Pizza and the playoff selection show: What could be better on a Sunday night for a high school football player?
That was the game plan for both Montague and Whitehall Sunday, as the Wildcats and Vikings learned their first-round playoff matchups and postseason brackets during a live television announcement on Bally Sports Detroit.
Montague (6-3), the reigning state champion in Division 6, will be hosting Central Montcalm (5-4) at 7 p.m. Friday. At the very same time, Whitehall (7-2) will be playing a Division 4 road game against Sparta (7-2).
“I’m excited for (to be hosting) because we were losing – we lost to Whitehall and we lost to Portland back-to-back games, and after that we didn’t think we were going to have a home game,” Montague senior tight end/linebacker Colton Blankstrom said.
“But then seeing the show and noticing that we have a home game, that’s a very big thing because as a senior, you always want to have one more home game. It’s always a good feeling playing at home, especially for the playoffs.”
If Montague defeats Central Montcalm, then the Wildcats would advance to the district finals and have a likely road trip to Reed City (8-1), which is the top seed in the district. Reed City, which is coming off a 38-28 victory over Whitehall, hosts Manistee (5-4) in the first round.
Montague lost on the road to Portland last week, 31-6, after falling at Whitehall the week before, 34-14.
The Sparta squad that Whitehall is facing lost at home to Oakridge in the season opener, 22-21. In Week 2, Whitehall lost to Oakridge, 32-19.
Should Whitehall beat Sparta, the Vikings will face the winner of the Fruitport (4-5)/Cadillac (7-2) playoff opener in the district finals. Cadillac is the top seed in the district.
“We feel like we have a chance with anyone, but it’s genuine in there because it was a surprise. But we’re going up to Sparta, looking to win and keep going,” Whitehall sophomore quarterback Kyle Stratton said.
“We’re trying to have a long run here. Last time we lost in Week 2, we came back hard. We came back better than we were before – we practiced harder. I think the whole mindset changed after our last loss, so we’re looking to bounce back again after our loss to Reed City.”
Montague’s three losses this season have come against ranked teams from larger divisions. In addition to the Wildcats’ defeats against Whitehall and Portland, their fell in the season opener to Division 4 power Edwardsburg, 38-0.
As it turned out, that was the Eddies’ tightest margin of victory en route to a perfect regular season.
“The reason here of scheduling those tough nonconference games is to prepare you for the playoffs, and so we feel that’s what those games did,” Montague coach Justin Dennett said. “We didn’t end up on the right side of a couple of them, but playing those tough opponents gets us ready for this playoff run that we’re about to go on.”
While Montague will be playing at the friendly confines of Townsend Athletic Complex, Whitehall is playing on artificial turf at Sparta’s sparkling stadium.
Vikings coach Tony Sigmon is excited for his team to get the opportunity to play a quality opponent in a nice venue.
“Really, it’s about us resetting on the season and realizing everyone is 0-0 at this point. Playing road games are always tough in their own right, and so that will be obviously a road game for us, so we just have to be able to embrace that and really have a great week of practice,” he said.
“Really, the things that got us here, we can’t change. We do have to learn from last week and be able to take those lessons and apply them obviously into a playoff football game.”
CatchMark SportsNet reporter Zach Zweigle contributed to this story.
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