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Predictions for the Top Games: Coloma attempts to clinch playoff spot against Watervliet and its high-powered offense

By: Tom Markowski, October 19, 2017, 11:04 am

Watervliet – Few outside of Watervliet remember the only time the school’s football program played for a state championship.

Within Watervliet, a town of approximately 1,800 residents located in the southwest part of the state, longtime supporters remember it well.

In 1979, when there was four classifications and only eight teams in each class qualified for the playoffs, Watervliet reached the Class C final and lost to Ishpeming, 13-0

This season those same supporters are beginning to believe that history could repeat itself.

Watervliet (8-0) will host Coloma (5-3), Watervliet’s rival, in a Southwestern Athletic Conference Valley Division game at Watervliet at 7 p.m. The teams first played over 100 years ago. A Coloma victory would clinch a playoff spot for the Comets. For the Watervliet, the Panthers have an opportunity to finish the regular season 9-0 for the fifth time since 1964.

Jeremy Andrews, who played football at Boyne City, is in his 12th season as Watervliet’s head coach and he’s experienced a fair amount of success during this time as Watervliet has won six league titles and qualified for the playoffs eight times including seven straight. Since 2010 Watervliet has reached a region final twice.

“This is potentially the best team since I’ve been here,” he said. “We’re potentially better (than last season). This team has a ton of experience.”

Of the 26 on varsity, 16 are seniors.

The top two seniors are quarterback Zack Pickens and receiver Bryant Kieft. Pickens starts in secondary, Kieft plays linebacker. Pickens leads the state in yards passing (2,710) and he’s thrown 29 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Kieft has 42 receptions for 1,211 yards and 13 touchdowns. On defense he has 67 tackles and six sacks.

Watervliet is averaging 55 points a game. Each of the past two seasons the Panthers have averaged 52. They don’t play a strong schedule. Watervliet’s best wins are over Maple City Glen Lake, 52-26, and last week over Schoolcraft, 36-14. Last season Glen Lake reach the Division 6 final, the division Watervliet might compete in this season. Andrews said his team is on the bubble between Division 7 and Division 6.

For Pickens this is his first season as the starting quarterback. Last season he started at running back.

“He can make every throw,” Andrews said. “The knock is he’s not 6-4. He’s 5-11. Zack’s a great athlete. He has really good physical traits. He’s special.” Pick: Watervliet by 9.


All games are at 7 p.m. unless noted.


Thursday’s game

Coldwater (5-3) at Traverse City West (8-0): West is going for its second 9-0 start since the school opened in 1997. That same season West won its only playoff game. Coldwater needs a victory to join the 256. Coldwater has played a decent schedule and won’t be intimidated. Pick: West by 6.


Friday’s games


Clare (7-1) at Beaverton (8-0): Clare has won nine of the last 10 Jack Pine Conference titles. The lone glitch was Sanford Meridian’s title in 2015. The conference has been in existence since 1971 and Beaverton is a founding member. The Beavers have won one title and that was in 1989. During one stretch in the 1990s they lost 32 consecutive conference games. They were 0-9 in 2004, 2009 and 2011. Beaverton’s eight wins ties a school record and it has clinched just the third playoff appearance in school history. This is a different Beaverton team, however. This will not be one-sided like so many in this series have been. Pick: Clare by 8.   


Detroit East English Village Prep (8-0) vs. Detroit King (7-1) at Ford Field: This for the PSL A Division title and it’s a chance for East English to make its mark. Its first season was 2012 after Detroit Finney and Detroit Crockett merged to form one school. That season the Bulldogs played King for the title and lost, 51-48. That’s the last time East English reached a final. This time the Bulldogs get it right. Pick: East English by 2.


Fenton (8-0) at Waterford Mott (7-1): This game could last over three hours. Both teams are averaging over 40 points a game. Both have prolific senior quarterbacks, Josh Czarnota for Fenton, David McCollum for Mott. The last team with possession wins. Mott by 2. 


Flint Carman-Ainsworth (5-3) at Lapeer (5-3): There are 76 teams with 5-3 records and there are just two games involving two of them. Carman-Ainsworth is a pretty respectable program but it is 0-3 against Lapeer (since the merger of East and West).  Pick: Carman-Ainsworth by 3.

Grosse Pointe South (5-3) at Warren Mott (4-4): South can clinch its eighth playoff appearance in the last nine seasons with a victory and Mott, well Mott will greatly enhance its chances of making the field of 256 with a victory. A number of 5-4 teams will get in and Mott could be one. Pick: Mott by 4.


Midland (7-1) at Midland Dow (7-1): There is not an official Saginaw Valley League title game but this will do. Midland leads this long-standing series 36-14 but Dow has won the last four. Tough game to read. Dow has the more prolific offense. Midland is better defensively. Pick: Midland by 3.


Montague (8-0) at Muskegon Catholic Central (8-0): Both of these teams could win a state title, Montague in Division 6 and C.C. in Division 8. It will be a major shock if C.C. doesn’t win a title. The Crusaders have won the last four Division 8 titles. Their 31-6 victory over Frankfort is the closest game they’ve had this season. Montague has five shutouts. The Wildcats did have trouble with their rival Whitehall (46-44). These schools are but 10 miles away yet they’ve never played before. It’s about time guys. Pick: C.C. by 6.


New Boston Huron (5-3) at Redford Thurston (5-3): This is a weird game, really. The schools aren’t that far apart, both are in Wayne County but they’ve met just three times and the series is tied at 1-1-1. Huron earned its victory in a Division 3 region final in 2014, 38-28. Thurston’s victory came in 1956, 2-0. Told you it’s weird. Pick: Huron by 3.


Last week’s record: 10-1

2017 record: 56-26