports Detroit Extra. It’s time to rock n’ roll.

One guy who I know is amped up is this week’s “On the Mark” guest picker, Matt Parker. He has ties to Montague and Ravenna, and he’s a CatchMark SportsNet sponsor via Five Star Real Estate Leaders.

Despite what longtime friends Jeff Burel and Brent Raeth say about him, Parker is a good dude and he’s pretty knowledgeable about high school sports.

Last week’s guest picker, Brett Adkins of Edward Jones, finished with an 11-2 record. Nice work, Brett!

Here are Week 9 picks for games involving West Michigan Conference and Greater Muskegon area teams:


Montague (4-4, 3-2 WMC Lakes) at Oakridge (5-3, 3-2), 7 p.m. Friday: This is the latest edition of one of the area’s most entertaining rivalries. Oakridge leads the all-time series with Montague, 36-23, but quite a few Eagles-Wildcats matchups in recent seasons have been very dramatic.

Montague pulled off its biggest win of the season — probably the biggest victory in two seasons — in a grind-it-out, 24-22 thriller at home against then-Division 6 sixth-ranked Manistee. In that rainy game, the Wildcats showed glimpses of the team they could be. And just know that when yours truly predicted Manistee to beat Montague, one passionate Wildcats fan let me hear about!

Meanwhile, Oakridge is looking to keep the momentum it’s built with blowout victories over Orchard View and Ravenna — Eagles’ rivals to their west and east — in the past two weeks.

This Montague-Oakridge should be another hard-hitting affair. (Aren’t they all?) The team that exerts its physicality better should be in great shape to win the game.

Prediction: Oakridge 30, Montague 27

Zeeland West (6-2, 4-2 OK Green) at Reeths-Puffer (6-2, 4-2), 7 p.m. Friday: A month ago, after Reeths-Puffer lost 28-13 to Muskegon, Rockets coach Cody Kater told his team in the postgame huddle he’s never had more conviction that his squad would finish the regular season with a 7-2 record.

Well, R-P is in position, but it won’t be easy. A Zeeland West squad, coached by John Shillito and riding a rare two-game losing skid, is coming to town looking to get back on track.

Matchups against Mona Shores and Muskegon were measuring-stick games for Reeths-Puffer, and so is this one against Zeeland West. Win or lose, this is where we’ll see how far the Rockets have come this season and in Kater’s two short years at the helm.

Can R-P ensure that Zeeland West goes 0-3 against the three OK Green schools from Muskegon? The Rockets have a shot.

Prediction: Reeths-Puffer 24, Zeeland West 20

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

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