In Play with Tom Markowski


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State semifinal picks: This round of the playoffs would be better served if some games were moved to Friday

By: Tom Markowski, November 19, 2015, 2:41 pm



So now the Michigan High School Athletic Association has banned Northville’s cross country team from competing in a national event.

What else is new?

Let’s stick to what’s happening within our state borders.

The state playoffs for 11-player football has hit the semifinal round and one must look forward to these games and the lovely weather conditions that are expected to greet us.

Fortunately for the 8-player final to be held at Greenville that game will be played Friday.

The question many have asked themselves and others is why aren’t there any 11-player semifinals scheduled for Friday?

Hm. In the past I’ve been told by MHSAA officials that, at this time of year, a Saturday afternoon start is preferred because of the possibility of unfavorable weather conditions at night.

I can understand that.

But what if Friday’s conditions are more conducive to playing a game than Saturday? Can you back up Saturday’s games to Friday? Dumb question.

Here’s a better one. If a game is scheduled for Friday, and weather conditions are deplorable, is it possible to switch that game to Saturday? Yes.

Logistics being what they are, let’s experiment one time. Let’s schedule both Division 4 semifinal games and/or both Division 6 semifinals on a Friday. This way the winners have the same amount of time to prepare for the final.

And here’s an added bonus. This would give the fans, we remember them, don’t we, an opportunity to watch more than one semifinal. How about that!


Here’s a look at those semifinals, all scheduled for 1 p.m., on Saturday, unless noted.


Division 1


Grand Ledge (12-0) vs. Romeo (11-1) at Brighton: Romeo reached the Class A semifinals once. In 1992 the Bulldogs lost to Walled Lake Western, 20-7. Grand Ledge win the Division 1 title in 2000 (at the Silverdome) and the Comets haven’t reached the semifinals before or since, until now. Romeo’s diverse offense and ability to make the big play is too much to overlook here. Pick: Romeo by 7.  


Canton (10-2) vs. Detroit Cass Tech (10-2) at Troy Athens: These teams have never played before. Cass Tech is in the semifinal for the sixth consecutive season and Canton lost in the finals in 2005 and the semifinals the following season. Canton has shown consistency in making the playoffs (15 of the last 16 seasons) but has had difficulty getting out of its district. Canton’s offense, led by Marcus Sanders (2,200 rushing yards) and been efficient recently but hasn’t faced a defense as big and as fast as that of Cass Tech. Pick: Cass Tech by 6.


Division 2


Lowell (11-1) vs. Walled Lake Western (12-0) at Alma College: A snow-covered field could await these two powers. In week one Western went to Lowell and won a wild one, 42-40. Quarterbacks Kyle Thomas (Western) and Ryan Stevens put on a show that warm evening. Thomas threw for 345 yards; Stevens 463. No such numbers will be posted here but there will be more than a few touchdowns scored. Pick: Western by 4.


Livonia Franklin (9-3) at Detroit King (12-0) at Dearborn: Franklin the other Kensington Lakes Activities Association South Division team (Canton is the other) in the semifinals. After a 2-3 start Franklin proved is how a team finishes, not necessarily how it starts that counts. King has been more consistent, especially defensively. Defensive end Leon Page (Central Michigan commit) has been outstanding and will create havoc for Franklin quarterback Denzel Adams. Pick: King by 15.


Division 3


East Grand Rapids (9-3) vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (10-1) at Howell: Here we go again. These programs have played some memorable games and the winner will likely be favored to win the state title on Nov. 28. St. Mary’s has an offense made for this time of year (cold and wet). Its defense has the experience to handle what the Pioneers offer. Pick: St. Mary’s by 13.


Coldwater (12-0) vs. Chelsea (11-1) at Jackson Withington Stadium: Both teams are making their first semifinal appearance. Coldwater made its first playoff appearance two years ago. Chelsea’s ability to move the ball on the ground and with quarterback Jack Bush throwing it could give the Cardinals fits. Pick: Chelsea by 5.


Division 4


Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern (11-1) vs. Zeeland West (12-0) at East Kentwood: The uncertain field conditions can only aid West in this game. The Dux like to run the ball 95 percent of the time so the wind and cold shouldn’t affect the handoffs. Eastern likes to throw the ball and that could pose a problem. Pick: West by 12.


Flint Powers (10-2) vs. Detroit Country Day (11-1) at West Bloomfield: Powers has given up seven points in the playoffs. Quarterback Noah Sargent needs to make a play or two for Powers to keep up with the Yellowjackets’ offense. Country Day had to score late to defeat Milan last week (20-13) and it might need late-game heroics again here. Pick: Powers by 2.


Division 5


Grand Rapids West Catholic (10-2) vs. Lansing Catholic Central (11-1) at Greenville: West Catholic defeated C.C. in the state final last season, 24-20. But quarterback Travis Wilson graduated. C.C. quarterback Tony Poljan was a junior last season. Poljan’s rushing (in the snow?) could be the difference. Pick: C.C. by 4.


Ida (12-0) vs. River Rouge (11-1) at Novi: Strange one here. Neither team played a semifinal game before. And it’s safe to say not many picked either one to get here this year. Ida likes to run the ball and run it some more. Thing is, so does River Rouge. This game could be decided on the line of scrimmage. Pick: River Rouge by 3.


Division 6


Traverse City St. Francis (12-0) vs. Ithaca (12-0) at Clare: Ithaca quarterback Jake Smith is intent upon leading his team to a state championship just as his brother, Travis, did. Smith might have to do more with his legs than his arm in this one. Pick: Ithaca by 7.


Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (12-0) vs. Clinton (12-0) at Battle Creek Harper Creek, noon: Again, the weather could help decide the outcome. Clinton likes to run the ball often. Christian quarterback Spencer Peterson could be frustrated by the cold and wind. Pick: Clinton by 8.


Division 7


Ishpeming (11-0) vs. New Lothrop (12-0) at Marquette Superior Dome: New Lothrop has scored 533 points. But it hasn’t played Ishpeming, which has a defense that hasn’t allowed more than 16 points in any game this season. Besides, the Hematites have been on the path before. Pick: Ishpeming by 6


Pewamo-Westphalia (12-0) vs. Detroit Loyola (10-2) at Fenton: Other than its two losses, the closest game Loyola has played was a 25-point victory over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. The nutty thing is, its two losses (to O.L. St. Mary’s and Warren De La Salle) are two of the more impressive games Loyola has played this season. Pick: Loyola by 22.


Division 8

St. Ignace LaSalle (11-1) vs. Muskegon Catholic Central (9-2) at Traverse City Central: C.C. has won the last two titles but St. Ignace is no slouch. Its lone loss was to Ishpeming. Still, it’s difficult to go against a champion. Pick: C.C. by 6.


Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (12-0) vs. Ottawa Lake Whiteford (10-2) at Hazel Park: The Lakers like to throw the ball. Fortunately for them, the game is in southern Oakland County and perhaps the snow won’t be a factor. Whiteford runs the battleship. If you haven’t seen it, it’s an offense that features extremely tight splits. Pick: Lakes by 5.


Last week’s record: 26-6.

Season record: 99-43.