Three area teams prepare for extra season
Division 5: Reed City (6-3) at Standish-Sterling (9-0) - Friday, Oct. 31, 7 pm
Standish-Sterling will be the heavy favorite in Friday's first-round match-up, playing at home as the top seed in the region, but the Panthers aren't taking anything for granted.
For one thing, the Panthers' bizarre early season, which featured a forfeit against Beaverton and a Warren Creek team that left at halftime of a 42-0 SSC win, cost SSC one and a half home games.
If they can keep winning they may play as many as three more games in the friendly confines.
"The kids are pretty excited at the opportunity to play at home," said SSC coach Paul Walderzak. "It's a new season, but we realize it could be over after one game or it could go as many as five."
The Panthers played Reed City during the regular season a year ago, handing the then 6-1 Coyotes a 28-8 defeat. Not only will they not have forgotten that, but also Reed City's three losses this season have come to three teams with a combined 24-3 record. Their defense is solid, having shut out three opponents and allowed just one score to two others.
"Their defense is very different," Walderzak said. "They play a 5-0 front, but they all stand up (before the play), even the linemen. It helps them pursue better, and they've got some kids who can fly.
"They definitely have some good athletes who can move. I'm just not sure if they have quite as many as we do."
Offensively, the Coyotes like to grind it out with their ground-based Double-Wing offense, with running backs Paul Wieczorek and Jacob Meyer. Quarterback Dylan Ridderman is able to sprinkle thee pass in effectively when needed.
If the Panthers win, they'll face either Sanford-Meridian (a team Pinconning beat 13-12 early in the season) or a Tawas Area team the SSC defeated 50-14 in Game 4.
Division 7: Whittemore-Prescott (6-3) at Traverse City St. Francis (8-1) - Friday Oct. 31, 7:30 pm
Whittemore-Prescott coach Kevin Frederick said he's been getting a lot of phone calls since the Cardinals found out they were playing defending Division 7 state runner-up Traverse City St. Francis in their opening-round playoff game Friday.
"It's almost like someone died," Frederick said, "and people want to know when the funeral is."
The Cardinals aren't willing to concede anything to the Gladiators, though, despite being a big underdog. St. Francis' only loss was a three-point defeat to Saginaw Nouvel, which some consider to be the best team in the state at any level.
"We didn't draw Nouvel," Frederick said, "but this is like getting his little brother. But the kids are excited and optimistic. They're looking forward to the challenge."
What they have to deal with is a team and a program that has three state titles and two runners-up finishes in the past 10 seasons and is expecting to contend for another title.
"They are the most uniform team I've ever seen. They do everything in unison. Their offensive linemen look like clones -- they're not giants, but they're all solid, they're all the same size, they all move non-stop. They have a lot of excellent players."
St. Francis runs a lot out of the Wing-T and full house type backfields. If W-P is going to have a chance, the run defense needs to step up from the level it played at Tawas Area on Friday, when the Cards allowed more than 400 rushing yards.
"We definitely need to stop the run a lot better than we have," Frederick said. "Now it just comes down to the kids making plays. I will say this, though: they don't have a back as good as Janis. He's pretty special."
Division 8: AuGres-Sims (6-3) at Mio AuSable (6-3) - Friday Oct. 31, 7 pm
AuGres-Sims saw its North Star League title chances vanish in Week 7 with a 30-24 loss to Mio, and the Wolverines would like nothing more than to repay the favor against the new NSL champions.
AGS coach Dr. Scott McAlindon said they key to Friday's match-up will be for his team to get off to a better start than they did in the first meeting, in which Mio took a 16-0 lead.
"I can't predict what would have happened in that game, but having to come back from 16 down with a team like that is tough," McAlindon said. "If we come out and play our game right from the start, I think this one could be anyone's game."
The Wolverines' spread offense has been in high gear for most of the season, but quarterback Alex Lutz was playing that Mio game with a freshly dislocated finger on his throwing hand that hampered him more than the Wolverines were willing to admit at the time.
A healthy Lutz, along with the Wolverines quartet of speedy receivers, should continue to give Mio fits offensively. It's slowing down the Thunderbolts and their offensive line, one of the largest in Class D, which could pose some problems.
"Our defense has really been coming along," McAlindon said. "(Defensive coordinator) Greg Walker has been really proud of how our defense has come along week after week. As young as they are they're playing as well as could be expected.
"Of course, now we're going to be asking more of them. But I think if we can avoid getting into a hole early, we can make things pretty interesting."