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(Thanks for reading that PSA. Now, on to the picks, which is the reason you’re reading this column.)
Shout-out to Ken Byard, the retired North Muskegon principal, who’s also had West Michigan Conference ties to Montague and Whitehall, for appearing as our guest picker this week.
Whitehall (5-0, 2-0 WMC Lakes) at Oakridge (5-0, 3-0 WMC Lakes), 7 p.m. Friday in the North Grove Brewers WMC Game of the Week: Safe to say, this is the Game of the Year in the West Michigan Conference. As good as Oakridge has looked this season, Whitehall has been even more impressive.
As we saw last season, nothing else matters except for what happens between the lines when the teams take the field Friday night at Russell A. Erickson Stadium. A year ago, Oakridge went over to Whitehall and out-toughed the host Vikings en route to a 32-19 victory.
Whitehall has not won at Oakridge very often. In fact, the Vikings’ 32-18 victory over the host Eagles in 2020 was the first for Whitehall on that field since the late-1990s.
What should we expect in this one? Who knows – it’s high school football and a lot of intangibles come into play.
If both teams play their “A” game, it will be difficult for Oakridge to keep up with Whitehall. Playing keep-away from the Vikings seems like a good plan.
Tough to put a score prediction on this one, but here’s to borrowing from fellow podcasters Ken Byard and Tate Stine. (Watch the CatchMark SportsNet Podcast that releases later today for clarity.)
Prediction: Whitehall 42, Oakridge 20
Manistee (3-2, 1-2 WMC Lakes) at Ludington (4-1, 2-1 WMC Lakes), 7 p.m. Friday: According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association record books, the Ludington-Manistee rivalry is fifth-longest in state history. The series kicked off in 1895. This will be the 145th meeting.
Ludington leads the very competitive series, 69-64-11, although Manistee ambushed the Orioles last season, 41-12. It was the second-straight win for the Chippewas against Ludington, following up the 21-20 thriller in 2020.
It’s a great rivalry, so anything can happen, but we’re giving Ludington the edge in this one.
Prediction: Ludington 26, Manistee 20
Fremont (3-2, 0-2 WMC Lakes) at Orchard View (0-5, 0-2 WMC Lakes), 7 p.m. Friday: Fremont and Orchard View meet for the first time since 2015, when they were Lakes 8 Activities Conference opponents. The Packers and Cardinals also have been foes in the Western Waterways and Seaway Conference.
Fremont needs a win here, as the schedule only gets tougher. Meanwhile, Orchard View seems to be showing some signs of improvement despite their record.
In their second straight trip to East Muskegon – the Packers lost at Oakridge last week – they should be able to come out victorious.
Prediction: Fremont 30, Orchard View 12
North Muskegon (4-1) at Montague (2-3), 7 p.m. Friday: Over the years, the Montague-North Muskegon series has been a very good one. Since 1950, the Wildcats hold a slim edge over the Norsemen in head-to-head matchups, 36-35-1.
At the present moment, these teams appear to be moving in different directions this season: North Muskegon has won four straight since opening with a loss to Muskegon Catholic Central, while Montague has dropped three of four since starting with a win over Spring Lake. The Wildcats’ strength of schedule has been tougher without question.
None of that will matter on Friday night. What will matter: Can Montague’s defensive front get pressure on North Muskegon quarterback James Young? If not, then it could be a long night for the Wildcats. This will be a nice win for whichever team can earn it.
In addition to the Game of the Week pitting Whitehall and Oakridge, this game will be livestreamed on the CatchMark SportsNet YouTube channel.
Prediction: North Muskegon 28, Montague 22
Hesperia (1-4, 0-2 WMC Rivers) at Ravenna (4-1, 3-0 WMC Rivers), 7 p.m. Friday: Ravenna escaped Mason County Central last week with a 19-14 victory. It’s homecoming night in Ravenna and with that typically comes some distractions. Another possible distraction is the Bulldogs looking ahead to next week’s WMC Rivers Division showdown at North Muskegon, which will be the North Grove Brewers WMC Game of the Week.
Hesperia and Ravenna have not played since 1958, when they were both members of the Newaygo County Athletic Association.
Despite everything going on, the Bulldogs should be able to take of business in this one.
Prediction: Ravenna 42, Hesperia 8
Hart (3-2, 1-1 WMC Rivers) at Mason County Central (1-4, 1-2 WMC Rivers), 7 p.m. Friday: Mason County Central nearly pulled off its biggest win since 2015 when it had Ravenna on the ropes last week but couldn’t finish off the Bulldogs.
The Spartans have another shot this Friday to notch a solid win. How will Hart come out after last week’s 55-14 loss to North Muskegon in the Game of the Week? The Pirates have been pretty banged up.
Look for Mason County Central to get the win this week.
Prediction: Mason County Central 22, Hart 20
Holton (0-5, 0-2 WMC Rivers) at Shelby (1-4, 1-2 WMC Rivers), 7 p.m. Friday: Last Friday, Shelby earned its first win since Week 8 of the 2019 season, spoiling Hesperia’s homecoming in a 22-16 overtime thriller. This Friday, it’s the Tigers’ homecoming and they’re seeking their first two-game winning streak since midway through the 2014 season.
A young Holton squad continues to experience growing pains as first-year head coach Tommy Moore tries to rebuild the program.
Look for Shelby to be celebrating for a second-straight week.
Prediction: Shelby 42, Holton 6
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Vikings players Taylor Ottinger and Lianna Fagan and assistant coach Emily MacArthur pay homage...
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West Michigan Conference coaches: Please email your results to email@example.com.
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Balanced Whitehall opens defense of WMC Lakes co-title with runaway win at Orchard View.