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On the Mark: Moving to playoff mode with Week 9 Muskegon-area football picks

Several good postseason tune-ups on tap this week.

(Graphic by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark)

It’s Week 9 of the high school football season. That means the end of the road for some teams, while others are jockeying for playoff position or fine-tuning before the postseason kicks off next week.

West Michigan Conference champions Whitehall and Montague both hit the road for nonleague tests to wrap up the regular season. Oakridge, which also claimed a share of the conference title, hosts Lakes 8 Activities Conference champ Muskegon Catholic Central in a renewal of their developing rivalry.

Some tough picks on the slate this week, but no fear: The “old coach,” former Shelby sideline boss and ex-Bo Schembechler aid Mike Taylor, is on the job. The color commentator for WLCS-FM 98.3 is our guest picker this week.

Taylor also served as the guest on our West Michigan 1st & Ten show Tuesday. Never a dull moment when he’s around.

Let’s get to the Week 9 picks:

(Graphic by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark)

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

Muskegon Catholic Central (7-1) at Oakridge (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday: The CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week features two of the Muskegon area’s elite programs. Recently, MCC notched its 500th win in program history and Oakridge reached No. 400.

The strength of both teams is between the tackles. The Crusaders have a very experienced group on the offensive line, while the Eagles are enormous at the point of attack. Which team does a better job establishing the running game? Both squads feature outstanding lead backs: Joe Waller for MCC and Corey Vanderputte for Oakridge.

Let’s say the battle between the tackles is a wash. Which team can make more plays in the passing game and on the perimeter? Sam Convertini has been quite the weapon as a pass-catcher for MCC, including pulling down the winning touchdown with 6 seconds left last week against Centreville. On the other side, Oakridge QB Matt Danicek appears to have the arm – can he hit enough passes to keep MCC honest?

This Week 9 showdown is great for Muskegon-area high school football. In this particular matchup, we’ll give the Crusaders the slightest of edges.

Prediction: Muskegon Catholic Central 28, Oakridge 27

Whitehall (7-1) at Reed City (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Under Tony Sigmon, Whitehall has made a habit of scheduling tough nonleague opponents. This qualifies as that for the Vikings, who hit the road and must reset their focus coming off a big “Battle for the Bell” victory over rival Montague.

Whitehall may be unable to secure a home game in the playoffs, but if the Vikings want any shot at all, then they need to come away with a victory here. This game features a West Michigan Conference tri-champion against the Central State Activities Association Gold Division champ.

Reed City has a strong tradition, and the Coyotes’ lone loss came in the season opener, 18-14 against a Cadillac program that was in the Division 4 state finals last year. Reed City has dropped to Division 6 this season, so perhaps the Coyotes may see the other White Lake power, Montague, very soon.

Prediction: Whitehall 22, Reed City 14

Montague (6-2) at Portland (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday: In yet another attractive matchup entering the playoffs, Montague and Portland renew their budding rivalry. The Wildcats hold a 2-1 edge in the series so far.

Both teams are coming off defeats. As alluded above, Montague fell to Whitehall in their rivalry game, 34-14. Meanwhile, Portland dropped a 10-7 decision to Cadillac. The thing that concerns me for the Wildcats this week is that they were already thin to begin, and they’ve been a little banged up.

Which Portland team will they see? Will it be the one that managed to beat Division 3 powerhouse DeWitt, 20-17 in Week 2. Or the one that has lost two of its last three games?

Prediction: Portland 28, Montague 21

Ludington (3-5) at North Muskegon (3-5), 7 p.m. Friday: A win here may be enough to sneak North Muskegon into the Division 7 playoffs. For Ludington, it appears that ship may have sailed in Division 4.

The No. 1 question for this game: Will the Norsemen be able to overcome injuries to pivotal players? The second question: Which Orioles team shows up? They’ve been a little hot and cold this season.

Going out on a bit of a limb with this pick.

Prediction: North Muskegon 26, Ludington 20

***

Kent City (5-2) at Grant (3-5), 7 p.m. Friday: This is effectively a play-in game: If Kent City wins, then it almost certainly locks up a Division 6 playoff spot; if Grant wins, the Tigers give themselves a great chance to sneak into the Division 5 field despite a losing record.

The Eagles have won three straight games since being idle for two weeks because of COVID-19 and other reasons. They’re looking to get into the preseason for a sixth straight year.

Both have a common opponent in Newaygo. Kent City rallied for a 20-19 victory over the Lions, while Grant edged its arch-rival, 12-7.

Prediction: Kent City 26, Grant 20

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

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