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State playoff preview: Churchill one of 40 teams with four losses in playoffs, looks to upset Jackson in Division 2 first round

By: Tom Markowski, October 29, 2015, 3:00 pm



Livonia – This football season has been full of surprises, some good, some not so good.

Let’s stick with the good. An unprecedented 40 teams with four losses made the playoffs, which start Friday. Not long ago if a team didn’t win six games (or five in an eight-game schedule) your season was likely over. Four or five teams from each of the four classes would get in as additional qualifiers and that was about it.

Last season 27 teams with 5-4 records made the playoffs. So next season should we expect 45 or more 5-4 teams getting in?

In the past many coaches would look at their league or conference schedule and see five games his team had a realistic chance to win. Then the coach would schedule a ninth game against a cupcake allowing his team to get that sixth victory.

Perhaps we’re seeing a beginning of a trend where coaches look to schedule a more highly competitive non-league in an attempt to accumulate more playoffs points. By doing so more and more teams with five victories that play a tough schedule are getting in.

Livonia Churchill is one. The Chargers sat at 4-2 after defeating Canton then lost two straight before facing a 6-2 Livonia Stevenson team on Friday. Churchill trailed 28-22 at halftime then went to its running game, specifically senior tailback Sean Stenzel, and defeated Stevenson 40-34.

Stenzel rushed for 331 yards and five touchdowns on 32 carries to carry the Chargers into the playoffs.

And, for the first time, Churchill will compete in Division 2 along with city and Kensington Lakes Activities Association South Division rival, Livonia Franklin (6-3).

Franklin handed Churchill its third loss, 43-27.

“Six of the nine teams we played are playoff teams,” Churchill coach Bill DeFillipo said. “We’re a young group and glad to be in the playoffs.

“We’re in a tough division. If you get five wins, you’re usually in. We beat Canton, who’s 7-2, and we beat Stevenson who has six wins. That’s a lot of playoff points.”

At the risk of stating the obvious, a factor in collecting playoff points is the number of victories the teams you beat has. The more the merrier.

“We’re happy to be in Division 2,” DeFillipo said. “Maybe we can play a team outside of our league.”

At the risk of biting the hand that feeds you, many coaches, DiFillippo among them, would like to see some changes made in the playoff system, notably seeding.

Under the current playoff system teams are placed in one of two brackets in each division. Within those brackets are four regions and each region has two districts. Teams in each district are seeded according to playoff points but they are not seeded according to region, one through eight. DeFillipo would like to have teams seeded, 1-16, in each bracket. Others would be happy to have teams seeded 1-8 in each region.

DeFillipo is pleased with his first round game. The Chargers will play at Jackson (7-2). He’s not pleased with the fact that Jackson will be an easy win. On the contrary, Jackson is State Champs’ newest member in the top 25 and is one of the hottest teams in Division 2. DeFillipo is happy that his team gets to play a different team, and not another KLAA member. In the other game in his district Franklin will host Farmington (5-4). 



Playoff predictions

Division 1

Top first round game: Clarkston (7-2) at Romeo (8-1)

Finalists: Saline, Lapeer

Champion: Saline


Division 2

Top first round game: Farmington Hills Harrison (7-2) at Birmingham Groves (9-0)

Finalists: Detroit King, Muskegon Mona Shores

Champion: King


Division 3

Top first round game: Mason (7-2) at St. Johns (6-3)

Finalists: Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, St. Joseph

Champion: St. Mary’s


Division 4

Top first round game: Flint Powers (7-2) at Goodrich (7-2)

Finalists: Zeeland West, Detroit Country Day

Champion: Zeeland West


Division 5

Top first round game: Muskegon Oakridge (7-2) at Grand Rapids West Catholic (7-2) 

Finalists: Portland, Ida

Champion: Portland


Division 6

Top first round game: Calumet (7-2) at Negaunee (7-2)

Finalists: Ithaca, Montague

Champion: Montague


Division 7

Top first round game: Saugatuck (9-0) at Hesperia (9-0)

Finalists: Detroit Loyola, Saginiaw Nouvel

Champion: Loyola


Division 8

Top first round game: Bark River-Harris (7-2) at Munising (7-2)

Finalists: Muskegon Catholic Central, Waterford Lakes

Champion: Muskegon C.C.