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On the Mark: Muskegon, North Muskegon last two standing from area in regional finals

This is a special time for Paul Young, former Big Reds player and father of Norsemen QB James Young.

It’s the third week of the 2023 MHSAA football playoffs and only two teams from the Muskegon area are left standing: Muskegon and North Muskegon.

Regional championships are on the line. The Big Reds and Norsemen are both two wins away from Ford Field.

These are fun times for Paul Young, the Muskegon alumnus and former Big Reds football player, whose son James is the standout starting quarterback for North Muskegon. Muskegon and North Muskegon play at the same time this week, so Paul’s focus will be squarely on the Norsemen’s big game against Pewamo-Westphalia, but you can bet he’ll be trying to get Big Reds updates here and there.

While regional finals are commonplace for Muskegon, North Muskegon does not have as much experience at this level. The last time the Norsemen captured a regional title was 1986, which was also the last time a Norse team started a season 11-0.

It’s tough to win this time of year. It requires talent, mental toughness, and a break here or there.

Just ask our “On the Mark” panelists. They know how hard it is to get these picks right.

Last week’s guest picker was Jeremy VanKlompenburg, managing partner of CatchMark SportsNet sponsor Big Stone Therapies in Montague. He struggled to a 2-5 record, but we’ll cut him some slack as it was his first time in this spotlight.

This week’s guest picker is Amy Yonkman, project manager for CatchMark. Yonkman may not be the biggest sports fan, but she is a sports mom and that counts for something. She is very organized and keeps us all on task at CatchMark.

Here are the “On the Mark” picks for Week 12, the regional finals, for games involving West Michigan Conference and Greater Muskegon area teams. There are only two teams remaining from those areas:


DIVISION 2: Saginaw Heritage (9-2) at Muskegon (9-2), 1 p.m. Saturday: Beating Muskegon at Hackley Stadium anytime is tough. Beating the Big Reds on their home field in the playoffs is a monumental task. They’re 35-4 all-time at Hackley in the postseason.

Heritage’s schedule features a lot of crooked numbers and it somewhat mirrors Muskegon’s. The Big Reds lost their first two games to Rockford and Warren De La Salle and have rolled to nine straight victories. The Hawks lost back-to-back games in Weeks 3 and 4 to Grand Blanc and Davison and they’ve since won seven in a row.

This is an interesting matchup. No shortage of talent. Heritage receiver Braylon Isom, a Miami-Ohio commit, is an MLive Player of the Year finalist. Muskegon quarterback M’Khi Guy is also in the MLive Player of the Year discussion. And that’s only two of the dynamic playmakers in this game.

Heritage two-way standout Ty Robertson (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) was lost for the season recently when he suffered a broken foot.

You have to give Muskegon the edge on its home field.

Prediction: Muskegon 34, Saginaw Heritage 28

Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark

DIVISION 7: Pewamo-Westphalia (10-1) at North Muskegon (11-0), 1 p.m. Saturday at Oakridge: For the second straight week and second straight trophy game, North Muskegon is moving the contest from the natural grass of Fred Jacks Memorial Field to the fast-track synthetic turf of Oakridge’s Russell A. Erickson Stadium.

In terms of North Muskegon’s perimeter speed, passing skill, and matching up with Pewamo-Westphalia, that’s probably a good move. The playing surface had to have helped the Norsemen last week in their 27-24 comeback win against big and strong Lawton in the district finals.

North Muskegon opened the season with a 17-14 home victory over P-W on Owen Booth’s last-second 23-yard field goal. It’s tough to beat a quality opponent twice in the same season, especially one with the impeccable tradition of the Pirates, but that’s the task for the Norse.

As per usual, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks for both teams. North Muskegon’s James Young is a pinpoint passer, who last week showed he can be a capable runner with his go-ahead 40-yard touchdown. Pewamo-Westphalia’s Dylan May is a productive runner and the Pirates clearly rely on him to make things happen.

Whose supporting cast will come through when it counts? That could decide this game.

Prediction: North Muskegon 23, Pewamo-Westphalia 20

In this file photo, North Muskegon players celebrate Owen Booth’s game-winning field goal in a 17-14 victory over Pewamo-Westphalia in the season opener Friday, Aug. 25, 2023, at Fred Jacks Memorial Field in North Muskegon, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

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

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