The CatchMark SportsNet crew is headed to Fremont Friday and I’m not sure which aspect I’m most excited about.
The North Grove Brewers West Michigan Conference Game of the Week pitting early-season unbeatens Ludington and Fremont, or the possibility of a pregame meal from Spanky’s Pizza?
If I’m being honest, it’s probably a combination of both things. I mean, have you tasted Spanky’s breadsticks?
In all seriousness, it’s always a pleasant experience covering athletic events in Fremont. It’s a great town, the Packers’ facilities are very nice, athletic director David Walls and his staff take care of us, and you can tell that they really appreciate the coverage.
Sounds like a win-win scenario for all parties.
Ludington and Fremont have a long history of squaring off, including as league foes in the Lakes 8, Western Waterways and Seaway. Now, they’re clashing as West Michigan Conference rivals.
Friday night marks the start of divisional play in the West Michigan Conference. Who will get a leg up over the other in early going of the Lakes Division: The Orioles or Packers? How long can the winner remain a contender in the big-school division of the WMC?
Things should begin to take shape a bit in the West Michigan Conference.
Speaking of shape: I’m sure we’ll be rounding into form after that pregame meal.
Here are the Week 3 picks from the CatchMark SportsNet “On the Mark” panelists. Guest picker this week is Amy Yonkman, project manager for CatchMark.
Ludington (2-0) at Fremont (2-0), 7 p.m. Friday, North Grove Brewers Game of the Week: You’re probably wondering, when was the last time Ludington and Fremont both started 2-0 in the same season? Well, that’s why you read “On the Mark.” We have those answers. And if we don’t, then we can find them.
It was 2004. The teams met in Week 3 that season, too, with the Orioles topping the Packers, 44-28.
This is the West Michigan Conference Lakes Division opener for these squads, who both would love to get off on the right foot. It’s a big night for the Orioles and Packers, who have a lot of excitement around their programs with good starts to the season.
On top of it all, Ludington and Fremont will be in the Game of the Week spotlight, meaning CatchMark SportsNet will produce a high-quality, free livestream complete with multiple camera angles, graphic overlays and the lovable broadcasting team of Jon Russell and Cal VanSingel, whose history calling games takes them back to Fremont.
Getting the feeling that Ludington makes a couple more plays than Fremont and wins this one. With Spanky’s in the pregame meal plans for the CatchMark crew, no way we can lose.
Prediction: Ludington 28, Fremont 22
Oakridge (2-0) at Manistee (2-0), 7 p.m. Friday: Manistee had its way with the first two West Michigan Conference opponents in nondivisional play, but now things get real for the Chippewas.
Are they a legit contender in the WMC Lakes Division? We’re going to find out when Oakridge, a benchmark in the league, rolls into Manistee. That’s a stiff first test in divisional play.
Oakridge has been there, done that, in the traditionally tough West Michigan Conference. Nobody has been more consistent in the league over the years.
This is a big opportunity for Manistee on its home field, but have to go with Oakridge in this one.
Prediction: Oakridge 34, Manistee 20
Shelby (0-2) at Hart (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday: If not for Ludington-Fremont, this matchup could have been showcased by CatchMark as the Game of the Week. After all, the arch-rival Tigers and Pirates play for the “Blood, Sweat & Tears” jug. How cool is that?
Shelby coach Phil Fortier and Hart coach Joe Tanis are both trying to change the fortunes of their programs and they’re trying to keep the big picture in mind. In this game, however, only one thing matters: Seizing that jug.
Hart got Shelby pretty good last season, 70-12. The Tigers are searching for positives after two losses to open the season, while the Pirates are seeking to build more momentum coming off last week’s win at White Cloud.
Hart is the pick in this one, but funny things happen in rivalry games sometimes.
Prediction: Hart 40, Shelby 24
Whitehall (2-0) vs. Alpena (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Ferris State University: This is the third of three nonconference matchups in Whitehall’s challenging start to the season, which featured road games against Hudsonville Unity Christian in the opener and Hastings last week.
Whitehall passed the first two tests in convincing fashion and here’s another: Taking care of business in a different venue. The Vikings are playing Alpena at Top Taggart Field, home of the reigning Division II national champion Ferris State football program.
Alpena is a Class A school, Division 3 for playoff classification purposes. The Wildcats are coming off a tight victory over Marquette after getting overwhelmed by Saginaw Heritage in the opener.
Whitehall might have the temptation to look ahead to next week’s “Battle for the Bell” against arch-rival Montague, but the Vikings should be able to take care of business in Week 3.
Prediction: Whitehall 44, Alpena 16
Orchard View (0-2) at Montague (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Montague is looking to get back on track after a 14-7 Game of the Week loss at Ravenna. Orchard View is hoping to get things moving in a positive direction after a pair of lopsided losses.
Regardless of what happens, the Wildcats and Cardinals will have an audience: In person and virtually.
Montague is honoring two of the top teams in program history: The 1972 squad, which went 8-0 and outscored opponents by a combined 187-9 margin; and the 1992 team, which was the first to make it to the state finals and finished Class CC runner-up with a 12-1 record.
CatchMark SportsNet will be producing a free livestream of the game, thanks in part to title sponsor North Grove Brewers.
Montague is still working some things out, but the Wildcats should have more than enough to get the “W.”
Prediction: Montague 40, Orchard View 14
Mason County Central (0-2) at North Muskegon (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday: This game features two of the better athletes in the league manning the quarterback position for their respective teams: Will Chye for Mason County Central and James Young for North Muskegon.
Based on what we’ve seen in the early part of the season, the Spartans are going to have a much harder time slowing down Young than the Norsemen will slow down Chye. Football is a team game and other factors come into play, but QB play is always a great place to start.
Prediction: North Muskegon 44, Mason County Central 16
Ravenna (1-1) at Holton (0-2), 7 p.m. Friday: Ravenna can’t get back the Week 1 game against Beal City that got away, but the Bulldogs seemed to change the trajectory of their season with a huge bounce-back win over Montague in our Game of the Week last week.
Meanwhile, Holton is still trying to find its footing. First-year head coach Tommy Moore, former defensive coordinator at Ravenna, is trying to build a culture with the Red Devils but it’s no quick fix.
Prediction: Ravenna 48, Holton 6
Hesperia (1-1) at White Cloud (1-1), 7 p.m. Friday: In the lone nonleague matchup for West Michigan Conference teams this week, Hesperia travels to White Cloud in a matchup of former Central State Activities Association Silver Division foes.
The Panthers have played two close games in as many weeks, losing the first and winning the second. This one shapes up to be another tight one. Last season, White Cloud edged Hesperia, 30-27.
Prediction: Hesperia 26, White Cloud 24
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