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On the Mark: Time for ‘The Bell’ to clang on Muskegon-area Week 8 football picks

It’s rivalry week in the West Michigan Conference, starting with Montague vs. Whitehall.

(Graphic by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark)

After a week’s worth of build-up, it’s finally time for Montague and Whitehall to settle this on the field.

It’s the “Battle for the Bell,” which takes center stage in Week 8 of the Muskegon-area high school football slate.

In the West Michigan Conference specifically, it’s rivalry week: Oakridge-Ravenna and Hart-Shelby are also on the docket.

But the place to be Friday night is Whitehall’s football field. That’s where the CatchMark SportsNet team will be setting up shop.

Our coverage Friday begins with a live pregame show at 6 p.m. aired on our YouTube channel, followed by a live-stream of the game that you may purchase on the NFHS Network (and watch for free in full after the game’s conclusion). And, finally, visit our website at catchmarksports.com for extensive coverage following the contest.

Props to Zach Zweigle for maintaining his lead on the CatchMark picks panel, but here’s a shout-out to Kara Raeth. CatchMark’s office manager posted the first perfect week of the season with a 14-0 mark in Week 7.

As for new blood, this week’s guest picker is Cody Ottinger, who is web specialist at CatchMark and quite the talented photographer and videographer.

Without further ado, here are the Week 8 picks:

Note: All games kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.

(Graphic by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark)

INTRIGUING MATCHUPS

Montague (6-1, 5-0 West Michigan Conference) at Whitehall (6-1, 4-1), 7 p.m. Friday: After a week’s worth of hype and anticipation – make that, a season’s worth in some circles — we are on the eve of the “Battle for the Bell.” This is the CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week, and it has the makings of a dandy.

You couldn’t ask for a much better setup: Bitter, neighboring rivals and state-ranked teams playing in the final game of the conference season with title implications. Senior night at Whitehall. Huge crowd expected.

The only way it could be better is if both were unbeaten and Montague hadn’t already locked up a share of the league championship. Even with a loss, the Wildcats can still consider themselves conference champs.

But trust me on this: Montague has no interest in sharing anything with Whitehall. Meanwhile, the Vikings can’t stomach the thought of “The Bell” staying on the other side of the bridge for a seventh straight year.

While talent helps win football games, this one tends to come down to execution. In other words, which team will make the bigger mistake or mistakes?

Montague leads the all-time series, 64-48-2. Very few of the previous meetings, if any, can top last year’s matchup at Townsend Athletic Complex, where the teams played an instant classic. The Wildcats pulling out a 34-31 double-overtime victory en route to an unbeaten, state-championship season.

Something tells me it’s Whitehall’s time to shine. Of course, we’ve thought that before and Montague finds a way. After all, the Wildcats tend to rise to the occasion in big games – they have the track record.

Speaking of track records: My recent success or lack thereof in “Game of the Week” picks should tell everybody to take this prediction with a huge grain of salt. Plus, you know, I’ve been way off on Montague a couple times this season already.

Prediction: Whitehall 27, Montague 24

Ravenna (5-2, 3-2 West Michigan Conference) at Oakridge (6-1, 4-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Oakridge holds an overwhelming 41-12-1 lead in the all-time series against neighboring Ravenna. Despite that, most people would deem this a legitimate rivalry.

When the Eagles and Bulldogs square off, you can expect plenty of hard hitting and some drama.

Oakridge hopes to be playing for a share of the conference title. The Eagles need to take care of business against the ’Dogs and get some help with a Whitehall win over Montague for it to happen. That would create a three-way tie for the title between Montague, Oakridge and Whitehall.

Ravenna has played pretty well since a Week 3 loss to Whitehall, but word has it that the Bulldogs are banged up right now. All things being equal, it could be quite a matchup in Wolf Lake.

Prediction: Oakridge 28, Ravenna 17

Shelby (0-7, 0-5 West Michigan Conference) at Hart (2-5, 0-5), 7 p.m. Friday: This is intriguing from the standpoint of the rivalry’s deep history, which started in 1920.

Thanks to the record-keeping of Michigan high school sports historian Ron Pesch, CatchMark has calculated this to be the 116th all-time matchup between Hart and Shelby.

Shelby holds an ever-so-slight 56-55-4 edge in the series. Since 1950, the Tigers have gotten the better of the Pirates in 43 of 70 encounters.

That all-time ledger will be dead even Friday. Expect Hart to run away with the Blood, Sweat and Tears jug this time.

Prediction: Hart 42, Shelby 6

Centreville (6-1) at Muskegon Catholic Central (6-1), 7 p.m. Friday: This is an attractive nonleague matchup between the reigning Division 8 state champion in Centreville and the longtime D-8 power in MCC.

The Crusaders should be plenty battle-tested by the time the Division 7 playoffs roll around. Next week, they visit Oakridge in a developing crosstown rivalry.

Centreville’s 38-32 season-opening loss at Niles Brandywine is a little head-scratching on the surface, as Brandywine has gone on to lose four of its next six games, albeit against pretty solid competition. MCC’s lone loss was in Week 2 against a strong Grand Rapids West Catholic squad.

This game should help both teams as they move toward the playoffs.

Prediction: Muskegon Catholic Central 30, Centreville 14

RELATED LINKS

The Rivalry: History lesson on century-old Montague vs. Whitehall football series

In coin toss of a matchup, ceremonial event on bridge shelved again

Montague and Whitehall converge in special ‘Battle for the Bell’ Coaches Corner

After living in Mexico, QB Andrew Kooi finds ‘home’ in Montague

Football, wrestling battles weather Whitehall RB Alec Pruett

Whitehall climbs, Montague stays put in AP polls this week

Muskegon-area Week 8 football schedule: Game of the Week is a no-brainer

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

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